Phosphate mining company Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP) is progressing the application for an Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) for its mining licence (ML170) for the Sandpiper marine phosphate project, in Namibia.
The company has appointed an environmental assessment practitioner (EAP) to manage the application and process, which is currently at the scoping stage. Part of this stage includes consultation with stakeholders and the public.
Previously, public meetings were held in Windhoek on February 9 and in Walvis Bay on February 11.
“If further public meetings are required, then we shall do so, but at this stage we are following the processes defined by the EAP,” said NMP COO Mike Woodborne on March 30.
The EAP has requested interested and affected parties to submit their initial comments and concerns for consideration and inclusion in the scoping document. This document will be completed and made available for comment before being submitted to the Environmental Commissioner.
“This has been a controversial project, unfortunately, owing to several reasons, most important of which has been the dispersion of a lot of misinformation on the scale of the project and its potential impact. A significant effort is now being made to keep the public and the media up to speed,” Woodborne told Mining Weekly.
Previously, industry bodies the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations, the Namibian Hake Association, the Midwater Trawling Association and fishing company Omualu Fishing instituted legal proceedings against NMP to have its mining licence at Sandpiper declared as having lapsed.
The High Court of Namibia, thereafter, confirmed in late June last year that the mining licence was still valid, but that the company would have to obtain an ECC before it could proceed with the project.
An updated assessment of the Sandpiper project’s parameters shows that the 20-year mine plan covers less area than previously communicated, coming in at a total area of 34 km2. The size of the project’s average yearly mining area will be 1.7 km2 rather than the 2.5 km2 previously stated, which represents less than 0.1% of the mining licence area of 2 233 km2.
By comparison, 1.7 km2 a year is a significantly smaller yearly footprint on the seabed than other current marine activities in Namibia, NMP pointed out.
Although the Sandpiper project’s 20-year mine plan only covers 34 km2, the socioeconomic benefits of the project will make a major contribution to the local and national economy, the company added.
The Sandpiper project could be the first building block in the start of a fertiliser industry in Namibia. Initially, NMP would create employment for more than 600 Namibians, directly and indirectly, through the construction and plant-based operations in Walvis Bay.
“The product has been assessed as viable in three different submarkets, so the intention initially is to export both regionally and internationally,” Woodborne explained.
In addition to the N$750-million capital already spent on the project, NMP’s direct economic impact will create opportunities for small- to medium-sized enterprises and other economic sectors.
Moreover, it will spend about N$1-billion on civil and local infrastructure and the project development will require a capital investment of N$5.2-billion. The project is expected to achieve yearly revenue of N$4.2-billion, contributing direct taxes of N$650-million a year, as well as royalties of N$78-million a year.
Woodborne said the hope was that beneficiation processes could be developed in Namibia along with energy and water developments in the Walvis Bay area.