Call for inter-ministerial phosphate committee
It was revealed this week that the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources are in possession of a scoping study that was done specifically to determine the impact of marine phosphate mining on the seabed environment, and on fisheries.
At a press conference earlier this week, the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Hon. Bernard Esau called for an inter-ministerial committee comprising the Ministry of Mines and Energy; and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to jointly address the contentious issue of marine phosphate mining following the lapse of the 18-month long cabinet moratorium earlier this year.
He made the proposal in response to a query posed by the Economist when asked what was going to happen following the lapse of the moratorium. He said “We need an inter-ministerial committee especially on the study concerned.” A scoping study pertaining to the issue of marine phosphate mining, according to Esau, had been completed.
Newly appointed Permanent Secretary in the fisheries ministry, Dr. Moses Maurihungirire was also on call to respond to phosphate mining queries. “Particular issues pertaining to the scoping report are done. We are currently at the level of examining the scoping report. I have received the report but I do not want to disclose [it]” he said. Added Esau “presently Cabinet has not expressed itself on the moratorium.”
To the chagrin of prospective marine phosphate mining operators, he said “the world is not going to end today, that is why we need to take our time” and added that he was awaiting a legal opinion on the moratorium itself.
The Minister of Mines and Energy, Hon. Obeth Kandjoze was quoted in May this year as saying “I appeal to relevant agencies of Government to find an amicable solution to the way forward without jeopardising the interests of any stakeholders. The moratorium on phosphate mining is raising eyebrows. Phosphate right holders can not be stopped by law after licences were already awarded and the Government won’t be held hostage to legal actions. This situation presents us with a legal conundrum.”
Speaking in May 2015, former president of the Chamber of Mines of Namibia Werner Duvenhage said worryingly, “the Chamber remains concerned that the 18-month period of the Cabinet Moratorium on marine phosphate mining which was declared on 17 September 2013 has lapsed in March 2015 without much progress on the desired scientific studies to address concerns by the fishing industry.”