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A key component of the licensing condition attached to the rights granted to Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP) to develop the Sandpiper project off the coast of Walvis Bay was that the company should conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study, to assess the likely impact that the company's dredging activities on marine life including commercial fishing activities. The company is also obliged to spell out how it will mitigate for those instances, where there might be an adverse impact on marine life arising from its dredging activities.

In line with the Namibian legal requirements, the company commissioned an independent fisheries specialist, to conduct research on the likely impact of NMP activities on Namibia's commercial fishing industry. The appointment of the fishery specialist was undertaken with the knowledge and support of the Namibian fishing industry.

In his assessment the fisheries specialist concluded "The impact on Namibian fisheries will vary depending on the fishing sector. The operations of all fisheries will in some way, and at different levels of intensity, be impacted. Overall however the significance is considered to be negative and medium to low primarily because the area to be mined (annually up to 3 km2 and for the 20 year mining lifespan up to 60 km2) is a small fraction of the overall Namibian fishing grounds. This fraction may however increase significantly if mining of this nature is to be expanded or alternative mine sites introduced"

Even though hake is found throughout the Mining Licence Area (MLA), it is unlikely that hake will be seriously affected by NMP dredging activities. As stated in the fishery specialist report "Within the Mining Lease Area (MLA) the historical catch (of hake) is 0.86% or about 1% of total hake trawl effort. There are minimal records of fishing in (target mine areas) SP-1 and SP-3 but fishing has been reported in SP-2". In effect this means that the historical data show that in the actual area to be mined initially (SP-1) very little trawling has ever taken place. The target mine area is also close to the 200 m contour, an area which the Namibian Ministry of Fisheries has closed to fishing. The specialist report further states that if the area immediately outside of the areas proposed to mine are considered, the following is likely " Trawling for hake, although it occurs significantly beyond the MLA, is highly unlikely to be affected". What this means is that small amounts of hake fishing have been reported in the MLA but very little inside the actual areas proposed to be mined.

The fisheries specialist also noted that " Hake (M. capensis) are found throughout the mining lease area" and that "we assume the abundance of hake in the MLA and surrounding areas is fairly uniform with higher levels of hake abundance in deeper water. Mining at the specific sites is therefore expected to impact on hake (in the broader MLA area) but due to their mobility hake will most likely avoid the mined area. This will result in displacement of hake biomass into adjacent areas, mortality is unlikely. From an ecosystem perspective this will have implications only in a localised context (we assume hake will avoid the mined area)".

With respect to juvenile hake, or hake expected to recruit to the hake fishery in deeper waters than where phosphate mining is proposed, "the distribution of juvenile hake (< 21 cm) occurs throughout and mostly shallower than the 200 m bathycontour. This is a typical distribution pattern for juvenile hake that recruit in shallow water and then migrate deeper as they age. Specifically juvenile hake are found in the MLA in the northern part near SP-1. Juvenile hake are expected to be displaced from the dredging area, but their mobility should limit the likelihood of mortality".

It is expected that based on recent historical catch and effort data in the MLA, 5.03% of hake trawl catch, will be indirectly affected, "However this does not imply that this proportion of catch will be lost but that the fishery in this area will in some way have to adjust normal fishing operations," the specialist explains.

Taking this and the other components of the EIA into consideration, it is the view of NMP that the company's activities can coexist with the commercial fishing industry.

"There will still be a fishing industry long after NMP has finished dredging, there is no intention on our part to destroy the industry. Besides it would not make sense for us to destroy the industry. Our studies indicate that the negative impact on 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," explains NMP project general manager David Wellbeloved.

The fishing study forms part of NMP' submission to the government.

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.

Thursday, 07 June 2012 09:52

Resources Watch

Tuesday, 05 June 2012 06:52

Doha Africa Drummond Slides - 2012

See attachment below

The minerals industry, like all other extractive or displacive industries such as fishing, energy, timber AND farming, will always impact on the natural environment in some way. Responsible resource companies seek out the best practices in order to understand, manage and minimise their impact on the environment, and to deliver the greatest benefits for all stakeholders.

At Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP is developing the Sandpiper Marine Phosphate Project ("Sandpiper Project"), we understand and appreciate that the fishing industry is a major employer in Namibia, a country where there are few employment opportunities and the fishing industry is a major contributor to the national economy. We want to ensure that the livelihoods of all our stakeholders and those in the related ocean-based industries are not adversely affected by operations in the Sandpiper Project, while contributing as much as we can to Namibia's social and economic development.

