More than a year-and-a-half after government imposed a moratorium on marine phosphate mining in Namibian waters, the Minister of Mines and Energy, Obeth Kandjoze, this week admitted that the “moratorium holds no water”.
The government-imposed moratorium, which was implemented 18 months ago to address concerns by the fishing industry, lapsed in March 2015.
Speaking to captains of the mining industry during the annual general meeting of the Chamber of Mines of Namibia (CMN), Kandjoze acknowledged that the “rights holders cannot be stopped”.
In what was his first address to the industry since his appointment about two months ago, Kandjoze remarked, “There are gaps in various legislations that are not the problems of the rights holders. I am now pushing for the technical committee to come forth with their recommendations and I hope that within the next few days or weeks this directive will be forthcoming.”
Speaking at the same event, outgoing CMN president Werner Duvenhage said the chamber remains concerned that the moratorium lapsed without much progress on the desired scientific studies to address environmental and fishing industry concerns.
According to Duvenhage, the consultants engaged by government only produced a scoping report in which Terms of Reference for the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) have been identified.
“While government is committed to the co-existence of several sectors in the same eco-system, the slow pace at which the environmental concerns are being addressed is of great concern to the chamber. It is now clear that it will be several years before environmental concerns will be clarified, thereby hampering investment decisions and socio-economic growth by marine phosphate players,” lamented Duvenhage.
He appealed to relevant government agencies to find an amicable solution to the way forward, without jeopardising the interests of any stakeholders.
Meanwhile, one of the marine phosphate exploration prospecting licence (EPL) holders has noted the need for more clarity between Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs).
The EPL holder, who preferred anonymity, pointed out that EIAs are carried out for specific development projects with well-defined geographic and temporal scopes while a SEA is a long-term development planning tool that reviews and analyses sector plans, policies and programmes (PPPs) to determine complementarities, conflicts, opportunities and constraints.
“The current trend is to do scenario analysis for what could be perceived to be competing sectors to determine the most optimal development option such as the best long-term sustainable benefit and values to society at large. What is described in the documents by the consultants sounds like an EIA while they refer to it as an SEA. This needs to be clarified so that the correct technical terms are used and process as well as approaches followed,” stated the EPL holder.
Sources have indicated that the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources has expressed dissatisfaction with the analysis completed to date given that government has spent N$3 million on the process thus far.