All eyes on Shifeta as he sets to give judgement on marine phosphate mining

18 Jun 2018 15:30pm

The tug of war for and against marine phosphate mining on the oceans of Namibia has left Pohamba Shifeta with a few hours within which he should make a ruling on whether to grant Namibia Marine Phosphate (Pvty) Ltd an environmental clearance certificate or not.

A High Court ruling in favour of phosphate mining was followed by an intense public hearing at the environment’s ministerial offices yesterday where the appellant, Michael Gawaseb’s lawyer, Uno Katjipuka squared off with Namibia Marine Phosphate (Pvty) Ltd.’s attorneys.

Katjipuka submitted that the project, if allowed for the next 20 years, would pose an environmental disaster that would cripple Namibia’s fishing sector and benefits derived from it by generations to come.

She posited that nothing is known about the possible effects minerals released on marine life would do because such a project had never been done anywhere and would be a first for the world.

“New Zealand rejected it. Any adverse impact will become apparent when it’s too late,” she argued stating that the activity will ruin Namibia’s prime fish exports.

She also cited that there is reason to institute the “precautionary principle” which in part says that if any activity raises threats of harm to human health and environment, measures ought to be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. 

“We ask the minister with respect to set aside the environment clearance certificate, have studies done and conduct more research,” she submitted.

However, countering these assertions, lawyer Deon Obbes who is being instructed by EN Africa said that a peer review was done by independent experts who were impressed by a 2 000 paged report done on marine phosphate mining and saw no reason why it should not forge ahead.

He bashed the appellant’s attempt to off-seat the views of scientific experts by a bunch of media reports and a ministerial statement against the project.

He further submitted that the appellant’s argument was not beefed up by scientific evidence while they misrepresent the perceived environmental disaster as absolute fact.

On the precautionary principle, Obbes said, “The reality is that the precautionary principle is not easily definable and it is not used to allow unpredictable decisions.”

The appellant also failed to highlight the economic effects Namibia would enjoy if it dared jump into the project, he pressed. 

He drove his argument further stamping that the appellant was basing arguments on assumptions while fear mongering.

However, in response, Katjipuka cautioned against “being overly technical” in defense of what may otherwise be harmful to the environment.

Meanwhile the fate of Namibia Marine Phosphate (Pvty) Ltd  and the oceans will be decided by the minister by 8:30 Thursday morning: “I need time to look at all these,” he said.