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Sunday 18 August 2019
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Phosphate mining woes continue

Interested and affected parties who do not wish to see the day when Namibia could become home to phosphate mining, have submitted their input as to why the Environmental Clearance Certificate initially granted to Namibia Marine Phosphate (NMP), should be annulled.
The Ministry of Environment and Tourism confirmed receiving the submission yesterday after the deadline lapsed on 28 September.
In June this year Minister Pohamba Shifeta set aside the Environmental Clearance Certificate awarded to Namibia Marine Phosphate on 5 September 2016, for offshore phosphate mining, pending input from shareholders within the fishing sector and society at large.
The cancellation of the clearance certificate came after heated debate and public outcry on the matter. Shifeta squashed the certificate when the Economic and Social Justice Trust took on NMP to block offshore mining activities.
The go-ahead would grant NMP, a company owned by Omani billionaire Mohammed Al Barwani and notorious middleman Knowledge Katt, rights to extract phosphate. The specific mining area is situated 120 kilometers into the sea, south-west of Walvis Bay, for the period of over 20 years.
Lobbying groups argued that phosphate mining would have a dreadful and long term impact on the environment and the ecosystem while NMP stressed that the economic benefits of such mining would be immense.
NMP promised a capital investment of N$5.2 billion and promised N$14 billion (N$728 million per/annum) in revenue to government over the 20 year period of the mine’s lifespan.
The company has been embroiled in a tug-of-war with the government and the public since the company was awarded its environmental clearance license in September 2016.
In November 2016, Shifeta during a lengthy engagement explained his decision for the withdrawal of the license citing the need for  further consultations in line with Article 95 (1) of the Namibian Constitution underlining the importance of environmental protection.  He further requested that all concerned stakeholders submit their inputs within three months.
This week, Environmental commissioner and acting permanent secretary Teofilus Nghitila confirmed of submissions brought forward to the ministry, saying they will look into the concerns as instructed by Shifeta.
“We have received submissions from interested and affected parties and we are working on them. I’m not sure if we have any new submissions from NMP since they are not objecting anything. Their application still stands are we received it initially,” he said.
Since NMP were granted their clearance certificate, there has been commotion among government officials and the general public on whether to allow the project, with some environmentalists saying it will harm the ocean’s ecosystem, especially since marine phosphate mining has not been done anywhere else in the world.
“If there are largely substantive inputs backed by information, then the final decision will turn. However, if the comments are not substantiated, then obviously it will be difficult to change my decision,” said the commissioner.
Labour expert and Economic and Social Justice Trust ( ESJT) representative Herbert Jauch confirmed making their submission to the ministry.
“We have made our own detailed submission as the ESJT. During the recently held SADC Summit, we collected over 400 signatures for a petition with SADC leaders and concerned parties signing,” said Jauch.
Other initiatives, he said, were activities held at schools in Erongo, Khomas and other regions where over 2000 signatures were collected against marine phosphate mining. This is in addition to global campaigns where about 1700 international signatures were also collected and  submitted last week.
“Others might have also submitted and that only the ministry would know. So we are at a stage where we wait to hear what the environmental commissioner will decide.”
“For Namibia, the issue was that phosphate mining can create a few hundreds of jobs, but thousands of jobs could be at risk in the fishing industry. We need to weigh that up and consider if the risk is worth it,” Jauch said.




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