Various communities in Erongo and Kavango regions have questioned the mining activities in their areas and its impact on their future livelihoods.
The latest is the Daures community in the Erongo region that petitioned the Ministry of Mines and Energy regarding potential illegal mining activities in their constituency from certain mining licence holders.
This prompted the Minister of Mines and Energy Tom Alweendo and his team to visit the Daures constituency last week for engagement with community members.
During the meeting, the leader of the Landless People Movement (LPM) Bernadus Swartbooi asked the Ministry’s officials how far mining activities should be allowed to affect other sectors of the economy.
“To what extent should we allow mining to touch other sectors?” Swartbooiasked.
He asked Minister Alweendo and his team to assess the extent mining activities are allowed to encroach upon other sectors, adding thatsuch assessment should include the compensatory models for thecommunities in the event of damagescaused by mining activities.
Swartbooi said such compensatory mechanisms should be embedded in the Ministry’s systems, policies and mining laws.
With the increasing investment in the extractive industry, he urged for a balance between mining and traditional sectors that have been providing a livelihood to the people.
The country is buzzing with mining exploration and extractive activities, especially in the Kunene, Erongo and Kavango regions.
The LPM leader deplored the fact that one of the miners being flagged for illegality was not present at the community and licensee engagement.
He said it was vital for the implicated company to answer directly to the community and not for the Minister to answer on their behalf.
However, the Minister said the company representatives where in attendance at the first Uis engagement, but did not announce themselves to be asked questions by the community.
The community members have also highlighted that when it comes to community engagement the current approach of just talking to traditional leaders is outdated, suggesting that engagements be extended to all interested stakeholders in the community.
During the engagement, Minister Alweendo indicated that it was vital to bring together the community and licence holders to iron out issues regarding mining in their areas.
He also agreed with the LPM leader on the impact of the mining sectors on other sectors, saying that mining is supposed to operate in an ecosystem with all the sectors and before extractive activities take place all stakeholders should agree on it.
On illegal mining, the Minister said no one is above the law and his Ministry will not support illegal practices.
“Therefore, if there are illegal activities happening with regard to mining, they must not be allowed,” Alweendo said.
He told the meeting that his Ministry does not have evidence on the petition submitted by the community members relating to concerns about illegal mining and the exports of lithium ore by some operators in the Daures constituency.
He said licences are issued with conditions for compliance. If a licensee is found to be in contravention of the licence conditions, the Ministry will notify and ask them to rectify the illegality and, if they do not, it is only when the Ministry will revoke the licence.
Alweendo also responded to the community demand for a consultation to be extended beyond the leaders in the community to all parties.
He said the traditional authorities are contacted with the hope that they consult their people before a decision is taken. If they are not doing so, that is what needs to be strengthened, said Alweendo. Email: email@example.com