Phosphate mining on hold for court decision

08 February 2019 | Business

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There will be no pronouncement on environmental clearance for marine phosphate mining in Namibia before another court battle on the matter is finalised.

On 21 June last year, environment minister Pohamba Shifeta set aside the environmental clearance that had been granted to Namibian Marine Phosphate in September 2016 for marine phosphate mining.

The environmental clearance had been issued by environmental commissioner Theofillius Nghitila for the Sandpiper Project located about 120 km southwest of Walvis Bay.

In November that year the clearance was withdrawn following a public outcry, court applications and an appeal to the ministry lodged by community activist Michael Gawaseb.

Last year, a judge ruled that Namibian Marine Phosphate had not been given a fair hearing before their clearance was withdrawn and therefore Shifeta decided to hold a public hearing on the matter.

Following this public hearing, Shifeta decided to set aside the clearance certificate granted to Namibian Marine Phosphate.

He said Nghitila should notify the fisheries ministry, the fishing industry and all other interested parties to finalise their inputs and submit them within three months.

“The whole process of consultation should be completed within six months from today (21 June 2018),” said Shifeta.

The spokesperson for the environment ministry, Romeo Muyunda, has told Namibian Sun that the ministry had received the submissions within the stipulated timeframe.

“Based on the inputs received Nghitila is expected to make a decision. However, there is an ongoing court case on the same issue. Nghitila is awaiting the outcome of the court case before he pronounces himself,” Muyunda said.

This court case in question is the matter between Namibian Marine Phosphate and three Namibian fishing industry associations.

The associations are not only asking for the environmental clearance certificate to be declared illegal, but also want the company's mining licence declared unlawful because it had apparently expired.

At the end of last year this matter was still at case management stage.

NMP holds Mining Licence 170, which is located 120 km southwest of Walvis Bay and was issued on 26 July 2011. The mining licence area covers an area of 2 223 square kilometres in water depths of between 190 and 300 metres. A target production area has been identified at depths greater than 200 metres. The area to be mined for phosphate covers 0.0003% of Namibia's exclusive economic marine zone.

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