Say marine phosphate mining off SA’s shores poses threat to marine ecosystems and commercial fishing.
JOHANNESBURG – South African environmentalists have added to the growing global dissent against seabed mining, calling for a moratorium on exploration related to bulk marine sediment mining in local waters.
According to Saul Roux, a legal campaigner at the Centre for Environmental Rights, bulk sediment marine mining is “equivalent to strip mining in the ocean”. This, as the process involves using a trailing suction hopper dredger (a ship with powerful suction pumps that run to the seabed) to dredge the seabed up to a depth of about three metres in order to remove marine sediment.
This sediment is then transferred to the shore where minerals are extracted before excess sediment and water is released back into the ocean.
Since 2012, the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) has granted three prospecting rights to Diamond Fields International and Green Flash Trading to use trailing suction hopper dredgers to mine approximately 150 000km² of the Western Cape seabed for phosphates, macro-nutrients used to fertilise agricultural crops.
While companies used concerns about food security to motivate for these rights, given South Africa’s vast terrestrial reserves Roux believes any phosphates mined in local waters would be for export.
“It seems completely irrational, they would essentially be destroying one form of food security on arguments around another,” he said, citing threats to the country’s commercial fishing industry as well as to communities which rely on fishing for their livelihoods.
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