Namibia Marine Phosphate comes out of its corner

Namibia Marine Phosphate (NMP) issued a statement over the weekend expressing its dissatisfaction and concern over its Environment Clearance Certificate withdrawn by the Environmental Commissioner, which effectively ends all hopes of the company establishing a marine phosphate mining venture off the Namibian coast near Walvis Bay. Below, find a full version of the statement issued by NMP:

“The Company is deeply concerned at the course of actions and allegations that Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations (CNFA), Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) and other third party objectors including Michael Gaweseb have elected to take in recent days which have directly or indirectly resulted in the Minister Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) making the decision to reconsider his support for the Environmental Commissioner (EC) and to set aside the award of the Environmental Clearance Certificate issued (ECC) for Mining License ML170 at this late point in proceedings. The Company anticipates that as one of the likely consequence of these joint and several actions, the reputation of the Company and its shareholders, along with that of the country of Namibia
As an investment destination could be severely negatively impacted.
The decision comes on the back of a series of scurrilous unsupported allegations regarding the integrity and professionalism of the environmental consultants appointed to assess the project as well as that of the shareholders and the government agencies involved.
These divisive and factually unsupported claims and activities have culminated in an unfortunate public disagreement between three of the most prominent ministries in government. The situation is further regrettable given that since 2008, at the standing invitation of government to invest in mineral projects, approx. N$780m has been expended by the Company to develop the mineral licenses legally issued to it including completion of the comprehensive environmental impact assessments in 2012 in full compliance with the mining license conditions and environmental regulations and subsequent to which have incorporated significant additional expenditures in 2013 to 2016 in order to verify the impact assessments and to address specific requirements from MFMR and their concerns.
The Company is forced by these circumstance to now review its position and the options available in terms of the constitutional rights, to protect the integrity of the project, the mineral licenses and the significant investments made to date and to reserve its rights to seek recourse in event of any consequential damages.
These considerations will be made in light of the fact that once again it is also forced to respond to the continued misrepresentation of facts and politicising of issues surrounding the proposed operations of the Sandpiper Marine Phosphate project.
In this instance, the statement issued in Parliament on 27 October 2016 by Hon. Minister Bernard Esau, Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) on phosphate mining refers, as reported in the New Era on October 31, 2016. It is noted that this statement was submitted in support of the appeal lodged by Michael Gaweseb.
Registration No. 2008/ 0916
We reluctantly and respectfully advise that the claim made by the Hon Minister Esau in his statement that the phosphate deposits in ML170 are “Marine Resources” and therefore fall under the mandate of MFMR for management is based on the entirely false statements that “marine phosphates are derived from fish bones” and “marine phosphates are derived from fossils of living fish and other animals in the sea.”
The marine phosphate deposits on the middle shelf off Namibia are not “derived from fish bones” and do not comprise anything that constitutes a living marine organisms or anything naturally derived from or produced by such organisms (such a guano) as defined in the Marine Resources Act 2000.
The claim by MFMR for jurisdiction over the marine phosphate deposits is therefore devoid of any substance and exposes a thinly veiled attempt by MFMR to usurp the authority of the Ministry of Mines and Energy in regard to management of mineral resources in Namibia.
It is regrettable that the scientific advisors to the Hon Minister have over-looked the expert geological information provided in the Sandpiper EIA and Verification study as well as overwhelming body of scientific evidence from internationally published literature.
The fact is that the phosphorite deposits off Namibia have been studied by marine scientists since the early 1960’s.
These studies, as well as isotopic age dating of the actual phosphate Sediments in ML170, have determined that the phosphoriterich deposits are between 1.0 and 2.6 million years old and are classified as pelletal (i.e. small rounded grains) phosphorites comprising of the mineral carbon fluorapatite or francolite.
A detailed expert geological report presenting a review of the offshore phosphorite deposit on the Namibian margin and a model for the origin, age and deposition of phosphorite in ML170 was included in the Verification Study submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and issued also to MFMR.
The report contains the results of detailed assessment of sediment cores from ML170 for purposes of age dating and geological modelling.
It is evident that MFMR have not considered this information or have chosen to reject the overwhelming body of scientific references that is available on the matter.
Furthermore, the statement that “The pre-cautionary approach adopted by Government on this matter was because, unlike other minerals in the sea such as diamonds, marine phosphates are derived from fossils of living fish and other animals in the sea, and act as fertilizer of the sea, supporting life of smaller organisms which in turn support our rich fisheries” is not only dubious in terms of any supporting scientific evidence but is wholly contradictory to the position held by MFMR that the same phosphates pose a significant threat to the environment.
Registration No. 2008/ 0916
The timing of the announcement and claim by Hon Esau that marine phosphate falls under mandate of MFMR is also of grave concern in terms of motive.
The issue was not raised by Hon Esau during his tenure as Deputy Minister, Mines and Energy in 2009 when his ministry was actively issuing exploration licenses for marine phosphate exploration, nor was it raised at any time after 2010 when he was appointed to the position of Minister MFMR and his ministry was part to the panel that approved award of the mining license ML170 and also received and indeed complimented a certain marine phosphate exploration company on the quality of their biannual environmental reporting and compliance with Environmental Management Plans.
The matter has only been raised now by Hon Esau more than 4 years after submission of the project EIA and 5 years after award of the Mining License ML170.
The claim by MFMR for jurisdiction over marine phosphate deposits is therefore devoid of any substance and exposes a thinly veiled attempt by MFMR to politicise the matter in order to expand its mandate and to usurp the authority of the Ministry of Mines and Energy in regard to management of mineral resources in ocean space off Namibia.
The company concurs with the position stated by Ministry of Environment and Tourism in a recent communication in this regard that “In the case of the phosphate exploration and mining, first of all, phosphate is a mineral falling under Minerals (Prospecting and Mining) Act, 1992 (Act 33 of 1992), Part 3, Industrial Minerals Group, with the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) NOT the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) as the Competent Authority.”
The Company fully supports the principles of responsible development and management of ocean based industries and reiterates that the clear consensus of independent expert opinion with knowledge of the Benguela Large Marine Ecosystem is that at the scale of the proposed operations, the project can be safely developed and also be well managed within the existing
Namibian mining and environmental regulations without impact to fishing resources and in co-existence with the Fishing Industry.”

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