In a recently released letter to Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, Earthlife Namibia chair, Bertchen Kohrs, requests that stakeholders be given access to verification data and that a wide ranging environmental study be conducted around the potential impacts of marine phosphates mining on the coastal ecosystems: 

Dear Honourable Minister,

Re: Request for Access to the Verification Study on Marine Phosphate Mining, and for undertaking an Integrated Strategic Environmental Assessment for Namibia’s Coastline

With regard to the EIA process for the Marine Phosphate Mining project we are aware that the initial EIA was made available and still is accessible on the official website. It is however regrettable that the EIA process for the Marine Phosphate Mining project was not undertaken in accordance with the appropriate legal processes as stipulated in the Environmental Management Act as the Verification Study has not been made available in the public domain.

In order for the relevant interested parties to make valuable contributions to the process as requested by MET, access to the Verification Study is essential. However, Earthlife’s concern is beyond the fact that the EIA process was not in line with the legal requirements. We would like to assess the real issues of possible environmental and social impacts of the Marine Phosphate Mining. Without scientific evidence it is not possible to conclude whether one should support or oppose the project. As there is no worldwide experience on this subject the findings of the Verification Study are essential to fulfil this process.

Without the sound scientific evidence upon which the knowledge can be based, one can then only speculate the outcomes and this sometimes results in accusations based on emotions. As long as the findings and the conclusions of the Verification Study remain unavailable to all interested parties it is not possible to formulate a scientifically based statement.

Earthlife Namibia therefore humbly requests that open access to the Verification Study be made available to all of the interested parties.

Earthlife further suggests that an Integrated Strategic Environmental Assessment for Namibia’s coastline must be undertaken, and this should include all of the ongoing and resultant industrial development, in order to assess the cumulative impacts on the environment, on human health, and on our wellbeing.

The impacts on the fishing industry, and on the mining of diamonds, uranium, granite, marble, salt, and possibly on phosphate mining, and including the Gecko project if it is still on the table, and on the Walvis Bay harbor, on tourism, and on any other developments that may become apparent. Each and every activity has an impact, although many actors may say that ‘our impact is well below the allowed limit.’ We are reportedly ‘operating in accordance to best practices in a sustainable manner.’ This may be true in theory but in reality this may not be true.

It is essential to assess the cumulative impacts on the environment and its people, and on the economy. In order to plan and implement sustainable industrial development it is critical to know how much damage on the environment is justifiable without harming the wellbeing of future generations. Our natural environment is our most precious asset and we remain responsible to keep the environment in a healthy condition and in balance with our activities. This we owe to our children, grandchildren, and all future generations to come.

Through the national media the public was recently informed that new legislation for the protection of the coastline is in the planning process. This is commendable, and we expect that Environmental Clearance  for offshore phosphate mining will not be given before this legislation is in place. However, before such legislation can commence proper scientific research is needed in order to fully understand the function of the environment and the response to man-made impacts.

Earthlife Namibia therefore highly requests that an Integrated Strategic Environmental Assessment for Namibia’s coastline be undertaken.

We trust that our request will be met with the necessary and positive deliberations.

Yours sincerely,

Bertchen Kohrs

(Chair of Earthlife Namibia)