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640 EPL applications received in the past year

The Ministry of Mines and Energy has received a total of 640 exclusive prospecting licence (EPL) applications in the past 12 months.

This is according to data provided by minister of mines and energy Tom Alweendo yesterday.

Out of these applications, 62 applicants were issued licences, 110 received notices of intention to grant a licence, pending the submission of environmental clearance certificates (ECCs), and 174 applications lapsed due to the failure to obtain the required ECCs.

Alweendo was addressing concerns raised by several applicants regarding the efficiency and transparency of Namibia’s mineral licensing system.

Applicants claim the ministry is taking too long to transfer mineral licences, which used to take two weeks, but now reportedly takes up to six months.

Claims have also been made that the ministry has introduced procedures benefiting its employees, allowing relatives and friends preferential access before updating the public portal.

Alweendo acknowledged the existence of a backlog in the processing of EPL applications, attributing it to the significant interest in industrial minerals.

“The ministry is currently experiencing a backlog in the processing of EPLs due to the current high interest in industrial minerals, especially lithium, and rare earth exploration,” he said.

While the backlog has caused frustration among investors, the minister assured that efforts are being made to address the issue and expedite the approval process.

“The mineral licence advisory committee (MLAC) has put measures in place to address the backlog by meeting every week,” he said.
Alweendo said he suspected most of the complaints are from applicants with no serious commitment to exploration.

“Unless the applicant has not fulfilled the work programme as promised in the previous tenure, one should really not be concerned. I have been informed and have confidence that within the next few months, the backlog would be resolved,” he said. Regarding the issue of lengthy mineral licence transfers, Alweendo said the ministry has stopped the previous practice of evaluating transfer applications internally and has introduced new procedures to improve transparency.

He said all transfer applications are now assessed by the MLAC in the order they are received.

“I am aware that the new procedures were met with resistance by some individuals within the industry and internally. “Therefore, I am not surprised that these types of questions are now coming through because of the introduced transparency in the process,” he said.

The ministry’s records show that 17 transfer applications have been received, of which eight are yet to be evaluated.

The remaining nine have been evaluated and are waiting for applicants to comply with different legal requirements before the transfers can be finalised.

Regarding claims of alleged unfair procedures and favouritism, Alweendo admitted that the previous internal procedure had loopholes and lacked transparency. He said the new procedures aim to close those loopholes and ensure fairness.

“Unfortunately, individuals who used to benefit from the old way of doing things are not happy with the changes, since now their favoured applicants will be competing with other applicants for the available areas in a fair manner, hence the resistance and using the media to fight their battle. “This applies to both the applicants and officials who benefited from those unethical practices,” he said.

Alweendo emphasised the ministry’s dedication to addressing concerns and restoring investor confidence, as the allegations could potentially damage Namibia’s attractiveness as a mineral investment destination.

He encouraged individuals with allegations of bribery or unfair procedures to report this to the relevant authorities, emphasising the ministry’s commitment to combating maladministration and corruption while upholding accountability, transparency, responsiveness, innovation, and integrity.