The Namibian (Windhoek)

Namibia: Uncontrolled Sand Mining Days Numbered

WHILE sand mining in the Swakop River is a crucial element of coastal development, sand mining companies do seem take advantage of the lack of official control over mining operations.

For about a year now, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry's Department of Water Affairs has been responsible for supervising the mining, but lacked the capacity to implement regulations.

The Swakopmund municipality, which had the mandate to manage the activities before, first had to renew its permit, but this did not happen until very recently.

Consequently, sand mining had to continue - with or without management - for the sake of development.

But this has changed now. Last week the municipality eventually received written authorisation from the ministry to manage the sand mining, and according to Clive Lawrence, general manager of the municipality's health department, this will start early next year.

In the meantime though, sand miners have taken some chances during the lack of supervision, while those opposing sand mining in the area have committed offences to vent their frustrations.

The most recent incident involves malicious damage to property of one of the sand miners, Jurgen Gossow.

'Gossow Rapes Rivers' was painted on the wall of a building in which his front-end loader is kept, with more graffiti on other infrastructure.

"I will not take any action. I will clean it up, but some of these people, and we suspect we know who they are, are silly and unreasonable," Gossow told The Namibian.

"We are looking forward to a long-term plan in which all parties will be satisfied," he said.

Another incident involved a 500-metre-long channel; about five metres wide and three metres deep, cutting across a plot without the owner's permission.

The reason for the channel was to divert the flow of the Swakop River from the sand quarries.

About two months ago, a cloudburst in the Namib Desert caused a flash flood in the river, which went straight into the quarries, hampering operations.

A decision was taken to divert future flows. This decision to make a channel through private property was never discussed with the owner, who lives in Germany.

Lawrence said this was a private matter, and The Namibian learned from reliable sources that the owner is demanding that his property be restored to its original state.

Regardless of this, Lawrence said that illegal activities will be something of the past from next year.

"We will start issuing permits to the applicants once again, and monitor their activities in context of the conditions. If they ignore the conditions, their permits will be revoked," he said.

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