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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Seabed Mining: Lessons from the Namibian Experience

  Alex Benkenstein
SAIIA Policy Briefing No 87, April 2014

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Governance of Africa's Resources Programme

Until recently, exploiting valuable minerals in deep waters beyond the continental shelf has not been commercially or technologically viable. Closer to shore, limited seabed mining operations have been developed for a range of commodities, including diamonds in Namibia and South Africa, and tin in Indonesia. As marine mining technology has advanced and the demand for minerals has grown in recent years there has been a renewed interest in the mineral wealth of the seabed. However, there has been concern at the environmental impact of such activities and potential conflicts with other economic activities, particularly fisheries. While exploration for seabed minerals has focused predominantly on the Pacific region, the debates surrounding seabed mining are of increasing relevance to African states. Applications have been made to explore for seabed minerals in the waters off Madagascar and Mauritius, and exploration is underway along South Africa’s coast. This briefing provides some detail on the Namibian experience, where opposition by environmental groups and the country’s fishing industry has led to a moratorium on the proposed seabed mining of phosphates.

Author: Alex Benkenstein