Phosphate mining to proceed offshore Walvis

18 Oct 2016 22:20pm
WINDHOEK, 18 OCT (NAMPA) – Environment minister Pohamba Shifeta has confirmed that Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP) Limited received clearance for the proposed mining of marine phosphate for a period of three years.
Pohamba Shifeta told Nampa on enquiry Tuesday that the decision was taken by the Environmental Commissioner (EC) based on science.
“I do not need to dictate to the EC what to do. If anybody is against this, he/she can appeal to High Court.”
Shifeta said the EC has the function to issue or reject any environment clearance, adding it has experts who advise whether to issue a clearance or not, but that decision could only be taken after concluding investigations.
His comments follow a letter circulating on social media indicating that EC Theo Nghitila granted NMP a clearance certificate for the proposed mining of marine phosphate in Namibian waters.
He said Government will monitor any activities carried out by the company and these conditions should be met.
There has not been any phosphate mining taking place offshore anywhere in the world, only onshore, according to Shifeta.
The letter dated on 05 September 2016 thus serves as an environmental clearance certificate for the project to commence.
“However, this clearance letter does not in any way hold the ministry accountable for misleading information, nor any adverse effects that may arise from this project’s activities. Instead, full accountability rests with the Namibian Marine Phosphate and their consultants,” it read.
NMP was granted mining license (ML) 170 in 2011 by the Ministry of Mines and Energy to unearth offshore marine phosphate about 120 kilometres southwest of Walvis Bay in the Erongo Region. However, that process was halted because NMP did not have an Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) and Cabinet agreed to a moratorium in September that year for an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) to be conducted.
Stakeholders including the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and various environmental lobbying groups raised concerns over mining activities possibly destroying the natural resources.
The ECC spelled out certain conditions, including regular monitoring by Government.
“...From this perspective, regular environmental monitoring and evaluations on environmental performance should be conducted. Targets for improvements should be established and monitored from time to time.”
Nghitila said because the project is located in an environmentally sensitive area, MET reserves the right to attach further legislative and regulatory conditions during the operational phase of the project.
He said the company and its consultants should be held accountable for any environmental damages.
Nghitila was not available for comment by the time of publishing this story.
The NMP board of directors and management include local businessman Knowledge Katti, Tariq Al Barwani and Sushil Srivastava.
Titled ‘Sandpiper’, NMP’s phosphate mining project is estimated to yield 1.8 billion tonnes of phosphoric sand and carries an estimated N.dollars 5.2 billion in investment capital.
Phosphate is used in among others fertilisers, pesticides, matches, bombs, to process uranium fuel as well as in processed meat and cheese.