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SWAKOPMUND MATTERS: Open Letter To Ban Ki-Moon

SWAKOPMUND MATTERS (13 – 2012)

OPEN LETTER TO THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon

Secretary-General of the United Nations

U.N. Headquarters

New York, N.Y.

U.S.A.

by e-mail

27 August 2012

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

New Threat to Oceans and Marine Life: Marine Phosphate Mining

We, as Swakopmund Matters* in Namibia, are greatly encouraged by your timeous remarks during the launch of the U.N. Oceans Compact at the Law of the Sea commemorative conference in Yeosu, Republic of Korea, on 12 August 2012.

Your remark that “the seas and oceans host some of the most vulnerable and important ecosystems on Earth” is particularly fitting to the case of Namibia.

Equally true for Namibia is your warning that “the diversity of life they host is under ever-increasing strain”.

The latest strain which our country’s marine life is facing is the mining of phosphate sediments in its shelf waters.

We believe that a wider audience should be informed of these projects. It is our view that these projects will have serious consequences for Namibia’s rich marine ecosystems, their biodiversity and the fishing industries which they support. The same holds true for other countries where such projects and other deep sea mining activities are being planned – Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Jamaica, South Africa and New Zealand.

Renowned local and international marine scientists, who have spent many years studying the unique Namibian offshore ecosystems, have been raising their voices in concern of the destructive nature and the long-term or permanent impacts these proposed mining projects could have on sea floor communities and the surrounding environment. Such unsustainable mining ventures threaten the health of the marine ecosystems and the productive fisheries that depend on them. These concerns are based on supportive facts and well-reasoned arguments by the scientists who understand this system better than anyone else, and not on emotional sensationalism as the proponents like to claim. The scientists who have studied these ecosystems are warning of potentially serious consequences that require in-depth study before any mining is allowed to take place and are rightly calling for the precautionary approach to be followed.

Nowhere in the world have similar marine phosphate projects been undertaken before. These projects are the antithesis of what you described as the need “to create new momentum for ocean sustainability”. They will not only halt such momentum, but will promote unsustainable and damaging industry in our healthy oceans for the sake of quick profits to foreign based companies.


If these projects go ahead, they will make a mockery of the U.N. slogan that “the oceans are the very foundation of human life”.

Such mining projects are in direct opposition to the fundamental tenets of the Ocean Compact you described as being there to improve “the health of the oceans” and for “protecting, recovering and sustaining the oceans’ environment and natural resources, and restoring their full food production and livelihoods services”.

We agree wholeheartedly with your call that the governance of oceans and coastal habitats must be improved by developing an institutional and legal framework for the protection of ocean biodiversity.

Furthermore, we welcome your announcement that in order to realise these objectives of the Oceans Compact an Action Plan will have to be formulated by the Ocean Advisory Group you intend to establish.

Our sincere request is that you will ensure that this eminent advisory group does place marine mining – and, in particular, marine phosphate mining - firmly on its agenda. That will ensure that the consequences can be further explored by internationally recognised and independent marine scientists. An authoritative stance by this group is imperative and urgent, as there is rapidly growing interest globally to exploit seabed minerals. We are sincerely hopeful that the efforts of such an advisory group will provide tangible results towards the responsible management of our oceans.

We thank you for your intervention with this advisory group and for alerting its members to the necessity of paying due consideration to marine phosphate mining during its deliberation. We hope that your group will manage to formulate policy guidelines that will help prevent this marine activity from becoming a scourge to marine life, its unique biodiversity and rich fishery resources.

We need to act now to avoid future generations blaming us for our apathy in the face of well-reasoned warnings about the potential destruction of their heritage.

With highest esteem,

Signed

Swakopmund, Namibia

(For Swakopmund Matters the environment of the Namibian coastline and its ocean matters)

*Swakopmund Matters started out last year because of the concern for all the negative effects a planned Industrial Complex north of Swakopmund would have on its environment and the inhabitants. Apart from its land-based facilities, this project wants to mine phosphates off the coast of Namibia. That in addition to three others also planning such marine activities.

Swakopmund Matters has become a voice informing the concerned public as well as interested and affected parties to raise awareness of the potential damage these four projects could cause to the environment, especially the marine ecosystems and their rich fishery resource.

The threat that marine phosphate mining poses is not only a concern for the residents of Swakopmund and surrounding towns, but for all Namibians and many international institutions and citizens.

ENDS

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