NMP completes final ESIA after years of battling for Sandpiper project approval  

30th November 2022 By: Marleny Arnoldi - Deputy Editor Online

Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP) says it has completed a final environmental- and social-impact assessment (ESIA), which includes the current and best available scientific data for the area in the ocean where it intends to mine phosphate.

The company has since 2012 struggled to get through the environmental permitting process to get its Sandpiper project developed, owing to resistance from fishing and environmental groups, which NMP believes is often misinformed about the project and its potential impact on the environment.

The latest and final report, which was managed by an independent environmental assessment practitioner, has been submitted to the Environmental Commissioner and other relevant authorities in Namibia, which advised that the ESIA meets the prescribed requirements in terms of contents and, accordingly, NMP’s application for an environmental clearance certificate and the ESIA will be notified in the prescribed manner.

More than 130 interested and affected parties had been formally registered to participate in the application process, with the ESIA having been advertised and made available for public comment prior to the submission of the final report to the commissioner.

NMP explains that the final report followed multiple consultations with key stakeholders and incorporates or addresses written and verbal comments received.

NMP says it remains committed to the responsible commercial, social and environmental development of the proposed project for the benefit of all stakeholders, as well as national interests and those of the Namibian public at large.

The Sandpiper project’s final ESIA report includes 28 specialist studies, comprising of thousands of pages of detailed scientific information conducted by internationally published and accredited experts in the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem and, specifically, in the commercial fisheries in Namibia.

NMP affirms its project’s proposed 20-year mine life comprises an area of 34 km2, less than 2% of the total licence area, and that the average yearly mining area of 1.7 km2 is far smaller than the yearly fish trawling area of 18 620 km2.

The earmarked mine area is also located on the continental shelf in water depths of 200 m to 220 m, and it is therefore within less than the 200 m depth protected area for fish trawling and is not considered deep-sea mining – which is generally between 800 m and 1 000 m.

Based on scale and being situated outside of the 200 m depth zone, phosphate mining and fishing can co-exist, NMP argues.