NMP tight-lipped on phosphate mining verification study

07 Jun 2015 11:50am
WALVIS BAY, 07 JUN (NAMPA) – Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP) is remaining tight-lipped on whether they have completed a verification study on marine phosphate mining along Namibia’s coast.
Nampa approached the company with queries regarding the verification study, but was told NMP does not wish to respond.
“I wish to inform you that we do not have any comments on your questions,” NMP’s Finance and Administration Manager Hannelie Scheepers said in response to these queries on Friday.
A verification study is intended to check that a product, service, or system meets a set of design specifications.
It is a process that is used to evaluate whether a product, service, or system complies with regulations, specifications, or conditions imposed at the start of a development phase.
At a media conference in Walvis Bay last week, chairperson of the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations (CNFA), Matti Amukwa raised a concern regarding the verification study said to have been completed by NMP and submitted to the environmental commissioner.
“To our surprise we learn from sources that the study is completed and submitted. We want to know why we have not been officially informed about this. I sent an email requesting to see the document but I did not get any response,” said Amukwa.
He said this document forms part of the official Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on marine phosphate mining, which is supposed to be a transparent public process.
“We want to know the content of that document, if there is nothing sneaky about it why should it be kept a secret?” he enquired.
He further said the document should be made available to all interested and affected parties, so that it can be properly assessed and comments submitted.
“We are concerned that NMP is trying to avoid rigorous outside assessment of the environmental clearance for their EIA. This will mean if they succeed they have a crucial paper giving them the right to mine marine phosphate,” said Amukwa.
The chairperson noted that CNFA wants to ensure that proper research is done before any mining is done because inaccurate research and dodgy dealings might destroy the marine ecosystems.
He said such mining might expose Namibia’s marine life to toxic metals, thus destroying the entire fishing industry.
Amukwa went on to say fears exist that people will lose their jobs if fishing comes to a halt.
“If the NMP mining project goes wrong, foreign partners will walk away and we will suffer the consequences alone. Our fishing industry cannot be destroyed by something that will not employ more people,” he remarked.
He noted that in 2013, a total of 14 823 people were directly employed in the fishing industry, while in 2014; Namibia exported N.dollars 7.1 billion in seafood.
Should approval be given for the mining to commence, Namibia will be the first country in the world to mine marine phosphate.
“The fact that New Zealand has turned down a request for phosphate mining should also make us think twice about our own resources,” a concerned Amukwa said.
Cabinet declared a three-year moratorium on marine phosphate mining on 17 September 2013 to enable the line ministry to conduct a strategic environmental assessment.
The moratorium lapsed in March this year without much progress on the desired scientific studies to address concerns by the fishing industry.
Mines and Energy Minister Obed Kandjoze last month asked the mining industry to be patient while Government reviews and discusses the moratorium.