Ministry of Environment ignored appeals – Esau
Interests groups have come out strongly against the Environmental Clearance Certificate issued by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources this week called for the retraction of the certificate.
In a further move, the oppositions seats in parliament were left vacant after a heated debate on phosphate mining as the representatives of the DTA and Swanu walked out of parliament after the topic was banned from discussion.
The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Hon. Bernhard Esau, defended the legal power of his ministry in a statement saying it is the custodian of the ocean as mandated by the Marine Resources Act (Act 27 of 2000).
Esau explained “The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources is the competent authority on marine ecosystems and marine resources. Marine resources are defined in the Marine Resources Act (2000) as all marine organisms, including, but not limited to, plants, vertebrate and invertebrate animals, monerans, protists (including seaweeds), fungi and viruses, and also includes guano and anything naturally derived from or produced by such organisms; marine phosphates are derived from fish bones, hence they fit in this description and are therefore under the mandate of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources”.
He argued that the process of determining the suitability of marine phosphate mining as directed by Cabinet on 17 September 2013 included a few paramount steps which included: A Moratorium on the issuance of an environmental impact assessment certificate for a minimum of 18 months; A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to be conducted; and an independent scoping study and comprehensive environmental impact assessment to be conducted during the Moratorium with the two ministries.
Esau stated that the scoping study was completed and they are preparing to start with the SEA study. He said that the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and other studies which were conducted by Namibia Marine Phosphates (Pty) Ltd, were to be supervised by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, as the Competent Authority on this matter. “This approach is also supported by Section 32(1) of the Environmental Management Act (2007) and Section 47(3) of the Marine Resources Act (2000). Unfortunately, this part of the directive was not complied with, and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism allowed the company to hire private consultants to conduct their own environmental assessment on the matter.” he stated.
Furthermore he requested for the suspension of the clearance certificate, elaborating that his ministry made it clear the private findings by NMP ‘were lacking in scientific methodology, accuracy and interpretation’. He said the Ministry of Environment and Tourism ignored the observations made by their scientists.
Moreover it was noted that the clearance certificate stipulates that the mining company will establish its own controls. Esau stressed that such an approach is unacceptable from an official control point of view as established by Cabinet, including conducting the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).
Hon. Jennifer van den Heever, the DTA Chief Whip in the National Assembly reiterated Esau’s concerns and stressed “in the absence of robust scientific evidence which proves, without qualification, that marine phosphate mining will not endanger sea live in Namibia; the DTA of Namibia is strongly against any attempts to permit marine phosphate mining.”