The chairman of the Confederation of the Namibian Fishing Association, Matti Amukwa, on Friday said phosphate mining can not take place before proper studies are conducted and government should see to that all required studies and their outcomes are made available for public scrutiny.
Amukwa, in a press statement issued on behalf of the fishing sector, said the industry is in the dark when it comes to the ongoing studies and find it strange that so far information with regards to phosphate mining has not been shared with all stakeholders for public scrutiny and expert evaluation.
“What is required is rigorous hands-on research, both at sea and experimentally, to strategically assess the impacts from marine phosphate mining and processing. The study will include the development of good legislation to ensure effective environmental monitoring and control, if marine phosphate mining were to go ahead,” Amukwa explained.
He said for a strategic environmental assessment to be carried out effectively the moratorium on marine phosphate mining must remain in place.
“The value of a strategic assessment is that it must be completed before any marine phosphate mining is allowed. Only once the government is provided with the information of what long-term impacts can be expected from this type of mining can a decision be made on whether phosphate mining should proceed or not,” the chairman further stated.
He said the fishing industry takes note of the minister of mines and energy’s recommendations that all stakeholders should look at ways to tackle the issue of fishing and mining,
“However we hear about research reports produced by the prospective phosphate mining companies, but find it strange that so far this information has not been shared with all stakeholders’ for public scrutiny and expert evaluation.
“If we are to coexist, the information needs to be provided to all stakeholders so that it can be properly scrutinised by independent experts in the field,” he said.
If mining is allowed to start before it is unequivocally proven that phosphate mining does not harm the Benguella Current Ecosystem, a limited number of people will greatly benefit, Amukwa said.
“If phosphate mining proves to be destructive and harms the ecosystem, and needs to be halted, the foreign owners of mining companies will walk away and Namibia as a country will be left to cope with the fallout,” said Amukwa.
He also gave the assurance the fishing sector respects government’s decision to implement the moratorium until it can be definitely proven that the two industries can in fact co-exist.
“What is required first is to develop a good scientific baseline, before any decision whether or not we can go ahead with mining. The further planned studies for the moratorium will assess the changes that could be expected from the benchmark, whether the environment would get worse or not as a result of phosphate mining,” he said.
Namibia has been praised internationally for implementing a moratorium on marine phosphate mining, in order that proper scientific research is first undertaken to assess the likely impact, as without proper research the decision-makers simply do not know what the full environmental and economic implications are.
“The Namibian Constitution requires us to manage the natural resources of the country in a sustainable manner, therefore we need to ensure that the implications of seabed mining are not putting the future of our children at risk,” Amukwa concluded.