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Mining, Energy Sectors Lifeblood Of The Economy – Alweendo

Massive oil and gas reserves recently discovered off the coast of Namibia and the
elevated global demand for critical raw materials and metals have created a window of
opportunity for the transformation of the country’s economy.

This is the view of the Minister of Mines and Energy Tom Alweendo, who was
addressing a parliamentary workshop titled ‘Maximising Mining and Energy Potentials’
in Swakopmund on Monday.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that currently the two sectors are to our economy what
blood is to life itself,” he said.
“Recently and in both sectors, promising things have happened. For example, in the
petroleum sector, oil has been discovered in sufficient quantities that justify
commercial production. In the mining sector, because of the energy transition brought
about by the global undertaking to address the effects of climate change, there is now
a global demand for critical raw materials and metals. Some of these minerals, such as
lithium, are available in our country,” he indicated.

“We therefore,” he said, “have a clear window of opportunity to transform our economy.
Depending on how we decide to deal with these opportunities, we have the real
potential to effectively address the triple social ills of unemployment, poverty, and
inequality.”

With regards to the critical raw materials, the Minister said spoke out against them
being mined and exported in their basic raw form or where minimal value has been
added.

“We must insist that critical raw materials are not exported without value being added
locally. And where possible, we need to insist that processed minerals are used as inputs
into locally manufactured goods, such as batteries, allowing us to export manufactured
goods”.

Minister Alweendo recently came under fire from the Uis community for allowing the
Chinese mining company, Xinfeng Investment, to mine and transport tonnes of raw
lithium in trucks from Uis to Walvis Bay bound for China under the guise of laboratory
testing.

The community expressed their frustration over illegal mining in the area, claiming that
Xinfeng investment had applied for semi-precious stones mining and not lithium or rare
earth metals.

The company is also embroiled in a N$50 million corruption scandal that involves
Alweendo’s former technical advisor Ralph Muyamba.

Late last year, Alweendo said he would feel betrayed if his erstwhile technical advisor or
any other official used information entrusted to him in confidence for self-enrichment.
Alweendo also removed former mining commissioner Erasmus Shivolo from his
position as mining commissioner amid the bribery claims. He, however, maintained it
was purely an administrative decision as he was in the key positions for too long.
Shivolo had served in the key position since 2008.

Addressing the parliamentarians, Alweendo emphasised the need for politicians to
mitigate corruption in the management of natural resources in order to ensure that in-
country value creation reaches ordinary citizens, while guarding against a situation
“especially where public officials obtain private gains from holding public office”.
He said the fight against corruption requires concerted efforts to maintain transparency
in all the conduct of government officials. “The more we are transparent in our conduct,
the high the chance of realising our fair share of the economic benefits from our natural
resources,” he added.

“We know of countries where the discovery of oil became a curse and there are also
countries where the discovery became a blessing. I would like to believe that we all want
our discovery to be a blessing rather than a curse,” he pointed out.
He, however, said for the oil discovery to be a blessing depends mostly on Namibia’s
policy environment, especially its institutional and political aspects of it.
Alweendo further indicated that it has been proven that countries with strong
institutions, a stable political system and an effective legal framework, were able to
manage their oil revenue with a positive impact on their economies and for the benefits
of their citizens.
“But like a dark cloud that has a silver lining, all hope is not lost for Namibia, a country
lauded for its strong systems, processes and institutions,” he said.
“I have reason to believe that our institutions, our political system, and our legal
framework are such that there is no reason why the oil discovery should not be a
blessing. What we need to do, however, is to manage the resources with a clear
understanding that the resources belong to both the current and future generations,” the
Minister said.

Staff Reporter

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