Israel’s Leviev Group (LGC) aims to start mining fertilizer material phosphate off Namibia’s coast by 2018, after addressing concerns that led the country last year to announce an 18-month freeze on new environment permits for marine mines.
The Leviev group of companies is controlled by Lev Leviev, diamond baron and the controlling shareholder of Africa Israel Investments.
Deep-sea mining has attracted growing interest as technology has opened up new resources that could replace depleted land mines. But projects have stirred debate about environmental risks in the southwest African country and elsewhere.
LGC hopes a demonstration processing plant it plans to launch this year at the port of Luderitz will address such concerns and allow full-scale construction work to proceed so production can start in 2017 or 2018, Erez Mishal, vice president, business development and operations, said on Tuesday.
“This will help us to obtain the license,” he said on the sidelines of the CRU Phosphates 2014 conference.
LGC, which has gold and diamond mines and previously extracted diamonds from the seabed off Namibia in partnership with De Beers, estimates it can mine about 2 million tons of phosphate rock a year at a depth of up to 900 feet below the sea in a deposit it evaluates at 2 billion tons.
Phosphate is one of three major crop nutrients, along with potash and nitrogen.
LGC is touting the project, which is being developed by its subsidiary LL Namibia Phosphates, as offering the lowest phosphate rock production costs in the world at a projected $16.61 a ton, supported by a new, acid-based processing technique that reduces the need to remove impurities first from the rock.
This would be about half the $33 a ton reported by Mosaic , the world’s biggest maker of finished phosphate products, as its average phosphate rock mining cost last year.