Environmental lobby group takes credibility of phosphate EIA under scrutiny
An environmental lobby group styling itself as Swakopmund Matters have reacted explosively following an earlier statement by phosphate mining hopeful, Namibia Marine Phosphate, defending the validity of the process to obtain an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for seabed mining.
In the meantime, the representative umbrella organisation for the fishing industry, the so-called Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations, has sided with Swakopmund Matters in its criticism of the submitted EIA and supporting material.
Swakopmund Matters questioned the validity of the EIA study conducted by Namibia Marine Phosphate (NMP) stating that an EIA should not be undertaken by individuals hand-picked by the prospective miner. “NMP’s documentation will not withstand rigorous scrutiny and international documentation” the group argued.
“Documentation may impress a few locally-selected individuals to survey the submissions but it would be quite another effort to convince seasoned, international, experienced scientists about the substance of these submissions when these experts are not yet prepared to pronounce themselves favorably on any deep-sea mining after having studied and conducted experiments for many years.” said the environmental group.
“Independent expert opinion must come from independent reputable experts who have sound and intimate knowledge of the Namibian marine waters. Peer review must be seen to have been done professionally by outsiders, not in-house selected experts. Internationally recognized independent experts will scrutinize submissions without fear or favour and will validate their comments and conclusions accordingly. Such a process will instill confidence. However, the opposite is the case with NMP’s submissions to the Environmental Commissioner which were reviewed by a local non-marine individual” they charged.
Prior to these events, Namibia Marine Phosphate furnished the Economist with a detailed report on the process of the EIA study and the different stakeholders holders consulted including Swakopmund Matters and the Confederation of Namibia Fishing Associations. NMP detailed that in 2012 a fully compliant Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Management Plan (EMP) was completed in accordance with the Environmental Act 2007 and submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET). The work on these studies amounted to an expense of N$14 million.
NMP conceded that the ministry was concerned that, despite expert opinions presented by specialists, there was insufficient site-specific information to fully support some of the potential impact assessments.
Thus an independent review of the EIA, commissioned by the Environmental Commissioner in 2012 under Section 45 of Environmental Act 2007 concluded that “completion of the Verification Study would go a long way to closing out the remaining concerns.” This study was completed in 2014 after two years’ work.
However, the results of this work was never accepted or condoned by either Swakopmund Matters, or the Confederation leading to the latest round of scrutiny in an effort to invalidate both the methodology and the content. The Environmental Commissioner, Theofilus Nghitila, was not available to clarify the issue for the whole week