02 Nov 2016 19:30pm
WINDHOEK, 02 NOV (NAMPA) - Environment Minister Pohamba Shifeta has instructed that the environmental clearance certificate issued to the Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP) Limited be set aside with immediate effect.
The decision comes a few days before Cabinet meets to discuss the issue next Monday.
Teofilus Nghitila, environmental commissioner (EC) in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, on 05 September this year granted Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP) an environmental clearance certificate to mine marine phosphate 120 kilometres southwest of Walvis Bay in the Erongo Region.
Shifeta made the announcement during a media conference on Wednesday.
He has, in terms of Section 50 (4) of the Environmental Management Act No 7 of 2007, Article 95 (l), ordered that the EC should notify the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, the fishing industry and all other interested parties to finalise their inputs into the report within three months.
The minister said the consultation process should be completed within six months from Wednesday.
This order is with immediate effect and binds all parties, directly or indirectly affected, unless set aside by the High Court as per section 51(l) of the Act, he said.
Nghitilas decision to grant the clearance certificate has met stiff opposition from environmentalists and interest groups, with concerns raised about how the process was followed, a lack of objectivity, as well as secrecy and transparency.
President Hage Geingob has also ordered that a special Cabinet meeting be held on Monday, when a strategic decision on marine phosphate mining off the Namibian coast in the Atlantic Ocean will be taken.
The Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations, the Namibian Hake Association, the Midwater Trawling Association of Namibia and the Omualu Fishing Company on Tuesday asked the High Court in an urgent application to review and set aside the decision.
Shifeta is however insisting that the environmental commissioner issued the certificate based on science. There is no proof that such operations have any devastating effects on the fishing sector, he maintained.
He claimed that the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and other relevant parties in the sector opted not to give further input after various consultations and meetings since 2011.
No responses were received from that date and within reasonable time before the EC could make a decision, according to Shifeta.
When Shifeta confirmed the issuing of the clearance certificate to the media last month, he said he extended the period for three weeks as per regulation 25 (7) of the Act. Only one appeal was submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism on 31 October 2016 on the basis that the project will have an adverse impact on ecosystems, and the lack of public consultation.
At this point it is unnecessary to enquire from the EC as to why he did what he has done, because this is really alien juries and the EC has the discretion to determine what is in a reasonable time, he added.
Namibia would be the first country to conduct marine phosphate mining if NMP succeeds with its application.