Chatham Rock Phosphate is sharing its experience of New Zealand’s environmental consenting regime to assist Namibia in designing an environmental assessment process for its seabed phosphate resources.
The Namibian government sought input from interested parties to define the content of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of phosphate mining off Namibia and on-shore phosphate processing.
CRP has just concluded a process seeking a marine consent from New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Authority. A decision will be announced next week, the company said.
CRP has applied through a Namibian subsidiary to explore marine phosphate deposits in Namibian waters. The applications will be considered by the Ministry of Mines and Energy when Namibia’s regional EIA is completed and the moratorium on exploration is lifted.
Managing Director Chris Castle said CRP decided to comment on the Namibia seabed environmental assessment project given the company’s first-hand New Zealand experience.
“CRP’s environmental research and consultation had to be of the highest quality to comply with the rigorous standards demanded by the EPA process. This was demonstrated by the fact that the conferencing between experts during the marine consent hearing process achieved broad levels of agreement on most of our scientific findings.
“We were told by Namibian government officials that New Zealand is viewed as developing international best practice standards for marine mining and so we are keen to support efforts for that to be achieved as widely as possible.”
CRP was awarded a mining permit over the key resource area on the Chatham Rise in December 2013 and submitted its Environmental Impact Assessment in May 2014 as a prelude to the marine consent process.
“More than $30 million has been spent on the project in the last seven and a half years covering exploration, engineering and environmental studies,” Castle said. “CRP investigations have contributed to the Chatham Rise being now regarded as one of the best researched and understood marine environments in the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone.”
The research undertaken by CRP over the past four years has included analysis of oceanographic conditions, trace elements and toxicology, fish population dynamics, mammal and seabird behaviours, sea floor environmental surveys, plus modelling the interconnections of marine organisms, sediment plume dynamics, the distribution of benthic communities, and the potential impacts from mining on the marine ecosystem.
The information provided by CRP to the Namibian government includes electronic links to the EPA website containing the full EIA, transcripts of the hearing, expert evidence, public submissions and associated information presented during the 26-day hearing process, CRP wrote.
The response, based on recent experience, includes CRP’s commentary on the tasks required for a robust assessment of the marine environment and the potential impacts of marine mining. In its response CRP emphasized the importance of identifying and consulting with existing interests, collecting baseline information on oceanographic conditions and environmental linkages and sensitivities, and using numerical models to predict the nature and extent of impacts from marine mining.