The Daures community, particularly small-scale miners in the area, expressed frustration at being regarded or referred to as illegal miners.
During a consultation meeting held earlier this year with a parliamentary standing committee, the small-scale miners bemoaned not being considered when exclusive prospecting licences (EPLs) and claims are issued by the relevant ministry on land they have been occupying and operating on for years. Instead, the miners said, extraction rights are awarded to others, who turn around and report the small-scale miners for trespassing and call them “illegal miners”.
Yesterday, a consultative meeting took place between the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Natural Resources and the mines and energy ministry as well as the environment, forestry and tourism ministry. The meeting specifically addressed illegal lithium mining in Uis.
Kletus Karondo, part of the parliamentary committee, pointed out that Long Fire Investments and its joint venture company Xinfeng Investment have invaded small-scale miners’ space in the region, taking away their only means of living.
“There is an outcry from the community that big companies have taken over the area that small-scale miners previously mined,” he said.
However, Erasmus Shivolo, deputy director in the mine’s ministry, was quick to point out that the small-scale miners were mining illegally, which is why government awarded EPLs to big companies who applied for these rights.
“They are now calling us illegal miners. There is nothing illegal about the way we are mining. This has been the way our forefathers who have been living in this area have been operating. We took over from them, and this is our way of living; nothing is illegal about it,” said one of the miners, preferring anonymity.
This small-scale miner added that numerous families in the constituency have been occupying and mining in the area for decades. For this reason, he believes the small-scale miners should be respected, and their claims of ancestral land as part of the Damara people be considered.
“Some of these foreigners come to our ancestral land and chase us out, although we were here first,” he said during the meeting.
It is estimated that there are about 2 000 small-scale miners in the Erongo region, operating in cooperatives. They mine semi-precious stones in Omatjete, Uis, Okombahe, Omaruru, Tsubusis, Otjimbingwe, Usakos and Walvis Bay.
Meanwhile, parliamentarians observed that licence application fees are too costly for small-scale miners to afford. This, some parliamentarians argued, is being used as a tool to kick them out of the mining game.
“These fees were determined not to include small-scale miners, but rather to leave them out. This is because they cannot afford the fees those big companies can afford,” asserted Tjekero Tweya, chairperson of the parliamentary committee.
The director in the mine’s ministry, Isabella Chir-chir, said as from 1994 to 2021, application fees were very low. Thus, the ministry revised the fees that became effective in September 2021. As per the revisions, EPLs that were N$2 000 increased to N$10 000 and to N$50 000, depending on the size of the mining area.
For non-exclusive prospecting licences (NEPL), which are mainly reserved for small-scale miners, fees increased from N$50 to N$250, just for the application, with an additional N$250 for the annual fee if the licence is operationalised.
The holder of an NEPL is allowed to look for any mineral or group of minerals, on any land throughout Namibia.
A motion to investigate challenges faced by small-scale miners in the Erongo region was tabled in the National Assembly about a month ago by Henny Seibeb of the Landless People’s Movement (LPM). He demanded for more acknowledgment and assistance for small miners.
The difficulties faced by small-scale miners, whose operations are vital to their communities, are hampered by several factors. These difficulties include the lack of sufficient financial sources, restrictions to access mining areas and regulatory limitations. -email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org