Namibian Fishing Industry Remains concerned about Marine Phosphate Mining

namib times 14-08-15


The Namibian fishing industry remains concerned about the potential environmental impacts on the Benguela marine ecosystem and the fishing industry, from proposed bulk marine phosphate mining. Matti T Amukwa of the  Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations wrote in a letter to the media:

“Fish are renewable resources and if managed properly, can go on forever. As an industry, and also as a country, we cannot afford to put at risk our fishery sector’s future by experimenting with marine phosphate mining, which has not been proven anywhere in the world.

In fact it has also been turned down to date, even with high quality environmental research, in other parts of the world such as New Zealand.

A moratorium was placed on marine phosphate mining by the Cabinet of Namibia a little under two years ago to allow for an indepen-

dent scientific assessment of the implications. What is required is rigorous hands-on research both at sea and experimental, to strategically assess the impacts from marine phosphate mining and processing. The studies will include development of good legislation to ensure effective environmental monitoring and control, if marine phosphate mining were to go ahead.

For this Strategic Environmental Assessment to be carried out effectively, the moratorium on marine phosphate mining must remain in place. The value of a strategic assessment is that it must be completed before ariy marine phosphate mining is allowed: only once the Government is provided with the information of what long-term impact can be expected from this type of mining, can a decision be made on whether phosphate mining should proceed or not. Mining cannot take place before or during the studies!

We note the Minister of Mines’ re-

commendation that all stakeholders should look at ways to tackle the issue of fishing and mining. We hear about research reports produced by the prospective Phosphate Mining companies, but find it strange that so far this information has not been shared with all stakeholders for public scrutiny and expert evaluation. If we are to co-exist, the information needs to be provided to all stakeholders so it can be properly scrutinized by independent experts in the field.

LL Namibia Phosphates company director Kombadayedu Kapwanga’s presentation on phosphate mining was mentioned in the press: this apparently showed how phosphate mining could co-exist with marine fishing. The world is looking for an answer as there is a lack of knowledge on the environmental impacts of deep-sea mining yet Mr. Kapwanga seems to have the answer!

If that is so, we and the world would all like to see it. LL Namibia Phosphates is claiming that tests at its multi-million dollar fertilizer production demonstration plant have so far proven that there is no harm to the marine environment in the offshore production of phosphate. This facility is based in Lűderitz, so we fail to see how LL Namibia Phosphates from this, can be confident that there will be no harm to the marine environment in the open ocean where the phosphate will be mined.

It is commonly stated by the proponents of sea mining that phosphate mining will make Namibia self-sufficient in fertilizer production and create food security. Namibia is an arid country with only limited potential for agriculture. Fertilizer enhances food security, but so does fishing. Namibia currently has a healthy horse mackerel fishery of about of 350 000 tonnes per year. This fish is being sold at very affordable prices in Namibia as well as a large number of African countries where it is a major contributor of protein to the community! The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine resources continues to promote the positive aspects of seafood and to make fish available at affordable prices through the Namibia Fish Consumption Promotion Trust, thereby contributing significantly to food security.

Sea mining for phosphate is supposed to create substantial employment but the promoters of phosphate mining have not backed up the numbers of jobs that will be created with hard facts. Sea mining, is a high technology operation as is the upstream beneficial of phosphate, if that should ever come, requiring specialist skills which are not be available locally and specialists will need to be brought into the country, exporting jobs as it were rather than creating them.

The Namibian fishing industry directly employs around 15 000 people, of which 96% are Namibians. Suppliers of services and goods to the industry create numerous more jobs. The sustainable management of the Namibian Fishing industry, leading to growth of the biomass and increased value addition in certain sectors of the industry, have the potential to substantially increase the amount of people making a living, from sustainable jobs in the fishing industry, in the long run.

The policy of ‘Namibianization’, which has been followed by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources since independence, has ensured that a wide selection of the Namibian population are today rights holders, and are benefiting from the countries natural resources. This is in stark contrast to both the companies seeking mining rights for phosphate, also a na-tural Namibian resource, in which a small, selected number of Nami-

bians, hold 15% of the share capital which means that 85% is held by foreign interests!

If mining is allowed to start before it is unequivocally proven that phosphate mining does not harm the Benguella Current Ecosystem, a limited number of people will greatly benefit. If mining proves to be destructive and harms the ecosystem and needs to be halted, the foreign owners of the mining companies will walk away and Namibia as country will be left to cope with the fall out!

The fishing industry respects the Government’s action to implement the moratorium. What is required first, is development of a good scientific baseline, before any decision on whether or not to go ahead with mining.

The further planned studies for the moratorium will assess the changes that could be expected from that benchmark whether the environment would get worse or not, as a result of marine phosphate mining.”


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