Windhoek — Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP) says concerns by the fishing industry over the development of its marine phosphate project off the Namibian coast are unwarranted.
"We are confident that not one job will be lost in the fishing industry because of marine phosphate mining," said Barnabas Uugwanga, Chief Executive Officer for Project Operations at NMP.
NMP submitted an Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Plan in March this year for the marine component of its operations, which is about 60 kilometres offshore, and the company is awaiting feedback from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, which is working in close consultation with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.
The NMP joint venture, consisting of Australian companies Minemakers Limited and UCL Resources and Namibian company Tungeni Investments, says it has identified about two billion tonnes of phosphate sand.
"A deposit of this size could potentially be mined for the next 300 years at a rate of three million tonnes per annum. This type of mining operation would generate in the region of N$2.4 billion in annual revenue," explained Uugwanga.
The NMP joint venture holds concessions, both exploration and mining licenses, over more than 2 200 square kilometres of ocean floor in the vicinity of Meob and Conception Bay.
Although the phosphate deposit was initially discovered in the 1970's the resource has never been mined due to limited technology. However, according to Uugwanga, the advancement of dredging technology now makes the mining of this offshore resource a viable option.
"Current dredging technology allows recovery from depths of up to 165 metres," says Uugwanga.
If approved by government the operation will entail phosphate-rich sand (19 percent phosphate) being dredged from the ocean floor, stored in the dredging vessel and then pumped ashore where it will be wet-screened to remove shells.
The resulting slurry will then be pumped to a beneficiation plant site near Walvis Bay.
After upgrading the concentrate to 27.5 per cent phosphate the product will be dried and stored.
The concentrate will be trucked to Walvis Bay for export to countries like Brazil, India and South Africa.
The company believes that local production of phosphate could help to secure agricultural productivity in the country and the region.
The company's investment in exploration and testing so far is approximately N$80 million.
According to the feasibility study completed earlier this year, the capital expenditure is expected to be in the region of N$3.2 billion over the first three years.
Operating costs at full production are expected to be approximately N$1.4 billion per year and, if approved, the project is expected to employ between 400 and 500 people during the construction phase and about 150 people during the operational phase.