Mining threatens Daures farming – residents

Home National Mining threatens Daures farming – residents
Mining threatens Daures farming – residents

WALVIS BAY – Farmers in the Daures constituency said their main source of income, farming, is being threatened by the increasing mining activities in the constituency.

The farmers are of the opinion that mining only benefits a selected few while the inhabitants of the region are left out when it comes to the millions generated through mining.

The Daures constituency, initially known for its abundant semi-precious stones has seen a surge in rare earth mineral operations that are set to rake in billions, especially from lithium, a well-sought-after commodity used in batteries.

Last month, residents also engaged the mines and energy minister, Tom Alweendo and appealed for an investigation into some illegal mining activities at Uis settlement.

According to farmers, mining is threatening the existence of farming and community agricultural initiatives that are at this stage more sustainable and beneficial to farmers and their families.

Community activist Jimmy ||Araseb pointed out that agriculture is more sustainable than mining for the community, even though mining can generate immediate income.   “Farmers in our constituency have been surviving from farming all along while small mining has been their extra activity. However, the current trend of prospecting and mining activities taking place in areas where our animals are grazing is worrisome,”||Araseb explained.

According to him, residents are not against mining at all but want it to take place transparently and in the same vein consider tourism and farming activities that have been the main source of income for residents of the Daures constituency.

These activities are currently suffering according to him while mine sites are left unrehabilitated, thus posing a risk for both residents and their livestock.

||Araseb said the community is worried that they will only be left with corridors once the mining rush is over.

“This is our ancestral land and we are currently sitting with unrehabilitated marble mining areas already. Nobody has held those companies accountable for it. These so-called investors do not even plough back into our constituency despite making millions from our resources. It is so painful to see huge trucks coming to our water points to collect water, yet not investing in the same water infrastructure or roads for that matter.

The fact that they have money and big trucks does not mean they have to come and do as they feel like, this is our land too,” ||Araseb said.

Another resident, Gerson Gurirab said there is need to protect the community from mining, as there are no real benefits for them.

“Look at our roads, schools and Uis itself. Some of the mines have been operating for years but did not even upgrade any of our roads, nor did they build a classroom. Yet we see every day how piles of our resources leave our town. Nobody to date has benefited from the mining activities around Uis,” Gurirab said.


Genuine concerns 

Landless People’s Movement (LPM) leader Bernadus Swartbooi said the concerns of the community are genuine as they know the depth of their own suffering.

He said it is important that more focus be given to finding a balance between mining and traditional sectors that keep communities alive.

“If you touch agriculture, in particular livestock, you might be permanently destroying the livelihood of communities that have relied on this sector as a mainstay for centuries, in exchange for a mine that will be here for 40-50 years. We cannot impose on them a temporary wealth creation scheme which is good for all of us nonetheless but hurts the most vulnerable people. We are destroying our country in the long run,” Swartbooi said. 

He added that the laws need to be reviewed to see whether it speaks to the current needs and wealth beneficiation of communities in the areas these mines operate.

“We are not children. We know where there is mining there will be an impact on other sectors. However, what are the compensation models that we can already incorporate to ease the potential damage that can be caused by mining?” Swartbooi questioned.

He also questioned the fact that these mines, despite operating for so long, have no visible footprint in the communities they operate.

“People must already feel the impacts of mining companies. Better roads, improved schools, real transformation, and investment in young people. Extra training for young people, investment in water infrastructure, should have been visible by now,” he said. 

Mines and energy minister, Tom Alweendo in an engagement with the residents said they are looking into their concerns. 

“We are here to get a better understanding of the problem. I believe that we can only resolve it if we fully understand the issue,” Alweendo responded. He added that he will not protect anyone who is not following the law.

“If there is proof of any illegal activity and the finding states so, we will take the necessary steps,” the minister said. He also extended an invitation to the residents to engage the ministry to consult on the allegations and concerns they raised in terms of mining in their area.