Alleged illegal mining threatens national park

SCARRED … Various ‘holes’ dot the hills around the Palmenhorst area inside the Naukluft National Park where the miners mine mica. Photos: Contributed

The residents of Palmenhorst farm and surrounding plots along the Swakop River in the Namib Naukluft Park have raised concerns about alleged illegal mining activities in the area, which they believe are causing significant damage to the environment.

Last October, the community noticed unusual activity in the area and decided to investigate. They discovered what appeared to be an illegal mining operation within the boundaries of the national park.

The community reached out to a local mine for clarification, but were advised to raise their concerns with the Ministry of Mines and Energy.

“We must prioritise an investigation into this and try to preserve Namibia’s very sensitive, unique and precious environment,” said Robert Scott, a representative of the Palmenhorst community.

The alleged mining activities have resulted in the creation of new truck tracks running through the desert, leading off from the community’s access road.

The community fears that the mining of mica, if allowed to continue, could cause irreversible damage to the national park, which falls under the protection of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism.

This month, the situation had worsened. The community observed an increase in miners driving in and out of the desert on new roads.

“These are uneasy encounters and it is obvious these men are desperate and working for a minimal wage,” Scott added.

The community discovered another mine that appeared to be illegal, with no safety signboards or company names displayed. The miners were living in tents in the park, and their waste was blowing across the desert They showed no regard for the special and fragile environment.

There are also several areas in the environment that have been dug out, or cut and chopped out, leaving major environmental scars. Hundreds of bags of mica also were seen stacked at some of the sites.

“Has the ministry of environment taken any action with the illegal miners that were operating there last year and is the ministry aware that they are in the desert now creating a big mess?”

Scott added: “It seems to be a recurring situation which is quickly destroying our natural heritage.”

The community is also calling for the mines ministry to redirect licence fees or find a solution to monitor and for miners to rehabilitate these areas properly. They are also urging the mining sector and all ministries to support them in their endeavour to expose those responsible for these illegal activities.

“This is destroying this environment at an extremely rapid rate,” Scott warned.

When approached for comment, environment ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda acknowledged that the matter was reported to them.

“The ministry is engaged and seized with the matter. We are busy with an investigation to establish the extent of the damage. We are engaging the relevant authorities, including Ministry of Mines and Energy, as well as the Namibian Police,” he noted.

Spokesperson for the mines ministry Ten Hasheela said that they need to investigate.

“The ministry has not been informed about these activities, therefore, we need a bit of time to investigate and do fact finding before we respond,” she said.

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