WALVIS BAY, Namibia, Oct 31 (Bernama) -- Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy, Willem Isaacks, officially opened the Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP) head office here on Tuesday, Namibia's press agency reported.
NMP intends to develop the world's first marine phosphate project off the Namibian coast, and will seek to develop the country as a premier rock phosphate producer, contributing to the economy and supporting ongoing crop production.
Speaking during the opening, Isaacks indicated that the Namibian Government through the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) encourages private sector exploration and development.
He said NMP has been granted a mining licence by the MME on condition that it satisfies all the necessary requirements, but the company still needs to obtain environmental clearance to be able to start with its actual operations.
"The project will offer immense opportunities for beneficiation down the line as phosphate is used in various products other than fertilisers," Isaacks said.
The planned Sandpiper Marine Phosphate project is located 140 kilometres south of Walvis Bay and 60 kilometres from the shore-line.
The water depth in the area varies from 180 metres to 300 meters, and has a licence area of 25.2 kilometres wide and 115 kilometres long, covering roughly 2,233 square kilometres.
The company has faced opposition from concerned groups made up of coastal residents and environmentalists, whose biggest concern is the dredging process involved in the mining.
The phosphates will be mined at the bottom of the ocean, leaving concerned groups worried about its impact on marine life.
Also speaking during the opening of the head office, NMP Operations Chief Executive Officer Barnabas Uugwanga said the company is well aware and takes note of the concern that has been raised mainly by the fishing industry and other interested parties on the possible impact of the planned activities.
He explained that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and environmental management plan for the project was submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in March 2012.
"No significant impact of the project has been identified on the surrounding marine environment; a separate EIA is being prepared for onshore activities of the project," Uugwanga stated.
The project is believed to be the largest identified marine phosphate deposit in the world and will place Namibia seventh in the world.
Uugwanga said a definitive feasibility study of the project was completed in April 2012 by lead consultant Bateman Advanced Technologies, in association with Jan de Nul, Paterson and Cooke Consulting Engineers, Lithon Project Consultants and Enviro Dynamics.
"The phosphate deposit resource is estimated to be 1.9 billion tonnes for phosphate sand at 19 per cent Phosphate Oxide," Uugwanga said.
The company plans to develop the phosphate deposit using trailing suction hopper dredging technology and extract marine sediments from the sea bed.
The extracted sediments will be transferred to an integrated hopper of the vessel and then pumped to shore.
The feasibility study also showed that between 400 and 500 jobs will be created during the construction of the NMP plant and associated infrastructure.
A total of 150 direct permanent jobs will be created during the first phase of the project, while an additional 200 indirect jobs will be created through outsourcing of services.
"Mining of phosphate in Namibia will open doors for various secondary industries such as producing animal feed phosphate, food graded phosphate, cosmetic graded phosphate and various phosphate products," he said.