Monthly Archives: March 2017

Namibia: Do We Care About Namibia’s Natural Treasures?

The Namibian (Windhoek)
24 MARCH 2017

By Garth Owen-Smith

NAMIBIA, more than any other country in Africa, is blessed with the greatest variety of natural treasures. The country has the highest sand dunes in the world at Sossusvlei, the second largest arid canyon in the world on the Fish River, Etosha Pan and the magnificent wildlife around it.

It also boasts the pristine Kuandu and Okavango rivers and floodplains in Bwabwata National Park, the Epupa Falls, Marienfluss and Hartmann Valley along the Kunene River, and not least, the world renowned lower Hoanib gorge, where many international documentaries have been made of its desert living elephants, lions and giraffe.

It is these iconic places that have made tourism the fastest growing industry, and the second largest employer in the country.

Fortunately, most of these priceless natural assets occur within national parks, and are protected for the enjoyment of international and local tourists, as well as for the economic benefit of our current and future generations.

However, some of them are on communal land where local communities, by forming conservancies are granted the right to manage their natural resources and benefit from tourism activities within them. This world-leading policy has led to the recovery of big game species on communal/state land outside of national parks.

But can we expect subsistence farmers, who are striving to improve their material welfare, to recognise the importance of conserving our iconic places in a pristine state? Can we rely on the private sector, whose bottom line is making money?

To address this issue the government has introduced a policy that requires all tourism developments on state land to first undertake an environmental impact assessment (EIA). But how effective has it been?

The building of a police barracks and a large clinic virtually on top of the Epupa Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls on the continent and a very popular tourist attraction (a photo of it is used by CNN as an introduction to its “Inside Africa” programme) suggests there are forces within government that care little about the priceless natural assets that contribute in large part to Namibia’s economic prosperity.

It is not only line ministries that have degraded the country’s iconic places.

The Marienfluss, surrounded by spectacular mountains in Namibia and Angola, and intersected by the Kunene River, is one of the most magnificent landscapes in Africa. But on top of a ridge, right in front of a lookout point used by safari operators and self-drive tourists, the Italian-owned Okahirongo River Lodge has built five block-house chalets.

Although their contract with Marienfluss Conservancy clearly stated that an EIA had to be carried out before starting to build, this was not done.

When forced to do so, after construction of the lodge had begun, the EIA proposed only a few ineffective and impractical mitigation measures that were never implemented. Only one tourism operator objected to the EIA and the magnificent view from the Marienfluss rapids has been permanently blighted.

Apart from Wilderness Safaris’ upmarket Hoanib Camp just outside the Skeleton Coast Park, which is mostly invisible from the tourist route, as well as an unsightly staff house at the mouth of the Mudorib River (that should be removed), the lower Hoanib gorge is still in its natural wild state.

But this will all change if Namibia Tracks and Trails and Natural Selection, a new South African-based company, builds a luxury tented camp, including “a kitchen, restaurant, entertainment area, cool rooms, swimming pool, info centre, workshop, garages and storerooms, etc” at the junction of the Obias and Hoanib rivers – in the heart of the gorge.

Under pressure, they have promised to lower the impact of the development – as far as is possible. But they point out that camp staff need accommodation and guests want swimming pools, plus camps need all the back buildings necessary for operation.

In mid-2015 an EIA was conducted for this, then called Giraffe Camp, including a research centre, but few people seem to have been aware of the proposed development (this author has repeatedly failed to obtain a copy of the EIA report).

This was followed by a long delay negotiating an income sharing agreement between the developers and Sesfontein Conservancy, in which the renamed Hoanib Elephant Camp is situated. Because the author opposed the Obias site, but recognised the urgent need for the local community to finally benefit from the lower Hoanib, we proposed an equally spectacular alternative lodge site that is just outside of the gorge and five kilometres from the main tourist route.

This site was rejected by the developers as an alternative to the Obias, with the proviso that they may develop a mid-market lodge there in the future. A small group of local stock owners also opposed the alternative site on the grounds that it is used for grazing in times of drought.

In late February, to address this growing controversy, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism director of parks and wildlife, plus a small delegation that included MET’s environmental lawyer, visited both sites and also had discussions with representatives of the proposed developers and Sesfontein community members.

This month his report will be submitted to the ministry’s permanent secretary, who has the ultimate responsibility for conserving Namibia’s natural resources.

If you do care, Namibian or not, please let the ministry and the developers of the Obias camp know your views.

– Garth Owen-Smith is writing as an independent Namibian conservationist.


See Also:

A conspiracy in the wild

New African Magazine
9th February 2017

For over 10 years, the Northern Rangelands Trust, a Kenya-based conservation initiative, has been acquiring land in the arid north of the country. Today, it controls almost 10% of Kenya’s land mass. Environmental journalist John Mbaria investigates.

