Windhoek, Namibia — 20 September 2013 – The government of Namibia has placed a moratorium on planned marine phosphate mining off the country’s coastal waters for the next 18 months, until an environmental impact study has shown that mining will not destroy the fishing industry. No other country in the world conducts marine phosphate mining”

The decision will, at least for the time-being, defuse growing tension between the fishing industry and environmentalists on one side, and mining companies that claim they would invest a lot of money to create jobs and exports, reports

“We decided to place a moratorium,” minister of fisheries and marine resources Bernard Esau said in an interview.

The fishing industry, which is the second or third biggest foreign currency earner for Namibia, has strongly opposed the idea of phosphate mining on fishing grounds. Namibian Marine Phosphate and LL Namibia Phosphates are the two companies that have been granted mining licences for marine phosphate mining.

Esau said although the companies had been granted mining licences by the Ministry of Mines and Energy they did not have environmental clearance licences, meaning that they could not go ahead with operations. Esau added that cabinet had accepted a submission he entered that a moratorium be placed until an Environmental Impact Study and a Scoping Report had been prepared to determine whether mining would destroy fishing resources.

“Phosphate mining in the ocean has never been done anywhere in the world. It’s a greenfield project and we have no information on the subject,” Esau said.

On the possibility of law suits from the companies that have already been granted mining licences, Esau said the government had strong legal grounds, since environmental clearance had not been given. “We will battle them, they will lose.” Esau said the environmental impact study would start next month.

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