Wednesday, 23 May 2012 13:52

NMP commits to environmental preservation

Written by  New Era - Irene Hoaës

WINDHOEK - Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP), a Namibian-based marine phosphate mining company, has made a firm commitment that its mining activities will be subjected to the highest standards of environmental monitoring.

NMP will be developing the Sandpiper Project, located off the Walvis Bay coast.

According to the company, the monitoring will be conducted in accordance with the activity programme recommended by independent environmental specialists, whose recommendations form an integral part of NMP's final Environmental Management Plan (EMP).

NMP Project General Manager, David Wellbeloved, said the company considers the environment as one of the "key priorities" and takes its responsibilities and public concerns seriously.

"Environmental impact assessment studies have shown that the recovery of phosphate sediment in the mining area (ML170) can be undertaken with relatively low impact to the seawater quality," Wellbeloved said.

He noted that the NMP would comply with all Namibian environmental regulations and best practices.

"We will be implementing a monitoring programme, in line with the experts' recommendations as incorporated in the final EMP, to ensure that our impact is measured, monitored and minimised," Wellbeloved said.

The quality of seawater within ecosystems is important as it affects marine life, which has evolved to fill specific ecological niches.

Based on their specialist studies, independent experts have concluded that anticipated dredging activities would be seaward of the mud belt, which is generally associated with high hydrogen sulphide concentrations and would have a limited impact on water quality and organisms living on the seabed.

NMP plans to dredge phosphate-enriched marine sediments from the seabed at depths of between 200 and 275 metres off Namibia's continental shelf.

This will entail the removal of the sediment into the dredger along with some onsite discharge of water containing fine sediment from the dredger overflow.

However, on assessment of these activities, the experts concluded that the levels of oxygen and hydrogen sulphide would not be significantly affected by the dredging activity

Seawater quality could potentially be affected by dredger overspill sediments released back to the water column as a sediment plume, it was found.

However, these impacts are in general identified as moderate to low and will be localised to the actual site and up to a distance of 1.8km from the dredge area.

The main risks associated with dredging the ocean floor would be physical, such as increased water turbidity, according to the environmental studies commissioned for the project.

Due to high turbulence on the seabed in the proposed mining depths, the quantity of organic matter and nutrient concentrations in the dredge area are low.

NMP's mine permit is valid for 20 years.

Assuming a thickness of 1m, then on an annual basis it is estimated that an area of approximately 3 square km would be dredged per year, which equates to a total of approximately 60 square km to be dredged over a 20-year life of mine or 2.68 percent of the total area of ML170 (2233 km2).

According to NMP, the phosphate resources to be dredged are all located in sediment thickness of up to 3m.

In accordance with the recommendation incorporated in the Environmental Management Plan, a 10 percent residual of sediment will be retained within the resource recovery areas so as to leave a blanket of local sediment to encourage recolonisation by marine fauna.

"We realise that our planned activities in the ocean could impact other ocean-based industries in Namibia. We are accepting of the concerns of others and committed to constructive engagement directed towards mitigating any actual or perceived impact wherever possible and moreover, to minimising our impact on the marine environment," Wellbeloved explained.

NMP is an incorporated joint venture company between Australian-listed UCL Resources (42. percent), Australian-listed Minemakers (42.5 percent), and Namibian-registered Tungeni Investments cc (15%), a Namibian women's group.

NMP is developing the Sandpiper Marine Phosphate Project, approximately 60km off the coast of Namibia and covers a combined area of approximately 7,000 km2 in the regional phosphate-enriched province to the south of Walvis Bay in water depths of 180–300m.

NMP is the first company in the world to mine for phosphate at sea.

During the first phase of the planned operation approximately 160 permanent new jobs will be created with 400-500 additional people employed during the development construction phase and 300 indirect employment opportunities through the requirement for support services.

In addition further capital expenditure for the whole project will amount to approximately N$2 445 million or US$326 million.

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