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Namibia: Xinfeng Pays N$10 000 to Mine Lithium

UIS – Daures constituency members have complained bitterly about mining companies running roughshod over rules, doing nothing to develop the area as well as highlighting the loss of possible income for government.

It was also revealed this week that traditional authorities like the Daure Daman have been coining it by selling consent letters, for which they received hefty fees from mining companies.

The controversial Chinese mining company, Xinfeng Investment, recently admitted that they paid a service fee of N$10 000 to the Daure Daman Traditional Authority for a consent letter to mine.

However, the affected community is unaware of the funds being generated by the traditional authority in this way.

Frank Li, responsible for operations at Xinfeng, made the payment admission on Wednesday during a public hearing on the alleged illegal mining in the Daures constituency.

“Yes, we pay the service rate monthly. It’s part of our memorandum of understanding,” Li told the parliamentary standing committee on mineral resources tasked to look into the alleged illegal activities in the mining sector.

But Li, when questioned by the chairperson of the committee Tjekero Tweya, denied the company paid sitting allowances to the traditional authority. Instead, he said they donated chairs and paper to the traditional authority, and were eventually granted the consent letter.

In fact, a document in New Era’s possession reveals the authority charges N$50 000 for mining licence consultation fees to non-Namibians, and N$20 000 for Namibians. The traditional authority also charges N$10 000 for exclusive prospective licence applications, and N$5 000 for mining claim consultations for referrals.

A councillor, who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity, said the money is received in cash and is deposited into a Nampost account instead of the authority’s trust fund account.

“Yes, those are the fees we charge, but we also don’t have control over that money, even the sitting fees… we only get N$200,” the traditional authority councillor said.

Meanwhile, traditional councillor Entenesia Tjiveze on Tuesday admitted that they are paid sitting fees by potential investors.

“There is a sitting allowance for our councillors. Some of the EPL holders give each councillor N$400,” she stated.

It has also been revealed that the traditional authority is complicit in the mining company’s skirting of rules. Uis activist Jimmy Areseb had during a meeting held last month with the minister and residents accused the lithium miners of looting resources, and demanded that a proper investigation be conducted.

Namibia’s lithium revenues, based on Simonis Storm estimates, could exceed all other commodities combined, and could therefore considerably improve the country’s trade and current account balances as well as gross domestic product growth rates.

The parliamentary committee comprising parliamentarians Tweya, Kletus Karondo, Maria Elago, Bernadus Swartbooi and Maria Kamutali, were conducting the public hearings, which ended on Wednesday. Shortly after their visit to Xinfeng, Swartbooi said the committee will determine what the facts are in respect of the Daure Daman.

“There were specific revelations made in which they for instance quite explicitly stated that they were paid a certain allowance by the Chinese, and that some monies were not received through the trust fund they have created,” he observed.

Swartbooi said one of the councillors saw nothing wrong in terms of receiving gifts from the Chinese, arguing that the traditional authority also receives gifts from community members.

“This sort of indicates that he is admitting that they were given something additional than the N$400 sitting allowances. Therefore, the question we need to have them answer is, what is it that they were given, and what were the terms of those agreements? Secondly, on whose behalf were they speaking when they were receiving these gifts, and for whom were they receiving these gifts?”, Swartbooi questioned.

He added that there are still numerous questions the Daure Daman Traditional Authority has to answer. Meanwhile, during an earlier engagement, the authority failed to satisfy the committee with relevant answers on the selling of consent letters.

The authority was expected to meet with the committee on Tuesday afternoon, but pulled out at the last minute. However, traditional councillor Johannes Gariseb admitted that they failed the community by providing a letter of consent to Xinfeng. “We really failed the community, but we are on a learning curve,” Gariseb said.

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