|Phosphate mining threatens marine life|
|Written by Staff Reporter|
|Wednesday, 25 July 2012 21:40|
Two Australian companies, Minemakers and UCL Resources, acquired an 85% share in the Sandpiper project, which plans to mine phosphate from the sea-bed near Walvis Bay.They plan to dredge five million tonnes a year from the sea-bed for 20 years. The prospect has environmentalists and critics up in arms. They claim mining phosphate from the ocean will destroy the marine environment and jeopardise the fishing industry. In Australia the Government of the Northern Territory considers all seafloor mining such a threat that a moratorium has been imposed until 2015, while further environmental and risk assessments are conducted.
Marcia Stanton, Director of the Earth Organisation Namibia, says, “Marine phosphate mining has never been done anywhere else in the world and Namibian coastal waters are now facing the threat of being the testing ground. These concerns have not yet been adequately considered in Namibia.”
She says to date, public and scientific consultation as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment process has been inadequate and not in accordance with Namibian law, International Seabed Authority guidelines, or International Best Practice standards. The Environmental Commissioner of Namibia has also asked for more consultation before consideration of such assessments.
Marine scientists and international experts have expressed concern that the dredging of 3-meters of the sea floor, will cause destruction to the basic building blocks of the marine ecosystem (benthos layer). Scientists are also concerned about the release of hazardous substances, including radioactive materials, which will directly kill off wildlife and cause many commercial fish stocks to be unmarketable and not sale quality.
Stanton says, “It is extremely important for serious studies to be conducted on all of these major impacts.”
According to Namibian law, damage to the environment must be prevented and activities which cause such damage must be reduced, limited or controlled. Stanton says, “The fishing industry alone brings in N$4.8 billion dollars in foreign currency and directly employs 13 380 people. Simply put, in no way must an unsustainable short-term option be adopted at the expense of the sustainable long-term option.”