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Marine phosphate mining development to gobble N$5.2 billion capital … as Namibian Marine Phosphate braces to begin project in earnest

by Kelvin Chiringa

  Development of the marine phosphate project will gobble an estimated N$5.2 billion in capital investment and is projected to see government pocketing N$728 million per year in revenues.

This is about N$ 14.95 billion over ML tenure of 20 years.

 Namibian Marine Phosphate has disclosed that following a high court ruling against the minister’s decision to withdraw the Environmental Clearance Certificate issued to the company by the Environmental Commissioner on 5 September 2016, it will now begin clearing ground for the project to take off.

“With this matter concluded, the company now welcomes the opportunity to resume working constructively with the Namibian government in order to take the project forward and to resolve any residual stakeholder concerns or misinformation regarding the project development, within the framework of the Namibian legislation and the conditions of the Environmental Clearance Certificate,” said the company’s executive management.

It also disclosed that to date, some N$780m has been invested in the project to support exploration as well as technical, economic and environmental studies.

 “Details of the judgement will be provided on the company website in due course. The Company remains committed to the principle of co-existence in the marine environment and to the responsible development of the Sandpiper Phosphate Project in Namibia, in the interest of all stakeholders," it said.

The project was suspended midst intense debate in the public sphere with experts arguing that it posed a serious danger to Namibia’s marine life from which many derive their livelihoods. Phosphate mining in Namibia will be experimental as since everywhere else such operations take place on land.

Chief marine scientist Bronwen Currie is quoted by a local daily saying that if Namibia wants to mine from the ocean, there has to be an awareness that there are massive volumes of waste generated once the actual grains of phosphate are separated from the excavated marine sediments which will be transported to land by large vessels for beneficiation.

 “While it has its own set of environmental considerations, common with seabed mining are large amounts of effluents and waste materials resulting from processing raw mined material to achieve a marketable 'rock phosphate' product. Some wastes are highly toxic, and their storage or removal has created major headaches for terrestrial phosphate mining,” said the expert. 

Prominent businessman, Knowledge Katti has argued that the project is worthwhile for the sake of development.