Namibia’s mines minister did not have the power to cancel a Chinese lithium miner’s licence and should have approached the courts to revoke it, a judge ruled on Tuesday.
Lithium miner Xinfeng took Namibia’s mines minister Tom Alweendo to court after he cancelled the company’s mining licence in April and ordered it to stop operations by May 31. The minister accused the company of obtaining the licence after a flawed application process.
Xinfeng challenged the minister’s decision in Namibia’s High Court, arguing that Alweendo did not have the power to revoke his earlier decision to grant the mining licence.
“The first respondent (mines minister) did not have the power to revoke the mining licence without the express or implied authority to do so under the governing legislation, but was required to approach the courts for an appropriate relief,” Acting High Court Judge Ramon Maasdorp ruled.
The mines ministry and Xinfeng were not immediately available to comment.
Last October, the Namibian government banned Xinfeng from exporting lithium ore to China, saying the shipments were irregular. Xinfeng denied the allegations, saying it had shipped 75,000 metric tons of lithium ore to its Chinese headquarters for tests to determine the design of a lithium processing plant in Namibia.
On June 8, Namibia banned the export of unprocessed lithium and other critical minerals as it seeks to encourage local processing and profit from the growing global demand for metals used in clean energy technologies.
The southern African country has significant deposits of lithium, vital for renewable energy storage, as well as rare earth minerals such as dysprosium and terbium needed for permanent magnets in the batteries of electric cars and wind turbines.