In its dying days, the Obama Administration pumped massive amounts of money into supporting a powerful NGO accused of using below-the-radar tactics to control a huge amount of Kenyan land, thereby using conservation as a subtle tool for dispossessing tens of thousands of pastoralists, who have unwittingly participated in their own dispossession.

Much of the land, whose control is enforced by local well-armed militias, has recently been granted UN-protected status. And with financial backing from powerful Western donors, the Northern Rangelands Trust’s (NRT) activities are largely insulated from public scrutiny.

Unless the new Trump administration discontinues the US government’s support to wildlife conservation in Africa, the NRT is set to continue having a say over vast, mineral-rich lands in the north and coastal areas of Kenya.

Most of these lands have been identified, in official documents, as areas of immense potential capable of becoming the very basis of the country’s future economic progress. These areas are also crucial to the maintenance of the extensive livestock husbandry practised by millions of pastoralists in northern Kenya.

Today, the NRT effectively controls 44,000 km2 (or 10.8m acres) of land – that’s roughly eight per cent of Kenya’s 581,309 km2 landmass. Interestingly, the organisation appears to have acquired a decisive say over these lands by co-opting the local leadership. Consequently, NRT’s control of the lands in Kenya’s Upper Rift, North and Coastal areas is facilitated by local political and community leaders, some of whom are co-opted as members of the organisation’s Board.

This has been done through community wildlife conservation, a model in which landowners assert the right to manage and profit from wildlife on their lands.

Conservancies have proliferated across pastoralist, wildlife-rich areas in northern and southern Kenya. They are also an extremely attractive funding prospect for Western donors in the conservation sector.

All the cash is handed over, not directly to the landowners, who have constituted themselves into 33 community conservancies, but to the NRT, which acts like a middleman and which has taken up not just conservation, but other roles (including security arrangements) that are ordinarily performed by national governments.

Among the biggest financial supporters of NRT, the former Obama administration consistently extended tens of millions of dollars to the organisation through the United States Agency for International Development (USAid). As if to underscore how important the NRT’s work was to the Obama Administration, the organisation’s Chief Programs Officer, Tom Lalampaa, and its founder, Ian Craig, were among the people given the privilege of making short presentations about their work when the former US president visited Kenya last July.

America’s latest support to the organisation was announced in a press statement released by the US Embassy in Nairobi in late November 2016. In the communiqué, the US Ambassador to Kenya, Robert F. Godec, said the US’s new 5-year, $20m support was meant “to help expand” the NRT’s operations in Coastal Kenya.

He hailed NRT’s partnership with the communities, terming it “a shared vision of protecting ecosystems and promoting peace for a better future”. He added that the cash would be used to support the work of community rangers, to conserve wildlife and fisheries, improve livelihoods, and advance women’s enterprises.

For its part, NRT, through Craig (who signed off as the organisation’s Director of Conservation), said the cash would be used to fund the opening up of new conservancies and create a conservation trust fund.

The former Obama administration consistently extended tens of millions of dollars to the NRT through USAid.

Though the US government believes that the NRT shares “the visions of protecting ecosystems” with the communities in Upper Rift, the North and on the Coast, recent developments in Kenya have proved otherwise. Indeed, the US support comes at a time when some well-armed herders, from some of the same communities the NRT has helped to form community conservancies, have invaded sprawling private ranches in Laikipia and elsewhere, leading to human fatalities, the killing of wild animals and forcing the deployment of specialised security units from the Kenya police.

The work of NRT and the West’s support to conservation in some of Kenya’s arid-and-semi-arid lands has altered the human/ wildlife dynamics in some areas. This has also invited curious concern from conservation experts, who believe that the US and other countries in the West have been supporting a controversial organisation that has been usurping the role of Kenya’s human and wildlife security organs, as well as destroying the age-old ability of tens of thousands of herders to live off their land.

As New African found out in extensive visits and interviews with different people in the affected areas, the NRT-inspired community-conservation model is simple and can be quite attractive for anyone ignorant of its implications, especially for the lives and livelihoods of local people.

After co-opting the local leadership, the NRT appears to have crafted MOUs with the communities owning the vast tracts of land. In most cases, the communities’ land-ownership claims are based on the most rudimentary rights – an ancestral claim to the land.

Community members are also reputed to retain significant respect for, and allow themselves to be guided by, local leadership which, in most cases, uses its standing in communities to advance, and persuade “lesser” members of communities to conform with the wishes of the NRT.

This is not so difficult as the organisation has come up with quite an attractive package for the communities, including securing for them investors interested in developing lodges and other tourism facilities, once they agree to set aside some of their lands for exclusive use by wildlife and the investors.

NRT also promises bursaries for school children, employment for community members, a ready market for the livestock and the setting up of a grazing plan to prevent livestock deaths through drought in the drylands of Kenya.

“NRT’s approach is quite attractive to communities who have been neglected by successive governments in Kenya since the country attained independence from the British,” says Daniel Letoiye, a Samburu County resident who previously worked as a programme officer with NRT.

However, hidden in the fine print are consequences that are considered grave for the pastoralist groups in Northern Kenya. “Even when droughts occur, many of the pastoralist groups [who have signed up to the agreements] cannot access part of their lands that are now set aside for wildlife conservation and which constitute community conservancies,” says Michael Lalampaa, an official with the Higher Education Loans Board who hails from Samburu County.

Samburu comunity elders discuss their perspectives with the author in Samburu County

Lalampaa complains that the NRT compels communities to set aside the best portions of their lands for the exclusive use of wildlife and the tourist investors. Lalampaa says that the organisation usually identifies leaders and elites within relevant communities who aid in persuading the pastoralists to set aside big parcels of land for conservation purposes. “Once the agreements are put in place, it becomes impossible for the herders to access some areas with pastures in the conservancies … they are confronted by armed scouts who evict them.” He adds that it is “sad that at times, livestock ends up dying simply because the owners cannot graze the animals in what used to be their own lands.”

This has proven problematic especially since vast sections of the relevant rangelands have been depleted year-in, year-out by overgrazing and are inhabited by people who have become increasingly vulnerable to the devastating effects of climate change.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of livestock end up competing over the remaining patches of grasslands and dwindling water sources such as the Ewaso Nyiro River.

This happens, as copious reports show, in an area largely ignored by the Kenya government, inhabited by morans, have taken up cattle- rustling as a traditional pastime.

Claims have also been made that NRT’s activities have far-reaching implications on the entire country and therefore need to be handled with more than casual attention by Kenya’s allies across the world, the government as well as the people of Kenya.

“The sheer geographical, financial, cultural, and political scale of this intervention calls for a lot more thought than has been given to it thus far,” said Dr Mordecai Ogada, a conservation consultant based in Laikipia County.

Dr Ogada believes that the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has “abdicated” from its responsibility to inspire the formation and sound management of conservation activities outside Kenya’s protected areas. But top officials at KWS – which has lately been experiencing financial difficulties – deny this, saying that they see no problem with the operations of the NR

However, KWS appears critical of recent moves by foreign governments to fund the NRT. “Conservation NGOs like NRT have recently benefited from funding from development partners, following the paradigm shift where development partners and other governments prefer to fund communities through NGOs rather than governments directly,” said Paul Gathitu, KWS spokesperson and head of corporate communications.

Attempts by New African to elicit comments from NRT met with no success. Nevertheless, on its website, the organisation – which calls itself a “movement” – announces that it has been raising funds to aid the formation and running of conservancies.

NRT also says that it supports the training of relevant communities and helps to “broker agreements between conservancies and investors”. It claims that it provides donors with “a degree of oversight” by participating directly in how community conservancies and incomes accrued are managed. This was evident as New African toured eight conservancies in Isiolo, Marsabit, Samburu and Laikipia, where NRT has appointed its own managers who are in charge of the day-to-day running of the conservancies.

Besides the managers, there are the members of the Board and grazing committees who are, on paper, supposed to be making decisions that suit the needs of the true owners of the land.

However, there is evidence that main decisions are made by NRT and that the organisation has maintained little or no engagement with the owners of the land and local public institutions.

Besides the US, NRT’s activities are funded by a host of other private companies and bodies in the West. Some of the principal donors to NRT include the Danish Development Agency (DANIDA); the Nature Conservancy (a US-based international NGO); and Agence Française de Développement (AFD) of France. NRT is also bankrolled by other donors who fund its long-term programmes – including Fauna & Flora International, Zoos South Australia, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ of Germany), US Fish and Wildlife Service, San Diego Zoo, International Elephant Foundation, Saint Louis Zoo, Running Wild and others. These latter donors have boosted what NRT terms a pooled conservation fund that has a lifespan of more than five years.

The Tullow Oil Company, that has been involved in oil prospecting in Turkana County, has funded NRT to the tune of $11.5m in a five-year project meant to aid the latter in establishing and operating new conservancies in Turkana and West Pokot counties.

Seventy per cent of the money was meant to go directly to community conservancies’ bank accounts for meeting operational costs (i.e. staff salaries, the purchase and running of vehicles, the acquisition of computers and other equipment), while 30% was to enable the formation and management of the conservancies.

The NRT has maintained little or no engagement with the owners of the land and local public institutions

But this did not go down well with the Turkana County government, which declared the relevant conservancies illegal, with the County Executive for Energy, Environment & Natural Resources ordering NRT to stop its operations there.

