Sandpiper developers bullish despite outcry
Developers of the N$3.1 billion Sandpiper Marine Phosphate Project say they are confident of receiving an environmental clearance for the controversial project despite the outcry from environmental lobby groups.
Briefing journalists at the just-ended Windhoek Agricultural and Industrial show, CEO for Project Operations at Namibian Marine Phosphate(NMP), Barnabas Uugwanga said claims that the project, a first in the world, will have a substantial impact on the fishing industry were unjustified and smack of hypocrisy.
Barnabas justified his claims by pointing out that phosphate mining will first take place in an area known as SP1 where estimates show that resources can sustain mining activities for a period of 60 years. According to Uugwanga, latest studies from the Ministry of Fisheries have shown that in the period between 2005 and 2010, there has been 0% Monk and Hake fishing taking place within that area while only 0.05% of total Mackerel fishing coming from the designated mining area.
Uugwanga said based on that study, it was surprising to see criticism from the fishing industry and environmental groups. But while acknowledging that there will be minimal impact on the local ecosystem as a result of dredging activities, the NMP CEO insisted that any claims of substantial impact on the fishing industry were rather false and misleading.
Uugwanga added that claims by environmental lobby group, Swakopmund Matters that Namibia was being used as a “guinea pig” in marine phosphate mining was not true as there is no other country in the world with substantial deposits like those found offshore Namibia.
Another company representative, Roger Daniel said the notion that the moratorium issued on marine mining in Australia is linked to the effects of sea mining on the environment was also false. He said the moratorium was issued based on the protection of indigenous people’s rights.
He said: “Traditional land owners should benefit from mining activities. The moratorium has nothing to do with the environment but it’s about indigenous rights.”
Namibia is said to be sitting on a very large resource of almost 2 billion tonnes of phosphate in naturally occurring seafloor sediments. Namibian Marine Phosphate intends to mine 2.3 square kilometres per year producing 1 million tonnes phosphate per annum which will then be ramped up to 3 million tonnes per annum by 2016 subject to markets and port expansion.