Leviev Group expected project finance to cover about three quarters of a 20 billion Namibian dollar (R20bn) plan to mine phosphates from the Atlantic Ocean floor off the coast of Namibia, the company.

Financing “wouldn’t be that difficult”, Kombayedu Kapwanga, the managing director of the group’s Namibia Phosphates unit, said on Tuesday.

“About 25 percent of that will come from our own internal resources and the rest from project financiers.”

Leviev Group, the US holding company of the family of Israeli billionaire diamond merchant and property developer Lev Leviev, received permission from the Namibian government to build a pilot processing plant (in the country) before the completion of an environmental impact study by the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research and Sintef.

Should the government lift a ban on marine mining of phosphate, the group would aim to start commercial production from the estimated deposit of 2 billion tons in 2018, Kapwanga said. “There is nothing wrong with mining the sea floor, we have been doing that with diamonds for years now,” Kapwanga said.

The deposit “will be exploited with little disturbance to marine life”, he said, adding that the phosphate could supply agricultural markets in India and South America in addition to southern Africa.

“For us the bigger market is in India and Latin America, the regions with bigger agricultural industries.

“Namibia’s location makes it ideal to export to Asia and Latin America,” Kapwanga added.

– Bloomberg