Ellanie Smit | Namibian Sun | 02 November 2016
An urgent application has been filed in the High Court yesterday against the awarding of the environmental clearance for marine phosphate mining at the coast.
The application was filed by lawyer Sisa Namandje who is acting on behalf of the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations.
The urgent application follows after the environmental clearance certificate for Namibian Marine Phosphate’s Sandpiper Project was quietly issued on 5 September and it only came to light more than a month later.
At the time of going to print last night, it was not clear as to when the matter will be heard.
Affected parties had only 14 days to appeal the decision from the date of granting the certificate.
Namandje last week accused environmental commissioner Teofilus Nghitila of committing a number of irregularities and that he had not complied with the Environmental Management Act.
These accusations were contained in correspondence between Namandje and government attorney Mathias Kashindi, who is representing Nghitila after the fishing confederation, demanded through their lawyer, that Nghitila should provide detailed information on the processes followed with regard to granting the environmental clearance.
They wanted to know, among others, the date on which he had received the assessment report from the NMP, as indicated in Section 35 of the Environmental Management Act of 2007, the details and all particulars of the notifications made to the public and interested parties, as well as the closing date for submission contemplates, again in terms of Section 35 of the same Act.
However, after Nghitila provided the information to his lawyer, Kashindi in his correspondence with Namandje admitted that Nghitila had to a certain extent not complied with some of the requirements of the act.
Nghitila has refuted claims of irregularities on his part and expressed concern over the fact that his lawyer had written to Namandje without his consent and provided contradicting information than what was discussed between them.
According to Nghitila, he answered all of the questions that Namandje asked on the process followed in the granting of the environmental clearance.
“I have dealt with questions posed by Namandje in my response as prepared for discussion with the government attorney. All evidence and documentation have been provided,” he said.
Nghitila has also expressed his concerns to the Attorney-General Sacky Shanghala and the Minister of Environment of Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta with regards to this misrepresentation by the government lawyer.
Some of the issues pointed out by Nghitila were that the issue of phosphate mining was discussed at a Special Cabinet Committee on Trade and Economic Development meeting of 15 February 2016.
He said that the environment ministry was given three months to pronounce itself on the matter with regard to the two mining licenses that have been issued for offshore phosphate mining.
According to him, at a meeting of 1 June, the environment ministry requested the deferment of the matter to allow technical consultation with the Ministry of Mines and Energy and the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.
At a meeting on 11 August Nghitila gave a presentation at which a notice was given of the decision as regard to ML 170 of Namibia Marine Phosphate.
He said that both ministers of mines and fisheries were part of this meeting.
The meeting agreed that Nghitila be granted the independence to decide on the matter as per the provisions of the Environmental Management Act.
“This served as notification to the competent authority, mines ministry and fisheries ministry,” said Nghitila.
He added that the notification of the application and requests for written comments were made through the company on 17 April 2012 and a number of notices were made inviting the public for public meetings.
With regards to the fact that Nghitila did not advise all interested parties, including fisheries associations of his decision to grant environmental clearance, he said Section 37 of the Act and Regulation 18 refer that only notifying the proponent and competent authority is required.
Nghitila also responded to claims about the review process that was not followed, saying that this already started in 2012 after the Environmental Impact Assessment report was submitted.
He said this review process included consultation with both the fisheries and mines ministries including ordering the company to do the verification study. After the submission of the verification studies, which forms part of the EIA Report, Nghitila satisfied himself with the report and consultation with the relevant ministries were undertaken which culminated in a workshop held on 27 April 2016 in Swakopmund.