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Cabinet Bans Exports Of Lithium And Other Essential Minerals

By: Justicia Shipena

The Cabinet has authorised the ban on exporting crushed lithium ore, cobalt manganese, graphite, and rare earth elements.

Peya Mushelenga, the Minister of Information and Communication Technology, said in his briefing of Cabinet decision made at its eighth meeting held on 6 June.

The decision follows public outcry regarding recent lithium exports from Namibia, particularly from the Chinese mining company Xinfeng Investment (Pty) Limited, which received scrutiny for its operations in the Erongo region.

Mushelenga said the ban on the export of certain minerals was proposed by the Minister of Mines and Energy, Tom Alweendo.

“Cabinet approved the prohibition for the export of certain critical minerals such as unprocessed crushed lithium ore, cobalt manganese, graphite and rare earth elements,” Mushelenga said yesterday.

Cabinet’s decision was made in light of Alweendo’s decision to cancel the mining licence (ML243) he had previously granted to a Chinese mining company in the Erongo region’s Daures constituency on April 28.

This prompted Xinfeng to file an urgent application with the High Court to contest the decision and the heads of argument were heard last month.

Alweendo attacked the personnel of his Ministry in 2022 for issuing export licences for 135,000 tonnes of crushed ore to Xinfeng.

It was reported that Xinfeng had already sent 75,000 tonnes of lithium ore to China at the time.

Mushelenga, however, indicated that Cabinet has approved the export of a smaller quantity of crushed lithium ore, cobalt manganese, graphite and rare earth elements with Minister Alweendo’s approval.

“Cabinet approved that smaller quantities of the above-mentioned minerals may be allowed for exports at the discretion of the Minister of Mines and Energy subject to Cabinet endorsement.”

The demand for lithium has increased significantly in recent years, and The Villager indicated earlier this year that Africa’s lithium production is expected to rise significantly over the next 10 years.

Trafigura, a commodities trader, projects that by 2030, the continent would produce 497,000 tonnes.

Eden Shipanga, an economist and academic, applauded Cabinet’s decision as a step in the right direction.

He stated that, while Namibia does not have the capacity or plans to use the lithium, the country owns the minerals.

“Therefore, allowing people just to extract in large quantities on the pretext that you have nothing to do with the resources, the fact that you find yourself owning it, does not necessarily mean you should throw it away at this stage,” Shipanga pointed out.

He said if Namibia continues to allow others to come and take, the people will take and tell that they did not locate profitable minerals, while stockpiling them in their countries.

“And by the time you realise that these people are exploiting them, they probably will have some reserves in their countries.”

When asked if the approval of a smaller amount of export at the discretion of the Mines and Energy Minister will dissuade investors, Shipanga responded that if a potential investor is serious about investing in Namibia, they should come via the right door.

He went on to say that investors should have confidence in the country and work together to move it forward.

“Not just come in to exploit you and leave you with nothing. Not just this thing of people coming and taking and then 10 or 50 years later the mine lifespan has been reached and then everything is depleted and communities are still poor,” he said.

Shipanga is of the opinion the decision will not frighten anyone as long as the government is prepared to establish proper policies that will reassure investors.

“I do not see any harm in their [government] position on that,” he told The Villager.

Mining Commissioner Isabella Chirchir stated in May that government lacks funds to develop a local lithium processing plant.

When contacted for comment on the Cabinet decision, Chirchir said she had not seen the document and hence could not comment.

“I have not seen the document yet so I cannot have a position yet.”

Henny Seibeb, Landless People’s Movement (LPM) member of parliament, advocated for the establishment of a community-owned lithium factory at Uis, with 60% community ownership.

The German government announced in April that it would help Namibia in establishing lithium processing plants.

This offer was made by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who stated his government is eager to assist Namibia in creating local lithium processing facilities.

Meanwhile, a judgement on the future of Xinfeng by Judge Ramon Maasdorp is not yet ready and has been postponed to 13 June. This comes after Alweendo had revoked the company’s licence, with the company  instituting legal action to compel the Minister to reverse his decision.


Justicia Shipena

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