BERNARD ESAU’S RESPONSE TO MARINE PHOSPHATE MINING
WINDHOEK, October 27 – We reproduce the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources document from which he drafted the speech he gave in the National Assembly Thursday. Note that this verbatim.
(Memorandum by the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources)
Date: 25 October 2016
Offshore – Marine Phosphate Mining
The objective of this submission is to:
1..1 Inform Cabinet on the progress made since CABINET Decision 14th /17.09.13/018;
1..2 Ensure collective responsibility at Government level on phosphate mining and other cross cutting marine issues, and avoid possible inter-ministerial conflicts on the matter; and
1..3 Facilitate the next steps in the process of determining the suitability of marine phosphate mining in Namibia.
3. BACKGROUND AND DISCUSSION
- Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) issued two mining licenses for industrial minerals in Namibia’s marine waters in 2010 and 2011 to LL Namibia Phosphates (Pty) Ltd and Namibia Marine Phosphate (Pty) Ltd respectively.
- In September 2013, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR), in conjunction with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) and MME made a CABINET submission seeking Cabinet endorsement to carry out a scoping study for Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) along the Namibian coast, and a moratorium on the matter before an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Clearance Certificate can be issued by MET.
- MET concurred with MFMR on the approach on this matter, and in a letter to MFMR dated 28 March 2013:
- Suggested a moratorium on the issuance of Exploration Prospecting Licenses (EPLs) on phosphate mining;
- Requested for legal advise on the legal implications of the licenses issued by MME;
- Supported a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) by MFMR;
- Acknowledged that:
‘MFMR is the competent Authority in this respect, and plays a coordinating and facilitating role in the process of SEA’; and
- Advised that the MFMR conducts and finances the process, and thereafter MET issues the environmental clearance certificate.
- On 19 September 2013, a CABINET Action Letter (CABINET Decision 14th/17.09.13/018) was issued, which directed as follows that:
- A scoping study to be undertaken before the EIA clearance certificate is issued;
- The Moratorium on the issuance of the EIA was approved for a minimum of 18 months;
- The Strategic Environmental Assessment to be conducted; and
- The Independent scoping study and comprehensive SEA to be conducted during the Moratorium, under the auspices of the MFMR, in consultation with MET and MME.
- Strategic environmental assessment(SEA) is a systematic decision support process, aiming to ensure that environmental and possibly other sustainability aspects are considered effectively in policy, plan and programme making.
- “Environmental Impact Assessment(EIA) is the process of assessing the likely environmental impacts of a proposal and identifying options to minimise environmental damage
- Following this CABINET Directive, the following actions were undertaken:
- A scoping study was carried out by an independent consultant from Norway engaged through MFMR, during the moratorium.
- This study recommended a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to be conducted in view of the need for sufficient scientific knowledge and regulatory mechanisms in order to mitigate the impact such seabed mining may have on the marine environment.
- CABINET issued a moratorium on off-shore phosphate mining. This Moratorium was backed up by a legal opinion obtained on 13 December 2013 and 2 July 2015 from the Attorney-General as being binding not only on the MFMR or the MME, but also on all other Organs of State. This moratorium therefore still stands until CABINET pronounces itself otherwise
- The Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), which is the responsibility of MFMR as the Competent Authority on Marine Environment, is still not yet completed.
- The SEA should be comprehensive, and its findings will inform the EIA process.
- It was expected that MFMR will commence on the SEA once Cabinet has pronounced itself on the Scoping Report.
- MFMR presented the Scoping Study Report to the Deliberative Cabinet, which thereafter referred it to the Cabinet Committee on Trade and Economic Development (CCTED) for further discussion. This process is still ongoing (last meeting was on 27 April 2016, last communication on 7 July 2016 raised questions that are still pending).
- As the sponsoring Ministry, the MFMR is expecting to submit to Cabinet on this matter for further direction.
