28 November 2012

Namibia: Sandpiper Mining Under Scrutiny

Walvis Bay — Controversy still surrounds the multi-million dollar Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP) mining project, with some residents demanding more clarity regarding the land allocated to the project for its land-based operations.

NMP was already given the green light by the Ministry of Mines and Energy on condition it complies with all the obligatory requirements, since the land for the land-based operations is located in the Dorob National Park.

The piece of land at the centre of the controversy, situated south of the Walvis Bay Salt Works, is earmarked by NMP for its land-based processing plant in Walvis Bay, it emerged during consultations with various line ministries.

Concerned residents who identified themselves as Swakopmund Matters want to know why the piece of land was earmarked for NMP's land-based operations while that specific land is in a protected area.

In a letter drafted to the Municipality of Walvis Bay, the residents also raised concern over whether proper consultations were carried out with the central government with regard to the allocation of the piece of land to what is also known as the Sandpiper Mining Project.

"What is absolutely certain is that besides the serious ecological impacts of mining of seabed sediments on the marine environment, the bringing ashore thereof at Walvis Bay will have significant environmental impacts on the terrestrial environment as well," the concerned residents say.

When approached for comment, the Chief Executive Officer of NMP, Barnabas Uugwanga, said the land was identified after consultations with the Municipality of Walvis Bay and other relevant authorities.

"In any case, the land has not yet been awarded to NMP, it was just identified and it makes perfect sense why it should be in that area since it was identified as an industrial area," Uugwanga responded this week.

According to Uugwanga, the application for the piece of land was launched through the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) since the proposed land is in the Dorob National Park.

"If MET is satisfied with their findings, we will further consult with the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement. There are two environmental clearances that we need - the marine and land clearances. Studies for the environmental Assessment Impact (EAI) for our marine operations are already completed and were submitted in March this year. Further consultations were required by MET, which were recently concluded," he told New Era.

He further said that they are currently busy with the second environmental clearance, which is the land environmental impact assessment study and it will be made public once it is concluded.

"At this stage we have a number of options which we need to carefully look at," Uugwanga said. According to him, each option is ranked in accordance with its environmental, economic and engineering expediency.

"Right now, we have completed the environmental ranking on the sites and there are a number of concerns which need to be mitigated. The most favourable site contains a number of archaeological relics that could be restored by setting up a cultural heritage site.

"The NMP project is of national importance and allocation of land to this project would bring it closer to realization," he enthused.

He once again re-emphasized that the project will not have an adverse impact on the environment or marine life and will operate in a responsible manner.

The Sandpiper Mining Project is expected to generate at least N$2.5 billion in state revenue, while Namibia can expect an investment of close to N$5 billion once the project reaches peak production, while at least 1000 direct and indirect jobs will be created.

The Walvis Bay Municipality also said that the land south of the salt works does not fall under its jurisdiction and the municipality had nothing to do with the allocation or identification of the land.

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