President Momis tells landowners to bow before the might of Rio Tinto

A mined mindIn an incredible address to Panguna landowners, made in February this year, President John Momis told communities to forget the crimes committed by Rio Tinto, and bow before the power of this corporate monolith.

Despite the fact Rio Tinto stands guilty of aiding and abetting the murder of civilians, Dr Momis argues that in fact to refuse Rio Tinto reentry into Panguna would be against international best practice. Does international best practice include aiding the slaughter of innocents?

Here are some of the most offensive passages from Momis’ speech:

“Many people have asked, why is the ABG so beholden to BCL?

Now the fact is this. The Bougainville Copper Agreement was made between the colonial Australian government and Rio Tinto. That agreement according to many of us, is a bad agreement. But unfortunately it is the agreement that governs the operation of the mine.

So if we just ignore it, then we could be creating the impression that the ABG does not believe in good governance, does not believe in established international best practices.

But if we, even before we start talking with them, without testing the waters, without finding out from them whether they are genuine or not, decide to either nationalise Panguna mine, or just expropriate it, then we could be up for libel. Remember Rio Tinto is a very powerful company!

Mining companies have their own associations, they dont step on each others toes they may compete against one another, but they have a very strong brotherhood, that has special rules and protocols that they respect.

So my suggestion to landowners and the people of Bougainville is for us to start negotiating, get our mining law passed, and start negotiating with them”.

You can listen to the original speech here:

rio tinto

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Solomons mine overflow could claim lives – miner

Locals walk through the Gold Ridge mine in 2003

Photographer: Torsten Blackwood/AFP via Getty Images

Rising water levels in tailings dam of Solomon Islands mine poses a threat to life and property.

Radio New Zealand

An Australian mine company says lives could be lost if there is not an immediate action to lower dangerous water levels in the tailings dam of the Gold Ridge mine in Solomon Islands.

The mine has been shut since April after extensive flooding on Guadalcanal.

The chief executive of Gold Ridge’s parent company, St Barbara, Bob Vassie, told Don Wiseman  not a day passes when he does not worry about the growing threat posed by the tailings dam.

He says the water level in the storage facility is already too high and the company is prepared to take immediate action to ensure there is no unpredictable overflow, but the Solomons’ government is dragging the chain.

BOB VASSIE: What the company wants to do and is prepared to fund and has the equipment available already. Is to mobilise two pumps and a large generator and fuel system to be able to immediately pump high volumes of water, into the existing lines that go into the Tinahula River. On the basis that the water is of acceptable quality, given the Australian and New Zealand standards and that it would also be further diluted in the river. Because the only other alternative, is that the water level will climb and will go over top  of the spillway and go into a gorge that has communities living along it.

DON WISEMAN: How quickly can you get in there?

BV: If we got the go ahead and we’ve been asking for this since the first of September. But if we got the go ahead today, we could probably get in, what we’ve been saying is seven days. But we’d look at every opportunity, with the support of the police and perhaps the Australian government or even the New Zealand government and people that deal with the Solomon Islands, that we would speed that up as much as we could.

DW: You need police support because you’ve had a lot of vandalism at the site and you can’t leave gear, the new gear you’d bring in you can’t leave that lying around?

BV: Exactly, I mean, well it’s been destroyed twice this year. And it’s not only just looking after the gear, it’s security. You know we have had threats on people as recently as last month who were trying to measure the situation at the tailings storage facility.

DW: The government has seemed co-operative but there’s been the elections so it’s been distracted somewhat hasn’t it?

BV: There has been an election, but we’ve been on about this for months. It’s just a stunning lack of leadership to make a very, very rational decision. This one thing, that could really cause a localised disaster, of either water or much worse happening.

DW: Are you suggesting that there could be lives lost?

BV: Yeah, it depends on the weather. If a lot of water comes down, it would over top the existing spillway. Now we were in the act of making a new lined spillway, but that equipment was destroyed. So the existing spillway, only has a sort of geo- fabric and conveyor belt to protect it. So in a higher rainfall event, what would happen is, water would over top and it would start to erode at the spillway. The more it erodes the lower the spillway gets and then compounds and you will get a lot of water coming out. If a lot of water comes out it will do two things. One is it will start to take tailings with it,which will be an environmental consequence that would not be good. The water you can generally deal with, because as we are saying, the water is OK. But bringing tailings into the environment is never a good thing. But then if it erodes enough that a lot of water comes out in a fairly quick time, there’s about a kilometre gorge before it hits the main river. That could cause localised flash flooding in those communities, which runs the risk of loss of life. Now, we’ve done all we can to try and convince the government to try and approve the alternative. Which is pumping clean water into the river, that’s not so clean itself. But what we’ve done now is warn the community, that if this was to happen, they need to be aware, that they may need to evacuate. And we have also in our response to the Ministry of Environment that if they are not prepared to approve our de-watering plan which was submitted twice now then we need to move from working to avoid a disaster to planning for one. And therefore the government should be developing evacuation plans, such that in the outcome there’s an environmental one that can be remediated rather than a loss of property and life.

