The official okay for West Coast deep-sea phosphate mining has put South Africa's entire fishing industry at risk. Environmentalists describe the move as "reckless, greedy and stupid".
Against all expert advice and international best practice and with close to zero public scrutiny, the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) has given the go-ahead for phosphate prospectors to drill holes all over the West Coast’s most sensitive marine habitats and richest fishing grounds. This has provoked a storm of protest – not just from environmentalists but from the entire commercial fishing industry and even fellow cadres in other departments.
Offshore phosphate mining would be a world-first for South Africa. No other government has been reckless, greedy or stupid enough to allow the large-scale destruction of its marine ecosystem by mining companies chasing a fast-buck from the global fertiliser squeeze.
Unfortunately, in South Africa, the department responsible for encouraging the mining industry is the same one that gets the final say on whether the environment can withstand the inevitable assault.