The mining commissioner in the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Isabella Chirchir, has requested the Erongo regional police to halt Xinfeng Investment and other trucks transporting unprocessed crushed lithium ore from the Kohero mine near Omaruru.
Chirchir, in a letter to police inspector general Joseph Shikongo dated 19 October, said Xinfeng lacks the necessary transport permit, as well as an export permit for lithium.
She said the company is not authorised to extract materials from its mine for transportation within Namibia or beyond.
“While they obtained permission from the High Court to continue mining, following the cancellation of their mining licence 243 by the minister of mines and energy in April 2023, no corresponding permission was granted for the export of materials,” she said.
Chirchir wrote that the company is in violation of mining regulations stipulating the need for written approval for the internal transportation of materials.
Xinfeng’s permits should exclusively be in the name of Long Fire Investment CC, and the source of the crushed lithium ore should involve mining claims numbers 73409 to 73418, located west of Uis and south of Brandberg, and should not be from mining licence 243 on Kohero Farm, she wrote.
“Therefore, no trucks carrying unprocessed crushed lithium ore should leave the mining site. All trucks now transporting ore to Walvis Bay from Kohero Farm, which is 45km west of Omaruru, should be stopped and returned to the mine,” she said.
Chirchir did not respond to emails or messages sent to her via WhatsApp.
Her letter was shared with the Karibib Police Station commander, the Erongo governor’s office, and Namra’s regional manager.
Erongo governor Neville Andre confirmed that his office received the letter of instruction from the ministry.
Acting Erongo police commander deputy police commissioner Erastus Iikuyu also confirmed having received the letter.
He said police officers have been dispatched to the mining site and are currently enforcing the instructions.
“We are on the ground enforcing the law as per the letter we have. The letter says those people do not have permits to transport lithium from that mine to wherever in Namibia. That is what we are focusing on,” he said.
Shikongo’s office did not respond to questions sent via email. In June, the High Court granted an interim interdict in favour of Xinfeng against the ministry.
The legal battle centred on mining licence 243, which the ministry initially issued Xinfeng on 6 September 2022.
The licence was revoked on 29 April, with an instruction for Xinfeng to cease all mining operations, leave the mining site, and return the licence by 31 May.
Mines minister Tom Alwendo alleged that Xinfeng had fraudulently obtained the licence by deliberately including misleading and incorrect information in its application documents, thereby undermining the integrity of the licensing process. Xinfeng launched an application for review, along with an urgent request for an interim interdict on 8 May, disputing these allegations and Alweendo’s authority to unilaterally revoke the licence.
The court found that Alweendo had proved prima facie that Xinfeng had committed fraud during the application process for the mining licence.
The court also ruled that Alweendo did not have the statutory authority to revoke the licence without approaching a court for appropriate relief.
Attorney general Festus Mbandeka has recommended that Xinfeng be allowed to export a limited amount of ore under mining licence (ML) 243.
In a letter addressed to the mines minister dated 11 October, which The Namibian has seen, he explained that, based on a court order, Xinfeng is allowed to continue its mining operations under ML 243. In principle, this means Xinfeng is entitled to apply for permission to remove mined ore to a place outside Namibia under various sections of the Minerals (Prospecting and Mining) Act.
Section 127(1) of the act outlines the requirements for exporting minerals. It also stipulates that mining licence holders who already have permission under Section 90(1)(d) do not need to apply for export permits.
In the absence of existing permission under Section 90(1)(d), Mbandeka has advised that the commissioner consider Xinfeng’s application under Section 127.
“We recommend that the mining commissioner grant Xinfeng permission to export at least 55 000 tonnes of lithium ore for testing purposes.
“We also propose a temporary withdrawal of the counter-application against Xinfeng for six months, during which the company can provide a new technical report and work plan.
“If Xinfeng fails to comply within this period, the counter-application can proceed,” Mbandeka said.
He further highlighted a Cabinet decision made earlier this year prohibiting the export of specific critical minerals, including lithium ore. This decision raised questions regarding the authority responsible for granting export permits.
“While the Cabinet decision mentions the minister as the authority to allow limited exports, the act grants the commissioner this power. This may require consultation with the minister before any decision is made,” Mbandeka said.
Xinfeng’s management promised to respond with comment today.