An applicant for a mining licence must comply with the provisions of the Minerals (Mining and Prospecting) Act, Act 33 of 1992. Applicants are required to estimate the effect of mining or prospecting on the environment and the steps to be taken to counteract such effects. In line with the Minerals (Mining and Prospecting) Act, Act 33 of 1992, prior to consideration of a mining licence, the Minister may require an environmental impact study. Alternatively, the holder of a mining licence must prepare an environmental impact assessment (in a form determined by the Commissioner) before any mining or prospecting is undertaken. If pollution is likely to be caused by mining, an environmental management plan (EMP) is required.
The minerals act allows for various types of prospecting and mining licences, issued by the Mining Commissioner, covering both small-scale and formal activity:
Mining Claims – available to Namibian citizens only, these claims are for the development of small-scale mines and mineral deposits. Up to a maximum of ten claims can be held at any one time, each valid for three years (with a possible two-year extension).
Reconnaissance Licences – designed for regional, mainly remotely sensed exploration to facilitate the identification of exploration targets. Valid for six months on a non-renewable basis only.
Exclusive Prospecting Licences – for exclusive exploration rights in areas up to 1000 km2. Valid for three years, but can be extended twice for two-year periods, but not beyond seven years without ministerial approval.
Mining Licences – grant exclusive mining rights on a piece of property for 25 years or the life of the mine, with renewals valid for 15-year periods. Holders are required to demonstrate financial and technical ability to develop and operate a mine.
Mineral Deposit Retention Licence – allows an exploration company to retain tenure on a prospecting licence, mining licence or mining claim without mining obligations. Valid for five years with two year renewal periods.
Responsibility of Licence Holders
Social obligations of mineral licence holders to employees and to Namibia include: the need to give job preference to Namibian citizens possessing appropriate qualifications; conduct training programmes; use products produced and services available in Namibia, and co-operate with other Namibians involved in the mining industry to aid skills development.
The licence holder is ultimately responsible for all actions of subcontractors and must ensure that all licence conditions are equally applied to subcontractors.
Provisions of the Minerals (Prospecting and Mining) Act relating to environmental protection and rehabilitation are weak and unlikely to enforce compliance. Abandonment of a mining or prospecting area stipulates the need to give written notice to the Commissioner; to demolish accessory mining works (unless required by the landowner), and to “take all such steps” to “remedy to the reasonable satisfaction of the Minister any damage” caused by the mining or prospecting operation to the “surface of, and the environment on, the land in the area in question”. Further, contravention of these provisions may incur a fine not exceeding R8000 which is unlikely to be a deterrent to non-compliance.
Issuance of mining or prospecting licences requires the holder to sign a Pro-forma Environmental Contract with the Government of Namibia (represented by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and the Ministry of Mines and Energy). This contract obliges the holder to apply the Environmental Assessment Policy (see below) and to reduce and mitigate all environmental damage and to leave the environment in a reasonable state. The contract requires the licence holder to submit a bi-annual Environmental Report documenting compliance with the submitted and approved EMP.
5.3.2 Environmental Assessment Policy of 1995 and the New Environmental Management Act
Namibia’s Environmental Assessment Policy, compiled in 1995 by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, lists the activities for which an environmental assessment is required (which includes mining, mineral extraction and mineral beneficiation) and describes the procedure to be followed for undertaking and compiling them. The Ministry of Mines and Energy and the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources do not have their own set of requirements in this regard.
Recently an Environmental Management Act (Act X of 1998) has been compiled which prescribes the need for environmental assessments for listed activities and outlines their minimum requirements. Listed activities relating to marine mining include: mining and mineral extraction, the construction of harbours and associated structures, structures below the high water mark, reclamation of land below the high water mark, the erection of buildings and structures for industrial activity, construction of sewage treatment plants and dams or reservoirs, and the construction of waste sites or facilities for waste treatment. Environmental assessments are submitted to, and reviewed by, the Competent Authority and Environmental Commissioner. The latter, after full consideration, and possibly further consultation and external review, submits the EA with his/her recommendation to a Sustainable Development Commission. The Sustainable Development Commission (represented by officers from all key ministries, sustainable development specialists and NGO representatives) is responsible for issuing or refusing the granting of an Environmental Clearance, with or without conditions.
According to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) (Dohogne pers. comm.) a flexible system for environmental assessments and management plans is followed for mining whereby depending on the phase of the companies programme further environmental information is requested. The different mining phases and requirements are: