Govt wants EPL probe

Allocations of mining licences take up to two years
The mines ministry has issued a tender for potential bidders to help streamline the allocation of EPLs.
Ogone Tlhage
The mines ministry wants to probe all applications for exclusive prospecting licences (EPLs) submitted between September 2021 and September 2022, a move seen as a precursor to regulatory changes being considered to overhaul the public resource allocation regime.

This came to light yesterday when the ministry issued a tender for potential consultants to help streamline the allocation of EPLs by designing policies that will ensure their swift allocation.

This follows concerns that the process to allocate licences to prospective mining companies has moved at a snail’s pace in the past.

It is not clear why the ministry is specifically targeting the period under review.

The process currently takes as long as two years, but the ministry wants to reduce that to six months.

Review timely

Mining consultant Shawe Nyambe welcomed the proposed changes.

"I would like to commend the mines minister and his team for coming up with this initiative. It should not only be processes to speed up allocation of EPLs, but such processes should also be built on firm foundations of transparency and accountability," he said.

He added that in order to ensure the mining sector is governed in an open, effective and accountable way, government needs to put in place a robust online administrative system for handling applications and a publicly accessible and up-to-date register of licence information, which should include the details of the licence holder, the licence area, the application date, the award date and the duration of the licence, among other information.

"I would like to stress that corruption-free mining starts with a transparent and accountable process for obtaining mining permits; hence it is vital that the processes being developed contain these fundamentals."

He urged the same to be undertaken for petroleum exploration licences.

Economic opportunities

There has been a surge in EPL applications of late.

Between September 2021 and September 2022, the ministry received over 400 applications.

Namibians have also identified EPLs as an opportunity to get out of poverty quickly.

In most cases, speculators acquire EPLs solely to sell them on the international market.

Government has on several occasions condemned this act, and called on locals to use mineral resources to create industries.

Process was slow

"In the past, the ministry received numerous complaints regarding the extended length of processing mineral licence applications. It was not unusual for the ministry to take up to two years to respond to an application. As a response, the ministry imposed a temporary suspension for receiving new mineral licence applications for 12 months in 2019," the ministry said.

The assignment will be performed on EPLs that are finalised, it added.

"The consultant is required to provide four costing proposals for this component of the assignment as follows: The cost to review a sample of 25% of the 186 EPLs finalised, cost to review a sample of 50% of the 186 EPLs finalised, cost to review a sample of 75% of the 186 EPLs finalised, cost to review 100% of and cost to review an own determined sample of the 186 EPLs finalised."

Requirements outlined

As part of the consultant’s responsibilities, the consulting entity will review the mineral licencing processes to recommend business process improvements that would optimise the efficiency with which applications are evaluated.

The consultant will be required to benchmark best practices around the world and address how Namibia should consider implementing those practices in its processes, the ministry said.

"The ministry is particularly interested in implementing online application submissions and effectively leveraging information and communication technology tools in the process, investigating how human intervention can be minimised in the processes, and increasing process automation to improve transparency and feedback on the status of each application," the bid document outlined.

Deliverables

The consultant will also be required to specifically identify risks and control weaknesses in the processes; investigate the effectiveness of the evaluation committee, and suggest possible improvements to the committee, including the ability of the minister to appoint external individuals.

They should also consider best practices such as implementing a code of conduct and the duties and responsibilities of the committee.

The consultant would also be required to assess beyond mineral licences, the ministry said.

They will assess the possibility of implementing the recommendations for the assessments of all EPLs in Namibia beyond just the mineral licences, particularly considering the regulatory and policy environment.