Mines minister Tom Alweendo is being sent back to the drawing board barely six months after he lifted the last moratorium imposed to reorganise the allocation of Namibia’s exploration and mining permits.
The calls come from communities around the Dâures constituency in the Erongo region, which has become Namibia’s latest mineral ‘El Dorado’ amid a flurry search for oil, green hydrogen and the rare earth metal lithium.
Demands for a temporary ban on lithium mining have strong merit.
The Namibian adds its voice to the appeal from the Uis communities and Landless People’s Movement (LPM) member of parliament Henny Seibeb that a moratorium be imposed.
In fact, we believe the moratorium should go further than lithium – a mineral at the centre of a global scramble because it is used to make batteries for electric vehicles and other electronic devices.
All Namibia’s mining industry policies and laws seem in urgent need of review and overhaul.
Lithium has become the obvious one following accusations of bribery, corruption, incompetence and the pure theft of business licences involving government officials, as well as companies such as Xinfeng and Longfire.
Alweendo has faced criticism for allowing Xinfeng to extract and export about 58 000 tonnes of lithium to China last year amid disputes over how the company obtained its licences.
President Hage Geingob’s remarks that the discovered oil does not belong to Namibians may have been understood in a simplistic way, but were a clear sign the country has not put measures in place to ensure that maximum benefits accrue to citizens.
So when Alweendo traverses the country urging Namibians to participate in the ‘value chain’ of an industry like petroleum, it is fair to ask the government what measures have been taken to ensure the population fully benefits from the resources.
Worth noting is that Geingob and his green hydrogen bureaucratic enthusiasts have accepted an offer to borrow about N$20 billion in so-called ‘concessional loans’.
Why should Namibians be excited to plunge the country into more debt over an experimental business proposition?
Why can’t the companies driving green hydrogen as a panacea for the world’s search for clean energy put their money where their mouths are if they believe so strongly in the projects?
Why was the green hydrogen fast-tracked by State House to the extent that normal checks and balances such as tender rules were bypassed?
In short, policies and laws governing natural resource management must be tightened to avoid a damaging scramble that has since independence only benefited a few so-called previously disadvantaged Namibians, while the majority of citizens are mired in poverty, inequality and despair.