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Potential Gold Ridge mine disaster raised in Solomon Islands ads

Solomon Island locals living near the St Barbara Gold Ridge mine are being warned lives could be lost and they may possibly have to evacuate with fears the mine’s tailings dam may overflow.

St-Barbara-allowed-back-to-Solomon-Islands-Gold-Ridge-mine-653271-lABC Radio Australia

The company took out advertisements in local newspapers today warning communities of the potential danger.

St Barbara’s CEO Bob Vassie says the water in the facility is already too high and is worried what further rain this wet season could lead to disaster.

Bob Vassie says the warnings are the last resort, after the Solomon Islands government refused to allow his company to release the untreated water in a controlled fashion.

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Nautilus paints a grim picture of the future for Pacific island nations

Arrogant Canadian miner Nautilus Minerals does not even acknowledge the widespread opposition to its mining plans from church groups, landowners, MPs and civil society groups across the Pacific…

Deep sea mining is the future in Papua New Guinea

The world’s first deep-sea mine will open in 2018 in the waters off Papua New Guinea, with purpose-built machinery to extract precious metals from the sea bed

The Telegraph UK

In the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea (PNG), at a project known as Solwara 1, Nautilus Minerals has been granted the first lease to mine the deep sea for metals.In to the deep: mining below sea level is being attempted for the first time in 2018 with subsea robotics

With scarcity in resources around the world and countries needing more and more metals to sustain everyday life, mining the ocean floor is being looked at as a way to meet this demand.

Nautilus holds approximately 450,000 km2 of highly prospective exploration acreage in the western Pacific – in PNG, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu and Tonga, as well as in international waters in the eastern Pacific.

Nautilus Minerals has been given a mining licence by the PNG government for its Solwara 1 site, and production will begin in 2018.

Advances in technology and the development of a legislative framework by the International Seabed Authority have made what was once thought of as impossible a reality.

Mike Johnston, CEO at Nautilus Minerals, says: “Technology offshore has exploded within the oil and gas industry. The oil and gas industry is spending $300-$400billion a year on offshore petroleum technology. We are using those lessons.

“We have had all of this potential. The technological improvements we have seen over the last 40 or 50 years have allowed us to keep going into deeper and deeper water.”

Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD), which has been developing technologies for the subsea oil and gas sector since the 1980s, will be providing the vehicles to be used for the mine.

Mike Jones, managing director at SMD, says: “We have worked closely with Nautilus to develop three vehicles that will be remotely operated to extract and collect minerals from the mine. There are significant challenges to create a mining system that will reliably operate more than a mile deep on a seafloor terrain of peaks and valleys. We have taken machinery used daily in land mining and tunnelling and married it with our know-how in subsea robotics.

“The individual machines weigh about the same as 20 London buses. Each is designed to carry out the specific tasks to build the mine-site roads and benches; extract the ore through cutting; and then deliver it to a huge subsea pump that brings it to the surface. The operation of the machines is directed from a control centre on the vessel. Here, pilots and co-pilots monitor and control each vehicle using the sonar and camera images that are relayed from each vehicle via an umbilical link.”

Resources being mined on land are becoming scarcer. The demand for copper is doubling every 15 to 20 years, as countries such as China and India industrialise.

Preliminary discoveries have shown that resources on the seafloor are enormous. Johnston says: “Why would we want to continue to stress our planet and try to feed the world from the 30 per cent of the planet we can inhabit and ignore the other 70 per cent? That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

“Looking at the ocean, there are very large deposits of seafloor massive sulphides (SMSs), copper, nickel, cobalt and polymetallic nodules. And they are very high-grade compared with land-based deposits. On land the copper grade is now on average 0.6 per cent.

“SMS deposits have copper grades alone of nearly eight per cent, plus they contain around five or six grams of gold, which is a higher grade than most gold mines on land. Then if you look at the nodules, the deposits have grades of more than one per cent copper and more than one per cent nickel, 26 per cent manganese, and nearly 0.3 per cent cobalt. There is more copper on the sea floor than all the reserves on land.”

As this is the first commercial deep-sea mining project, Nautilus has been receiving interest from governments, authorities and other companies to see how it can be done environmentally safely and economically.

Johnston says: “The trick is to do it right, which is what we are trying to do. We have been watched very closely and most people you talk to will tell you we are doing it right.”

Johnston explains the carbon footprint of deep-sea mining is smaller than on land. He says: “We are going to great lengths to make it, environmentally, one of the smallest footprints of any operation anywhere in the world.

