“Spilling a Wake-up Call “- Pohamba Shifeta

namib times 28-07-15

train DSC_0097The recent spilling of sulphuric acid after a train derailed near Walvis Bay is forcing the environment ministry to re-examine the rail transportation of dangerous substances.

A TransNamib train transporting 900 tonnes of sulphuric acid for the Rössing mine derailed and overturned within the protected area of the Dorob National Park near the coastal town in the Erongo Region two weeks ago.

The incident took place at point 176, en route from Walvis Bay close to the popular tourist hot spot Dune 7 on 13 July at around 15:30.

In a statement availed to the media yesterday, the

Minister of Environment

and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta noted that the incident served as a wake-up call for the ministry, warning that the transportation of these dangerous substances and other chemicals need to be controlled and regulated.

“This specific incident has caused great concern for our ministry as the custodian of Namibia’s natural environment.

I therefore want to re-emphasise and urge all organs of the State, as well as other participating en-

tities in this industry to ensure that they are in compliance with our laws.

If they fail to do so, the law will be left with no choice but to take its course on them,” he warned.

Shifeta made specific re-

ference to the Environmental Management Act of 2007 and its Regulations of 2012, which provides for identification and the listing of activities that may not be undertaken without an Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) 2.

Transportation, storage and handling of hazardous substances including sulphuric acid and other chemicals, especially in bulk, forms part of the listed activities and an ECC must be obtained for the handling thereof.
An ECC is to be issued by the Environmental Commissioner as provided for by the same law.

The ECC is issued after an Environmental Impact

Assessment is done.

The minister issued a stern warning to all companies that do not comply with Namibia’s laws, saying he instructed environmental inspectors through the Environmental Commissioner to intensify the inspection programme by starting with on-the-spot inspection.

Through this integrated approach, the Ministry of Environment, “will ensure that no stone will be left unturned” in terms of addressing non-compliance.
Sulphuric acid is a very corrosive and poisonous substance to both human and environment.

One of the most important industrial chemicals, it can lead to permanent blindness if splashed into

someone’s eyes and irreversible damage if swal-


Principal uses include mineral processing, fer-

tiliser manufacturing, oil

refining, wastewater processing and chemical synthesis.

Meanwhile, Rio Tinto Rössing Uranium in a media statement issued after the incident, assured members of the public that the situation was under control and that the necessary precaution measures were taken.

Sulphuric acid is used in Rössing’s extraction process to produce uranium oxide.


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