Marine Phosphate Mining Misconstrued

The managing director of Lev Leviev Diamonds, Kombadayedu Kapwanga,says he understands the negativity surrounding phosphate mining “from those with a colonial mentality”. Critics, said Kapwanga, “believe everything has to be done first by Europeans before it can be done by ‘primitive’ African countries.”

He was responding to a series of questions posed on Monday to him on the ongoing debate surrounding the envisaged phosphate mining off the Luumlderitz coast and what critics say are its negative environmental impact. The Leviev group of companies is controlled by Lev Leviev, the diamond baron and the controlling shareholder of Africa Israel Investments. Lev Leviev Diamonds recently made headlines when media claimed they were given the green light to go ahead with phosphate mining offshore of Luumlderitz. But contrary to reports, the company only got environmental clearance to continue with a N$200 million demo plant to process marine phosphate. The demonstration process is expected to last only 10 days and is regarded as very crucial in paving the way for for the establishment of a facility estimated to cost about N$8 billion.

“By the way, marine diamond mining is only done in Namibia and nowhere else in the world. Scientifically here we are speaking about seabed mining and not phosphate as a material as it is not poisonous. The fish live in the phosphate mud all the time and fish is trawled from this phosphate sandmud. So scientifically it is not the first time seabed mining will take place in the world. Sand mining has been going on in the United Kingdom for many years and co-exists with fisheries. Other seabed mining operations are also done in many parts of the world for different minerals and purposes,” Kapwanga responded to New Era. He said the experiment is currently under way and that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) was conducted a year ago by RBS Consultants in accordance with the Environmental Act, while a clearance certificate was obtained from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.

“We have not yet started with the EIA for mining. The only EIA we did is for the current experiments now under way in Luumlderitz. Our company LL Namibia Phosphate is still going to conduct an EIA once the results of the experiments it is currently conducting in Luumlderitz confirm the suitability of Namibian rock phosphate for local fertilizer manufacturing and other industrial uses. The rest of the answers and findings will only be clear after satisfactory completion of the experiments,” Kapwanga said.

When asked about his view on the concerns raised by the fishing sector that phosphate mining will negatively influence the sector, which is currently one of the largest employment contributors in the country, Kapwanga responded: “They have the right to be concerned as any other interested and affected party.” He added: “That is why the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources has put an 18-month moratorium on conducting an independent study to find out the effects on the fisheries sector and marine ecology, which we fully support. “However, the impact of phosphate mining will be more clear once the study conducted by the government and that which will be conducted by our environmental consultants are concluded. I understand the notion from those with a colonial mentality that everything has to be done by European countries first before it can be done by primitive African countries,” he said

“Phosphate mining will also have plenty of benefits for Namibia once the process is operational. We will become self-sufficient in fertilizer production and produce more food and meat by using cheaper locally manufactured fertilizers. By nature of this unique mineral Namibia can be an industrialized nation as envisaged under NDP4 and Vision 2030. I cannot at this stage say if the benefits outweigh the risks as we do not yet know if there are any risks before the studies are completed. However we believe that it can co-exist just like it is doing now with marine diamond mining. But I emphasize that the studies will confirm this when done scientifically and any potential risk identified and mitigated,” Kapwanga stated. Chatham Rock Phosphate company of New Zealand was given a mining licence during 2013 and the company has now submitted its application for environmental clearance planned for this month.

Prior to that in 2012 the World Future Council warned Namibia and the world against marine phosphate mining saying that mining is a short-term non-renewable activity. “Once the phosphate has been extracted, the jobs are gone. In contrast, if fisheries are managed sustainably, as in Namibia, the food and job security they provide can last for many generations to come,” the council said.

Source : New Era