Prospecting in the pipeline

Concerns have been raised over the possible exploration for base metals such as gold, silver and copper in the protected Naukluft area.

26 February 2019 | Environment

An estimated N$10 million to N$20 million will be pumped into the exploration for base and precious metals in the Namib Naukluft National Park, subject to an environmental clearance certificate from the environment ministry.

Hope and Gorob Mining Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of unlisted Australian company Virgo Resources Limited, has commissioned an environmental impact assessment, an environmental scoping report and an environmental management plan for exploration activities on Exclusive Prospective Licence (EPL) 5796.

Virgo Resources, which holds 70% in Hope and Gorob Mining Pty Ltd, is in a joint-venture partnership with Namibian company MKH Tangible Investments, of which Tango Kandjaba is a director.

Managing director of Virgo Resources, Dr Quinton Hills, said the Hope and Gorob project intends to start exploration activities as soon as an environmental clearance certificate is granted.

He could not say how long the exploration activities would last, but said they hope to start by the middle of this year.

MKH Tangible Investments was first granted the exploration licence in June 2015, which expired in June 2018. This licence was renewed in August last year until September 2020.

The Hope and Gorob project, located on two abandoned mines in the national park, intends to explore mainly for copper, gold, and silver.

The environmental consultant for the project, Alexandra Speiser of A. Speiser Environmental Consultants CC, emphasised it is not a mining project.

“Only further exploration activities are planned on the EPL area (not mining activities). The current EIA process being undertaken is therefore only focusing on the proposed further exploration activities,” Speiser said.

She said should a feasible ore body be found for possible future mining activities, a new EIA process needs to be conducted and a mining application submitted to the mines ministry, which must be approved by the environment ministry.



Concerns

Because the EPL are falls within the protected national park, and there could be renewed mining activities in the pristine area, concerns locals have expressed concerns.

The park - the largest game park in Africa and fourth largest in the world - is Namibia's largest conservation area and one of its prime tourism destinations.

There has, however, been some or other form of exploration and mining going on in the sensitive desert area throughout its history.

In 2007, the 100th year of the existence of the Namib Naukluft National Park, desert researcher Dr Mary Seely of the Desert Research Foundation, wrote that indigenous peoples, possibly the Topnaars, had mined copper from the Hope and Gorob mines in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In the early 1900s copper was mined from the mines.

Speiser said the mines and tourism ministries had developed and issued a national policy in 2018 on prospecting and mining in protected areas. She said according to this policy certain protected areas are excluded from exploration and mining – such as the Etosha and Waterberg Plateau national parks.

The policy, she added, also provides requirements for protected areas with specific zones to be excluded from prospecting and mining.

“The EPL [5796] does fall in the Namib Naukluft National Park, but falls outside such specified zones. The EIA process being undertaken will, however, identify and assess potential impacts on the environment - specifically taking cognisance of the fact that it is located in the park - and an EMP will be developed as the 'final product' of the process,” Speiser added.

CATHERINE SASMAN

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