A planned iron ore mine east of Windhoek may have significant benefits to the country, according to a Scoping Report and Draft Environmental Management Plan that was presented to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism last week.
The mine will have capacity to produce 400,000 tons of iron ore for export and create employment for hundreds of people with a lifespan of 40 years.
The ore will be exported through the Port of Walvis Bay.
Prospecting for iron ore started in 2013, with N$22 million having spent on exploration so far.
Brake Trading, a Namibian registered company, which is planning to develop the mine, says there is demand for iron based products worldwide.
“The proposed iron ore mine will contribute to the supply and thereby generate much needed job opportunities and income for the country. Iron mining will further diversify the Namibian economy.”
The company is majority owned by Jindal Steel and Power Mauritius Ltd, a subsidiary of Indian steel giant, Jindal Steel and Power.
According to scoping report, mining is expected to have a range of impacts which will emanate from the planning, construction, operational and decommissioning phases.
“Large economic contributions have already been made during the planning phase which includes prospecting activities. It is expected that these contributions in terms of taxes, royalties and employment will be extended to the operational phase.”
Geo Pollution Technologies (Pty) Ltd, which prepared the report, however, warned that long term side effects of the project must be thoroughly examined.
“One of the main concerns emanating from mining is the loss of land. This includes future agricultural land as well as future residential areas where the mine footprint falls within the townlands of Windhoek,” the report said.
“Mine planning reports must provide detailed proof as to why mining cannot be conducted subsurface, opposed to / rather than open pit mining.
“This should form part of the detailed assessment and it is important to consider the potential post closure costs of rehabilitating the area to a level acceptable to enable farming to a similar production level as currently achieved.”
The report said where the mining areas are within the townlands of Windhoek, it would be fair that such areas be rehabilitated to a state accommodating residential use that would be safe and without unnecessary loss of land.
“It is further important that the supply of water to the mine be included in the feasibility study of the project and that this assessment should include long-term sustainable supply to the mine.”
The report said the Water and Sanitation Policy states that all water is to be awarded according to priority, with the first priority being the provision of water for domestic use.
This, it said, might pose a risk to the supply of water for the mine and the consequences of such risk must be thoroughly assessed in the feasibility study.
“The groundwater specialist study, as part of the detailed assessment, should assess the volume of water that will be abstracted during pit dewatering and whether the volume and quality would be sufficient to augment water supply to the mine; thereby reducing demand from external sources.”
Geo Pollution said if such volumes exceed the demand of the mine, excess water should first be made available to surrounding groundwater users, potentially impacted by the pit dewatering process and then to the supply of central Namibia.