Buchters livid about manganese

20 August 2019 | Environment

The transportation of manganese ore in open TransNamib wagons, exposed to gale-force winds, once again has Lüderitz residents up in arms over the government's apparent inability to act against environmental transgressions.

TradePort Namibia, a South African company registered in Namibia, has entered into an agreement with TransNamib to have its manganese ore moved by rail from Ariamsvlei to Lüderitz harbour since the beginning of this month.

Eyewitnesses said a trainload of manganese in about 100 open wagons rolled through the town on Saturday in flagrant contravention of the conditions set out in the environmental clearance certificate (ECC) issued by the ministry of environment and tourism.

Pictures showed how the train proceeded through the town and where the containers were offloaded on the southern end of Namport's facility on Shark Island.

The ECC was issued in February after TradePort had initially brought in manganese ore without the requisite documentation in January this year. No legal action was taken against the company.

Contravention of the Environmental Management Act of 2007 is liable to a fine not exceeding N$500 000, or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 25 years, or both. The ECC stipulates that the manganese ore and all other materials to be transported must be “contained and be in a stable state, covered in trucks and treated against dust-generation properties”.

Moreover, it states that the manganese ore must be sieved at the mines in South Africa, handled with appropriate moisture content and “always [be] covered to avoid dust emissions” along the way to the port.

The ECC conditions further stipulate that only fully enclosed, bagged or containerised materials may be stockpiled in line with TransNamib and NamPort requirements.

Lüderitz-based environmental activist Reginald Hercules wrote to environment minister Pohamba Shifeta at the weekend, demanding an answer. “I guess those strict provisions [contained in the ECC] are not worth the piece of paper it is written on,” he commented.

Hercules further wrote that the manganese ore illegally dumped at the edge of town last December had generated “large amounts of dangerous dust” on the town and its seafood farms.

“This illegal activity of course triggered a strong community response as people were worried about pollution and health issues and were angered by the lack of transparency by TradePort and NamPort,” Hercules wrote.

TradePort has in the meantime erected a shed where its manganese ore is to be stockpiled, but Hercules said this was not yet in use.

Hercules asked if TransNamib and NamPort were aware – “and therefore complicit” – of the apparent non-compliance with the ECC stipulations. He also wanted to know who is responsible for monitoring ECC compliance.

“What is the use of environmental regulations if they are not applied or enforced transparently?” he asked.

Minister Shifeta could not be reached for comment, as he is currently in Switzerland.

NamPort commercial executive Tino Hanabeb said the company “fully supports compliance” with ECC requirements.

“You would appreciate the fact that NamPort became aware of this upon arrival of the train with the cargo at the port of Lüderitz. We are informed that compliance issues are attended to. This will not happen again. Tarpaulins and lids for all containers en route to Lüderitz and Ariamsvlei [are required].”

NamPort stated that it was not responsible for regulations pertaining to the transportation of the manganese ore, but only for the warehousing in an enclosed area in the NamPort facilities.

TransNamib said it would comment on this matter at a later stage.


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