Namibia Marine Phosphate (NMP), one of the companies that hopes to eventually capitalise on mining of marine phosphate reserves off the shore of Namibia, has asked the lobby group, Swakop Matters (SM), to step out of the shadows.
In a strongly worded letter, director of NMP Knowledge Katti requested SM to provide their credentials in lieu of their criticism of the effects of ocean mining on the marine ecosystem and, more recently, because of their criticism of independent consultants contracted to complete the environmental studies for the Sandpiper Marine Phosphate Project.
Katti is adamant the consultants were appointed to provide the highest levels of environmental expertise on the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem and to ensure full compliance with the requirements of the Environmental Management Act of 2007.
“It is time for SM to step out from behind their jaundiced premises and put their credentials forward to support their unfounded statements and misrepresentation of the true facts. While diverse discussion and views based on facts and sound logic are to be respected, hollow, unsubstantiated claims and destructive opinions put forward by some groups does little to promote the image of Namibia and unfairly undermines credibility of the government agencies responsible for applying the relevant legislation.
“Similarly, there is nothing to gain from undermining the significant value and role of the accredited specialists and consultants that contribute their expertise towards environmental studies in Namibia,” Katti wrote.
He described SM as a group that “represents themselves as a self-appointed voice of authority on the protection of the broader Namibian marine and coastal environmental issues and the related Namibian government regulations, as evidenced in their various public statements.
“Apart from a Facebook page, the group has no formal representative, no fixed or formal address and is not a registered entity (legal or otherwise).
“The public record reflects that SM has been represented on occasion by Ms Marcia Stanton (nee Fargnoli) (American), also the director of Earth Organisation Namibia (EON) and Mr Riaan Eksteen (South African). In response to the question as to why SM do (sic) not reveal a spokesperson or contact details, the group has said ‘it is all about content – not who runs SM’.
“There is no information on SM’s funding or their individual credentials or qualifications in relation to their experience and expertise in marine and terrestrial environmental management and the related Namibian legislation. The group operates opaquely as a faceless organisation, using Facebook, email and the media to issue public statements without professional accountability for source, or factual correctness,” Katti charged.
He further noted that in contrast, professional consultants are required to put their name to their work.
“All of the consulting companies engaged by NMP or the government have provided full details of the various internationally published independent environmental experts, who were engaged to complete specific environmental impact studies and to provide peer review assessment or independent external reviews of the project EIA and verificationstudy findings. The verification study was based on current in-situ scientific data sourced through the implementation of sound scientific practices to ensure the findings, as outlined in the EIA, were correctly assessed,” Katti continued.
He noted that the full EIA is available on the company website and that the full verification report and peer review report are available from the offices of the Environmental Commissioner, or the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, as advised by the Environmental Commissioner.
Also, the names, qualifications, affiliations, company details and contact details of all of the experts engaged for various studies in the EIA and verification study are presented in the reports.
“SM has clearly not made the effort to acquaint themselves with this information before making their statement. On the issue of ethics, it is both unfortunate and disappointing that there is a recurring insinuation from SM, as well as others, that ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’ and, therefore, the opinion of an environmental consultant appointed or whose services are ultimately paid for by a proponent of a mining project cannot be accepted as credible.
“Those perpetuating this jaundiced view are clearly unaware that worldwide, reputable consultants are required to comply with strict codes of practice and ethics, which underlie their professional status and reputation,” Katti stated.
Although SM could not be reached via social media yesterday, the organisation previously stated that it wants to disseminate credible views” and that “recipients of our emails judge Swakopmund Matters on the substance of its communications”.