OVER 1 000 people, mostly workers in the fishing industry at Walvis Bay, participated in a mass protest against marine phosphate mining, urging the government not to grant prospective miners an environmental clearance certificate.
The workers were mostly represented by the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) and the Trade Union Congress of Namibia (Tucna).
The protesters marched from the fishing factories in the harbour town to the Walvis Bay office of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.
A similar march is expected to take place in Windhoek today from the NUNW centre to the Windhoek High Court, where a petition will be handed over to the Office of the Prime Minister.
Acting NUNW president Job Muniaro said yesterday that marine phosphate mining was being promoted by a few "whose love for money outweighs the well-being of the majority of Namibians and the Namibian economy."
He accused the prospective mining companies for blackmailing Namibians and its leaders to get an environmental clearance certificate.
"Namibians are committed to the ideals of the responsible and sustainable management of renewable resources, and we are standing up to defend our resources because Namibia is all we have," stressed Muniaro.
There are about 16 000 workers in the fishing industry, and concerns are that seabed mining for phosphates will inflict irreversible damage to Namibia's lucrative fishing industry, which is a pillar of the country's economy.
Last month, environment and tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta told The Namibian that marine phosphate mining proponents tried to pressure him into approving the controversial phosphate seabed mining. Shifeta, the environmental commissioner and the deputy environmental commissioner were sued in the Windhoek High Court by Namibia Marine Phosphates (NMP), who intend mining off Namibia's coast for many years.
NMP wants the court to compel the MET officials to make a decision on its continued efforts to be granted the certificate it needs to commence marine phosphate mining.
The certificate would allow NMP to mine phosphate about 120km south-west of Walvis Bay.
In another matter due in the High Court today, three organisations representing the Namibian fishing industry - the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations, the Namibian Hake Association and the Midwater Trawling Association of Namibia - are asking the court to declare that a mining licence issued to NMP in July 2011 is invalid, 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.
In both cases, Muniaro said the union and all its members as well as scientists and economists want to send a "strong message that Namibia is not for sale to the highest bidder".
The 19-page petition pointed out numerous scientific concerns, the possible environmental impact the mining would have, the small economic and social contribution it would have, compared to the fishing industry, and also the political implications if the miners were given the go-ahead.
"[The] government has a responsibility towards sustainability, and the constitutional responsibility. Phosphate mining will compromise economic, environmental and social endeavours," the unionist continued.
He said in future, the government, through the environment ministry, should establish an independent body responsible for carrying out all studies for feasibility, environmental impact and strategic risks, as this will allow for "objective and uncompromised outcomes".
Tucna president Paulus Hango stated that phosphate mining should be condemned because of the negative impact it will have.
"We are demanding that the government makes a law which prohibits phosphate mining at sea. We cannot afford a situation whereby the government officials give a licence to mine phosphate offshore just to enrich individuals at the expense of Namibians," said Hango. "We are saying phosphate mining is a big no, and there is no way out."