Later, the County Governor, Josphat Nanok, termed NRT’s move to establish conservancies in Turkana as “ill-advised with a hidden agenda”.

Dr Ogada believes that the millions of dollars in grants given by the US and other countries in the West have made NRT a “launch pad” for what he terms “a new conservation paradigm” in East Africa.

“NRT has championed this model of conservation very actively for the last decade [resulting] in a situation where challenges or mistakes aren’t spoken about by donors or implementers because of the sheer scale of professional and financial investment in an institution [which like all others] does have inherent weaknesses,” he added.

The NRT’s security function is considered one of the most controversial aspects of the community conservancy movement in Kenya. Usually, maintenance of security within countries is a preserve of governments. But on its website, the organisation says that it inspires community conservancies to “tackle insecurity holistically”.

This includes conducting anti-poaching operations, wildlife monitoring and providing what it terms “invaluable [support] to the Kenya Police in helping to tackle cattle rustling and road banditry”.

The organisation says that by 2014, it had facilitated the training of 645 rangers who operate in the conservancies while Dickson ole Kaelo, the chief executive of the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association, reported that over 2,300 community rangers have been trained so far.

Normally, the organisation selects community members and takes them for training by the KWS’s personnel at the wildlife agency’s Manyani Training School, close to Kenya’s biggest national park, Tsavo.

Here, the rangers are taught “bush craft skills, as well as how to effectively gather and share intelligence, monitor wildlife and manage combat situations”. The involvement of KWS in the training of the community rangers was confirmed, but downplayed, by Michael Kipkeu, KWS’s Senior Assistant Director in charge of the Community Wildlife Service. “The KWS law enforcement academy provides tailor-made community scouts’ training.”

After being trained by KWS, the rangers are given more advanced training than what is posted on the NRT’s website. For instance, according to the Save the Rhino NGO, the rangers are given Kenya Police Reserve accreditation and “sufficient weapons handling training”.

Such advanced training involves tactical movement with weapons, ambush and anti-ambush drills, handling and effective usage of night-vision and thermal-imaging equipment, and ground-to-air communications and coordination.

There are also suspicions that the bigger scheme is to ensure that Kenya unwittingly “forfeits” some of the lands under the NRT by getting them declared by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

The scheme to have UNESCO declare some of the biggest private game ranches and wildlife conservancies in Laikipia, Samburu, and islands in the Coast as World Heritage Sites is now being pursued in earnest.

“Legally, the move may not amount to much but knowing how lobbying is done, if the government were to [seek to] change ownership, listings would be put up to demonstrate how special these ranches are and why they should remain with the present landowners,” said Njenga Kahiro, a former Programme Officer with Laikipia Wildlife Forum. The aim, Kahiro avers, is “to create a super-big protected are…all of it [covered by] the World Heritage Convention.”


Tanzania Mining Firms Oppose Ban On Mineral Exports

The East African (Nairobi)
22 MARCH 2017

By Kennedy Senelwa

Mining companies are facing vast capital outlays and potential losses as a result of a ban on exports of unprocessed minerals by Tanzania.

Energy and Minerals Permanent Secretary Justin Ntalikwa said the ban was in line with the value addition emphasised in Tanzania’s Mineral Policy of 2009 and the Mining Act of 2010.

In addition, Prof Ntalikwa said the ban is meant to generate revenue, create jobs and promote technology transfer.

“The government will provide any necessary support to stakeholders involved in mineral beneficiation in the country, particularly smelting and refining of minerals,” he said.

A mining executive, however, said some minerals like iron ore are exported to Asia and Japan because their reserves cannot support investment in a smelting plant in Tanzania.

“A study done in 2011 showed a smelting plant in Tanzania will cost $500 million. Raising the money will be difficult as smelting cannot be profitable in the country,” the executive said, adding that a steady supply of power from the national grid is also a challenge.

The Ministry of Energy and Minerals on March 2 banned the export of concentrates with ores of metallic minerals such as gold, copper, nickel and silver in order to promote value addition in the country. But analysts at Investec warned that the ban could scare away investors.

Tanzania Chamber of Mines and Energy (TCME) director general Gerald Mturi said the organisation will share with government and stakeholders the results of an ongoing assessment of the ban on exporting metallic ores.

TCME is expected to engage the government and industry stakeholders to address concerns as extractives firms favour a phased approach to a ban on the export of concentrates with metallic ores while developing local smelting capacity. Tanzania’s move comes after Uganda in August last year lifted its ban on exporting of minerals ores, including copper, tungsten, coltan, phosphates and iron. The Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum (UCMP) had, been lobbying for lifting of the ban, saying it had caused job losses.

