During the past week the CEO of Namibia Marine Phosphate (NMP), Mr. Barnabas Uugwanga, has aired some remarks which call for response and perspective.

His observation that “environmental concerns raised so far have probably emanated from the fact that this is the first time phosphate has been found in such large quantities” illustrates yet again the superficial understanding of these concerns. Quantities do not determine concerns! Damage raises them. It is how and where these quantities will be removed that causes alarm.

His attempt to minimise concerns by saying that the mined phosphate will not be treated at sea but “at a man-made dam to be built on land” is cold comfort. By now NMP must surely know that concerns relate to what mining/dredging will cause to the marine environment. How the seawater will be contaminated and marine life be affected as a consequence.
His reference to Sandpiper’s land activities and the treatment at the “dam”, brings in any case again to the fore the environmental impact of the land based facilities. It has already been pointed out by Swakopmund Matters in previous communications that there are unquestionably serious and fundamental objections to what the project will cause to the land area in and around Walvis Bay. This project will cause as much disaster on land as it is bound to cause to the ocean. The production, storage and transportation by whatever means – including the impact of the proposed pipeline – on land will have grave consequences.

Internationally renowned authorities are on record voicing their opposition to phosphate mining in all its aspects. Similarly have international studies and academics drawn attention to the inevitable and irreversible consequences of such an industry. They have done so with substantive arguments and supportive facts and scientific evidence. Strenuous opposition exists to the entire Sandpiper project, as well as the other three marine phosphate projects.

NMP skirts the issue of the consequences of mining/dredging at sea. NMP’s “studies” and “reports” by, what they like to call, “reputable institutions” have not removed a single concern about what would happen to marine life and the fishing industry. Not a single claim having been made by NMP over many months has yet been substantiated with proper and convincing evidence.

“Reports” and “studies” abound on which they rely so assiduously and from which they so often quote to impress the uninitiated. The fishing industry, marine experts, marine environmental managers and the public are neither impressed nor swayed by repetitious arguments based on demonstrative fallacies advanced in anonymous reports and studies which remain, unless otherwise proven, but desk studies with outdated information.

NMP is challenged to have these “reports” and “impact studies” subjected to proper and thorough scientific scrutiny and appraisal by internationally recognized, authoritative and acclaimed marine experts and biologists. Let such authorities give their impartial and frank assessments.

Failure to do just that will raise eye brows. But NMP does create the impression that public opinion does not really concern them. Otherwise the current owners of Sandpiper would already have reacted in August to clear what one main shareholder, UCL Resources, accused the other main shareholder, Minemakers, of issuing a statement containing “material misstatements and omissions regarding the valuation of the Sandpiper project”. Failure to have responded has created more suspicion about the intentions of the owners of Sandpiper. No one can blame the Namibian public when it views the Sandpiper project as a whole with even more apprehension.

We shall not lower our guard against any one of the four proposed marine phosphate projects. We shall remain vigilant. This shall remain so whether Minemakers’ sale of its share in Sandpiper is eventually consummated or not. This has been conveyed in no uncertain terms to the Omani company that may become the new shareholder. Everyone who has Namibia’s coastal and marine environment at heart knows that the battle is far from over.

When Mr. Uugwanga airs the thought that emotion should be left out, he clearly confuses being passionate and enthusiastic with being emotional. We and thousand others Namibians are passionate about our country’s environment. We do so with enthusiasm. We are dedicated to preserve it – including the ocean and all its marine life. We want to see them preserved. We shall continue to do so with pride. We shall advance these values unashamedly. We know how important it is that they are sustained.

NMP has absorbed the idea that it has a monopoly on what is good for the environment and all others who advance different opinions are either fools or knaves.

We shall not relent in our efforts to secure a proper and just place for Namibia’s environment. It deserves nothing less. We shall not be a witness to any trampling on a national treasure which the supreme law of Namibia demands all Namibians to hold dear, respect and preserve to the utmost.
Swakopmund Matters