Monday 12 April 2021
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Sand: Namibia’s new gold

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-12-17-34-pm screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-12-17-43-pmWith the vast unoccupied open spaces, less dense vegetation and little sign of life in Namibia’s remote areas, sand miners have in recent years pounced on the situation and have turned the vast land mass into a cash cow. With construction activities from roads, office buildings and houses increasing over the years, sand has become a priced commodity in Namibia. Those in the rural areas would dig and sell the sand to more established businesses who have the necessary equipment to commercialise the sand. Since most of the spaces on which sand mining takes place are unoccupied, little attention is neither paid on the impact of such mining activities on the environment nor the level of regulation on these activities. In Rundu, hundreds of men wake up early each morning to dig up heaps of sand, which they sell to clients, mostly brick manufacturers and building contractors, who require quality sand for ongoing construction projects. Contractors prefer to buy sand from the unlicensed sand miners, because their prices are much lower than the prevailing market rates.  As you approach the mining sites, the sight of scarred surfaces is common due to the intense mining activities going on there. The miners say they are aware of the negative impact on the environment, but there is nothing they can do since mining is their only source of livelihood.
Rundu Town Council chief executive officer, Romanus Haironga, yesterday told this publication that sand mining continues to be an Achilles heel for the council. “It is difficult to regulate it because we do not have by-laws to tackle the issue. Most of the sand miners are unemployed therefore it also presents a challenge to the council,” said a concerned Haironga. But despite their unemployment status, Haironga said the council is receiving pressure from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to control sand mining in the town. The CEO said the council is in the process of developing a policy to help regulate the illegal mining activities which he expects to be implemented next year. “We want a policy to contain the situation. Through that policy we will ensure that only Council mines sand in the town boundaries. This will help us to sustain our environment and at the same time generate revenue for the council,” Haironga said.
“With development taking place these problem will always be encountered but despite that we must ensure that development is synonymous with sustainable environmental management,” he said. Haironga also pinned the increasing illegal sand mining activities on construction companies in Rundu, saying most of them provide a market for the miners. The Namibian reported this week that the Ondonga and Uukwambi areas of the Oshikoto and Omusati regions, respectively, have seen increased incidents of illegal sand mining at the hands of construction companies and individual businessmen who claim that they had paid fees to the Ondonga Traditional Authority.

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