Tax payers will have to cough billions to rehabilitate about 200 disused mines from the pre to post independence era because the country did not have a sovereign fund in place to deal with the after effects of mining, The Villager has established.
Although Government is pushing for the establishment of such a fund for future remedies Minister of Mines and Energy Isak Katali said the government does not have the money to deal with the situation emanating from the past but is eager to have mining companies contribute to remedy their damage on the environment in the future.
He could however could not reveal exactly how much is needed to rehabilitate the old mines and for what duration.
Katali told The Villager this week that Government is not in a position to avail funds to rehabilitate old mines but it has introduced a new levy that will force all miners to contribute to problems regarding the rehabilitation of mining sites in the future.
“Government cannot afford to rehabilitate those 200 mines, and we do not have any plans to go back to the old mines but rather work on modalities that will prevent the problem from happening again.”
“We are currently pushing for legislation that will make it mandatory for miners to contribute to a rehabilitation fund,” Katali said
Non existant closure plans
Chamber of Mines of Namibia Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Chamber of Mines (CoM), Veston Malango argues that the situation has been caused by the non existence of closure plans for mines that operated in the country in the past .
“While mines established more recently have had to develop an understanding of the conditions under which they operate, and to consider closure issues as part of the mandatory environmental assessment process required, (older) mines didn’t,” Malango told The Villager.
He added that in order to shy away from the past legacy of abandoned and non-rehabilitated mining sites, both government and the CoM are taking ‘seriously the rehabilitation process follows the end of a mining plant’s timeframe.’ As such, both parties have adopted strong environmental legislation in the mining sector.
“What is expected of the miners is to mitigate the impacts on the environment created by the mining sites. This is a serious matter that the Chamber is following closely to ensure that they comply with the rules. As a matter of fact, one of the important condition prior to the mining license approval is that the mining prospect application include a mine closure plan. One of the principles now is that the polluters (mine operators) have to pay, it should not be the government’s liability anymore,” he said.
According to the CEO, the CoM has ‘a carefully’ developed Mining Closure Plan Framework which was launched two years ago - aimed at providing guidance for the Namibia mining industry in how to develop relevant, practical and cost effective closure plans whilst laying down minimum requirements for the members of the CoM that are bound by its Code of Conduct and Ethics.
The minister statements corroborate the Environmental Commissioner at the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Teo Nghintila, who acknowledged that his office cognisant of the problems related to the abandonment of mines without rehabilitation and added that his office is in consultation with relevant stakeholders – in this case the Chamber of Mines - in a quest to rectify the problem.
“We are toying with the idea of a Mines Rehabilitation Investment Fund, which will not be accessed by the mining company but by the government upon the closure of the mine. It should be a fund that is administered independently,” Nghintila said.
This fund, Nghintila said, will be run in such a way that mining companies will, before the commencement of their operations, present financial projections regarding the costs of the proposed mine’s rehabilitation, after which monies equivalent to the aforementioned rehabilitation costs will be saved in the Fund.
According to Nghintila, all mines operating in Namibia have closure plans. He however stressed that closure plans ought to be accompanied by the financial plans relating to the financial implications that will be incurred upon the mines’ closure.