New Era (Windhoek)

13 June 2012

Namibia: Phosphate Mine Could Ruin Hake Sector

Photo: Namibia Economist
Skorpion Zinc Mine

Swakopmund — Namibia cannot afford to risk its international reputation by risking the fishing industry's future and that of the Benguela current ecosystem through rushed decisions on marine phosphate mining.

This is the view of the Chairman of the Hake Association of Namibia, Matti Amukwa, who raised the concerns of the hake fishing industry over the highly controversial Sandpiper marine phosphate mining project, during the commemoration of World Oceans Day in Swakopmund last week Friday.

According to Amukwa, the hake industry fears that phosphate mining would have irreversible effects on marine life.

Amukwa said it is common knowledge that once commercial fisheries resources are destroyed, futile fisheries species replace them.

"We cannot afford to have marine phosphate mining negatively disrupting the environment, as that will reduce fish stock populations and the outcome would be cutbacks on Total Allowable Catches," he said.

He said only after thorough on-site data has been collected and analysed in a scientifically acceptable manner, can credible assessments be made with regard to phosphate mining.

"Our plea to the fishing industry strongly emphasises proper research to establish the potential environmental impacts of marine phosphate mining, before any decision is taken. Sound environmental protection measures need to be implemented if marine phosphate mining operations are given the thumbs up, to protect marine life," he added.

Marine phosphate mining is a first for the world and in Namibia's case would be in a delicately balanced ecosystem that supports the internationally recognised commercial fishing industry.

Namibia is currently ranked in the top 10 countries in the world in terms of its ability to effectively manage its fisheries resources.

Fisheries are a renewable resource that if carefully managed will bring great benefits for many generations to come.

On the other hand, marine phosphates are a non-renewable resource and once mined, vanishes.

If mining activities from an environmental perspective are not carefully assessed now, they may cause irreparable damage to the fishing industry.

Once operational, the planned Sandpiper marine phosphate mine could extract an estimated five million tonnes of phosphates

annually from the seabed off the coast of Conception Bay, south of Walvis Bay.

The potential impact of the proposed marine activities associated with the project have provisionally been identified as loss of habitat, impairment of food chain functionality, possible release of hydrogen sulphide into the water column, removal of typical spawning and feeding grounds, interference with fish behaviour and implications for the commercial fishing industry.

The hake industry is particularly unhappy with the idea that the proposed mine will be in the backyard of the fishing town of Walvis Bay and considers phosphate mining a serious threat to the fishing industry without a rigorous Environmental Impact Assessment based on well-researched data.

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