Land Row Unsettles Miners

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By Chrispin Inambao THE row involving the former managing director of Ongopolo Mining and Processing, AndrÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚© Neethling, and the copper mine is a great cause for concern because it creates job insecurity among miners. Speaking to New Era during an impromptu interview yesterday Tsumeb mayor Engel Nawatiseb made an impassioned appeal to the two parties to find common ground by amicably resolving the dispute as it impacts negatively on miners. Recently, the two parties locked horns in the high court after Neethling and his associates barred the mine to access one of its operations via a route located on the farm he bought from the mine in what is widely believed to have been a give-away-transaction. He urged the two parties to amicably sort out their differences because the mine is the town’s economic mainstay. “The on-going squabbles between Weavery International PLC, representing Ongopolo, and the former managing director of Ongopolo should come to an end,” he appealed to the two parties. If the dispute goes on, it could tarnish and “impact negatively on the world-acclaimed image of the copper town,” a concerned Nawatiseb said. “And as leaders of the town, we don’t want to interfere in the private dispute but we encourage immediate dialogue through existing channels and procedures,” said the politician. The Tsumeb Town Council ultimately wants the mining of copper to continue, as it feels that Ongopolo Mining has a social obligation towards the town and its 20 000-strong population. “Under-production would certainly do injustice to the hopes and the aspirations of our people. Our position is very clear, we discourage our com- munity to pin any hopes on the mine yet the mine is a catalyst for the economic stability of our town. Therefore its economic growth should not be compromised,” Nawatiseb said. The access route in dispute prevents the mine from extracting silica that is used in the processing of copper at the mine. He also feels if the present dispute is protracted, the annual copper festival which this year received a record and the first-ever sponsorship of N$100 000 from the mine could be in jeopardy. He noted the previous Ongopolo management refused to sponsor the festival that gets its name from the mineral found at the town. The new owners of Ongopolo injected massive cash into the mine that a few years back caused shockwaves when it temporarily closed – retrenching hundreds. Ongopolo was previously brought to its knees when management reportedly funneled funds to “non-priority areas” at the mine.