Last week your front page carried an article in which Mr. Kapwanga of Lev Leviev Namibia Phosphate voiced some opinion on marine phosphate mining. He is being quoted verbatim for having this to say: “With regard to the statement of Namibia’s ocean being made the experimental ground for phosphate mining, it was explained that there is nothing special about phosphate as a mineral. Mining in the ocean is just mining whether for sand aggregates or dredging a harbour. Namibia is not treading on virgin ground as it has been mining diamonds from the ocean for many years”.
To compare large-scale phosphate mining on pristine seabed to harbour dredging, where the ground is already disturbed beyond recognition and which is a very localised activity, is a simplification beyond belief. International marine experts and world renown scientists find this utterance scientifically baseless. They all will agree that there is very much that is “special” about mining phosphorite! It lies much, much deeper than mining for diamonds. The disturbance of the seafloor here remains high from excessive turbidity and destruction of benthic life forms and their habitats, but the risk of release of toxic compounds and anaerobic waters from the deeper lying anoxic phosphorites adds very significantly to potential levels of environmental harm on top of other hazards anticipated.
A lack of intimate knowledge and information about those deep sediment layers are largely what makes scientists so nervous about exposing those layer and the compounds they contain, to the overlying and adjacent water and life. Presently those dangerous substances are safely buried, quite deep. Nobody knows what will happen when excavated. Hence the need for intense scientific studies – not thumb sucking comments or views based on desktop studies done in comfort.