Phosphate mining calls for baseline study

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Walvis Bay – The Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations says an on-going phosphate moratorium is needed to allow effective scientific analysis so that an environmental baseline with necessary scientific supporting data is established before Namibia ventures into phosphate mining.

During a press conference held last Thursday in Walvis Bay, the chairperson of the federation, Matti Amukwa said the fishing industry fully backs Bernhard Esau, the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, in his battle to ensure an effective on-going moratorium on marine phosphate mining.

“This is essential so that a proper independent on site research at sea can be undertaken by international expert scientists to assess potential marine phosphate mining impacts on the health of the Benguela Current ecosystem, before any decision is made on whether to give the green light to marine phosphate mining,” said Amukwa.

He noted that the view among stakeholders is that since the 18-month phosphate mining moratorium imposed in September 2013 expired in March this year, government should allow those with licences to start mining activities.

He pointed out that the mining sector wants to undertake environmental monitoring research while mining.

“However, the fishing industry together with other environmental concerned stakeholders want an independent research before mining starts. Therefore, an on-going phosphate moratorium to allow effective scientific analysis is required, resulting in what is known as a strategic environmental assessment, so that an environmental baseline with necessary scientific supporting data is established first. And as a result of this, clear monitoring procedures and pollution standards can be put in place before any potential mining occurs. Otherwise, we sit with all the research happening during mining, clouding proper environmental analysis,” Amukwa stated.

Amukwa also raised his concern over the verification study of the Namibia Marine Phosphate that was apparently completed and submitted to the Environmental Commissioner’s office several months ago.

The fact that the fishing industry was never officially told that this verification study has been submitted is worrisome.

“We are concerned that Namibia Marine Phosphates is trying to avoid rigorous outside assessment of the document, and thereby shortcut the official process of getting the environmental clearance for their EIA from the Environmental Commissioner’s office.  If they are successful, they have the crucial piece of paper giving them the right to mine,” he stated.

Matti says they have written to the Environmental Commissioner’s office to request a copy of the verification study.

Another outstanding document that the Namibian fishing industry is eager to get their hands on is the final copy of the Norwegian SINTEF Pilot Study Report commissioned by the Namibian Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, which will define the research framework for a full strategic environmental assessment, he said.

The Namibian fishing industry, from latest available employment figures, in 2013 directly employed 14 823 people, most of them Namibian women.  In 2014, it exported N$7.1 billion worth of seafood. Few industry sectors in Namibia can match these figures.

by Eveline de Klerk

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