The country’s largest trade union federation, the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), will next week pronounce itself on the hotly contested proposal of local businessman Knowledge Katti and his foreign partners to undertake marine phosphate mining.
NUNW secretary general Job Muniaro yesterday said the federation is currently studying the effects phosphate mining would have on the more than 18 000 workers employed in the fishing industry. “We are currently consulting with experts in the fishing sector to determine the genuine effect it would have on our workforce,” he said when contacted for comment.
Muniaro said by Monday the federation would hold a press conference to brief stakeholders on any possible course of action it might undertake.
It emerged last week – via documents leaked online – that the Ministry of Environment and Tourism through its Environmental Commissioner Teofilus Nghitila issued an environmental clearance certificate to Namibia Marine Phosphate (NMP) on September 5. NMP wants to mine marine phosphate in the Atlantic Ocean some 120 kilometres southwest of Walvis Bay.
The decision to grant NMP a clearance certificate aggrieved stakeholders in the fishing sector, including Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Bernhardt Esau, who said he was “shocked to the boots” by the decision – that was apparently also kept from him.
Plans to undertake marine phosphate mining were also rejected by former president Sam Nujoma when the proposal was mooted in 2013. At the time, Nujoma said he is against phosphate mining at the coast as it could have a detrimental effect on marine life and possibly cause irreparable damage to the seafloor.
Nujoma had said in no way should the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources allow the planned marine mine to proceed with its operations, because phosphate mining in sensitive fish breeding areas would damage the country’s fisheries sector, particularly hake stocks.
He said if the initiators of the phosphate mine were so keen to extract the resource they “should go back to Australia, because Australia also has phosphate… 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,” Nujoma said in an impromptu phone-in interview with New Era in 2013.
The fishing industry is the third largest contributor to the country’s GDP.