Namibia imposes moratorium on coastal phosphate mining

The government of Namibia has banned phosphate mining off the country's coast for the next 18 months citing fears that the activities could destroy the fishing industry.

There are two companies with phosphate mining permits, All Africa writes. They will have to wait until environmental studies determine to what extend ocean life would be impacted.

Namibia is currently the only country that conducts marine phosphate mining and so there is very little information on its effects.

The country's fishing industry has been pushing hard for the moratorium – as have environmentalists.

Whether or not the permit-holding companies can sue the government is unclear. Bernard Esau, the minister for fisheries and marine resources, says the government has "strong legal grounds" because it had not granted environmental clearance licenses.

"We will battle them, they will lose," he told All Africa reporters.

The allegedly affected companies – Namibian Marine Phosphate and LL Namibia Phosphates – told the publication that they were unaware of the moratorium.

Earlier this year, a member of the environmental group Earth Organisation Namibia lamented the mining plans, saying the country's waters would become a "testing ground."