Clampdown on illegal sand mining

The illegal collection of building sand without environmental clearance is punishable by a fine of N$500 000 or 25 years in prison, traditional authorities have been warned.

11 June 2018 | Environment

Environmental commissioner Theofilus Nghitila has read the riot act to the Uukwambi Traditional Authority, which has been condoning illegal sand mining for decades.

Last month Namibian Sun ran a series of articles on illegal sand mining, which is a lucrative business all over the country where companies mine sand for free or pay a small fee to traditional authorities and then make huge profits from sales to building contractors in towns.

By law, anyone wishing to mine sand for commercial purposes in Namibia needs an environmental clearance certificate, for which consulting the affected community is a prerequisite. Most existing sand-mining operations do not have this clearance.

Nghitila had a meeting with the leadership of the Uukwambi Traditional Authority where he emphasised the illegality of sand mining in their area and informed them how a clearance certificate is obtained.

Nghitila informed the traditional authority of the Environmental Management Act, which clearly states that the mining of sand for commercial purposes without the appropriate permission is punishable by law just like any other crime.

He said the environment ministry had asked the inspector-general of the Namibian police to instruct regional police commanders to help clamp down on illegal sand mining.

He said perpetrators who are found guilty of this crime are liable to be fined N$500 000 or sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment.

“Mining sand for commercial purpose is something you cannot do without an environmental clearance certificate, the act is clear on that,” Nghitila emphasised.

“We do not want to stand in the way of development, but we are protecting the environment as mandated by the law,” Nghitila said.

He said the environment ministry cannot combat this crime alone and all stakeholders should help to put a stop to it.

“We need you as the traditional authority, as well as the stakeholders, to make an end to sand mining in our country. Sand is a precious commodity meaning that once it's gone, we will have nowhere to get it from in the future,” Nghitila said.

“The land is yours but we must use it in a manner that our people benefit from it. We cannot afford to exploit it.”

Nghitila said if people allowed companies to extract sand from their mahangu fields, it could plunge them into poverty.

“The moment you give away your mahangu field for N$300 to someone to mine the sand, just bear in mind that that money will be finished quickly and all you will be left with is a sand pit. This means you will have very little left of your productive mahangu field and your family will be subjected to poverty,” Nghitila warned.


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