Tanzania in November last year, banned imports of gypsum used for making cement and coal to boost the use of domestic resources in the sector. Acacia Mining Plc, which owns the North Mara, Bulyanhulu and Buzwagi mines in northwest Tanzania, has stopped export of metallic mineral concentrates due to a directive by President John Magufuli.

“In 2016, gold or copper concentrate amounted to approximately 30 per cent of group revenues. Acacia has ceased exports of concentrate and is seeking clarification,” said Acacia’s investor relations manager Giles Blackham.

Gold and copper concentrate generated $316 million of Acacia’s revenue of $1.05 billion in 2016. The ban immediately caused prices of Acacia’s shares on the London Stock Exchange to drop.The company is Tanzania’s largest gold miner and has a secondary listing on Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange.

The ban may delay Acacia’s ongoing discussions on a merger with Endeavour Mining Corporation of Canada.

Strandline Resources Ltd, which is developing the Fungoni heavy mineral sands project near Dar es Salaam, however, said mineral sands were not included in the ban.

“While there may be some speculation, our enquiries to the Ministry indicate that the ban does not extend to mineral sands,” said Strandline’s managing director Luke Graham.


Amazon land battle pits indigenous villagers against might of Ecuador state

Only a bridge separates the Shuar village of El Tink from threat of military and mining interests in high-profile dispute resulting in death and displacement

in El Tink
Sunday 19 March 2017 22.29 GMT

Military drones and police helicopters circle above the Shuar indigenous village of El Tink, an Amazonian community in Ecuador where a high-profile dispute against a Chinese copper mine has become a standoff and a siege.

Aerial surveillance is the only way the authorities can monitor this cloud forest enclave because residents have blocked the sole entrance to their home: a bouncing plank-and-cable bridge suspended 15 metres above the brown torrents of the Zamora river.

Some wear masks to hide their faces. Others appear so casual, they could be out for an afternoon stroll. But together, they take it in shifts to guard the crossing 24 hours a day. Friendly vehicles are allowed through. Government forces are turned back, but the siege is exacting a humanitarian toll on the villagers.

“The river protects us. The military can’t cross the bridge because we guard it day and night. If they come, we’ll set fire to it,” said Alfonso Chinkiun. “But we feel like we are captives. We can’t leave this place because we fear we will be arrested. That means we can’t work so we have to forage deep into the forest for food. Some days our children go to sleep without eating a single meal.”

Chinkiun is one of a few dozen people who recently sought sanctuary in El Tink after a bloody confrontation with security forces sparked by a dispute with a Chinese mining company Explorcobres SA (EXSA), in their previous home of Nankints on the other side of a mountain ridge in the Cordillera del Condor.

They were forced to flee here after a policeman – José Mejía – was killed during a protest on 14 December. Blaming the death on the demonstrators, the authorities declared a state of emergency in the province of Morona Santiago, raided homes and made several arrests, including the president of the Inter-Provincial Federation of Shuar Centers, Agustín Wachapá.

The Nankints refugees said they had to run to avoid capture. “We fled into the woods with our families. We walked here over the mountains at night. It was very traumatic,” said Guillermo Uyunkar.

He acknowledged the community had fought eviction for several months and showed three small scars on his arms and shoulder that he says are the wounds from live rounds fired by the military.

The security forces initially arrived in Nankints on the night of 11 August, surrounding the small community of 32 families with vehicles that revved their engines to intimidate the residents.

“We decided to defend our land. The military police fired gas at us and set fire to the grass. They killed our animals. We cut down trees and tried to build barricades, but they ploughed through them with armoured cars,” recalled Uyunkar.

The evicted residents scattered to nearby villages and then regrouped several times over the following months for demonstrations that sometimes ended in violent skirmishes.

Alex Chuji, external relations representative of the Shuar Arutam People, said the Nankints community were entitled to fight for their territory because they had not been adequately consulted about the plans for the mine as they were entitled to be under the Ecuadorian constitution and UN treaties on indigenous rights.

However, he rejected claims that the bullet that killed the police officer was fired by one of the protesters. Ballistic tests, he said, indicated it was more likely to have come from one of the police or military guns.

“We do use weapons to defend our land, but all we have is spears, machetes and the old carbine rifles we use for hunting. We don’t have modern guns with the calibre of the bullet that killed José,” he argued.

Diego Fuentes, the deputy interior minister, previously told local media the shots were fired from the forest by a marksman using a specialised rifle, so the authorities assume the intention was to assassinate a policeman.

President Rafael Correa has accused the Shuar leadership of supporting “paramilitary and semi-criminal” organisations. He said the indigenous group’s territorial claims were based on a “lie” because the land had been bought and sold several times.

