An 18-month moratorium on marine phosphate mining on Namibia’s seabed that was issued by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources in September 2013 is still in force, because it was never lifted. That was all that the permanent secretary in the Fisheries ministry, Moses Maurihungirire, was prepared to say to the media on Monday when asked about the ongoing scuffle between the government and mining companies vying to exploit large quantities of marine phosphate deposits in the Atlantic Ocean.
This came after an announcement by Lev Leviev Namibia Phosphate that it will go ahead with plans to set up a plant at Làderitz to test the feasibility of mining marine phosphate, at the southern harbour.
Lev Leviev Namibia Phosphate has signed a memorandum of understanding with Israel Chemicals, a Tel Aviv based multinational to set up a fertilizer manufacturing industry in Namibia.
The Ministry of Mines and Energy has listed more than 46 sites off the Namibian coast for exploration of industrial minerals from the seabed.
However Fisheries Minister, Bernard Esau has been resolute in his opposition to phosphate mining, having been quoted on numerous occasions arguing that the Namibian government will not rush in permitting mining activities before proper scientific studies are conducted.
The minister has argued that marine phosphate exploitation was never done anywhere in the world, and that there is little information available about its long-term effect on the marine environment.
Lev Leviev Namibia Phosphate and Namibian Marine Phosphate have been granted mining permits by the government to exploit marine phosphate in the Namibian waters at Làderitz and Walvis Bay.
Others such as the New Zealand’s Chatham Rock Phosphates and Gecko Phosphate (Pty) Ltd have been putting pressure on the government to lift a ban on phosphate mining on the country’s seabed.