Legal threat over manganese

A public meeting slated for next Monday is set to discuss the possible health effects of manganese ore on humans and freshwater and marine environments.

17 January 2019 | Local News

Concerned members of the Lüderitz community are gearing up for an open meeting on Monday to discuss the issues around the recent manganese debacle, including possible legal action and a petition.

A notice distributed this week informed residents and authorities that the public meeting, scheduled for Monday next week, would offer a platform to talk about the possible health effects of manganese ore on humans, on freshwater and marine environments, as well as the possible impacts of manganese exports through Lüderitz.

Reginald Hercules has actively campaigned to highlight the dangers associated with manganese pollution and asked questions on the handling of the ore at the town in recent weeks.

He says the meeting is an opportunity to hold accountable those who have “recklessly endangered” residents and the environment with the illegal handling of manganese ore. He says it will also offer a chance to address the fact that 620 tonnes of the ore is being stored in a warehouse at the port under conditions many allege are possibly unsafe.

Moreover, the public notice indicates intentions to launch a petition and to discuss “possible legal action on the recent dumping and storage of manganese ore at Lüderitz without well-advertised open public consultations and an environmental clearance certificate.”

Namibian Sun reported earlier this month that a South African company, TradePort, one of two companies that reportedly signed a deal with NamPort to export manganese ore to China from Lüderitz, was ordered to stop offloading the ore at an open site near the town. The environment ministry confirmed that the company was dumping the ore illegally and had not been granted an environmental clearance certificate as required by law.

Trucks containing ore were impounded and the product was taken to the port after the ministry gave NamPort the go-ahead to store it temporarily.



Safety concerns

Hiskia Mbura of the ministry's environmental division confirmed to Namibian Sun last week that the storage of the manganese by NamPort was “a remedial measure to effect a compliance order issued by this office and thus within the law.” He addressed concerns raised by some residents that the two Rubb Halls were inadequately equipped to store hazardous material, did not pose a health or other threat. Rubb Halls are large, tent-like structures used for temporary storage of construction materials or humanitarian relief supplies.

Mbura said the storage would be monitored by the police and environmental inspectors to ensure compliance with safety conditions. Mbura added that “the significant health and safety risks associated with manganese are limited to the handling and haulage of the manganese in an open environment, where it is exposed to wind.” He added that the ministry and NamPort ensured that “additional measures were employed to prevent infiltration of the contaminated water in the warehouse, and watering is discontinued once the dust is contained and therefore the quantity of water used is very minimal in that runoff does not occur.”



Cleaning up

In response to health concerns raised by residents, NamPort CEO Bisey /Uirab said the “cargo owner hired a local contractor based in Lüderitz” to transport the ore to the port warehouse.

Unfortunately, the contractor hired by TradePort Namibia CC did not comply with personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements but the Namport safety and health officer was on site to rectify the situation, he said.

/Uirab said when NamPort and other authorities arrived, the contractor was only suppressing dust by spraying water over the manganese. “The loading only commenced when NamPort, ministry of environment and tourism [officials] and police arrived on the scene and all safety measures were in place. This product was handled strictly according to the environment ministry and NamPort requirements,” he assured.

/Uirab added that the “quick intervention of the ministry of environment and tourism rectified the situation by containing the manganese ore in an enclosed space”.

He said Lüderitz residents could rest assured the project posed no further danger to the community.



JANA-MARI SMITH

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