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'We are not against investments' - Luderitz
"..we want to benefit from this project"

By Asser Ntinda in Luderitz
Karas Region says it welcomes every investment in their region that is given a nod by an independent Environmental Impact Assessment study, EIA, but it also wants to know how its people will benefit from such investments directly and indirectly.

This view was expressly pronounced at a community briefing meeting organized by LLNamibia Phosphates, which is co-owned by the Leviev Group of Companies on its proposed Marine Phosphate Mining Project in Luderitz.

The briefing was attended by the Governor of //Karas Region, Cde Lucia Basson, Chairperson of the //Karas Regional Council, Cde Jan Scholtz, the Mayor of Luderitz Cde Suzan Ndjaleka, SWAPO Party Branch Coordinator and Deputy Mayor of Luderitz Town Council Cde Hilaria Mukapuli, and several other community leaders and business personalities from the fishing sector.

LL Namibia Phosphate wants to set up a multibillion dollar marine phosphate plant in Luderitz, which started with a N$200 million demonstration plant last year. The demonstration plant was set up to make experiments for the manufacture of fertilizer products from Namibia's rock phosphate sampled at a rich deposit in the ocean.

LLNP is the licence holder of this huge deposit, which according to geologists, may last for the next 500 to 600 years. But this project is vehemently opposed by a faceless lobby group based in Swakopmund.

Known as "Swakopmund Matters," this lobby group has been campaigning against marine phosphate mining in Namibia. Its campaign letters and reports first get published on the website of Earth Organization Namibia.

"We do not know this entity," said LLNP Director, Kombadayedu Kapwanga. "It has no spokesperson, no contact person. We do not know where to get them. How do you deal with a faceless entity? Is 'Swakopmund Matters' an extension of Earth Organization Namibia?" Luderitz Councilor and Chairperson of the //Karas Regional Council, Cde Jan Scholtz, said during the briefing that they had talked the talk, and the time had now come for them to walk the talk.

"This is an opportunity for us to hear from the horse's mouth," he said as he introduced LLNP delegation to Governor Basson and her delegation. "This is an opportunity for us to hear from them. Let us ask questions that will address our concerns as a region.

"This is a briefing, not a decision- making session. The final decision lies with our government and other stakeholders. We are being briefed about this massive project and what impact it will have on our lives as residents of //Karas Region in general and residents of Luderitz in particular.

"We should not just believe what we read in newspapers. Let us listen to them and compare it with what we read in newspapers. We will know where the truth is. Let us ask questions so that we are clear from here about what this project is all about and what it means for us."

Kapwanga started the briefing by saying that the envisaged marine phosphate mine would not affect the whole western coast of Namibia as some "faceless people" wanted the nation to believe. He said before the whole project got implemented in full, an EIA would have to be completed. The EIA would address the concerns of the fish and diamond operators so that they co-existed and complemented one another. "We are not going to say 'here we go, to hell with fish operators.'

That is not how things are done. The EIA will certainly clear all the concerns that are raised by all stakeholders," he said. "This is our coast. We must protect it. Those who have fishing quotas should be allowed to continue with their operations. Those who want to mine marine phosphate should also be allowed to do so. They should coexist without harming each other. "It does not make sense to kill one sector of our resources at the expense of another resource. The fishing sector is very important, but so too is marine phosphate mining. They should just coexist and complement each other mutually."

Kapwanga said the project was in line with Vision 2030 and Namibia's Fourth National Development Plan, NDP4. The targeted focus areas by NNLP were manufacturing, agriculture and infrastructure development, which were key areas in those documents.

He said government had since independence encouraged local beneficiation and value addition to its natural resources, thus accelerating industrialization and creating jobs to reduce poverty currently rampant in the country. "We are Namibians. We know that most of our natural resources , and to be specific, mineral resources do not benefit our people economically. Take diamonds as an example. Most of it is shipped out of the country. Only a small percentage is cut and polished here," said Kapwanga.

"But if you check the details, diamond mining is very expensive. The energy it consumes outstrips by far the economic value of the added value products. But with this marine phosphate mining plant, the picture is different. "We will use technology that is cost-effective, which will allow us to transmit about 54 MW to the national grid. We will also use our own fresh water, while the rest can be used by the town. "All these samples can be tested and verified at our experimentation plant. This project has the potential to change the face of //Karas Region as we know it today. Phosphate mining is the future."

Nearly 90 percent of mined phosphate rock goes into fertilizer for crop production and animal feed, which LLNP Director, Eli Nefussy, said were essential for life, adding that there was no substitute for phosphate.

"When we talk about crop production, food security comes to mind here. Imagine how many small and large crop farmers will increase their yields if they could access phosphate fertilizer cheaply, as would be the case with the phosphate fertilizer we will produce from here? The potential is huge," he said. "China produces its own phosphate fertilizer but they ban its export because, given their huge population, they know the value of phosphate fertilizer when it comes to food security."

Governor Basson spoke for many people in the //Karas Region when she said that the people here welcomed any investment that was EIA blessed, but the people always wanted to know what was in there for them. "I fully understand your briefing and as long as an investment like this gets the blessing of the government, we will support it. I am the political head of President Hage Geingob in //Karas Region," she said.

"I want to know, apart from job creation, how my people will benefit directly from this project. How are the shares owned? The resource is in this region, and people want to see how they will sustainably benefit from this project," she said.

"How high is the demand for phosphate fertilizer? How much of it will be exported to other region and outside the country? How will my people share in the profit? How much of it will be processed here? How many people from //Karas Region are involved?" Elly Shiyagaya from Seaflower Group of Company raised concerns about the health impacts the project might produce such as contamination and how such fears might be allayed. "We live in //Karas Region and if any pollution emanates from the plant, we will be the first victims. Much as we will be the first victims, we should also know how we are benefiting from this project."

Kapwanga assured the participants that everything would be processed here. LLNP had also signed a memorandum of understanding with Namport to jointly develop and extend the Luderitz Port through a PPP arrangement.

He said one-third of phosphate fertilizer mined and processed here would be for Namibia's local consumption, while twothirds would be for export. Leviev Group of Companies owns 76 percent, government owns 8 percent, National Youth Service owns two percent, SAMICOR employees own four percent, and a broadbased black economic group Longlife Mining Pty owns 10 percent.

"This is a huge project," said Nefussy. "The demand for phosphate fertilizer is very high. What we will produce here is just a drop in the sea. Given your support, this project will change the way we know Luderitz."


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