Phosphate moratorium 'of international significance'

24 Sep 2013 11:00
SWAKOPMUND, 24 SEP (NAMPA) – Australia’s Deep Sea Mining (DSM) Campaign has lauded the Namibian Government for its decision to place an 18-month moratorium on marine phosphate mining, saying it is “of international significance”.
DSM Campaign Coordinator Helen Rosenbaum told Nampa during a telephonic interview on Tuesday the decision taken by the Government should be considered a win for the Namibian people and the world at large.
The DSM Campaign is an association consisting of Non-Governmental Organisations and citizens from, amongst others, Australia and Canada, who are concerned about the likely impacts of deep sea mining on marine and coastal ecosystems and its communities.
In a letter addressed to the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Bernhard Esau on Monday, Rosenbaum stated that the decision shows the world how the precautionary principle should be applied in relation to seabed mining and serves as an example which the campaign will actively promote.
She said the Namibian Government’s decision reinforces the legitimacy of a precautionary approach, which the DSM campaign has been urging Pacific Island governments to adopt.
“We are pleased to be able to inform you that in Australia, the Northern Territory Government reached a similar decision in June this year with a total ban on seabed mining around Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria. We would like to take this opportunity to encourage the Namibian Government to consider a complete ban if it cannot be proven that seabed mining will not incur negatively environmental impacts,” she said in the letter.
Rosenbaum further told this news agency that since news got out that the Namibian Government placed a moratorium on deep sea mining, articles have been surfacing in New Zealand questioning why a ban on these activities are not being considered in their country’s waters.
Echoing her sentiments, Chairman of the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations, Matti Amukwa told Nampa the moratorium is a step in the right direction as Government has taken a sustainable long-term approach to the matter.
He indicated that the fishing industry is not against phosphate mining as such, but wants the proper procedures to be followed to the letter.
“Offshore phosphate mining has never been done anywhere in the world and for that reason, we have been advocating for an Environmental Impact Assessment to be carried out in order to determine whether it would have a negative or positive impact on the environment. Secondly, we also want the study to determine whether the two industries, fishing and mining, can co-exist,” he said.
Last Tuesday, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources’ submission to place an 18-month moratorium on deep-sea phosphate mining activities offshore Namibia, was endorsed by Cabinet.
During the 18-month period, the ministry wants a scoping study for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of phosphate mining in Namibian coastal waters, as well as a Strategic Environmental Assessment, to be finalised.
Esau told Nampa on a previous occasion that such mining cannot happen if there is no certainty on what impact these phosphate mining activities could have on the environment.
“The ministry will now have to go back to the drawing board to conduct a scoping study, and determine the terms of reference for a comprehensive EIA study. This study will be carried out by an independent institute and in collaboration with the relevant experts from the line ministries - the Ministry of Mines and Energy, and Ministry of Environment and Tourism,” he noted.
Two companies, Namibian Marine Phosphate and LL Namibia Phosphates, were reported to have received mining licences for marine phosphate mining.
However, although the two companies were granted the mining licences by the Ministry of Mines and Energy, they do not have environmental clearance licences from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, which prohibits them from proceeding with the planned operations.