'To hell with phosphate'

Resistance against a proposed marine phosphate mine was heard in the High Court and in the streets of Windhoek yesterday.

11 September 2019 | Environment

As the controversial marine phosphate mining saga yesterday headed back to the Windhoek High Court, anti-phosphate protestors took to the capital's streets to make their voices heard.

The protest was led by the National Union of Workers (NUNW). First, a petition was handed over to the Office of the Prime Minister, before the marchers headed to the High Court.

The court case involves three organisations representing the Namibian fishing industry – the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations, the Namibian Hake Association and the Midwater Trawling Association of Namibia – and also the company Omualu Fishing.

They are asking the court to declare a mining licence issued to Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP) in July 2011 as expired or lapsed because the company failed to undertake an environmental impact assessment and apply for an environmental clearance certificate within the time limits stipulated in the law.

The matter was however postponed to October for further discovery and will then only be heard in 2020.

NMP's plan to start a marine phosphate mining project in Namibian waters has drawn fierce opposition from environmentalists and the Namibian fishing industry, who fear that mining activities could cause serious and long-term harm to the country's marine resources and endanger fishing activities.

“To hell with phosphate mining,” said NUNW secretary-general Job Muniaro as he read the petition in the Parliament Gardens.

“It is now evident to many patriotic Namibians that there are fellow Namibians who, no matter what, are hell bent to satisfy their love for money at the expense of sustainable management of renewable resources.”

He said the proponents of marine phosphate have been hard at work to manoeuvre and blackmail Namibian leaders.

“Today we converge here united more than before to defend our country against forces that are twisted to bring this country to a standstill through economic sabotage,” he said.

Muniaro said the attempt must be rejected and condemned by all Namibians.

He said the union wanted to ensure that Namibia's leaders take responsible decisions that do not come back to haunt the country in the future.

“We want to send out a strong message that we are not for sale,” he said.

He referred to a similar situation in New Zealand, where an application to mine phosphate from the seabed was rejected.

Muniaro stressed that marine phosphate mining should never be allowed in Namibia as the negative impacts far outweigh the positive impacts.

He said phosphate mining would compromise economic, environmental and social endeavours in Namibia.

More than 1 000 Walvis Bay residents, most of them employees at fish factories, on Monday also demonstrated against marine phosphate mining.

NMP said in a statement issued last week that since 2011 it had fulfilled every reasonable request made for inclusion in the environmental and scientific studies required to be granted an ECC.

“NMP has and will always put consideration of Namibia's marine environment and statutory requirements first,” the company stated.

President Hage Geingob recently promised Omani billionaire Mohammed Al Barwani, who is the majority owner of NMP, that there would be a final decision soon with regard to its Environmental Clearance Certificate.

This followed a letter to Geingob in which Al Barwani had raised his concerns about the delay of the Sandpiper Marine Phosphate Project after its Environmental Clearance Certificate was set aside last year. Al Barwani has an 85% stake in NMP through his company Mawarid Mining LLC, while Namibian middleman Knowledge Katti owns 15% of NMP through his Havana Investment.

The Sandpiper Project is located about 120 km southwest of Walvis Bay.

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