THE Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has launched an investigation into allegations of corruption at the Ministry of Mines and Energy.
According to ACC spokesperson Josefina Nghituwamata, complaints were registered with the commission on 14 September. She did not disclose the identity of the complainant.
“According to the complaints, there are payments that were given to a staff member to ease the issuance of mining and exclusive prospecting licences (EPLs). Therefore, the investigation is ongoing,” she said.
Nghituwamata also did not reveal the names of potential suspects of interest and said the focus will be on the information provided in the complaint.
This comes as mines minister Tom Alweendo admitted that there is potential bribery happening within the ministry.
He made the admission in the National Assembly on Tuesday, after The Namibian reported on allegations that N$50m in bribes has been paid to ministry officials to award an exploration licence.
According to Alweendo, the exposé revealed a potential weakness in how exploration applications were awarded or declined. The Namibian reported on how two EPLs were awarded to Orange River Mining, belonging to the cousin of former mines ministry technical adviser Ralph Muyamba.
Muyamba has denied any wrongdoing in the awarding of the EPL to his cousin Peter Shifwaku.
“Over the years, a trend has emerged where exploration rights are awarded to applicants that have not proven any serious intention to do exploration,” said Alweendo.
Some applicants apply for exploration licences not to do any exploration but to rather trade with the licences once awarded, he said. This was the case of Orange River Mining, which sold the licence to Xingfeng Investment, with the proceeds allegedly spent on vehicles and extravagant parties.
Alwendo said if the practice of awarding exploration licences in this manner is not addressed, it could ruin the country’s long-term mineral resources development.
“One of the unintended consequences of this practice is that you create a parallel market for trading in exploration licences, where huge amounts of money are exchanged. This in turn has the potential to create incentives for ministry officials to be bribed to award licences inappropriately,” he said.
To address this challenge, Alweendo said his ministry has strengthened the evaluation methodology of exploration licence applications.
“Each applicant will be required to provide us with a detailed exploration programme, which must be accompanied by a commensurate exploration budget and the details of appropriately skilled personnel that will be carrying out the actual exploration activities,” said Alweendo.
Alweendo said he was surprised by the manner in which Xinfeng Investment started its mining operation, when the company initially indicated that the commencement was planned for 2024.
Xinfeng was awarded an EPL in October 2021, and in August 2022 a mining licence over parts of the EPL, Alweendo said.
The speed with which the approval was done also baffled Alweendo
“Surprisingly though, the company started mining operations soon after they received their mining licence” Alweendo said.
“As part of their mining licence application, the company has also stated that before they invest in a processing plant that was to be constructed in 2024, they would need to export a certain quantity of crushed ore to their processing plant in China,” he said.
The company has exported 75 000 tonnes of ore under the guise of samples, and has paid N$2 million in royalties.
Alweendo admitted that ministry officials responsible for export licence administration did not agree on the sampling quantity.
Alweendo said the export permits were issued by former mining commissioner Erastus Shivolo.
“To date, the company has been issued with an export permit totaling 135 000 tonnes of crushed ore,” he said.
The ministry last week issued a statement in which it agreed to allow the company to export the rest of the ore, despite the quantity being considered high for sampling purposes.