By Surihe Gaomas KEETMANSHOOP The biggest challenge facing the Karas Region presently is not being able to tap further into the lucrative mining sector. Although development is progressing well in bringing services closer to the people, more assistance is needed to invest in mining in the region. The Chief Regional Officer of the Karas Region, Salmon Jacobs, voiced this concern to New Era in an interview yesterday. It appears that even though there are several mining companies in the south, most of them are either closed down or do not benefit the people on the ground. “This is our biggest challenge in this region and we need inroads into the mining sector especially in terms of shareholding, employment and funding,” stressed Jacobs. Karas is known for its rich minerals such as diamonds, zinc, copper, marble and other minerals like silver, tin and lead at Rosh Pinah mine. However, not much of the benefits are enjoyed by the inhabitants of the region, leaving many to sit around idle in need of jobs. It is reported that 35 percent of the people in Karas are unemployed. This is regarded as too high a figure for this matter to be left unattended. “We can’t have an excuse for this and there is a big need for mining companies in the south,” he explained, adding that he was recently disappointed with the low pledges of financial support to the region compared to the rest of the country. Although most companies give out funds as part of their corporate social responsibilities, yet when the Karas Regional Council requested funds from one mining company it only gave N$15 000 while the following week the very same company from the south pledged an amount of N$2 million in the north. “This makes me angry, insulted and humiliated and it seems they have no regard for the regional leadership,” Jacobs elaborated further. Prospects are there for an Australian company to invest in a tantalite mine near Warmbad. This mine was closed early this year and the owner left the workers stranded without any explanation. However, when asked about this development, Jacobs said it has not yet been brought to the attention of the council. “We need to be briefed properly. They must not just come to us when there are problems or a strike,” said Jacobs. Currently, the Gemstone Processing Plant is standing as a white elephant and the council has requested the Ministry of Trade and Industry to revive and come up with a different approach that can accommodate the workers’ needs. “The facility must be optimally used – use the products to train the people working there and give people more of an incentive to go back to work,” said Jacobs. Thus he called for the establishment of a Vocational Training Centre especially for small miners in the region. In view of this, Jacobs noted that more training is crucial for Grade 12 learners who are interested in the field of polishing the semi-precious stones that are abundant in the region. According to him, the small miners working in the mines just want to sell the raw materials to a processor at a small price, after which they go back immediately for further prospecting. However, presently the miner has to look for a buyer and that exercise consumes most of his time and he has to sell his product for a price that does not match his input.
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