News – National | 2023-03-14
by Adam Hartman
THE Daures constituency community, farmers, and small miners are up in arms regarding what they claim are the illegal lithium mining activities of Tangshan XingFeng Spodumene Mining.
The group also petitioned the Ministry of Mines and Energy, and the Tsiseb conservancy, among others, to stop the mining with immediate effect.
The company has been accused of not following the proper channels and procedures and contravening the Environmental Management Act 7 of 2007.
The company allegedly did not conduct an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and has ignored the community’s needs for investments in infrastructure, sponsorships and donations to farmers and small miners, bursaries to local best-performing science students, and shares to the conservancy for environmental destruction and negative effects caused by mining.
Hundreds of protesting community members last Friday (3 March) handed over a petition to the mine, demanding that XingFeng stop their operations with immediate effect and carry out its EIA with the consent of the Daures Traditional Authority and the Tsiseb Conservancy.
“We further demand that XingFeng compensate the Tsiseb Conservancy with a fee of N$5 million for neglecting [sic] its presence and operating in its sensitive area without proper consultation and agreements,” said Uis community activist Jimmy Areseb.
The community claims mining operations are being carried out on land acquired from a previous owner, and that the company has not paid royalties for the minerals it is exporting.
The community also maintains that while the company claims to be exporting lithium, there are other minerals in the area, such as tin, tantalum and fluorspar tourmaline, which may also be present in the raw materials being exported.
“The lack of transparency regarding the exact minerals being extracted is a major concern for residents. We are demanding that the minerals be tested at a competent laboratory so that they can be sure about what the company is exporting,” Areseb told The Namibian.
Furthermore, there are questions about how the company obtained the necessary permits to operate in the area, as the conservancy claims not to have any knowledge of the company.
Residents are calling for an investigation into these allegations and are urging the mines ministry to establish stringent measures to protect the environment and the interests of the local community.
In response to questions, mines and energy minister Tom Alweendo said a team of officials from the ministries of mines and environment have been directed to investigate the complaints.
“We hope to have the team’s findings by the end of the week. I have also arranged a town hall meeting with all stakeholders to take place at Uis on 24 March,” he said.
He agreed that mining companies, just like companies in other sectors of the economy, must be good corporate citizens.
“This means companies must immerse themselves in the communities they are operating in, paying particular emphasis on principles related to the environment, society and governance. This can only happen when companies have effective communication strategies how to engage communities,” Alweendo noted.
He emphasised that the law prescribes that minerals licence holders must engage and obtain permission from the landowners before any prospecting or mining activities take place.
In response to the petitioning, Eric Xaweb, Tsiseb conservancy manager under the Daure Daman Traditional Authority, told The Namibian while the conservancy recognises that there are applicable laws which allow for mining activities to happen, they are concerned about the environmental damage taking place in the area.
Xaweb said Tsiseb has lost some revenue due to the mining taking place.
The conservancy management committee is being advised to sit down with the traditional authority, the regional council, and the farmers’ representatives to discuss how to deal with mushrooming mining activities taking place within the conservancy, he said.
“We need to come up with a concept paper on how we can deal with the mining that is coming to our areas and ensure that mining activities do not seriously compromise our conservation efforts the past 20 years,” Xaweb said.
Several attempts to reach out to the mine failed, although the mine’s assistant site manager, Frans Tjazamo, who received the petition, said he will ensure it reaches his employer.
“If they don’t heed to our concerns, we are planning to close down the road going from Uis to Henties Bay, where we are going to stop any truck of that company going to Walvis Bay and any coming from there to the mine site. We are going to be camping there till our demands are met,” Areseb warned.