Small scale miners send SOS signal
Small scale miners have complained about the lack of “adequate assistance” from government and big mining companies despite the establishment of the Minerals Development Fund (MDF) in 1995 to support local mining ventures.
The Acting Administrator of the Erongo Region Small Miners Association (Ersma), an organisation that represents about 1600 small miners in the Erongo Region, told The Economist that the assistance being given to his organisation was “very far from being adequate” and is mostly in kind, in the form of PPE (personal protection equipment).
Acting Administrator, Alfred George said the sector needs to be rescued.
“Their assistance [mining companies], if properly planned to address the miners needs will make a difference, but more players should be involved.”
George said as an association they don’t want to be prescriptive to sponsors on the type of assistance that they should get. He said whatever form of assistance convenient to sponsors is important “as long as this assistance is need-based, with well-planned steps and impact targets set.”
He bemoaned the lack of funding from the Minerals Development Fund, a fund set up to help small scale miners with capital for their operations. He said:“The MDF is called MDF and that is all. I haven’t heard about any funding given to small scale miners. There are no funds. The funds have dried up, maybe there was a plan to fund small scale miners but I have never heard of any funding.”
The Ersma Acting Administrator said there must be a law that compels mining companies to assist small miners in a more result-driven way. He said donations are good, but assisting small miners to transform their current activities into viable mining enterprises is better.
“This needs commitment from the mining companies and other stakeholders,” George said. “We need to shift from simple involvement to commitment if we are really to rescue this sub-sector.”
However, Mark Dawe president of the Chamber of Mines said the chamber, through its members has done “a tremendous amount”of work with the Erongo miners, helping them with logistical and organisational issues ranging from assisting the small miners to obtain permits, acquire machines such as compressors and small drills, a sales centre for storing and selling specimens/crystals, providing water tankers, water tanks and sinking boreholes.
Dawe added: “Of course much work has been done in the area of health and safety as well. The objective has been to stimulate this very important sector of the mining industry which was so successful in Zimbabwe but was never able to be established in Namibia.”
Although mining companies would like to do more to help the small miners, Dawe said their corporate social responsibility programmes were being put in danger because “of the short sightedness of the Ministry of Finance.
“The profitability of large mining companies is being challenged owing to the short-sightedness of the Ministry of Finance.
“Our members have already indicated that should the new export levies proposed by the Minister of Finance go ahead, they would be forced to drastically cut back on or eliminate all CSR programmes, of which, unfortunately, the Small Miners’ Assistance programme is one.”
Dawe said the Ministry of Finance was fixated on improving its revenue flow by taxing an industry that is already over-taxed.
“Namibia’s taxation rate for mining companies is one of the highest in the world when viewed as an overall “effective tax” or cost to company, which includes royalties on gross sales, taxes to shareholders and profits tax. The latter, at 37.5% is simply unattractive to investors. When viewed as a total effective taxation rate, government is simply taking too much.”
The chamber president said he believes “fervently in giving back to the country as we are in the business of mining a national resource and a non renewable asset.”
“It is such a pity that government does not realise that the value of its mining industry is so much more than simply the flow of revenue to the national treasury.”