Chinese Lithium miners labeledfrauds as Minister revokes license

Niël Terblanché

The process of awarding a lithium mining license to Xinfeng Investment (Pty) Ltd was flawed from the start while allegations of corruption and other fraudulent dealings eventually led to the complete revocation of the company’s right to mine and export lithium from Namibia’s shores.

The Minister of Mines and Energy, Tom Alweendo, in a letter to lithium miner, Zhou Hao informed of his decision to revoke Mining License 243 situated in the Exclusive Prospecting License (EPL) 7228 area near the small desert settlement of Uis.

Alweendo said that during the application for ML 243, Xinfeng deliberately included misleading, untrue and incorrect information.

“The explanations given by Xinfeng in both written and oral representations have not shown that the information pointed out as misleading, untrue and incorrect were indeed truthful, correct and not misleading and further that there was no intention not to mislead the Minister in granting ML 243. In fact, it only confirmed the fraudulent nature of the information on which the decision to grant the aforementioned license, was premised,” Alweendo stated in his letter.

He said the misleading, untrue and incorrect information as was pointed out, was a material and relevant consideration in deciding whether to grant ML 243.

“Consequent to the afore decision, you are instructed to cease any and all operations related to the granting of ML 243 in the EPL 7228 area by 31 May 2023,” Alweendo ordered.

The mining Minister also instructed the lithium miner to surrender the physical ML 243 document on 31 May 2023 to Isabella Chirchir the Mining Commissioner at the Head Quarters of the Ministry of Mines and Energy located on 6 Aviation Road in Windhoek.

An investigation launched by the mining Ministry targeted officials in its geological and mineral departments after allegations of fraud, theft of mining claims and extortion surfaced.

Further worries were an amount of N$50 million allegedly channelled through a mining company owned by a family member of a close aid to the minister. The lithium miner has developed a reputation of continuously being on the wrong side of Namibian laws and regulations.

In April last year, the mining Minister was forced to stop Xifeng from exporting raw lithium ore from Namibia.

The mining license was awarded because the company promised to process the mineral in Namibia before export. The miner exported 54 000 tons of the mineral ore to China while claiming that it was only a test sample.

The company used special tipper trucks to transport the ore to the Walvis Bay harbour which increased doubts that even intended to build a processing plant or process the Lithium on Namibian soil.

At one stage the company was prevented from mining because the company started mining without an environmental clearance certificate.

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