Written by Cherilee van Rensburg and Megameno Mutaleni, Namdeb Environmentalists
Cultural heritage refers to that which has been passed on through history and has cultural, scientific, spiritual, traditional, or religious value. Cultural heritage management, therefore, is about preserving history; preserving that which tells the story of the generations before us who occupied the land and gives insight into the way our ancestors have lived.
The Tsau//Kaeb National Park is an area with a rich history of the indigenous people who previously trekked the land as well as the development of the diamond industry since the early 1900’s. The indigenous people heritage within the park includes, graves, rock art, stone age tools, among others. The industrial history is demonstrated through mining infrastructure and buildings which tell the story of how mining started and evolved through the years.
The preservation of cultural heritage is important to ensure that the history of the land is not lost to future generations. The National Heritage Act (Act No. 27 of 2004) of Namibia outlines the legal requirements aimed at the preservation of cultural heritage in Namibia. On this backdrop Namdeb implemented a Cultural Heritage Management Plan which outlines the nature and extent of tangible cultural heritage within its Mining Licenses, and the processes in place to prevent harm to cultural heritage.
Namdeb has more than 300 sites of cultural heritage importance across the different License Areas. The company consults specialist in identifying and/or confirming cultural heritage sites and maintains an extensive spatially referenced data set of all known cultural sites. These datasets are used during mine planning to ensure the protection of culturally sensitive areas through avoidance. Areas within proximity to mining activities are fenced off and access is strictly forbidden.
Namdeb has implemented a Chance Find Procedure to ensure protection of artifacts unearthed during mining. During a chance find, mining activities should be stopped, and preservation of the cultural heritage item is prioritized. Cultural heritage management at Namdeb, seeks to align with the requirements of Performance Standard 8 of the International Financial Corporation (IFC).
To ensure all employees are aligned, training on cultural heritage and the Chance Find Procedure are included in the company’s induction for new employees. Training on cultural heritage protection is also included in the environmental training offered to all employees annually.
To further ensure protection of cultural heritage a Cultural Heritage Monitoring Programme was implemented to assess the condition of cultural heritage items on a periodic basis. This monitoring helps to understand the vulnerability of the cultural heritage sites to natural weathering, vandalism, and other infrastructural integrity. This allows the company to implement interventions for preservation if required.
Namdeb is committed to the conservation of natural habitats, flora, and fauna as well as cultural heritage and the company will continue to preserve cultural heritage in respect for culture and traditions.