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Marine Phosphate ready to “bust myths”

Namibian Marine Phosphate, developers of the controversial N$3.1 billion Sandpiper Marine Phosphate Project, say they are ready to bust myths and fears surrounding the project through a verification programme to be run together with government.
Project operations CEO, Barnabas Uugwanga told the Economist Thursday that Namibia Marine Phosphate was waiting for a response from government on their proposed N$14 million verification programme that will see the company work together with officials from the ministries of environment as well as fisheries to ascertain whether marine phosphate mining is detrimental to fishing operations.
A confident Uugwanga said the whole purpose of the programme is to make sure that all the fears and the “myths” are busted.
He said: “Generally it is not required for a company to do a verification programme of their Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) but we feel that we have a responsibility as a company to ensure that the fishing community’s fears and concerns are addressed by putting together funds for a verification programme that will ascertain the scientific opinions stipulated in the EIA report. We are basically putting our money where our mouth is.”
Uugwanga said Namibia Phosphate Marine is confident of the work that they have done when they carried out their Environmental Impact Assessment study. He said carrying out a verification programme, together with government scientists, was proof of the company’s confidence on the work that has been done.
“We are 100% confident with the work that we have done; we are confident of the specific opinions that have been formulated in our Environmental Impact Assessment. The science should speak for itself. The emotions around killing the fish or not killing the fish; that’s part of the whole fear of something that is new but it does not mean that if we are an African country, we can’t be leaders in technology, we can’t be leaders in bringing up new industries.”
Uugwanga said the Sandpiper marine project gives Namibia an opportunity to become a world-class fertiliser producer. “We also have an opportunity to be a leader in the marine space which we are already leading through the diamond industry,” he said.
He added that the proposed verification programme will give assurance to the fishing community that their operations are not going to cost even one job loss in the fisheries industry.
“From a scientific point of view, we are confident from the studies that we have put forward that there is minimal impact on the fishing industry and the marine ecosystem.
“Yes it is fair to have those worries [from the fishing communities and environmentalist] but they need to be based on facts. This whole verification programme is not to say that the EIA that we have conducted was inadequate; no it’s not to say so. This is just because it’s a new industry and we have a responsibility to make sure that our immediate stakeholders’ fears and worries are put to rest. We want to make sure that they see that there is transparency.”
Uungwanga said they were ready to start with the verification programme as soon Government responds to their request.

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