GABORONE – The Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) has approved the marine phosphate mining application from an Omani mining company, paving the way for the opening of the world’s first ever sea-bed phosphate mining project.
In a letter addressed to the company and circulated on local media, Namibian Environmental Affairs commissioner Teofilus Nghitila said the environmental impact management plan submitted by Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP) was sufficient enough to mitigate the anticipated impacts of sea-bed mining operations.
NMP is a subsidiary of the Omani mining joint venture company, Mawarid Mining, which is 85% owned by billionaire Mohammeb Al Barwani while the remaining 15% stake is held by local company Havana Investments. The mine will cover part of a sea-bed phosphate concession that lies about 120km into the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Walvis Bay.
“This letter serves as an environmental clearance certificate for the (marine phosphate mining) project to commence,” Nghitila said.
He said the company should carry out regular environmental monitoring and evaluation and set timelines for further improvement of the environmental impact management model.
He said the plans should be advanced in line with government regulations. Among other regulatory demands, the company would be required to regularly monitor sea-bed and water quality and submit reports on a quarterly basis.
“In view of the fact that your project is located in an environmentally sensitive area, this ministry reserves the right to attach further legislative and regulatory conditions during the operational phase of the project,” Nghitila said.
However, he said the clearance letter did not ‘in any way’ hold the Ministry of Environment and Tourism accountable for misleading information or any adverse effects that may arise from the implementation of the project.
“If it is identified at any time during the environmental monitoring and reporting stages that significant negative environmental impacts have been proven to be associated with the proposed mining, processing or beneficiation techniques, such operations will be terminated,” the commissioner said.
Meanwhile, the ministry has called on members of the public and interest groups, such as fishing companies, to submit any objections to the phosphate mining projects to its offices across the country. Local fishing groups have vehemently opposed the proposal for marine phosphate mining saying it was a threat to the industry while environmental conservation groups said it would upset an already fragile marine ecosystem.