U-Turn On Phosphate Mining

Government has softened its stance on marine phosphate mining due to increasing global demand for marine minerals such as phosphate.

Government says it will during this financial year undertake a comprehensive Environmental Assessment Study (EAS) for seabed mining. The announcement was made by Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernard Esau, in the National Assembly on Tuesday during the budget motivation for the fisheries ministry for the period 20142015.

“The process will start with a scoping study to be carried out by SINTEF Fisheries and Aquaculture, an impartial Norwegian company with global expertise in similar areas and will be followed by a strategic environmental assessment,” stated Esau.

Last year Esau said he was “not willing to put at risk the country’s renewable resources by supporting the planned phosphate mining venture whose benefits are short-term, but whose impact on fisheries could be long lasting” and many Namibians will be surprised to learn of his complete U-turn.

The EAS will be conducted under the ministry’s survey and stock assessment programme, which Esau says will require over N$91 million.

The environmental assessment will enable the ministry to develop an environmental management plan for sustainable co-existence of marine phosphate mining and fisheries, which is a first of its kind and will have global implications.

“The ministry shall thus require funding to carry out this mammoth yet crucial task,” said Esau.

Esau assured the nation that “no phosphate mining activities have started so far”.

He said the EAS for seabed mining will be based on the Management Act of 2007.

Last year former president, Dr Sam Nujoma, publicly declared his stance on phosphate mining, saying he is against phosphate mining as it could have a detrimental effect on marine life.

The founding father said in no way should the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources allow the architects of the planned phosphate mine to proceed with their operations because phosphate mining would damage the country’s fisheries sector, particularly hake.

“These imperialists think we Africans are stupid and they want to destroy our fisheries resource – which is the future of our children – they must go back to Australia,” he said at the time.

He said if the initiators of the phosphate mine are so keen to extract the resource they “should go back to Australia because Australia also has phosphate”.

Government instituted an 18-month marine phosphate mining ban because of fears it could destroy the fishing industry.

There are currently two firms with phosphate mining permits – Namibian Marine Phosphate and LL Namibia Phosphates.

The country’s fishing industry played a vital role in persuading government to place a ban on all phosphate mining, the industry saying that such activities will have a detrimental effect on the fisheries sector.

Source : New Era