MANAGEMENT of the Namibian Marine Phosphate (NM), the company behind the Sandpiper project that wishes to mine phosphate from the Namibian coastline, says waiting for court approval could be detrimental to a project of such a magnitude as it could take years before the court pronounces itself.
During a press conference in the capital today, Chris Jordinson, CEO of NMP, alongside Mike Woodborne, the Chief Operating Officer at the company, stated that decisions on phosphate mining should be based on scientific facts and not opinions.
Jordinson and Woodborne further criticised thos making suggestions that because NMP paid for the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) study, it had an influence on the independent experts which ruled that the sandpiper will not have a significant impact on the environment nor the commercial fishing industry.
“There’s a lack of knowledge of the law itself. It is a requirement of the law in Namibia under the provisions of the Environmental Management of 2007 that the proponent (in this case, the NMP) cover the cost of the ECC application and related studies. If you pay for it, it does not mean you influence the outcome. That notion is tainted. The reports go through a lengthy process which goes through the public, as well as the environmental commissioner,” said Jordinson.
The two further debunked myths that Namibia would be a guinea pig when it comes to phosphate mining as mining on the ocean floor hasn’t been done anywhere else.
“We understand the rules, and we understand the impact the project will have. The issue here is not the fact that NMP would be dredging up the seabed like any other mining activity carried out on the sea, the issue is that we are digging up phosphate sediments and causing disturbances to the ocean,” he said.
The project would involve dredging the seabed to a depth of up to 3m and the removal of up to 5.5 million tonnes of marine sediments annually to produce 3 million tonnes of rock phosphates. The material would be transferred to shore where the phosphate sands would be separated from other marine sediment.
“What would be the toxicity risks on the marine ecosystem,” he wanted to know.
The two further stated that results showed that the dredging would not represent a toxicity risk either as they occur on the seabed or following physical disturbance of the sentiment.
The report further outlined that toxicity to fish by direct or indirect ingestion of suspended sediment was also considered, which showed that dredging operations are not expected to increase exposure to benthic fauna to heavy metals such as cadmium over and above that which occurs naturally in the region.
Jordinson and Woodborne further stated that NMP has invested around U$400 million and will employ around 400 people in the beginning phase of the project.
They further stated that the approval of phosphate mining for NMP would not give complete freedom for every company to dredge up phosphate from the Namibian seabed as the environmental act specifies against it.
“President Geingob has visited many countries and marketed Namibia as the prime investment location, however, when investors come, we are seen in a negative light in this country. The people are against foreign ownership,” Jordinson concluded.