Tensions have been growing for some time. The indigenous group’s representatives claim this corner of the Amazon was theirs long before the first Spanish colonisers arrived, and that in the years since they have been given little choice in land demarcations decided by governments with more military, economic and political power.

In 2000, when the territory was packaged up for copper mining concessions, they began to resist and occupied the land at Nankints and elsewhere that they had previously only been given permission to hunt in.

The Shuar – like most indigenous groups in Ecuador – initially supported Correa when he was elected in 2006, in the hope that he would formalise their claims. But they said he has since betrayed their interests in order to secure foreign – especially Chinese – loans and investment. There have been several flash points, including the death of José Tendentza, a Shuar leader, in 2015.

“It feels like the state is at war with us, but this is a pointless conflict. If the laws were followed, this would never have happened,” said Raul Petsain, of the Shuar Arutam People. “Correa has always been working in the interests of capital. In his campaign he promised to work for the people, but once he got power he worked for the companies.”

The Chinese company, Exsa, is part of Ecuacorriente, which is jointly funded by Tongling and China Railway Construction Company (CRCC). In an emailed statement to the Guardian, the company said it purchased the land in 2000 from local owners, some of whom had lived there previously for 30 years.

It said that in 2006, the area was “violently invaded by anti-mining groups”, forcing the company to abandon the site. For the following nine years, it said there were attempts at peaceful negotiation to remove those who occupied this land. After this failed, the statement says the company filed a lawsuit and won judicial approval for the “invaders” to be evicted, which “proceeded without any kind of violence”.

Although the government recently lifted the state of emergency and a new president will take power later this year, locals expect their struggle to continue.

The office of the governor of Morona Santiago state did not respond to a request for comment.

At El Tink, the host community is feeling the pressure. Many have taken refugee families from Nankints into their homes and shared food with them. But there is not a lot to go around. Many complain the authorities are treating them as terrorists and trying to provoke a reaction.

José Luis Aynui, president of the Shuar Arutam says it is a tough situation for all involved, but if they do not make common cause, El Tink could be the next village where residents are evicted.

“All of this land is a mining concession for the Chinese,” he says, pointing to the nearby hills. “They haven’t dared to come to develop it yet because they know we are strong. But if they had their way, the land we are on now would be a mine. The only way they will take this land is if we all end up dead.

“We won’t give it up. And they can’t give us an alternative because it will never be like what we have now. The forest is not just our home, it is our church, our larder, our pharmacy. If you take us away from it, we lose what we are.”

With additional reporting by Eduardo Varas


Norwegian Government Pension Fund updates banned companies list

Vedanta and many coal companies are out in the cold

Published by Mines and Communities on 2017-03-10
Source: NPF Council on Ethics (2017-03-10)

Of particular concern to many groups represented by MAC (and the London Mining Network) has been an attempt by Vedanta Resources to argue that grounds for excluding it from the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global ten years ago, should be re-examined in light of reforms of its practices and policies since.

Essentially, the company urged the Council on Ethics – which advises the Norwegian government – that Vedanta qualified for re-admission to Norway’s financial universe of clean, conflict free, and corporately responsible outfits.

The UK-listed company and its Indian associates would obviously have been delighted had the Council accepted the validity of the many submissions made by the company between late 2015 and May 2017.

Doubtless, it would have widely advertised the turn-around, using it to try garnering further investment, including from those firms which have followed Norway’s example in 2007. See: Is this the world’s most hated company?

But the Ethics Council has stood firm, stating:

“In 2016, the Council performed a particu­larly thorough assessment of Vedanta Resources, which has been excluded since 2007, but con­cluded that grounds for exclusion continue to exist”.

You can read the full letter to Vedanta from the Council on Ethics, justifying its rejection of the company’s case at: What Norway’s Ethics Council told Vedanta

Further extracts from the Council’s report on coal companies and those reliant on exploitation of Western Sahara phosphates are below.

The Norwegian government pension fund has consolidated its opposition to coal production and use:

“The coal criterion is a product-based criterion, and reads as follows: “(2) Observation or exclusion may be decided for mining companies and power producers which themselves or through entities they control derive 30 per cent or more of their income from thermal coal or base 30 per cent or more of their operations on thermal coal…In addition, importance must be attached to the companies’ plans to reduce their dependence on coal. The criterion does not encompass the companies’ green bonds.

“Responsibility for identifying GPFG companies that fall within the scope of the coal criterion is divided between Norges Bank and the Council on Ethics. Norges Bank has initiated a systematic review of the portfolio, which has so far resulted in the exclusion of 59 companies, while 11 have been placed under observation.”

