Govt accuses Xinfeng of illegal drilling on resettlement farms

Elijah Ngurare

The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform has directed deputy executive director Elijah Ngurare to stop controversial Chinese company Xinfeng Investment from drilling boreholes and sourcing water from state-owned resettlement farms.

The directive was issued after Xinfeng, a Chinese lithium mining company, was accused of drilling three boreholes without the necessary government approval, to supply its Uis mining operations, without seeking the relevant government approval or permission.

The company also started mining activities on a resettlement mine at Omaruru, while it was only granted permission to conduct exploration activities.

Xinfeng has, however, denied any wrongdoing and insisted that all its activities were above board.

Executive director of agriculture, water and land reform Ndiyakupi Nghituwamata wrote an internal memo on 5 October, in which she orders Ngurare to reign Xinfeng in and put an immediate stop to its unlawful sourcing of water.

“The department of water affairs is hereby requested as a matter of extreme urgency to take possible action against Xinfeng Investment, as this has a detrimental effect on the resettled farmers leasing the subject farm,” Nghituwamata said in the memo.

The ministry, through the Land Reform Advisory Commission, investigated the claims that Xinfeng was illegally sourcing water on the farm Kohero in the Omaruru area in the Erongo region, she wrote.

The farm accommodates two resettled families.

The investigation has revealed that Xinfeng drilled three boreholes and is extracting water from the farm, transporting it to its Longfire Mine at Uis, and the company has been doing so without obtaining any authorisation or permits from the ministry.
The Water Resources Management Act prohibits the sourcing and usage of bulk water without a permit from the ministry of agriculture.

Agriculture ministry spokesperson Jona Musheko this week told The Namibian the matter is being handled internally, and that the ministry is not comfortable responding to questions.

“We shall communicate to the public when internal procedures and consultations are completed,” he said.

The company’s management said it received permission from the ministry on 19 April 2022 to drill three boreholes for domestic purposes.

“A meeting was held on 23 October with senior officials from the respective ministry, as well as our company’s management, where it was made clear that they indeed issued us an approval, and that no unauthorised drilling was taking place,” reads a statement the company issued yesterday.

Xinfeng further denied that water extracted from the boreholes were being transported elsewhere.
The company also noted that it has been in contact with the ministry on this matter, and is in full compliance with the law.

TRAIL OF TRANSGRESSIONS

The memo further indicates Xinfeng was granted permission by the ministry to access the farm to conduct exploration last February, but the company proceeded with mining operations on the farm around September.

Xinfeng did this because it got a mining licence from the mines ministry, but did not get permission from the agriculture ministry to conduct actual mining.

Xinfeng’s mining activities on the farm have disrupted the two families’ farming activities as a result of noise and dust pollution, as well as the destruction of the farm’s fauna and flora.

Some suspicions have also been brought to The Namibian’s attention that Xinfeng may be using permits from its other mining operations to transport ore from farm Kohero.

The company appears not to have permits to transport ore from farm Kohero.

Xinfeng faced scrutiny over its business dealings in Namibia, including concerns over raw material exports, business practices, and political connections.

Mines minister Tom Alweendo this week said he is not aware of the latest case involving the unlawful sourcing of water, and that the agriculture ministry is the responsible ministry to deal with the matter.

Alweendo, however, said his ministry is still awaiting a court review application in a bid to have Xinfeng’s mining licence revoked.

This was because the minister suspected that Xinfeng obtained its mining licence fraudulently.

Two weeks ago The Namibian reported that the mining commissioner in the mines ministry, Isabella Chirchir, has requested the Erongo regional police to stop Xinfeng Investment and other trucks transporting unprocessed crushed lithium ore from the Kohero mine.

Chirchir was quoted saying Xinfeng lacks the necessary transport permit, as well as an export permit for lithium.

She said the company is not authorised to extract materials from its mine for transportation within Namibia or beyond.

Last year The Namibian also reported that Xinfeng started mining on farm Kohero, while their mining licence was yet to be approved, and they did not obtain an environmental clearance certificate from the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism as required by law.

Questions sent to Xinfeng on Wednesday were not answered.

Stay informed with The Namibian – your source for credible journalism. Get in-depth reporting and opinions for only N$85 a month. Invest in journalism, invest in democracy –
Subscribe Now!