Environment and tourism minister, Pohamba Shifeta has been hailed for stopping the granting of an environment clearance certificate to Namibia Marine Phosphate (Pvty) Ltd which could have given it a green-light to mine phosphate on Namibia’s oceans.
Shifeta’s judgment comes in the wake of a public outcry which spilt into the media against endangering the country’s marine resources and crippling the fishing sector though an experimental mining process that had never been done before.
His judgement also comes in the background of the company having coughed out lots of money towards putting together a comprehensive report in support of the mining project which had also been given a thumps-up by independent experts.
A High Court decision by Judge Justice Uitelele had given the minister the choice to conduct an appeal hearing after which he would be entitled to make a final decision on the matter.
In his ruling, Shifeta said that he gave regard to the importance of environmental protection while at the same time balancing the rights of the phosphate company and the public good.
“Since the matter of granting of the marine phosphate came into public, the reaction by the interested and affected parties, including the fishing industry could be in bona fide. Hence, I incline to give then the benefit of the doubt,” said Shifeta.
Labour exert, Hebert Jauch heralded the ruling as a triumph over corporates bent on making profits at the expense of the country’s natural resources.
Pressed by The Villager whether the ruling could be criticised for trashing possible huge benefits that could have been derived from marine phosphate, he said the benefits were little compared to the environment.
“The benefits are not massive. The benefits might be massive for the company in terms of making profitable sales off phosphate. There is another debate, (on phosphate being) a good fertilizer because countries that have used it in the past are experiencing now dramatic negative consequences as a result of using phosphate as a fertilizer,” he said soon after the ruling.
He said if the country were to go ahead with the project, 16 000 direct jobs plus about 50 000 jobs linked to the fishing industry could be in danger.
“Fishing, if managed well is a resource that we will have forever and we need to weigh that up. Would, let’s say 400 or so jobs created by marine phosphate mining testify the endangering of an ecosystem and tens of thousands of jobs?”
“In Ramatex we were told at that time it’s 10 000 jobs, they were never 10 000 jobs, it was less. Workers were left with massive health problems, pollution of the Goreangab dam,” he said.
Meanwhile, a non-expert in environmental matters, Michael Gaweseb had appealed against the environment commissioner’s decision to grant the clearance certificate to the Namibia Marine Phosphate represented by Uno Katjipuka.