By Tileni Mongudhi | 3 April 2022
MINING commissioner Erasmus Shivolo has accused a Chinese company of conducting illegal mining exploration activities on a government resettlement farm near Omaruru.
The firm, Xinfeng Investments, made headlines last year for trying to construct what would be Namibia’s first lithium mine.
Now, it’s being accused of taking shortcuts and leaving behind a trail of destruction and after it started exploring for lithium deposits on Farm Kohero No. 113, located between Omaruru and Uis.
The company allegedly rushed into the mining activities, while ignoring laws governing environmental protection, water and mining.
However, Xinfeng has denied any wrongdoing.
The company was also accused of chopping down protected trees when it de-bushed the area for mining exploration.
“I told them to stop until they have an Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC),” Shivolo told The Namibian last week.
In March, Shivolo ordered the company to stop its activities.
He said Xinfeng Investments was conducting its exploration activities illegally.
“I intervened and instructed them to stop,” he said.
Shivolo’s office only granted the company permission to start its exploration programme, he added.
The actual exploration licence can only be granted after the company obtains an ECC.
Shivolo said the company created a disturbance on the farm by dredging and drilling.
The company acknowledged that it started exploration activities in anticipation of getting an ECC, which only came after the exploration activities were conducted, he said.
Xinfeng Investments spokesperson Zhou Kilore denied any wrongdoing.
He said they have “all the right paperwork”, however, he conceded that they received a warning letter from the mining commissioner’s office, but said since they have all the required documents, activities are proceeding.
Zhou refused to provide details or a chronology of how the company ended up receiving a warning.
“I don’t have to answer you,” he said.
Xinfeng initially consulted the resettled farmer on the land, but decided to get permission directly from the ministry to access the farm and conduct exploration activities.
On 17 February, the agriculture ministry’s acting executive director, Ndiyakupi Nghituwamata, granted access and charged the company N$60 000 to be paid to the Land Acquisition and Development Fund.
Nghituwamata, however, explicitly made it clear that the permission granted was subject to compliance with the law, including an ECC.
Her letter, seen by The Namibian, states that Xinfeng must comply with: fencing off the main area where drilling will take place to protect both humans, livestock and wildlife; the environmental certificate, including dust and noise pollution and
rehabilitate the site after exploration, in line with the ECC.
Within days of receiving Nghituwamata’s ‘permission’, Xinfeng set up camp on the farm and ferried in heavy industrial equipment, without warning the resettled owners of the farm.
The only problem was, they did not have an ECC, which was only issued on 4 April this year. By the time the ECC was issued, Xinfeng Investments was already done with its exploration activities, which ended in March.
By then, the company had interrupted farming activities, illegally drilled a water borehole and debushed the area.
Shivolo said penalties or action to be taken against Xingfeng can only come from the environment ministry, as the violations were in contravention of the Environmental Management Act.
Questions sent by The Namibian to the environment ministry were not answered. The agriculture ministry also did not respond to questions regarding the case.
In particular were questions regarding what rights and protection resettlement farmers have in cases like this, where mining affects farming activities.