- MFMR has been working on the basis of the Cabinet Decision referred to in paragraph 3.4 above, and is concerned that the Ministry of Environment and Tourism has proceeded to issue an Environmental Impact Assessment Clearance Certificate for the marine phosphate mining to commence prematurely, and perhaps in contradiction of the Precautionary Principle as espoused by the latin phraseology in dubio, pro natura(when in doubt, favour nature). Please find the attached opinion of the Attorney-General of July 2015 on the matter.
- This action is clearly not informed by the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) as identified in the Scoping Study, which would be essential for any Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).
- The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources is the Competent Authority on marine environment, and has mandate, in terms of Section 47 of the Marine Resources Act, 2000 to set conditions on harvesting of marine resources which (as per definitions in that Act).
- It must be noted, that since March 21, 1990, apart from the issue of the dumping of nuclear waste, the poaching of wildlife, our participation in Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Paris Agreement, the issue of phosphate mining is one of the most important policy decisions our young nation has had to face, and therefore, it would have rendered a united Government if adequate consultation had occurred before the environmental clearance certificate was issued.
3. ANTICIPATED OUTPUTS
4.1. A CABINET reaffirmation of CABINET Decision 14th /17.09.13/018 would reaffirm the roles and responsibilities of the three line Ministries, namely MFMR, MET and MME on the marine phosphate mining issue, and hence encourage inter-ministerial collaboration on the matter.
4.2. Such clarification would enable each line Ministry to proceed with the specific tasks on this matter as assigned by CABINET, in accordance with applicable Laws.
4.3 In the absence of such clarification, MFMR is concerned that marine phosphate mining may commence immediately, which may cause irreparable damage to the marine ecosystem including fisheries stocks, and hence cause a conflict between mining and fishing industries.
I recommend to Cabinet that:
5.1 CABINET to consider Directing that the comprehensive process on this matter as established by CABINET in CABINET Decision 14th /17.09.13/018 be completed before any Authority can pronounce itself on this matter;
5.2. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism be required by CABINET to immediately withdraw the Environmental Impact Assessment clearance certificate issued on marine phosphate mining on emergency grounds in terms of Section 42(3) of the Environmental Management Act (Act 7 of 2007); and
5.3. CABINET to consider authorising the Development of Namibia Blue Ocean Economy Policy, to act as central Government Policy on coordination of cross cutting issues. This Policy will be developed jointly by the line ministries namely MFMR, MME, MET MWT and other OMAs, and will specify roles and responsibilities for each OMA on cross cutting marine (blue) economy issues, and subsequently establish a formal coordinating mechanism between the relevant OMAs.
- HUMAN RESOURCES REQUIRMENTS
6.1. Personnel from line ministries (MFMR, MME, MET, MWT) will jointly undertake this process.
6.2. Personnel from the Office of the Attorney-General will provide legal guidance on the process.
- FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS
7.1 The undertaking of this process does not have financial implications on the part of MFMR or other line ministries other the normal appropriation through government expenditure.
7.2 Since this process is as a result of a request by private sector for consideration of a possible business opportunity, costs associated with possible consultants for the anticipated studies will be met by the relevant stakeholders. The line ministries will coordinate closely on this matter to ensure that there are no possible conflicts of interest associated with such financing, in line with the relevant Acts.
8.1. Technical consultations have been taking place between the Ministries of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Environment and Tourism, Mines and Energy and Works and Transport, through an Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on marine phosphate mining.
8.2. In April-July 2016, technical review workshops were held with the applicants at Swakopmund involving the various line ministries.
8.3. The Cabinet Committee on Trade and Economic Development (CCTED) held consultations on the submission made by MFMR on this matter.
- IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGY
9.1 Once the CABINET clarifies on the earlier CABINET Decision as outlined above, the next step in the marine phosphate mining consideration is to conduct a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).
9.1 The timeframe to conduct a Strategic Environmental Assessment on marine phosphate mining, as established during the scoping study is between 3 to 5 years.
9.2 Once the recommendations of the SEA are completed, MFMR will submit the findings to MET for a final EIA to be on the marine phosphate mining to be conducted.
- COMMUNICATION STRATEGY
The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, in conjunction with the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology will make the announcement to the public as per Cabinet procedures.
Bernhard Esau MP Date