The Chamber of Mines of Namibia has expelled the Swartmodder copper mine near Rehoboth for infringing safety regulations, former chamber president, Johan Coetzee, announced recently.
The mine, which is majority owned by the Chinese African Huaxia Group, was expelled in April after ignoring a directive from government to close down operations in December last year.
The Windhoek Observer is reliably informed that the mine had violated major safety rules and regulations which left the chamber without choice, but to expel it.
“They were not subscribing to any safety rules in the book of the inspector of mines. They were operating as if they were running an underground operation. There were incidences which were not reported, which is a major breach because every incident of an injured employee is supposed to be reported,” a source familiar with the matter, who did not want to be named, said.
The source added that the mine disregarded a December directive to cease operations.
“They were punished by the inspector of mines for that. They were running an unfit mine in terms of the safety book of the Ministry of Mines and Energy. All mines have to comply with certain aspects in that safety book, but they were disregarding it,” the source said.
The mine has over the years attracted negative media attention which ranged from non-payment of employee salaries to employing undocumented Chinese nationals.
The Swartmodder mine, which started operations in 2010, experienced its first industrial accident in 2012, when an employee lost one arm and lost substantial use of the other.
In the same year, another employee was severely burned while filling up a truck with scalding water.
The mine has also been repeatedly accused by its employees of maintaining sub-standard working conditions.
In 2012, Informante reported that the mine had reneged on its promises when it left employees stranded without a penny, after the unceremonious closure of some of its operations in the flotation, milling and crushing divisions.
In 2013, police in Rehoboth arrested 18 Chinese nationals for overstaying their visas and remaining in the country while working at the mine.
When quizzed about the consequences of not following the directive to cease operations in December and not following the law, the source said that it is now up to government to come up with the way forward.
“There were calls to bring in the army to take over the mine and make sure no one is working. The Chinese guys should actually be in jail. The Chamber of Mines is not an enforcing authority, but anybody who is not a member, the day you are expelled, government will stop you from operating,” the source said.
The Inspector of Mines, Mathews Amunghete, refused comment on the way forward, telling the Windhoek Observer that he was not prepared to comment over the phone.
“I do not appreciate being contacted over the holiday. I am not prepared to comment on company matters,” he said.