ONDADO - The Ministry of Environment and Tourism is set to charge and take to court two northern companies for illegally mining sand at a pit at Ondado at Oniipa.
The two companies – Huhu City, owned by the mayor of Ondangwa, Paavo Amwele, and Niimboto, owned by businessman Otto Shikomba – are accused of violating the Environmental Management Act by allegedly mining without an Environmental Clearance Certificate.
The environmental commissioner Theofilus Nghitila has directed that the two companies be taken to court and the operations at the site be halted pending the finalisation of the matter in court.
It is further directed that the heaps of sand mined from the pit be impounded by the police.
Convicted offenders are liable to a fine of not more than N$500 000 or a 25-year jail term or both.
Sand miners are required to rehabilitate the area once they have finished mining the prescribed area.
Although the ministry is only targeting the two companies, New Era has established that there are more than 10 other businessmen mining from the same pit.
It is further alleged that all the sand used in the areas of Ondangwa and Oniipa are extracted from the same pit.
Amwele has dismissed claims that he mines sand outside the confines of the law.
Amwele said he started with sand mining before the clearance certificates came into operation, however his application to acquire a certificate has been gathering dust since 2017.
“I was given [permission] to mine from the area by the traditional authority who were the custodians at the time, but that is not the excuse to continue to mine without the required certificate. I have applied, yet I have not been awarded any,” said Amwele.
Amwele accused the ministry of having no desire to issue such certificates, saying that it does not conform itself to the timeline that it has specified once an application has been made.
“What should we really do? Some of these issues are fuelled by jealousy and hatred by individuals who want to drag us into poverty,” said Amwele.
But Amwele is not deterred by the ministry’s stance, saying that he will fight them tooth and nail because the ministry has at no point engaged the alleged illegal miners at the pit.
Cementing Amweele’s view, Shikomba said he has no issue with the ministry wanting people to comply with the set regulations.
“But the ministry should come to us and engage us. Why have they never engaged us? The only time the ministry came on board is when we engaged them through NCCI,” said Shikomba.
Senior environmental inspector Ipeinge Mundjulu said sand miners have destroyed the vegetation that was once visible at the area.
In addition to the vegetation the mining is also in the process of disturbing underground water.
The sand mining at Ondado is viewed with mixed feelings by residents.
While some feel their children, livestock and their personal beings are threatened by the existence of the pit, there are those who are allegedly making a living from selling off their plots. “I am hungry and this is the only way to drive myself out of poverty,” a lady who refused to give her name said.
Ndeutila Nekongo, a resident at the village, said the mining has destroyed the usual inland road to their residence.
She claims the trucks damage their water pipes resulting in occasional pipe bursts.
“There is just no rest here, there is dust and noise even on Sundays,” she said.
2018-11-06 09:07:11 9 months ago