Clifton Movirongo

The Ministry of Mines and Energy maintains that it will not approve phosphate mining in the country without scientific data that can prove that no harm will be done to marine life.

The Mines and Energy minister Tom Alweendo told the Windhoek Observer that that allowing phosphate mining might not be ideal if it damages the fisheries industry. This is because of the disturbance it might cause to the breeding area for the fish.

“The argument is still on-going, but we need to have good scientific data that can assure us and show us that they cannot co-exist. But if they can co-exist and the country is going to benefit from both, well why not do it? But don’t do it if it is going to destroy the fisheries because at least you know fisheries is there,” he said.

Quizzed on the on-going saga between Namibia Marine Phosphate (NMP) and the Fisheries Ministry, the Mines and Energy minister said that, “only accurate information can lead into the decision-making of this matter.”

NMP plans to develop the Sandpiper Project which will be situated about 60 km off the coast of Namibia, covering a 7,000 km2 area, in water depths of between 180 m and 300 m. It is expected to produce three-million tonnes a year of saleable rock phosphate over a 20-year mine life.

The company recently announced a job registration drive to develop a data base of Namibians interested to be considered for the various jobs and roles that are expected to be created if the Sandpiper Project commences.

The development comes as the company which claims its shareholders have already made N$780 million investment, is currently awaiting judgment on a review application launched by the Confederation of Namibian Fisheries Associations and three other applicants which was heard in the High Court of Namibia on July 7.

NMP is owned by Omani billionaire, Al Barwani, through his company Mawarid Mining LLC which has an 85 percent shareholding, and a 15 percent stake is owned by middleman Knowledge Katti.

In Australia, NT Environment Protection Authority (NT EPA) stated that seabed mining has the potential to have negative direct, indirect and cumulative impacts on environmental values and other resource industries.

Alweendo further said that drilling of oil and gas whether in a conventional or non-conventional manner will leave environmental impacts and it is “undisputed.” He also said such drilling must be cleared by the environment ministry first.

“If you are going to oil and gas drill whether it’s the normal drilling or unconventional, you have to do certain things under the Environmental Act for you to be allowed to do that. There are plenty impacts, I cannot deny that but the Ministry of Environment has to be satisfied that you have measures in place to at least mitigate that impact,” said Alweendo.