Eveline de Klerk
WALVIS BAY - Small-scale miners operating from Erongo Mountains are up in arms after four miners were arrested for alleged trespassing as well as for contravening lockdown measures when they were found digging semi-precious stones on the mountains last week.
Small miners said their counterparts are accused of digging for precious stones on a claim that belongs to Eric /Goagoseb, whose ownership the miners have questioned.
According to the miners, this new development threatens the livelihood of hundreds of small miners that earn a living mining and selling semi-precious stones.
Jakob Pienaar, whose son is among the four arrested last week said the mountain has been open for anyone to dig up stones as long as you do not touch on someone else’s claim. As a result, the group has petitioned governor Neville Itope to intervene.
Liaison officer for the miners, Matheus Ngaringombe in the petition stated that precious stones from Erongo Mountains are their sole source of income.
“We have been working in the area digging for precious stones and minerals. We have been mining in the area for close to 30 years,” he explained in their petition.
He added the youth from Omaruru, Tubusis, Karibib, Okombahe, Usakos and surrounding farms have seen precious stone mining as a viable source of income, rather than resorting to a life of crime, violence and other anti-social activities.
“However, we have learned that our operations regarding mining at the Erongo Mountains are illegal, as the mountain is owned by one single individual. Which means that for us to mine or work on the mountain, one needs to source consent/permission from him. The absence of such permission would mean that one is trespassing and/or stealing,” read the petition.
Contacted for comment, /Goagoseb said he legally bought the said claim whose ownership is now in dispute from a certain Tangeni. “Tangeni lost interest in mining a couple of years ago after his brother and two others died on the said claim. Everything was done legally and I paid N$20 000 and also signed the paperwork in the presence of the police,” he said.
He added that there are several people mining with permission on his claims.
“Those that were arrested did not ask for my permission and they were warned on numerous occasions, they even threatened to harm me,” Goagoseb said.
Spokesperson for the ministry of mines and energy Simon Andreas said with regard to mining on Erongo Mountains, there are several mining claims granted to Namibian nationals, as well as exclusive prospecting licences.
He also explained that Goagoseb according to their records has three mining claims which are valid until 20 June 2021, and a further two mining claims currently under application. “No person (natural or juristic) has the sole right to mine or explore at the Erongo Mountains. Applications for prospecting and mining rights are accepted and processed in accordance with the provisions of the minerals Section 2 of the Minerals Act which provides that the rights in relation to minerals vests in the State,” he stated.
He added that the Minerals Act clearly states that no person shall carry out any prospecting or mining operations in, on or under any land in Namibia, except under and in accordance with a non-exclusive prospecting licence, mining claim or mineral licence.
“Only those with legally granted mineral rights can therefore be allowed to conduct prospecting and mining,” Andreas informed New Era.