Guest Contributor | Aug 22, 2017 | 0
Gecko dependent on uranium
The Gecko Vision Industrial Park development is dependent on the growth of Namibia’s uranium industry. Phillip Ellis, managing director of Gecko Namibia, says the project is closely related to the development of the uranium industry and that its timing needs to coincide with the emerging uranium producers in Namibia.
He added that the project will go ahead pending approval based on its environment impact assessment.
The uranium industry has been affected by the Fukushima disaster and a number of countries have put their nuclear programmes on hold as result, with Germany, Switzerland and Belgium deciding to cancel their expansion programmes and also close down their existing nuclear power stations.
“The majority of the planned nuclear power stations, notably those in Asia are going ahead as planned. The difference between the pre and post Fukushima projections for new nuclear plants is a reduction of 7 to 8%. This climate affected the price of uranium oxide, due to a lack of spot trading in the international market, resulting in emerging producers of uranium oxide adopting a “wait and see” approach. The view shared by most energy economists is that there is no viable alternative to nuclear fuel and therefore the current downturn in the popularity of nuclear fuel will in all probability soon subside.
“The timing of the development of VIP needs to coincide with the large emerging uranium producers in Namibia. For these reasons and also some internal developments within some of these emerging producers, there has been slight delays in their project schedules. These are however mere delays and none of the emerging uranium mines in Namibia have cancelled their development programs. Gecko will adapt to these circumstances. Under any circumstances, the Gecko project is subject to a detailed environmental impact assessment,” said Ellis.
He again re-iterated the company’s stance that it will not go ahead with the project should it not be environmentally viable.
“The nature of the development, consisting of chemical production plants, requires the utmost diligence from its developers due to the fact that, depending on whether you fully embrace the latest development in chemical production technology or not, will make the difference between a plant that has very little effect on the environment and one which is potentially an environmental disaster. For this reason it is not only the prerogative, but the duty of citizens to question the process and demand robust environmental standards being applied to the process. For these reasons we appreciate the active participation of those residents of Swakopmund who are genuinely concerned. Gecko will therefore not commence with construction of VIP unless it has done a comprehensive and successful environmental and social impact assessment study,” said Ellis.
Swakopmund residents and other concerned stakeholders have been up in arms against the development, as they feel it will have a negative impact on the environment. They are concerned that an industrial development will have a negative impact on both the fisheries and tourism industries.
Gecko Namibia’s proposed Vision Industrial Park (VIP) development, which will be constructed at a cost of N$12 billion, will include plants for sulphuric acid, soda ash, leaching agents and phosphoric acid, a desalination plant and a port for importing and exporting large commodities in bulk. The proposed acid plant is to produce up to 1.2 million tons of acid a year by using approximately 400,000 tons of sulphur, which will be imported via the proposed new bulk terminal port.
About the relationship between Gecko Namibia and another controversial development at the coast, the Sandpiper/Meob project, Ellis said there is no formal link between the two developers currently.
“We are however in dialogue with the developers of that project due to the obvious synergies between our respective developments. The Sandpiper/Meob project aims at producing phosphate rock from marine based resources, whilst Gecko intends developing a phosphoric acid plant which requires as its main feedstock, phosphate rock and sulphuric acid. It is therefore logical for the two parties to have commercial discussions in pursuing the possibility of entering into formal agreements in future,” he said.
The Vision Industrial Park is a substantial development which will be a significant contributor in placing Namibia on the road to industrialisation, concluded Ellis.