MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Namibia fisherfolk strongly protest against seabed phosphate mining

Published by MAC on 2019-09-10
Source: The Namibian

Namibian fishworkers are up in arms against a proposal to commence seabed extraction of phosphate, which it's claimed would "compromise economic environmental and social endeavours".

Fisheries workers against marine phosphate mining

by Adam Hartman

The Namibian

10 September 2019

EN MASSE ... More than a thousand people participated in the protest at
Walvis Bay yesterday against marine phosphate mining. The march stopped
traffic along the fishing factories at the harbour town. Most of those who
participated were fisheries workers.

OVER 1 000 people, mostly workers in the fishing industry at Walvis Bay,
participated in a mass protest against marine phosphate mining, urging the
government not to grant prospective miners an environmental clearance

The workers were mostly represented by the National Union of Namibian
Workers (NUNW) and the Trade Union Congress of Namibia (Tucna).

The protesters marched from the fishing factories in the harbour town to
the Walvis Bay office of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.

A similar march is expected to take place in Windhoek today from the NUNW
centre to the Windhoek High Court, where a petition will be handed over to
the Office of the Prime Minister.

Acting NUNW president Job Muniaro said yesterday that marine phosphate
mining was being promoted by a few “whose love for money outweighs the
well-being of the majority of Namibians and the Namibian economy.”

He accused the prospective mining companies for blackmailing Namibians and
its leaders to get an environmental clearance certificate.

“Namibians are committed to the ideals of the responsible and sustainable
management of renewable resources, and we are standing up to defend our
resources because Namibia is all we have,” stressed Muniaro.

There are about 16 000 workers in the fishing industry, and concerns are
that seabed mining for phosphates will inflict irreversible damage to
Namibia's lucrative fishing industry, which is a pillar of the country's

Last month, environment and tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta told The
Namibian that marine phosphate mining proponents tried to pressure him
into approving the controversial phosphate seabed mining. Shifeta, the
environmental commissioner and the deputy environmental commissioner were
sued in the Windhoek High Court by Namibia Marine Phosphates (NMP), who
intend mining off Namibia's coast for many years.

NMP wants the court to compel the MET officials to make a decision on its
continued efforts to be granted the certificate it needs to commence
marine phosphate mining.

The certificate would allow NMP to mine phosphate about 120km south-west
of Walvis Bay.

In another matter due in the High Court today, three organisations
representing the Namibian fishing industry – the Confederation of Namibian
Fishing Associations, the Namibian Hake Association and the Midwater
Trawling Association of Namibia – are asking the court to declare that a
mining licence issued to NMP in July 2011 is invalid, because the company
failed to undertake an environmental impact assessment and apply for an
environmental clearance certificate within the time limits stipulated in
the law.

In both cases, Muniaro said the union and all its members as well as
scientists and economists want to send a “strong message that Namibia is
not for sale to the highest bidder”.

The 19-page petition pointed out numerous scientific concerns, the
possible environmental impact the mining would have, the small economic
and social contribution it would have, compared to the fishing industry,
and also the political implications if the miners were given the go-ahead.

“[The] government has a responsibility towards sustainability, and the
constitutional responsibility. Phosphate mining will compromise economic,
environmental and social endeavours,” the unionist continued.

He said in future, the government, through the environment ministry,
should establish an independent body responsible for carrying out all
studies for feasibility, environmental impact and strategic risks, as this
will allow for “objective and uncompromised outcomes”.

Tucna president Paulus Hango stated that phosphate mining should be
condemned because of the negative impact it will have.

“We are demanding that the government makes a law which prohibits
phosphate mining at sea. We cannot afford a situation whereby the
government officials give a licence to mine phosphate offshore just to
enrich individuals at the expense of Namibians,” said Hango. “We are
saying phosphate mining is a big no, and there is no way out.”


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