Friday, 22 June 2012 12:07

Response to Open Letter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard

Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP), a joint venture company owned by Minemakers and UCL and Namibian firm Tungeni Investments, is developing the Sandpiper project off the coast of Walvis Bay.

NMP fully supports the right of Swakopmund Matters to communicate with the Australian Prime Minister, the Honourable Julia Gillard and other stakeholders to advance its cause. However, NMP feels compelled to respond to the letter addressed to the Australian Prime Minister, as it insinuates that NMP rode roughshod over the Namibian people and government, undermined the country's legal system and the country's sovereignty. Even if the Australian shareholders had such intentions, this would not have been possible because Tungeni and other Namibia-based stakeholders would never have allowed such unethical conduct in their country.

NMP has consulted broadly and this process has been in line with the Namibian law. This approach has been endorsed by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, which was submitted to the Environmental Commissioner as required by Namibian law. NMP is determined to demonstrate the company's commitment to responsible corporate citizenship and to ensure that the necessary measures are in place to mitigate any adverse impact on the fishing industry and the environment.

The EIA report compiled by a panel of independent consultants confirms that the impact of NMP mining operations on the Namibian fishing industry will be negligible: "We conclude that the impact on Namibian fisheries will vary depending on the sector. Overall the significance of impact on the fishery sector is considered to be negative and of medium to low significance." Patrick Morant of CSIR Consulting and Analytical Services says: "Based on my experience as an environmental assessment practitioner, the EIA report including the appendices has been produced professionally and fulfils all the requirements of a comprehensive EIA report. Based on these studies there is no reason to suggest that NMP activities and the fishing industry cannot co-exist." "There will still be a fishing industry long after NMP has finished dredging," explains NMP project general manager David Wellbeloved. "Besides, it would not make sense for us to destroy the fisheries industry. Our studies indicate that the negative impact in percentage terms will be between 0 and 0,5%, without any mitigation measures in place. Once there are processes in place, that figure will come down substantially. We are looking at a figure of 0,1% over a 20-year period."

NMP has never claimed that it has received the Environmental Clearance. The Environmental Commissioner directed that NMP must conduct further consultations with Interested and Affected Parties (IAPs), and the company took the initiative of communicating with the office of the Commissioner to receive guidelines on how it can take the process further.

Similarly, a clear distinction should be made between not consulting, as has been insinuated, and "inadequate consultations."

Through the development of the Sandpiper project, which has good quality phosphate, which is an essential component in the production of fertilisers, NMP is poised to play an important role in food security in Namibia, SADC and Africa. The project will also make a significant contribution towards the empowerment of women, who constitute the majority of subsistence farmers on the African continent.

Northern Territory

A difference also needs to be drawn between the Australian Northern Territory moratorium and the situation in Namibia. Under the Northern Territory Land Rights Act, anybody interested in exploration or mining in an area under claim has to enter an agreement with the Aboriginal claimants. In essence, where there is a land claim there cannot be approval of an exploration licence or mining licence. Hence the Aborigines are opposed to the whole concept of exploration and mining offshore in this state.

None of the other Australian states have followed suit, a clear indication that they do not have a fundamental issue with dredging for minerals.

Therefore to imply that dredging is an environmentally damaging activity which has been banned by the Northern Territory purely on environmental grounds, and that the ban should be extended to the rest of Australia, is illogical and untrue.

The Northern Territory issue is a political and cultural issue and not solely an environmental one.

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