THE findings of the High Court with regard to two court pending cases about marine phosphate mining off the Namibian coast are awaited by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism before a final decision can be taken about granting Environmental Clearance Certificates to companies planning to develop mining and refinery projects in the country.
A malicious article that was spread on social media platforms prompted the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to issue an urgent statement to urge the public to be calm and reject with condemnation the insinuations that phosphate mining was approved.
According to the spokesperson of the environment ministry, Romeo Muyanda, the fake news article made use of a picture on the front page of the Namibian newspaper of 2016 with a headline “Phosphate mining approved”.
“In this regard, the Ministry wishes to clarify that there has been no approval granted for phosphate mining and it should be noted that in 2016 when the Environmental Commissioner granted the environmental clearance certificate it was with conditions to test the mining of phosphate and to gather data in Namibian waters. The certificate was issued for a period of three years with conditions that if evidence was found that mining from the seabed would harm the environment, the activity would be stopped immediately and permanently.”
According to the statement the decision by the Environmental Commissioner at the time to grant the clearance certificate was appealed by Michael Gawaseb to the Minister of Environment and Tourism. The Minister decided to set aside the decision of the Environmental Commissioner and nullified the clearance at the end of 2016.
“The decision by the Minister was then appealed by one of the phosphate mining companies in the high court claiming that they had not been given a fair hearing. The High Court of Namibia set aside the decision by the Minister to nullify the clearance. The Judge also gave the Minister an option to hold another hearing. In June 2018, the Minister once again heard the case and again nullified the clearance certificate and requested the Environmental Commissioner to do further consultations on the matter.”
According to Muyanda it means that no environmental clearance certificate exists to mine marine phosphate in Namibia because the power of the Minister when deciding on appeal cases is above that the Environmental Commissioner and the Minister’s decision can only be challenged in the High Court of Namibia.
“Further to this, the matter of phosphate mining is currently before the High Court with two pending cases. One case is the fishing industry challenging the validity of the phosphate mining licenses granted by the Ministry of Mines and Energy and the second case is an application by the phosphate mining company that seeks to compel the Environmental Commissioner to grant them a clearance certificate.
The ministry is currently awaiting the decision of the High Court on both matters and only then can a way forward be discussed.
Muyunda in his statement urged Namibians to be calm and reject with condemnation the insinuations that phosphate mining was approved.