LÜDERITZ – The Ministry of Environment and Tourism concurs with the mines ministry that there is a need to amend the Diamond Act of 1999 to allow a tourism concession for Tsau Khaeb National Park (Sperrgebiet) where Namdeb is mining diamonds.
This was said by environment minister Pohamba Shifeta who added that since the proclamation of the park in 2008 there has been little progress in developing tourism in it due to current access requirements.
The park falls within a declared diamond area under the Diamond Act, No. 13 of 1999 and access is therefore restricted.
Speaking at the launch of the national policy on mining and prospecting in protected areas in Lüderitz on Friday, Shifeta said 30 percent of the 22 000 square kilometre park will remain a restricted diamond protected area but the rest will be for tourism. He revealed that notable achievements of the project include nearly concluded negotiations to open the park for tourism.
“I have already met with Comrade Tom Alweendo, the minister of mines and energy on this matter. During our discussions it was agreed to reduce the boundaries of Diamond Area No. 1 by de-gazetting 70 percent of the restricted area that falls outside the Namdeb mining licence from diamond area status. By so doing, only 30 percent of the park will remain within the restricted diamond area,” Shifeta announced.
Furthermore, he said it was agreed to amend the Diamond Act (Act 13 of 1999) to allow for controlled tourism and restricted traversing rights for tourism concession holders through the remaining 30 percent that will still fall under declared diamond areas as well as to empower park officials to enter the diamond areas.
“Both processes are expected to be completed soon, as we wait for a formal response from the Ministry of Mines and Energy,” he said.
Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy Kornelia Shilunga said tourism and mining can co-exist even in protected areas when sound policies are in place to ensure such sensitive areas are not negatively impacted.
Last year a national policy on prospecting and mining in protected areas was developed and co-signed by the mines and energy minister. Shilunga explained that the rationale behind the policy is to ensure that the two sectors continue to co-exist in a well-coordinated and regulated manner to ensure growth and maximum benefits in both sectors without stifling one another.
According to her, parts of the protected areas that possess significant mineral potential should be taken good care of to avoid considerable impacts.
“Tourism and mining can co-exist even in protected areas when we cooperate, coordinate, work together and most importantly when we develop sound policies such as the national policy on prospecting and mining in protected areas,” she noted.
Shifeta said that since the discovery of diamonds in 1908 access to the area has been regulated not to compromise the security of diamond mining.
He noted that the occasion marks a milestone for the long transformation of the area as a national park for biodiversity conservation and sustainable tourism development to co-exist with responsible mining.
In line with the current negotiations on access, the environment and tourism ministry with support of the NamParks project has also revised the Park Tourism Development Plan that would guide tourism development in the park.