A moratorium on the issuance of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) clearance certificates on bulk seabed mining for industrial minerals as well as base and rare metals in Namibian waters will be in place for a minimum of three years.
Cabinet made this decision during its 13th ordinary meeting in September this year.
A media statement issued by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology this week said Cabinet approved a recommendation that a scoping study be conducted for the environmental assessment of phosphate mining along the Namibian coast before the EIA clearance certificate is issued by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernhard Esau, announced in September that his ministry had made a submission to Cabinet to place an 18-month moratorium on deep-sea phosphate mining, and this was endorsed by Cabinet.
However, when approached for comment on Monday, Esau explained to Nampa that the submission included an addendum which stipulated a moratorium of three years.
“An addendum was delivered to Cabinet on August 13 2013, together with the submission of 18 months. Let us do proper scoping and EIAs to see the pros and cons of phosphate mining in Namibia,” he said.
Cabinet decided that an independent scoping study and a comprehensive EIA should be carried out by consultants during the moratorium period, who should, along with experienced scientists, receive direction from the Fisheries Ministry, in consultation with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism as well as the Ministry of Mines and Energy. According to Esau, the scoping period will determine the end date of the moratorium. The Norwegian-based Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research (SINTEF) and the Institute of Marine Research (IMR) have been asked to study the impact of marine phosphate mining on the ocean environment. Esau said a consultative meeting took place last week between the relevant stakeholders. Exclusive Prospecting Licenses (EPLs) and mining licenses for industrial minerals have been issued for areas off the Namibian coast, with many of these targeting phosphates. In the last year, there has been exploratory and mining interest for phosphates in several of these blocks. No active mining of any of the blocks has yet begun because no environmental clearances have yet been approved. Sakawe Mining and Namibian Marine Phosphate Limited are the two leading mining companies on the waiting list to embark on marine phosphate mining in Namibian waters.
Environmental clearances can only be granted after adequate research had been conducted and therefore, a moratorium period is required to carry out these studies. Esau said the seafloor is an integral part of the marine ecosystem, which the fishing industry depends on. The industry directly employs nearly 15 000 Namibians.
“We need to take responsible steps. We need to look at various issues and the impact of phosphate mining on the environment”, he added.
Press Release, December 20, 2013; Image: Nautilus