BirdLife South Africa is a member of the Safeguard our Seabed coalition, because we are deeply concerned about the untested, but potentially catastrophic consequences of marine phosphate mining. In 2012 and 2014, the Department of Mineral Resources granted three rights to prospect for marine phosphate to private companies. These rights cover approximately 10% of South Africa’s marine environment.
The prospecting areas directly coincide with critically endangered ecosystems and our largest fishing grounds, including South Africa’s only Marine Stewardship Council accredited fishery, which BirdLife South Africa’s Albatross Task Force has worked with since 2004 to prevent seabird bycatch.
Since prospecting rights are being granted there is every indication that marine mining will become a reality. This is of concern for a number of reasons:
Apart from bulk marine sediment mining, Operation Phakisa: Ocean Economy plans to unlock the economic potential of our marine environment. This includes rapidly promoting marine petroleum and mineral extraction. Currently, 98% of our exclusive economic zone has been leased for offshore oil and gas exploration. Operation Phakisa aims to fast track the drilling of thirty wells in the next ten years and develop infrastructure such as a phased gas pipeline network. Government has furthermore recently granted rights for a range of other industrial practices including coastal and offshore mineral sand mining and unconventional gas exploration such as offshore ‘fracking’.