Uncontrolled Sand Mining Days Numbered, Namibia

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Namibia Coast Sand Dunes
Sand Dunes and Ocean, Namibian Coast. Photo Source: Ker Downey

Uncontrolled Sand Mining Days Numbered

Excerpt from AllAfrica, Namibian Press, by Adam Hartman

While sand mining in the Swakop River is a crucial element of coastal development, sand mining companies do seem take advantage of the lack of official control over mining operations.

As reported in the Namibian, “Quarries are also becoming “extremely deep” some having vertical ‘walls’ of 10,5 metres. According to the guidelines, “excavation shall under no circumstances expose the ground water table and shall have slope banks not higher than 4 metres”.

At the moment there is no one to control these guys. Allegations that “unknown” excavators without municipal permission are taking advantage of the chaotic situation.

They are just doing as they please and no one is stopping them. It’s as if they have no regard for other people, the environment or the law,” a smallholding resident said.

Swakop River Valley
Swakop River Valley. Photo Source: Dr. Thomas Wagner

But last December, the municipality eventually received written authorisation from the ministry to manage the sand mining, and according to Clive Lawrence, general manager of the municipality’s health department, this will start early next year.”

To Read Full Articles:

Uncontrolled Sand Mining Days Numbered, December 2010

Swakop Sand Miners ‘Doing Their Own Thing’, November 2010

Swarkopmud Dunes Ocean
Swakopmud Dunes Field and Ocean. Photo Source: Mark Van Aardt / Getty Images

The Swakop River is a major river in the western part of Namibia, reaching the sea at the southern edge of the city of Swakopmund (German for Mouth of the Swakop). The area around the river mouth and the surrounding dunes are also known for rich bird life and some unusual plant species (like the Welwitschia) that use the regular fog drifting in from the ocean to sustain themselves in the absence of other moisture.The Swakop is an ephemeral river, its run-off is roughly 40 million cubic metres per annum. The main tributary is the Khan.

Swakop River Mouth. Photo Source: Tumino Haskell

And at the mouth of the Swakop river lies the town of Swakopmund.

Swakopmund (German for “Mouth of the Swakop”) is a city on the coast of northwestern Namibia, 280 km (175 miles) west of Windhoek, Namibia’s capital. Swakopmund, known as Swakop in Namibia is the country’s biggest coastal town and a mecca for Namibians on holiday.

As a seaside resort, the weather is cooler here in December to January (Namibia’s summer months) and the territorial administration moves to Swakopmund for these months. The town has 42,000 inhabitants and owns 193 square kilometres (75 sq mi) of land.

Swakopmund Namibia
Swakopmund Namibia

Swakopmund is a curious desert town, yet enjoys a temperate climate because nestled between the magnificient sand dunes and the ocean. It is surrounded by the Namib Desert on three sides and the cold Atlantic waters to the west.

Sand Dunes. Namib desert

Swakopmund is a beach resort and an example of German colonial architecture. It was founded in 1892 as the main harbour for German South-West Africa.

In August 1892, the gunship “Hyäne” under the command of Captain Curt von François, staked out a wharf north of the Swakop River mouth. A year later, 40 settlers from Germany and 120 members of the Schutztruppe were taken ashore on landing boats to embark upon an adventurous undertaking. The 325 metre long wooden jetty was only completed in 1905 and it was later replaced by a more solid iron construction. Swakopmund became the gate to South-West Africa and the entire supply for the colony was wound up through this little town. The narrow-rail train to Windhoek started operations in 1902 while at the same time, the station in the Wilhelminian style (equivalent to Victorian style) was built. It was completely restored some years ago and has become an entertainment centre, a casino and a luxury hotel.

Namibia Coast Sand Dunes
Namibia, Sand Dunes. Photo Source: Annie Griffith belt

One hundreds kilometers from the shores, Sossusvlei sand dunes are the most famous and amongst the highest (up to 300m high) dunes of the world. The name “Sossusvlei” is of mixed origin, and roughly means “dead end marsh”. “Vlei” is the afrikaans word for “marsh”, while “sossus” is for “no return” or “dead end”. This area is characterized by high sand dunes of vivid pink-to-orange color, a consequence of a high percentage of iron in the sand and consequent oxydation processes. The oldest dunes are those of a more intense reddish color.

Dunes Orange

Dune 45 is a star dune at Sossusvlei it is named 45 as to the fact that it is positioned 45km from the Sesriem Canyon. Standing over 170m, it is composed of 5 million year old oxygenated sand that was brought by the Orange River from north Mozambique, transported up the coastline by the ocean currents and swept inland by the winds. While airborne the rich oxide in the sand “rusted” and hence the reddish colour, when the wind lost its strength the sand got deposited where it is today.

Climbing this dune should be done early morning as the climb takes about an hour to reach the summit. The climb is not easy and will be challenging physically and mentally, however the rewards is priceless, seeing the golden hues of the Namib come alive to another day as the sun caresses every corner of the horizon will stay with you for eternity.

The Skeleton Coast: Wikipedia

Namibia Coast
Namibia Coast. Swakopmud is located just above Walvis Bay.

Although the entire coastline of Namibia was formerly called The Skeleton Coast, (German: Skelettküste) it refers nowadays to the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean coast of Namibia and south of Angola from the Kunene River south to the Swakop River. The Bushmen of the Namibian interior called the region “The Land God Made in Anger”, while Portuguese sailors once referred to it as “The Gates of the bad place”.

Edouard-Bohlen namibia
Edouard-Bohlen ship wreck, now one quarter mile from the namibian shoreline

The Skeleton Coast is normally associated with famous shipwrecks caused by rocks offshore in the fog, and stories abound of sailors walking for hundreds of kilometres through this barren Namibian landscape in search of food and water. More than a thousand vessels of various sizes and areas litter the coast. Notable wrecks in the region include the Eduard Bohlen, the Otavi, the Dunedin Star, and Tong Taw.

The coast is named for the bleached whale and seal bones which covered the beaches when the whaling industry was still active, and seal hunts, but more than a few of the skeletons were human as well.

On the coast the upwelling of the cold Benguela current gives rise to dense ocean fogs (called “cassimbo” by the Angolans) for much of the year. The winds blow from land to sea, rain fall rarely exceeds 10 millimetres (0.39 in) annually.

There is a constant, heavy surf on the beaches. In the days of human-powered boats it was possible to get ashore through the surf but impossible to launch from the shore. The only way out was by going through a marsh hundreds of miles long and only accessible through a hot and arid desert.

swakopmud sand dunes
Photo Source: Stéphanie Mausset

NASA Image, Namibia South Western Coast

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