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Chinese company, XinFeng, in hot soup over “illegal lithium mining” …ministry considers police action

By:Hertha Ekandjo
Newly appointed mining commissioner, Isabella Chirchir, says that the ministry is looking intoallegations that Chinese mining company, Xinfeng Investment, was still mining and transportinglithium from its operations located between Omaruru and Uis.
This is despite the mines andenergy minister Tom Alweendo having temporarily banned Xinfeng Investment last month fromexporting lithium ore to China until investigations are completed.
The company stands accused of transporting tonnes of lithium ore in trucks from Uis to WalvisBay bound for China under the guise of laboratory testing.
Chirchir told The Villager on Friday that she had received a call earlier that day informing herthat the company is still mining lithium.
“I cannot confirm that, but I got a call this morning that they are still transporting. I have sent thepolice and we will put an end to it,” she said.
Meanwhile, the mines and energy ministry’s spokesperson Simon Andreas stated that thecompany does not have either a transport or export permit and that it had been establishedrecently that over the last two weeks or so, the company was transporting ore to Walvis Baywithout any permits.
As a result, Simon said, the ministry issued a notice of intention to cancel the ML243 (mininglicense), subject to the company making representations in 30 days.
“The ministry has in theinterim instructed mining activities to stop. Section 127 (3) of the mineral Act provides for a penalty of up to N$20 000, orimprisonment ofa period not exceeding 2 years or both. In this case, this provision has not been applied. Instead,a more serious application of Section 55 was invoked, which is to cancel the mining rights.Furthermore, if there is ore that has been transported or is still being exported without a permit,the ministry has not been furnished with evidence to that effect,” said the spokesperson.
He further added that the ministry will investigate reports of trucks that were seen transporting ore lastweek even though the company has no more export permits/rights to do so.
According to Andreas, when it comes to keeping track of the exportation of minerals the ministryissues export permits based on information contained in the applications.
An export permit indicates the volume, amount, type of material to be exported, and the validityperiod.
A multiple consignment permit is exhausted once the volume limit is reached andendorsed by a customs official at the exit point.
“By law, the permit is required to be returned to the ministry for verification purposes once thevolume limit is reached or when the permit has expired. If a mining company has more material
to export after their permit has reached its volume limit and returned to the ministry, they mustapply for another permit,” he explained.
Earlier this year former mining commissioner Erasmus Shivolo accused the Chinese company ofconducting illegal mining exploration activities on a government resettlement farm nearOmaruru.
The company wanted to set up Namibia’s first lithium mine.
Lithium is an element valuable for the production of glass, aluminum products and batteries.
At that time Xinfeng had denied any wrongdoing.
The company was also accused of chopping down protected trees when it de-bushed the area formining exploration.
In March, Shivolo ordered the company to stop its activities and said Xinfeng Investments wasconducting its exploration activities illegally.
The company is also embroiled in a N$50 million corruption scandal that involves Alweendo’sformer advisor.

Hertha Ekandjo

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