That is why we have followed the relevant regulatory processes as promulgated by the Namibian government, to complete a comprehensive environmental investigation and to establish an operational management plan. As part of that process we commissioned leading independent specialists with relevant Namibia-based experience and expertise, to complete several key impact assessment studies.

Process and Public Scoping with Interested and Affected Parties

Following publication of advertisements to invite registration of interested and affected parties, a series of public scoping meetings and high level meetings with authorities were held in Windhoek and Walvis Bay in November 2011. A scoping report including feedback from these meetings was compiled, circulated, finalised and submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) in December 2011. Based on the defined scope, the specialist studies were then completed and the results were incorporated in the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Management Programme Report (EMPR).

These documents were submitted to MET, Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME), the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) and the public for review and comment during January 2012. After the 15 working-day mandatory review period, the feedback as received was processed, and a further specialist assessment study was completed, which along with the feedback information was incorporated into the Final EIA/EMPR document. This final document was submitted in accordance with the regulations of the Environmental Commissioner on 11 March 2012. Copies of these reports were also submitted to the MME and the MFMR. At the same time a further set of engagements with the authorities and public meetings were held in Windhoek and Walvis Bay. At these meetings the specialist consultants provided feedback on their findings to the attendants.

Expert Opinion on potential impacts to Fishing Industry

The attached map illustrates the location of the Mining License Area (MLA) 170 Sandpiper Project area, in relation to known historical fishing locations in the monk trawl fishery as reported to MFMR. Within the MLA170 area covering 2,233km2 there are three smaller areas that have been selected as initial areas for development, namely Sand Piper(SP)-1 (8x22km), SP-2 (8x22km) and SP-3 (6 x 11km). Currently all planned activities for the Sandpiper project as proposed for the 20-year plan are located in SP-1 area which represents 8% of the total MLA170 area.

Based on the results of the fisheries specialist investigation, it is concluded that, although the proposed activities of the Sandpiper Project would have some impact on fisheries, this would be moderate to low, and would vary depending on the particular fishing sector.

By David Wellbeloved General Project of Namibian Marine Phosphate

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, says Mr. David Wellbeloved, Project General Manager, of Sandpiper.

The company is under constant fire from environmental groups who oppose the development of the first ever sea bound phosphate mine. The marine phosphate project is situated approximately 60 km. off the coast of Namibia and covers a combined area of 7 000 square kilo-meters in the regional phosphate enriched province to the south of Walvis Bay in water depths of 180 to 300m. Dr. Wellbeloved is visiting Namibia next week, to amongst other things, quell fears that NMP will cause irreparable damage to the environment offshore in the rich Namibian fishing fields.

“NMP will comply with all Namibian environmental regulations and best practices,” he says. “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.” Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP), a Namibian based marine phosphate mining company that will be developing Sandpiper Project, has made a firm commitment that its mining activities will be subjected to the highest standards of environmental monitoring. This monitoring will be con-ducted in accordance with the activity programme recommended by independent environmental specialists, which re-commendations forms an integral part of NMP's fina

Environmental Management Plan (EMP).

Mr. Wellbeloved says the company considers the environment as one of the key priori-ties and takes its responsibilities and the public concerns seriously. The quality of sea-water within eco-systems is important as it affects the marine life which has evolved to fill specific ecological niches. Based on their specialist studies, the independent experts have concluded that the anticipated dredging activities lie 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's plans to dredge phosphate enriched marine sediments from the seabed at depths of between 200 and 275 metres off Namibia's continental shelf, which would 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 have concluded that:

  1. Levels of oxygen and hydrogen sulphide would not be significantly affected by the dredging activity.
  2. Seawater quality could potentially be affected by dredger overspill sediments released back to the water column as a sediment plume, Dr. Robin Carter 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.
  3. 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 at the sea bed in the proposed mining depths, it is determined that the quantity of organic matter and nutrient concentrations of the dredge area are low.
  4. Sulphur-absorbing bacteria – an important component of Namibia's marine life – are typically located in the mud belt which is inshore of the mining sites of the licence area.

