31 October 2012

Namibia: Sandpiper Mining Close to Reality

Walvis Bay — Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP) has finally received a mining licence from the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) on condition that it satisfies all obligatory environmental requirements.

But first NMP must obtain an environmental clearance certificate to start with actual phosphate mining operations that have come under intense public scrutiny and pressure, including from environmental groups over concerns about the impact its operation may have on the marine eco-system, as well as the fisheries sector.

The Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy, Willem Isaacks, made the announcement yesterday at the inauguration of the NMP head offices in Walvis Bay.

Isaacks said Namibia will see an investment of between N$3 billion and N$5 billion within the next five years in the mining industry, and phosphate mining will generate N$2.5 billion in revenue for the state, once it reaches peak production.

"Although Namibia is endowed with valuable natural marine resources ... the government realises the need to protect these resources so that they can be sustainably exploited for the benefit of the country and its people," he said.

Isaacks said an Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Plan for the marine component of the operation has already been submitted to the relevant authorities and that NMP now only awaits clearance certification by the government.

Speaking at the same event, the Chief Executive Officer of NMP, Barnabas Uugwanga, said NMP submitted all required documentation and data to ensure regulatory compliance. Uugwanga further explained that the project would generate at least 1000 direct and indirect jobs. "The phosphate deposit resource is estimated to be 1.9 billion tonnes of phosphate sand," Uugwanga said.

He further said the company is well aware and takes note of the concerns that have been raised by Namibians, mainly the fishing industry and other interested parties, on the possible impact the company's planned activities could have on the marine environment.

"Phosphate mining in Namibia will open doors for various secondary industries by producing animal feed phosphate, food graded phosphate, cosmetics graded phosphate and various other products," he said.

He explained the NMP is a responsible Namibian company that supports government objectives to sustainably protect and preserve resources for the benefit of all Namibians.

"The economic impact of sandpiper mining cannot be overemphasised, therefore responsible mining will be our core duty," the CEO said.

The sandpiper phosphate deposit is situated 140 kilometres south of Walvis Bay and 60 kilometres from the shoreline.

The depth of the deposit varies from 180 metres to 300 metres. The licence area is 25.2 kilometres wide and 115 kilometres long covering roughly 2.233 square kilometres.

NMP plans to mine the phosphate deposit by using trailing suction hopper dredging technology to extract marine sediments from the seabed.

The extracted sediments will then be received and stored in a hopper integrated into a vessel's hull and be pumped to shore. NMP plans to use the MV Cristobel colon vessel belonging to the Belgian company, Jan de Nul, for dredging.

The project will initially produce rock phosphate for marketing in Africa and other countries.

Five million tonnes of phosphate will be recovered initially by dredging, which will be carried out at depths of 225 metres that will later be extended to 275 metres.

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