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Phosphate miner confident of clearance

Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP), the company battling to develop the controversial N$3.1 billion Sandpiper Marine Phosphate Project off the Namibian coast, is confident that authorities will give the project the all-clear.
In an e-mail response to questions, Project Operations CEO, Barnabas Uugwanga was upbeat about his company’s chances of getting an environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism once NMP has satisfied all the requirements as required by the country’s law.
This follows the decision by the Government to contract independent scientists to conduct a scoping study towards an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the possible implications of phosphate mining on the sea bed off the Namibian coast.

Uugwanga said: “NMP supports the government’s initiative to further understand the potential co-existence of fishing and other marine users. Commissioning the study is a step in the right direction for the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources(MFMR), especially that their key stakeholders had concerns about the development of the phosphate mining industry.
Namibia Marine Phosphate is a responsible company which has the environment at heart and values other industries. …. after this said study, the Government will be in a position where it would have its own set of data for monitoring the mining activities.”
Cabinet had seemed to put brakes on the development of the phosphate project when it announced earlier in the year a three-year moratorium on the issuance of the Environmental Impact Assessment clearance certificates on phosphate mining after objections from the fishing industry and environmentalists, but the decision to conduct an independent study to be carried out by scientists from SINTEF and the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, has given the project a major lifeline.
Uugwanga is confident that the scientists contracted to carry out the study would work ethically as his company has done during the company’s specific EIA which was completed and submitted.
“We believe that the language of Science is universal and hence we do not expect surprises. We also expect that the results of the study will be available for external review.
It is internationally acknowledged that scientists work to certain standards and also subscribe to various scientific bodies which has work ethics to which the scientists should abide to unless they would like to risk their reputation.”
Namibia Phosphate Marine is yet to complete its own N$14 million verification programme which is being carried out in conjunction with officials from the ministries of environment as well as fisheries to ascertain whether marine phosphate mining is detrimental to fishing operations.
Uugwanga said the results of the company’s own verification programme will be submitted as soon as they are available in 2014.
“We have one more assignment left and we will conclude that as soon as we have the necessary equipment and scientific observers from the MFMR. Remember that the MET still expect NMP to complete this programme as the Government one does not take away the responsibility of the Proponent to undertake an EIA per specific project.”

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