NMP allays phosphate fears

NMP is majority-owned by Al Barwani, who has an 85% stake through his company Mawarid Mining LLC, while Namibian middleman Knowledge Katti owns 15% of NMP through Havana Investment.

12 November 2019 | Business

Namibia Marine Phosphate (NMP) claims their phosphate mining project will not have a significant impact on the environment and the fishing industry, while underlining the transparency of the processes they have undertaken thus far.

NMP management yesterday held a media conference during which they responded to specific questions in relation to their Sandpiper Marine Phosphate Project processes and related environmental impacts.

This included issues regarding the transparency of the environmental impact assessment (EIA), the dredging process, the handling of materials onshore and the toxicity of phosphate rock.

NMP is majority-owned by Al Barwani, who has an 85% stake through his company Mawarid Mining LLC, while Namibian middleman Knowledge Katti owns 15% of NMP through Havana Investment. The Sandpiper Project is located about 120 kilometres southwest of Walvis Bay. Following public outrage, the environmental clearance certificate (ECC) for the project was set aside last year by the environment ministry.

NMP said the project has been assessed by qualified environmental professionals. It said the proposed scale of operations will therefore not harm the fishing industry and will not have a significant impact on the surrounding marine environment in the Benguela current large marine ecosystem.

“NMP and the Sandpiper Project will not kill the fishing industry and the emotive statements claiming this are unfounded.”

According to NMP, the ECC application process for the project itself has taken over six years to date, and has faced challenges similar to what the uranium industry faced when entering Namibia.

In the statement the company's management said the EIA process has been a long, thorough and comprehensive one and that NMP had been transparent and responsive to all the concerns raised.

According to NMP, the EIA and the environmental management plan (EMP) were compiled in compliance with the requirements of the Environmental Management Act 2007 and the conditions of Mining Licence 170 (ML170).

This incorporated the required consultative interactions at various levels with registered interested and affected parties, which included the public, stakeholders and government representatives.

“The EIA, the supporting independent expert reports and the external reviewers' reports all collectively conclude that the Sandpiper Project will not have a significant impact on the environment or commercial fishing industry,” says NMP.

According to the company, a total of 26 specialist reports have been completed to assess various aspects of the potential environmental impact of the proposed dredging operations in ML170.

Furthermore 37 independent experts from a range of environmental consultancies have contributed to the environmental studies completed as part of the ECC application process.

“Each of the experts selected by the appointed environmental assessment practitioner (EAP) were specifically chosen for their expertise and their overall understanding and experience in relation to the Benguela current system, where the Sandpiper Project is located.”

NMP also said it conducted 18 consultative meetings with registered, interested and affected parties, including stakeholders, the general public and governmental and regulatory parties.

“Phosphate has been accumulating in the seabed sediments in various forms along the West Coast marine shelf for millions of years. Fishing and the associated disturbance of seabed sediments by bottom trawling has been carried out in that same area for over 100 years and, to date, there are no reported ill-effects from the consumption of fish from the Namibian marine environment.”

According to NMP this is important as the dredging that it has planned covers only a tiny area (less than 0.1%) of what are deemed fishing grounds.

ELLANIE SMIT

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