The clarification comes after an MP questioned the energy minister about the ramifications of delivering an environmental approval certificate to a port dredging company.
Rabat – Morocco’s Ministry of Energy, Mines, and the Environment issued a press release on Wednesday to clarify the environmental impact evaluation of a marine sand mining project in Larache, northern Morocco, following “erroneous” claims from politicians, NGOs, and the press.
The misinformation demonstrates a need to elucidate Morocco’s legislative framework for environmental impact assessments, according to the statement.
Many know sand mining as a practice that can cause serious environmental destruction.
The sand mining project in the commune of Sahel falls under law 03.12, which frames the basis for an environmental impact study, in addition to law 27.13 related to quarry exploitation, and law 81.12 relating to Morocco’s coast line.
The project underwent evaluation as per law 12.03 relating to environmental impact studies, for the first time after many years of sand mining in the region. The law also defines the procedures of law 03.12 about environmental impact studies.
The ministry revealed that local authorities had conducted a 20-month study to gather input from locals, especially residents and NGOs, before announcing the project.
The study underwent the assessment of Morocco’s National Committee of Environmental Impact Studies — which eventually approved the project by a majority vote — throughout meetings to study the eligibility of the project on January 22, 2019, February 26, 2019, and July 27, 2020.
Seven out of 10 organizations in the region of Larache emphasized the positive impact of the project, according to the ministry. However, the statement did not explicitly state if these “positive impacts” refer specifically to positive environmental impacts.
The ministry also clarified that its role involves evaluating environmental impact potential and recommending appropriate measures. Approving environmental acceptability does not equate to authorizing a project.
Additionally, it mentioned that if environmental issues arise, unknown at the time of environmental eligibility approval, it is possible to pause or end the operation. The ministry welcomed the idea of meeting with concerned stakeholders to transparently address any concerns.
The ministry’s release follows the Moroccan House of Representatives’ decision to form a commission to explore sand mining in Morocco.
The lower house’s Committee on Infrastructure, Energy, Minerals and the Environment is forming the exploratory commission.
The creation of the commission comes after a member of parliament from the Authenticity and Modernity party asked the minister of energy and minerals about the ramifications of delivering an environmental approval certificate to Darpor, a port dredging company, to operate near Larache.