By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Mines and Energy Minister, Erkki Nghimtina has threatened to refuse granting or renewing mining licences for companies that fail to work on concessions and yet apply for exclusive prospective rights. Speaking last Friday at the Chamber of Mines of Namibia annual dinner attended by the founding President Sam Nujoma and some Government officials, he said the sterilization of mineral deposits is simply unacceptable. According to Nghimtina, some companies continue to apply for prospective rights yet evidence shows that they are not working on their concessions. “I will refuse to grant through a policy of use it or lose it, any rights to those who are not playing by the rules and I shall take back within the confines of the law, the rights of those who are not using them,” he warned. Considering that mining over the years has been one of the bedrocks of the economy and continues to be so, he urged the mining industry to commit itself to exploration of minerals in the country. He added that exploration for new resources is the lifeline for mining in the country and is of strategic importance to the future development of mines and poverty reduction. While encouraging the exploration of resources in the country, Nghimtina at the same time expressed disappointment at some companies said to be misusing Namibia’s mineral potential, political stability and the country’s good standing within and beyond the mining community. This, according to him, would ruin Namibia’s reputation abroad and thus cannot be condoned. “I am ready to ensure that exploration is conducted professionally in order that the investment climate in Namibia is safeguarded,” he indicated. Among other areas that call for urgent attention, the minister announced his determination to handle value addition as a matter of priority as at present most Namibian minerals are being shipped out of the country in raw form. Considering that mineral resources are not renewable and as time goes on mines become depleted, the minister suggested that every mining business establishes a fund that would deal with the social impact should that particular mine face closure. “There should be life after mine closure. People must survive and former employees should not be allowed to suffer financially,” he said. The industry has been given five months to report back to the ministry on concrete steps taken over the period. As the issue of empowering the previously disadvantaged remains topical, Nghimtina has called on mining companies and other relevant stakeholders to come together and redress imbalances created by past discriminatory policies and practices. He said Broad Based Economic Empowerment would ensure an equitable economy that would aid social and political stability. Meanwhile, the minister has urged the mining industry to establish a mining journal in order to enhance the interests of the industry. He further expressed gratitude over the absence of involuntary retrenchment in the industry since last year, despite the industry operating in an environment filled with challenges of fluctuating exchange rates.
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