NMP's mine permit is valid for 20 years. It is important to maintain a perspective on the relative scale of pro-posed activities.Assuming a thickness of 1m, then on an annual basis it is estimated that an area of approximately of 3 km² would be dredged per year which equates to a total of approximately 60 km² to be dredged over a 20 year life of mine or 2.68% of the total area of ML170 (area 2233 km²). The phosphate resources to be dredged are all located in sediment thickness of up to 3m. In accordance with the recommendation incorporated in the Environ-mental Management Plan a 10% residual of sediment will be retained within the resource recovery areas so as to leave blanket of local sediment to encourage the colonisation by marine fauna . “We realise that our planned activities in the ocean could impact other ocean based industries in Namibia. We are accepting the concerns of others and are 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 explains.

Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP) is an incorporated joint venture (JV) company between Australian-listed UCL Resources (42.5%), Australian-listed Minemakers (42.5%), and Namibian-registered Tungeni Investments cc (15%), a Namibian women's group. NMP operates with integrity and responsibility, and is committed to an environmentally sustainable approach when conducting its operations; accordingly it has commissioned reputable experts to conduct marine Environmental Impact Assessment studies (IEA), and an independent company to conduct a land EIA study. The mining company is well positioned to contribute positively towards Namibia's development, for instance during phase 1 of the planned operation (production of phosphate rock) 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 sup-port services.

In addition further capital expenditure for the whole project will amount to approximately N$2 445 mil-lion (US$326 million). This amount excludes the exploration and feasibility study capital already invested over the past 5 years.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012 16:14

Chris Jordinson

Chris Jordinson is the Managing Director of UCL Resources Ltd and has more than 14 years experience as a Chief Executive Officer, Company Secretary and Financial Controller for various Australian public companies.

Jordinson was formerly Chief Executive Officer of Outback Metals Ltd, a company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. Prior to that he was Chief Executive Officer of Copper Resources Corporation which was listed on the Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchange, and before that he was Company Secretary of Queensland Ores Ltd where he assisted the company to list on the ASX.

He holds a B.Com.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012 16:13

Mike Woodborne

Mike Woodborne moved from South Africa to Australia in 2002 and has been involved in mineral exploration and mining for more than 25 years.

Woodborne has extensive knowledge and practical experience in the areas of marine geophysics, marine mineral exploration and mining technologies.

After seven years with the Geological Survey of South Africa, he set up and ran an independent geological consultancy in South Africa for 10 years before taking on various full-time corporate and senior management roles in private and public resource companies in South Africa, Namibia and Australia.

Woodborne holds an M.Sc (Marine Geology), SACNASP and MAusIMM degrees.

Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP), a Namibian based marine phosphate mining company that will be developing Sandpiper Project, located off the Walvis Bay coast, has made a firm commitment that its mining activities will be subjected to the highest standards of environmental monitoring. This monitoring will be conducted in accordance with the activity programme recommended by independent environmental specialists, which recommendations forms an integral part of NMP’s final Environmental Management Plan (EMP).
NMP Project General Manager David Wellbeloved says the company considers the environment as one of the key priorities and takes its responsibilities and the 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. Furthermore, NMP will comply with all Namibian environmental regulations and best practices,” he says. “We will be implementing a monitoring programme, in line with the expert’s recommendations as incorporated in the final EMP, to ensure that our impact is measured, monitored and minimised.”
The quality of seawater within ecosystems is important as it affects the marine life which has evolved to fill specific ecological niches.
Based on their specialist studies, the independent experts have concluded that the anticipated dredging activities lie 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’s plans to dredge phosphate enriched marine sediments from the seabed at depths of between 200 and 275 metres off Namibia’s continental shelf, which would 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 have concluded that:

  • 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, Dr. Robin Carter 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 at the sea bed in the proposed mining depths, it is determined that the quantity of organic matter and nutrient concentrations of the dredge area are low.
  • Sulphur-absorbing bacteria – an important component of Namibia’s marine life – are typically located in the mud belt which is inshore of the mining sites of the licence area.

NMP’s mine permit is valid for 20 years. It is important to maintain a perspective on the relative scale of proposed activities. Assuming a thickness of 1m, then on an annual basis it is estimated that an area of approximately of 3 km2 would be dredged per year which equates to a total of approximately 60 km2 to be dredged over a 20 year life of mine or 2.68% of the total area of ML170 (area 2233 km2). 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% residual of sediment will be retained within the resource recovery areas so as to leave blanket of local sediment to encourage re colonisation 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 explains.

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