ESJT raises red flag on marine phosphate mining

WINDHOEK, 20 SEP – The Economic and Social Justice Trust (ESJT) has called for the permanent cancellation of the environmental clearance certificate awarded to a company intending to mine phosphate off the Namibian coast.
The certificate, which was initially awarded to Namibian Marine Phosphate (Pty) Ltd to carry out marine phosphate mining, was set aside by the line Ministry of Environment and Tourism in June this year to allow for further consultation in the matter following a public outcry.
The ESJT has, however, called for a complete withdrawal of the certificate so as to prevent the company from starting operations in the country.
ESJT Chairperson, Herbert Jauch in a letter to Environmental Commissioner Frans Nghitila, which was also copied to the media on Thursday, called on Government to exercise caution when dealing with the matter.
He said it is no coincidence that marine phosphate mining has not been conducted anywhere in the world, despite large deposits of marine phosphate being available in many areas.
Jauch noted that the risks are far too great, saying Namibia must not allow itself to be abused for an experiment that can have long-lasting devastating consequences.
He added that the country would do itself a great disfavour to accept such a “dubious” world-first.
“Namibia’s marine environment is unique, and recognised as one of the most biologically-productive open coastal upwelling regions in the world. It is a complex, highly variable ecosystem, but vulnerable to external and internal stresses,” he said.
The Trust noted that the Benguela ecosystem is a fragile, though highly productive, large marine ecosystem, which forms the base of the food web of the entire marine ecosystem.
It claimed that marine phosphate mining would involve large scale destruction of the top layer of the seabed, and such disturbances of the seabed will present a severe threat to the ecosystem as a whole and all living mechanisms that it supports.
Also, the dangers to the fishing industry posed by marine phosphate mining is immense and not worth the risk, Jauch said.
“Fish is a renewable resource, provided the breeding grounds are healthy and the fishing industry is sustainably managed.”
Namibian Marine Phosphate proposes mining in a part of the Atlantic Ocean, about 120 kilometres south-west of Walvis Bay.
The ESJT said it could have a potential direct impact on valuable juvenile fish.
It further argued that the impact on critical ecosystem areas such as fish breeding and nursery grounds is a serious concern that would not immediately be apparent, as young fish, by fisheries law, are not allowed to be caught. – NAMPA