Mining claims gobble up farm

The land reform minister says the farm was never handed over to the Tsoaxudaman traditional authority.

08 April 2019 | Business

Land reform minister Utoni Nujoma has acknowledged that the 15 160 hectare remaining extent of Portion A of Farm Okongava No 72 in the Erongo Region is occupied by mining companies.

The ministry had bought the farm at a price tag of more than N$15 million in 2014 with the initial intent to expand the Otjimbingwe communal area.

This expansion of the Otjimbingwe communal area never happened, and Nujoma reiterated that the farm had not been allocated nor handed over to the Tsoaxudama traditional authority.

Speaking in parliament last Thursday Nujoma said during December 2014 communication was received that the Tsoaxudaman traditional authority under headman Jonathan Neumbo had taken ownership of the farm.

Nujoma said it is not known under which or whose directive the Tsoaxudama traditional authority took ownership of the farm as no such instruction was issued by the land reform ministry and neither is the ministry aware of any correspondence indicating that approval for the integration of the farm into the Otjimbingwe communal area was ever granted.

He said the traditional authority in 2015 had allocated camps, or rights, on the farm without the authorisation or knowledge of the lands ministry or the regional office “while others simply moved onto the farm citing the prevailing drought as the main reason for their illegal occupation of the farm.

Nujoma said eviction notices were issued in 2015 and 2018, but to no avail. He said 18 illegal occupants are still on the farm.

Mining activities

Nujoma said the Land Reform Advisory Commission (LRAC) has in the meantime endorsed a recommendation by the Erongo Resettlement Committee that a detailed land use plan be drawn up.

This land use plan zones areas earmarked for mining activities and for prospective farming activities.

Although this land use plan has only been endorsed on January 2018, mining activities have already commenced on the farm.

Nujoma said investigations and consultations conducted with Neumbo in 2015 showed that the Tsoaxudaman traditional authority had a written agreement – signed in February 2015 – with a joint venture arrangement between companies Bescheer Investment CC and Bohale Investment CC to build a road to explore granite and marble stones on the farm.

He said it subsequently also came to the attention of the lands ministry that several mining operators were conducting mining activities on the farm.

One of these mining companies is the Canadian company Desert Lion Energy (Pty) Ltd, which Nujoma said is the “most active” on the farm.

A Namibian company, !Huni-/Urib Investments, owns 20% shares in Desert Lion. Nujoma’s nephew, Thomas Mushimba, is a shareholder and director of !Huni-/Urib, and is part of the Namibian management team for Desert Lion.

Desert Lion is mining lithium on the old Rubicon Mine and has already started to export lithium to China.

Nujoma last week said the 100% Namibian company, Gecko Limestone, had also requested authorisation from the lands ministry to mine for limestone on the farm.

There are four entities that hold exclusive prospecting licences (EPLs), two with mining licenses and six holding mining claims over Farm Okongava.

The four EPLs are held by Bohale Investments CC, Desert Lion, Navachab Gold Mine, and Ngendahala A.K. Frans Indongo. Bohale and Desert Lion also have the mining licences.

Two of the six mining claims are held by Jan George JNR Enslin, and one is held by Gecko Limestone. Johannes Shikwambi and Megameno Angula hold one mining claim, and the rest are held by Ebson Gamxamub and Claus Gertze respectively.

Nujoma said in June 2017 caretakers placed on the farm as security personnel reported illegal mining operations by BC Drilling CC, a company seemingly not registered with the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (Bipa).

CATHERINE SASMAN

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