Western Sahara phosphates

As for companies dependent on extraction from Saharawi territory: “Another matter…relates to companies which buy phosphates mined in [Western Sahara]. In 2010 and 2014, the Council recom­mended the exclusion of two such companies…[which are] chemicals and fertiliser producers, which use phosphates in their own manufacturing processes. They do not themselves have operations in the contested area. Phosphates from Western Sahara are mined by the state-owned Moroccan enterprise OCP, which then sells it to the companies concerned under long-term contracts. “…The exploitation of natural resources in the area may be acceptable if it is carried out in accordance with the interests and wishes of the local population.

The Moroccan authorities have assured the Council on several occasions that this condition has been met, since Morocco takes care of everyone’s interests in the area through demo­cratic processes. It must also be noted here that a large number of Moroccans have migrated to the area since its de facto annexation by Morocco. “Morocco reckons these people to be part of the area’s population, whose interests must be taken into account.

However, the Council has attached importance to the fact that, in connection with the matter of phosphate mining, the recognised representative of the area’s local population, the Polisario, has neither been consulted nor otherwise taken into consideration. Furthermore, the Council has attached importance to the fact that the OCP’s operations are helping to keep the situation in the territory from being resolved, and draining an already resource-poor area of the little it has in the way of valuable resources.

“…A key factor in these cases is that the companies whose exclusion the Council has recommended not only knew where the phosphates originated, but specified in the contract with OCP that they would only buy phosphates deriving from OCP’s mine in Western Sahara. This is because these phosphates have particular proper­ties. Under these circumstances, the Council deems the companies’ purchasing of phosphates as contributing to a serious violation of ethical norms. The issue relates exclusively to the special situation in Western Sahara. Companies to which OCP sells phosphates not mined in Western Sahara have not been assessed for exclusion”.

List of Companies barred from the Norwegian Pension Fund Global For Environmental Damage

Barrick Gold Corp. Daewoo International Corp. Duke Energy Corp. (including the below wholly-owned subsidiaries) Duke Energy Carolinas LLC. Duke Energy Progress LLC. Progress Energy Inc. Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. Genting Bhd. IJM Corp. Bhd. Lingui Development Ltd. MMC Norilsk Nickel POSCO Rio Tinto Plc. Rio Tinto Ltd. Samling Global Ltd. Ta Ann Holdings Berhad Vedanta Ltd. (previously called Sesa Sterlite, into which Madras Aluminium Company and Sterlite Industries Ltd. – both excluded 31 October 2007- were merged) Vedanta Resources Plc. Volcan Compañia Minera SAA WTK Holdings Berhad Zijin Mining Group Co. Ltd.

Barred for Production of coal or coal-based energy

Aboitiz Power Corp. AES Corp./VA AES Gener SA ALLETE Inc. Alliant Energy Corp. Ameren Corp. American Electric Power Co. Inc. Capital Power Corp. CESC Ltd. China Coal Energy Co. Ltd. China Power International Development Ltd. China Resources Power Holdings Co. Ltd. China Shenhua Energy Co. Ltd. Chugoku Electric Power Co. Inc./The CLP Holdings Ltd. Coal India Ltd. CONSOL Energy Inc. Datang International Power Generation Co. Ltd. DMCI Holdings Inc. Drax Group PLC DTE Energy Co. Dynegy Inc. E.CL SA Electric Power Development Co. Ltd. Electricity Generating PCL Emera Inc. Empire District Electric Co. Exxaro Resources Ltd. FirstEnergy Corp. Great Plains Energy Inc. Guangdong Electric Power Development Co. Ltd. Gujarat Mineral Development Corp. Ltd. Hokkaido Electric Power Co. Inc. Hokuriku Electric Power Co. Huadian Power International Corp. Ltd. Huaneng Power International Inc IDACORP Inc. Inner Mongolia Yitai Coal Co. Ltd. Jastrzebska Spolka Weglowa SA Lubelski Wegiel Bogdanka SA MGE Energy Inc. New Hope Corp. Ltd. NRG Energy Inc. NTPC Ltd. Okinawa Electric Power Co. Inc./The Peabody Energy Corp.

Barred for Other Particularly Serious Violations of Fundamental Ethical Norms

Cairn Energy Plc. Elbit Systems Ltd. Kosmos Energy Ltd. Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan San Leon Energy Plc.

List of companies under observation as per 1. March 2017

For Production of coal or coal-based energy

CMS Energy Corp. EDP Energias de Portugal SA Endesa SA Glow Energy PCL Kyushu Electric Power Co. Inc. OGE Energy Corp Pinnacle West Capital Corp. SCANA CORP Southern Co./The Talen Energy Corp. Tohoku Electric Power Co. Inc.

The full report can be read at:

Kenya: Acacia Gold Project in Kenya to Kick Off in 2022

By Kennedy Senelwa

9th March 2017

Gold mining firm Acacia expects to start commercial production of gold in western Kenya in 2022.

