The Government has started reviewing the moratorium placed on phosphate mining in offshore Namibia, the Minister of Mines and Energy Obeth Kandjoze said this week.
Kandjoze made the remarks at the Annual General Meeting of the Chamber of Mines of Namibia on Wednesday in reaction to observations made by the Chamber’s outgoing president Werner Duvenhage.
Duvenhage said the Chamber was concerned that the 18-month moratorium on marine phosphate mining which was declared on 17 September, 2013 lapsed in March this year without much progress on the desired scientific studies to address concerns by the fishing industry.
To date, the Norwegian-based Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research (SENTEF) consultants engaged by Government have only produced a scoping report in which they identified their terms of reference.
“While Government is committed to the co-existence of several sectors in the same eco-system, the slow pace at which the environmental concerns are being addressed is of great concern to the Chamber.
“It is now clear that it will be several years before environmental concerns will be clarified, thereby hampering investment decisions and socio-economic growth by marine phosphate players.
“I appeal to relevant agencies of Government to find an amicable solution to the way forward, without jeopardising the interests of any stakeholders,” Duvenhage said.
Kandjoze conceded that the policy of placing moratoriums on certain industries might have legal flaws.
“The moratorium on phosphate mining is raising eyebrows. Phosphate right holders cannot be stopped in law after [licences] were already awarded and the Government won’t be held hostage by legal actions.
“Thus this situation presents us with a legal conundrum,” Kandjoze said.
He said mining rights should be respected.
The minister added that while it is premature to say what Government’s final stance will be at this stage, licences awarded will be reviewed.
Kandjoze said that it was imperative that his ministry, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism as well as the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources formulate a coherent and succinct policy when it came to the issue of phosphate mining.
“We remain to be informed on the outcome of the technical committee findings,” Kandjoze said.
The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Bernhard Esau indicated in March that scope studies to determine the terms of reference on a comprehensive moratorium were still in progress.
He said the moratorium would remain in place until such time that all stakeholders had agreed on the terms of reference.
Esau said Government would only consider environmental clearances for prospective marine phosphate operations if, and when, the moratorium ended.
Government contracted the Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Institute of Marine Research to identify the scientific requirements to assess impacts of marine phosphate mining on the ocean environment.