The dust around the much-debated marine phosphate mining in Namibia refuses to settle, with much of the attention still focused on the politicians who have the final say whether to allow phosphate mining in Namibia or not. In an exclusive interview with this publication this week, chairman of the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations (CNFA) Matti Amukwa is adamant that fact finding missions in the form of independent Environmental Impact Assessments should determine whether phosphate mining can be considered in Namibia or not. The fishing currently employs around 14 000 workers while phosphate mining is expected to create an estimated 160 jobs on a permanent basis. “These jobs will presumably not be for Namibians because they are high-skilled jobs,” Amukwa said.
“We need to do things right from the start instead of starting a process only to discover halfway that we made a mistake. As a confederation we are saying the EIA must guide us,” he said. Without mentioning names, Amukwa said he continues to receive threats from some individuals pushing for phosphate mining to be given the greenlight who continue to accuse them of blocking their planned phosphate mining agenda in Namibia. He also stressed that EIA’s should be carried out by independent researchers for credibility purposes. “If you are on my payroll, it is obvious you will compile a report as per my wishes. Phosphate mining has not been done anywhere, therefore we cannot sacrifice our industry[fishing],” he said. Regarding last week’s peaceful demonstration by fishermen at the coast, Amukwa said “they were merely practicing their rights.” “For them fishing is their livelihood so it is expected for them to react the way they did,” he noted.
“All over the world countries have put sea phosphate mining on hold until there is irrevocable evidence that the mining does not impact negatively on the environment. Let the independent research be conducted by scientists, not financially or otherwise connected to the proponents of mining or the fishing industry continue even if it requires a number of years,” he said, The Swapo Party Youth League in Khomas this week also joined those opposing phosphate mining in the country, asserting that the debate about Phosphate Mining should not even be entertained in the country any longer. “It is now exhausted. The Founding Father presented a well-researched paper on Phosphate Mining at the SWAPO PARTY Congress of 2012. There was no one who challenged the findings, the recommendations and the principled position,” said SPYL’s secretary for information, publicity and mobilization in Khomas Sam Hamupolo. He made it clear that: “We[SPYL in Khomas] say NO to Phosphate Mining. It is not a renewable source; it creates less and a limited number of jobs compared to the Fishing industry; it damages the sea bed beyond repair and therefore destroys our sustainable Fishing industry and marine life beyond recovery.”
He concluded that: “The Fishing industry is geared to feed and nourish many generations to come and therefore must be protected at all cost. After all, temporary quick money for a few citizens is not the answer.
Phosphate Mining is a once off self-destructive activity and must be avoided by all means.” It it still unclear whether current environmental laws are sufficient to ensure the control and monitoring of phosphate mining. The impacts and changes to the environment from this activity cannot be accurately predicted as the activity has not been done anywhere else. In 2012, the state-owned New Era newspaper reported that the Founding Father of the Nation, Dr Sam Nujoma is against the planned phosphate mine along the coast that poses a devastating threat to marine life.
At the time, the fisheries minister Bernhard Esau said he is not willing to put at risk the country’s renewable resources by supporting the planned phosphate mining venture whose benefits are short-term but whose impact on fisheries could be long-lasting. Nujoma reportedly told New Era that he fully supports the patriotic stance taken by the minister of fisheries because phosphate mining has short-term benefits compared to the fisheries sector whose benefits are long-term and he made it categorically clear he is against phosphate mining at the coast that could have a detrimental effect on marine life.The founding father said in no way should the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources allow the architects of the planned phosphate mine to proceed with their operations.