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Debate for the Skorpion pie

Sun, 30 September 2012 18:37
by Honorine Kaze

State-owned Epangelo mining, managing director, Elifas Hawala, has disputed recent remarks by Karas Governor, Bernardus Swartbooi, who called for increased local stake in Skorpion Zinc mine saying the company is already in a beneficial agreement with the State.
Speaking on Friday at the inauguration of a State clinic at Rosh Pinah, Swartbooi argued that it is high time Namibians pushed for fair representation in most of the Namibian mines in order to plough back into community development as well as help emancipate the previously disadvantaged.
He demanded that Skorpion Zinc mine cedes a certain percentage of its operations to the locals despite them already being in a partnership with the Epangelo mine, which upholds Government stakes in the mining sector.But Hawala argues that his company has cemented its partnership with Vedanta (owners of Skorpion Zinc) and the two companies will start a productive relationship in two years’ time.
Although the partnership between the two companies is not firmly built in terms of capital contributions, Hawala says, it is sufficient enough to buffer the State-owned entities’ balance sheet as well as contribute to national development.
According to Hawala, the agreement between the two companies has largely been necessitated because of Epangelo’s liquidity problems, which has left it more as a partner to most of the mining ventures than an active role player.
But Swartbooi maintains the need for partnership at higher level which includes the Southern community’s involvement in the partnership; “When I talk about local stake in the mining industry, I am referring to the ownership model that exists. It is high time we looked at different models that could benefit the small community more by creating community trusts. We should not just look at job creations as the only benefit from the mining industry but more.”
While appreciating the job done by Skorpion Zinc mine at Rosh Pinah as developmental for the town and looking forward to the proclamation of the mine into a town, Swartbooi insists on an equal partnership between communities, workers, private partnership and the Government in order to create more alternative economical development.

Skorpion zinc has a lifespan of about four to five years. Vedanta took over operations of the company to add to its flourishing international portfolio, which is spans into other countries including Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia and Sri-Lanka.
 “Since we declared strategic minerals as State-controlled about two years ago, we agreed with Skorpion Zinc mine to have them supply us with the technical and financial expertise because they have them. Epangelo, on the other hand, will give Skorpion access to our EPLs for development,” Hawala retorted, adding that his company now owns all the strategic minerals and there are no private companies that can control the resources without the knowledge of Epangelo.
“Most people often misunderstand the relationship Epangelo has with other private investors but in essence, the issue is; in as much as we would want to be in full control of our resources, we should understand that the other companies have the financial muscle to help us. So we should leave room for that,” said Hawala.