Namibia: Leviev forges ahead with seabed mining at Lüderitz

Namib Times

The contest over the future of the ocean continues to make waves following the announcement this week by an Israel-based diamond mining company, that it plans to start mining marine phosphates near Lüderitz by 2018.

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In response to the announcement by the Lev Leviev Group this week, local environmental lobby group, Swakopmund Matters, warned about the risks of disrupting the seabed through phosphate mining.

They issued a statement saying the 18-month moratorium on all marine phosphate mining activity, which was imposed in September 2013 will be in effect for three years, to allow researchers time to study the likely impact of the proposed marine mine.

Swakopmund Matters said that the minister of fisheries’ “submission included an addendum which stipulated a moratorium of three years… It is imperative that attention is again drawn to the fact that the period of the moratorium will indeed be three years, with an extension not excluded and that the scoping period will determine the end date of the moratorium, they said, citing a speech by the minister of fisheries and marine resources delivered in December 2013, in which he said that “environmental clearances can only be granted after adequate research had been conducted…”

“It is especially important that due note is taken of the above comments by the minister, as a report by Reuters on 25 March 2014 states that “Israel’s LGC aims to mine phosphate off Namibian coast by 2018”. On one point the minister was very emphatic: only once the moratorium has ended will environmental clearances be granted.”

Erez Mishal, vice president of operations and business development at LGC, told Reuters this week that LGC plans to open a demonstration processing plant at Lüderitz later in the year with the aim of going into full production by 2017 or 2018.

“The Leviev Group (LGC) does not have any clearance yet for any activity or construction. Only when the moratorium has ended and the Namibian Government in its own right and on its own terms may have concluded that such mining would be allowed and under what conditions, would LGC be able to present an application for such clearance”, Swakopmund Matters wrote in response.

“Consequently, all matters relating to marine phosphate are on hold. For LGC to convey the impression that a demonstration processing plant will be in operation in Luderitz later this year is totally incorrect. It is in conflict with the clear injunction of the Namibian Government. No development in the field of marine phosphate mining shall take place before it has decided what is in the best interest of Namibia. The Namibian Government will not be forced into any decision by anyone.”

LGC is active in gold and diamond mining, owns a cutting and polishing factory in Namibia, and previously participated in diamond mining offshore Namibia, in partnership with De Beers.

It is understood that the Leviev Group (LGC) intends to start mining in the vicinity of Lüderitz by 2018. LGC intends to mine in water-depths of some 300 metres and estimates that its license area contains some 2 billion tonnes of phosphate.

There are also concerns over the environmental impact of land-based phosphate processing operations, as well as widespread opposition against pumping toxic and radioactive waste products of the phosphate processing plant into the sea. Earth Organisation Namibia noted last year that the phosphate to be used in the manufacturing phase “contains heavy metals such as cadmium, arsenic, lead, mercury, chromium, vanadium, selenium and the two radioactive elements, uranium and thorium.”

“These hazardous and radioactive wastes will need to be leached from the crushed ore, which will have a large long-term negative impact on the health of the people and the environment.”

LGC is owned by diamond baron Mr Lev Leviev, the controlling shareholder of Africa-Israel Investments. The phosphate project is being developed by LGC’s local subsidiary, LL Namibia Phosphates.

Leviev has been in the news over his alleged involvement in the construction of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank o Palestine. Following recent public protests outside Leviev’s jewellery store in London, Oxfam Charity distanced itself from Leviev and denied they had accepted any donations from him.

UNICEF said there are “at least reasonable grounds for suspecting” that Leviev companies were building settlements in the occupied West Bank and therefore refused to partner with Leviev, or accept contributions.

Recently the British Commonwealth Office also withdrew their plan to rent office space in Tel Aviv in Israel from Leviev, citing “public pressure” as the main reason

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