MINING rarely produces compelling debates but Namibia’s marine phosphate mining may have been the most tightly debated economic frontiers fuelling growing tension between the fishing industry and environmentalists on one side and mining companies that claim they will invest a lot of money to create jobs and exports on the other.
With the success of marine diamonds mining spurring interest in phosphate deposits, mining companies would not be allowed to undertake operations detrimental to the marine ecosystem, the Government backed by pressure groups has emphasised.
However, the environment ministry as reported in the daily papers last week approved an application by an Arab-majority owned company to extract marine phosphate from the sea, despite concerns about a lack of consultations and the danger to the ocean ecosystem.
Essentially, it may be pivotal to realise that phosphate, which will be used to make fertilisers and is expected to be extracted around 120 kilometres into the sea, south-west of Walvis Bay, for over 20 years may bring about huge economic benefits that may need to be embraced.
Notably, phosphate is a component in every living thing as it is essential for life. It is needed by the growing population of the world and there is no substitute for mined rock phosphate. Phosphate is needed for fertilizer for crop production, animal feed and industrial applications. Phosphate is an essential component in the manufacture of fertilizer products and is one of the world’s most sought after mineral needed by most countries to drive their agricultural sector.
About 90 percent of the phosphate rock that is mined goes into fertilizer; the rest serves many purposes in the chemical industry. Industries which can be established include beverages, fire fighting products, medicines, dental products, batteries, paint, porcelain products, cleaning agents, cosmetics, and the list continues.
The Namibia Marine Phosphate mining concession contains 1.8 billion tonnes of phosphate and is a loosely unconsolidated sandy material on the seafloor. The material comes in at 18 percent to 19 percent phosphorus pentoxide (P2O5), which screening and washing can beneficiate to between 27percent and 28percent commercial grade P2O5.
Following this approval, Namibia may aim at a 10 percent market share of the traded phosphate market of 30-million tonnes a year and the first phase of the 30-year life-of-mine in Walvis Bay will create 150 direct jobs and other 200 indirect jobs from a turnover of $300million a year.
In conclusion, though the Government has decided on a move that may prove to be decisive as far as economic growth is concerned there is still need for more work to be done in the preservation of the marine ecosystem whist harnessing all the benefits of marine phosphate mining.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015