Nam calls on Norway for research on phosphate mining

25 Mar 2014 13:20pm
WINDHOEK, 25 MAR (NAMPA) – Namibia has approached Norway for advice on phosphate mining on the seabed, with a major project slated for the year 2015.
Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Samuel Ankama said this on behalf of Fisheries Minister Bernhard Esau during the North Atlantic Seafood Forum Conference in Bergen, Norway from 04 to 06 March 2014.
In his statement presented under the theme ‘The Namibia Marine Phosphate Mining Research Moratorium’ availed to Nampa on Tuesday, Esau said this pilot project is now underway and is funded by the Namibian government, with the goal to launch a major project during 2015.
“The main project will include the entire marine food chain. It should also focus on food safety, as mining on the shelf off the coast of Namibia could lead to an increased content of unwanted and harmful substances in fish.
“This is very important to determine, because if allowed un-researched it has a potential to affect public health, export opportunities and wealth creation,” he noted.
A moratorium on the issuance of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) clearance certificates on bulk seabed mining for industrial minerals as well as base and rare metals in Namibian waters was put in place for a minimum of three years.
Cabinet made this decision during its 13th Ordinary meeting in September 2013.
With regards to the moratorium implementation, Esau said the decision was taken due to a conflict of interest between the sustainability of the marine ecosystem which supports valuable fisheries in the Namibian waters and international mining companies seeking to mine the seabed for phosphate deposits.
This has compelled government to seek assistance, and therefore approached the Norwegian researchers for a practical advice, he said.
Esau noted that Government engaged the Norwegian Environmental Council to provide assistance through SINTEF and the Institute of Marine Research (IMR) for empirical research data on seabed phosphate mining.
Noway's Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research (SINTEF) is the largest independent research organisation in Scandinavia.
SINTEF Fisheries and Aquaculture is leading the project with the Institute of Marine Research (IMR) as partner.
Namibia’s seabed contains large deposits of both diamonds and phosphates. The latter has become more desirable because it is one of the main ingredients in fertilisers in modern agriculture.
Esau made reference to marine scientists and international experts that expressed concern that the dredging of three metres of the sea floor will cause destruction to the basic building blocks of the marine ecosystem (benthos layer). Scientists are thus concerned about the release of hazardous substances, including radioactive materials, which may directly or indirectly harm and kill marine life, thereby suffocate or retard many commercial fish stocks to be marketable due to poor quality.
“What we are looking for is concrete information on the effect of marine phosphate mining. Our fear as a country for mining phosphate on the seabed is justified by the lack of tangible results after mining, hence the moratorium to give this research project a chance,” he added.