The company has made a discovery of 1.3 million ounces/36 tonnes of gold in the Liranda corridor near Kakamega town.

“The discovery of 1.3 million ounces of gold is an encouraging start,” said Acacia’s chief executive Brad Gordon. “For the project to be economically viable, we need deposits of at least two to three million ounces.”

Acacia Mining Plc will invest $12 million this year in exploration activities in western Kenya to exploit at least two to three million ounces of the precious metal.

Mr Gordon said that the company will spend $10 million on exploration activities in the 30-kilometre square Liranda corridor, and a further $2 million in the surrounding area as the firm’s special licence 213 covers about 1,600 square kilometres.

Mining Cabinet Secretary Dan Kazungu said that the potential of Acacia’s western Kenya project is exciting.

“It could ultimately lead to the creation of a gold mining industry that would benefit our economy and people,” he said.

In August 2016, Acacia, which has operations in Tanzania, Burkina Faso and Mali, bought a 49 per cent stake from a subsidiary of Lonmin plc for $5 million.

Acacia is exploring Kakamega, Vihiga, Siaya and Kisumu counties.

Meanwhile, Goldplat Plc has commissioned a new processing plant to expand gold production in the Kilimapesa mine near Kilgoris town in western Kenya at a cost of $2 million.

“Although it is modest in terms of production, it will help start sustainable profitability at Kilimapesa,” said chief executive Gerard Kisbey-Green.

The expansion is aimed at reducing the cost of operations and returning Kilimapesa mine to profitability. The company made a net loss of $892,731.31 in the year ended June 30, 2016.


See also:

Tanzania: Acacia Mining CEO Finally Admits in Public – “…Critics May Have a Valid Point”

London-listed Acacia Mining accused of “sophisticated tax evasion” in Tanzania

Uganda: Chinese Sand Miners Clash With Wakiso Chairperson

The Monitor (Kampala)
4 MARCH 2017

By Joseph Kiggundu

Wakiso — Wakiso District chairperson Matia Lwanga Bwanika on Thursday nearly exchanged blows with Chinese miners whom he accused of illegally operating at Lugumba Landing Site in Zazi parish, Kasanje Sub-county.

Trouble began when Bwanika accompanied by his deputy, Ms Betty Naluyima, and the district environment officer, Esau Mpoza, among others, carried out an impromptu visit of the sand mining site and asked why the Chinese were excavating sand in contravention of an early directive by the district to suspend the activity.

Appearing to question Bwanika’s authority, one of the Chinese investors only identified as Zhou asked who Bwanika is to halt their operations.

“Who are you to stop our work?” Zhou asked as he pointed at Bwanika.

This prompted a visibly angry Bwanika to order a police officer who was passing by the site to arrest the Chinese investor Zhou and the site engineer Kennedy Zake.

In an attempt to resist arrest, the Chinese investors, who were about four in number, fought back thus engaging in a fist fight. In the ensuing melee, one of the Chinese confronted Bwanika, shoved and later punched him, prompting the police officer, Isabirye, attached to Kasanje Police Station to separating the two.

“Don’t fight the district chairman. He is a big person in the district,” the police officer said.

The Chinese continued to resist and even after being put in the district environment officer’s pick-up truck, he opened the door and took off. However, the team managed to arrest two people from the site; Zhou and Kennedy Zake, the site manager.

After the operation, Bwanika said such scenarios will not deter him from flashing out bogus investors who are depleting the lake. Being one of the fastest urbanising area, Wakiso District is facing an influx of people from different areas who are looking for land to carryout economic activities with some encroaching on natural resources like wetlands, forests and some entering the lake to excavate sand.

Mr Mpoza said he had earlier warned the Chinese against excavating sand from the lake but they adamantly continued with their illegal activity.

“The district through the director natural resources, Rebecca Ssebaganzi, and the CAO’s office wrote to the Chinese stopping their illegal activity but they continued and on stopping them they have stubbornly assaulted the district chairman, which is bad,” Mr Mpoza said.

The officer in-charge Kasanje police station, Amir Magulu, said the suspects will be charged with destroying the environment under the environment laws. However, Bwanika and the Kasanje Sub-county LC3 councillor, Mr Zam Ssebirumbi, separately opened up an assault case against the suspects at Kasanje Police Station and later the officer in charge of the station forwarded the two suspects to Entebbe Police Station.


After the operation, Wakiso chairman Bwanika said such scenarios will not deter him from flashing out bogus investors who are depleting the lake. Being one of the fastest urbanising area, Wakiso District is facing an influx of people from different areas who are looking for land to carry out economic activities.

Copyright © 2017 The Monitor. All rights reserved.


See also:

He who controls the sand: the mining ‘mafias’ killing each other to build cities