Below is a letter from environmental organisation Swakopmund Matters in Namibia to the Australian government raising serious concerns from Namibian community about Australian companies wanting to mine their seabeds.
OPEN LETTER TO:
Hon Julia Gillard MP Prime Minister of Australia
Hon. Tony Burke, Minister of Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
MARINE PHOSPHATE MINING OFF THE COAST OF NAMIBIA AND THE INVOLVEMENT OF TWO AUSTRALIAN COMPANIES
We are writing to you to congratulate you on the decision to establish the world’s largest national network of marine reserves whereby the magnificent diversity of Australia’s ocean ecosystems will now be protected. It is indeed a victory for your oceans - a significant and historic step.
While we rejoice in your great achievement, we in Namibia feel despondent about the future of our own ocean, its marine resources and its unique ecosystem.
This is due to the intended exploration by two AUSTRALIAN companies (Minemakers and UCL) for marine phosphates off the coast of Namibia. This project called Sandpiper has become the subject of real concern to all those who are anxious about the negative effects to be brought about by such mining. The still sound fishing industry of Namibia will be severely affected and marine life destroyed. Enough international experts can testify that that will be the result if this project were it to go ahead.
A fishing industry and phosphate exploration can’t co-exist. Namibians are perfectly aware of the fact that a well-managed fishing industry represents sustainable utilization of a renewable resource, whereas seabed mining is highly destructive of the entire marine ecosystem. To mix the two is to court disaster.
On 6 March 2012 the Government of the Northern Territory imposed a moratorium that no mining off the Territory’s sea bed would be possible until 2015. As you are aware during this period a comprehensive assessment will be undertaken to determine the impact of exploration and mining, while the Government will also be seeking to work with the other States and Territories on developing a nationally consistent approach to seabed mining.
Yet these two Australian companies see themselves above what would not be permissible in their own country. To enter the Namibian ocean for their own financial gain sits fine with them – regardless of the consequences and the environmental and social calamity they will leave behind.
Namibia’s Environmental Commissioner has already on two occasions publicly announced that he had not granted Environmental Clearance for the project because of inadequate consultations with all interested and affected parties, as required by Namibian legislation. The companies’ response is basically that of indignation.
Has the time not come that Australian companies operating overseas to be govern by the same standards and regulations that are in force in their own country? Surely the Australian population will not be too impressed were they to know more about these companies’ extra-territorial behaviour.
We thank you for your attention and look forward to the day when we in Namibia will be equally fortunate to say that our ocean has achieved a victory.
A similar letter is being sent to the Hon. Prime Minister. A copy of that signed letter is attached
With the highest esteem.
(For Swakopmund Matters the environment of the Namibian coastline and its ocean matters).