|Phosphate mine faces stern opposition|
|Written by edson Haufiku|
|Thursday, 28 June 2012 00:01|
The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources and Namibia’s Environmental Commissioner recently declined to accept the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the planned phosphate mining project at the coast out of concern for its likely impact.
The phosphate mining project has been criticised for a lack of relevant data collection, for failure to consult affected stakeholders, as well as possible conflicts of interest, highlighting the need for an independent EIA.
The Sandpiper phosphate mining project is the brainchild of two Australian mining companies, Minemakers and UCL who operate in Namibia as Namibia Marine Phosphate (NMP) with the aim of dredging a total of 5.5 million metric tons of phosphate-rich sediment from the seafloor per annum.
The Australian government voted on 6 March 2012 against phosphate mining in that country, because of the irreversible and detrimental effects on the marine eco-system. Marine phosphate mining has never been attempted elsewhere in the world.
In a confidential letter addressed to Prime Minister Nahas Angula, Fisheries Minister Bernard Esau said that the draft EIA submitted by NMP to his ministry is in fact a draft scoping report, merely renamed and submitted as a draft EIA in order to meet the deadline of 13 January 2012, a condition of the mining license granted to NMP eighteen months earlier. “The potential impacts on the marine ecosystem and fisheries need to be clearly identified before such a project can go head and this is not possible within a six month period,” Esau wrote. The Fisheries Minister also questioned the independence of the South African Environmental Impact Assessors (SAIEA), who reviewed the Sandpiper EIA.
Various stakeholders at the coast say they were not given an opportunity to comment on the final scoping report, nor were they given any opportunity to comment on the EIA report prior to submission. This, environmentalists claim contravenes Namibia’s EIA Regulation which clearly states that registered interested and affected parties must have access to, and an opportunity to comment in writing on the assessment report, before the NMP submits its report to the Environmental Commissioner.
Marcia Stanton, Director of Earth Organisation Namibia and legal advisor to the Ministries of Environment and Fisheries, in a letter to Commissioner Teofelus Nghitila, warned that it is impossible to estimate the potential long-term effects on the marine environment without first conducting a serious on-site study of the benthos layer; as well as the risks to meiofauna and microfauna, the basic building blocks of the marine environment.
Tonata Itenge Emvula, the special advisor to the Minister of Gender and Equality and the Managing Director of Namdeb, Inge Zamwaani Kamwi, are both shareholders of Tungeni Investments, which holds a 15% shareholding in NMP.
Environmentalists have raised the concern of a possible conflict of interest amongst some shareholders and directors of NMP, who also sit on the board of the consulting company, Lithon, as well as the SAIEA that reviewed the EIA.
Emvula also sits on the board of Lithon project consultants, a company doing consultancy work on the Sandpiper project on behalf of NMP. Zamwaani-Kamwi is also a board member of the SAIEA, which reviewed the incomplete Sandpiper EIA, produced by Lithon.
NMP wants to dredge an area of three square kilometers per annum, totaling sixty square kilometers in twenty years. In the said Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) NMP admitted that their activity will have an impact on fish biomass, specifically monk, and that the seabed where the actual mining takes place will be removed to a depth of two meters and along with it marine fauna and flora will be destroyed. The report also states that bird strikes will kill off marine birds and mammals, such as dolphins and whales will leave the mining areas due to noise pollution and vibration caused by the dredging activities. Sediment plumes will also form as a result of the dredging activity. This represents sixty square kilometers of seabed that could be systematically dredged and destroyed over a period of twenty years.
Emvula could not be reached for comment, while Zamwaani-Kamwi did not reply to questions forwarded to her this week.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 28 June 2012 15:28|