AS one of the biggest marine mining operations in world, Debmarine Namibia invests a large amount of resources to ensure that it maintains responsible stewardship of the marine environment in which it operates.
The chairperson of the Debmarine Namibia Board of Directors, Dr Michael Himavindu, says the company is committed to protecting the marine environment where they mine diamonds.
He said Debmarine Namibia aims to be a leader in marine environmental stewardship and will strive to maintain the company’s reputation as a responsible citizen. “To put all this into perspective, Debmarine Namibia, employs a number of full-time environmental scientists and contracts independent marine specialists.”
We manage impacts on the environment with guidance from, among others, Namibian legislations through the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, where we submit our Environmental Management Plan for approval, and are certified to the ISO 14001 Environmental Management standards and other international best practices,” said Humavindu.
He said Debmarine Namibia’s impact on marine environment is constantly monitored and the necessary mitigation measures are in place.
The Chief Executive Officer of Debmarine Namibia, Otto Shikongo, said from the beginning of the company’s operations, they have been critically aware that the future of the marine diamond mining industry was intimately linked to effective environmental management of the highest standards possible.
The company’s first environmental impact assessment was commissioned for this reason in 1991 and was conducted by the University of Cape Town and many aspects were considered by the study.
“In 1996, after years of environmental surveys, the multi-discplinary team of independent scientists concluded that there was not a significant effect on the environment. This unique series of studies formed the solid foundation for our ongoing seabed impact research initiatives,” said Shikongo.
He added that Debmarine Namibia has also supported social environmental initiatives such as the supply of benthic samples to the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and the University of Namibia to the tune of N$9 million, participation in coastal biodiversity activities and coastal clean-ups, marine awareness and education fairs and tours for primary schools facilitated through the Namibia Dolphin Project, provisions of scholarships for graduate and postgraduate studies in environmental science.
Debmarine Namibia’s Manager for Mineral Resources, Godfrey Ngaisiue highlighted that Debmarine Namibia is committed to protecting the natural environment and the company’s environmental management plan is in compliance with legal and other requirements.
He said Debmarine Namibia obtains its environmental clearance certificate from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism every three years, which is an essential component of their license to operate. He explained that in 1994, Debmarine Namibia established a special Monitoring Programme on the Seabed.
The programme is anchored on three pillars which are: To monitor change on the seabed over time, to gain greater knowledge on the natural variability across the Atlantic 1 (the area in which the company is mining) and to understand the consequences of their operations. The company also collaborates with other institutions such as the University of Namibia and the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources in this endeavor.
In addition to the programme, Debmarine Namibia’s Marine Scientific Advisory Committee was established in 2012 with the objectives to review results of the sampling programme, to provide advice on the benthic monitoring design, analysis and techniques and to provide guidance on all marine scientific aspects. This committee comprises of highly experienced independent external members from academia and industry.
At the offshore operations on-board the Debmarine Namibia vessels, at least 95 per cent of the water used is desalinated water produced on board each vessel, says Ngaisiue.
The Resident Director of De Beers in Namibia, Daniel Kali, said environmental protection is part of De Beers’ commercial imperatives.