“There is only so much recycling we can do, and there is only so much we can do on land. If mines get bigger, the footprints are getting even more enormous, the strip ratios are getting higher and higher. With seafloor mining, the footprints are very small and it is highly scalable. Once you do the first one and learn the lessons, the next one will be even better and then you will be able to do debt finance and people will want to be able to provide that finance.”

Countries in the western Pacific want to know more about the project as a way of helping to sustain their development.

“We are talking to a lot of governments in the western Pacific – smaller nations which are interested in it because they do not have any other opportunities,” Johnston says. “They only have a bit of fishing and that is about it.

“Some of these countries do not even have a tourism industry as they are too remote. Exporting resources on the sea-floor is something they are interested in doing, so long as it is done right. A lot of them are watching and speaking to the PNG government to try to learn about it.

“The PNG government is a very supportive partner for us, and over the last six months they have worked really hard to get these final deals secured, bring us into production and make it happen.”

In partnership with SMD, Nautilus Minerals is pioneering the development of undersea mining. Governments, authorities and companies are already looking to it for guidance on how deep-sea extraction can be achieved safely and economically.

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Harmony Gold’s Golpu Project moves to feasibility


Zacks Equity Research

Harmony Gold Mining Company Limited announced that its board has approved the updated prefeasibility study (PFS) of the Golpu Project in Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and has also agreed to move the project to feasibility study stage.

The updated prefeasibility study covers the first stage (Stage 1) of Golpu’s development, which targets the upper higher value portion of the orebody.  The Stage 1 project capital on a 100% basis is estimated at $2.3 billion, and is expected to yield an attractive return on investment with an internal rate of return of 17%. In order to support the feasibility study, the updated prefeasibility study proposes the development of twin exploration declines to establish further geotechnical and geological data. A decision on the declines is expected in first-half 2015.

Work will continue on optimizing a second stage mine development (Stage 2), which will include the rest of the ore reserves. The feasibility study for the first stage and the updated prefeasibility study for the second stage of the project are expected to be complete by the end of 2015.

Stage 1 is expected to have a life of roughly 27 years and the mining and processing infrastructure of Stage 1 would be utilized to support development of Stage 2.

According to Harmony, Golpu is a promising orebody which contains mineral resources of 20 million ounces of gold and 9.4 million tons of copper. Attributable annual production for Harmony averages at 500 000 gold equivalent ounces per year over 2024 to 2029.

Harmony stated that by lowering the capital of the project and operating costs and improving the rate of return, the primary objectives of the study have been achieved. The Golpu project has the potential to provide considerable benefits to local and regional communities and the broader economy of PNG, including local business opportunities, taxation and royalty revenues to all levels of government.

Both Harmony and Newcrest own 50% of the Golpu Project through the Wafi-Golpu Joint Venture. Harmony plans to fund the earlier stages of the project from internal cash flows, and is reviewing other financing options for the latter stages.

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NZ: Company confident it will mine seabed

Chatham Rise

Radio New Zealand

The company that wants to mine rock phosphate from the seabed east of New Zealand expects to hear next month whether it will get approval.

Chatham Rock Phosphate has mining licence covering more than 800 square kilometres of the Chatham Rise about 450km off the Canterbury coast. But it needs a marine consent for the operation to take up to 1.5 million tonnes of rock phosphate a year from the sea floor.

A committee appointed by the Environmental Protection Authority finished hearing submissions last week and was due to make its decision by the end of January.

In the meantime, the company had been doing further work to assess the performance of Chatham Rock Phosphate compared with other fertilisers on the market.

Chief executive Chris Castle said glasshouse trials by Lincoln and AgResearch scientists confirmed its effectiveness as a direct application fertiliser.

“Really we know what the outcome was going to be. We knew that the results would be good, but one particularly interesting surprise this time was the fact that the uptake (by the plants) was very quick.

“The trials back in the 80’s showed that the Chatham Rock Phosphate was a slow starter, it took a while to catch up and eventually it had the same efficacy as super phosphate. The difference this time was that it was up and running right away.”

Mr Castle said Chatham Rock Phosphate was planning to do field trials next year.

The timing of those would depend on the outcome of is marine consent application, which has been opposed by environmental groups as well as fishing and Maori interests concerned about the impact of the mining operation on the sea floor and marine life.

“If the application is not immediately approved, we’ll probably defer our tests because we’ll be in a position where we’ll be fundraising for the next stage of the legal process. We have no intention of going away. If this is not approved, we will either appeal or we can relodge (the application).”

Mr Castle was confident the application would succeed, despite strong oppostion.

“There’s been some strongly expressed opinions, but the facts have stacked up well and the experts acting for the oppositon have actually agreed with our experts – that there’s no effect on fishing, the effects on the environment will be short term and sporadic and cover a very limited footprint of the Chatham Rise, so I’m very, very confident of a successful outcome.”

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Australia’s neocolonial strategy on Bougainville

As Julie Bishop, Australia’s Foreign Minister, arrives in Bougainville for a series of meetings and events, it is timely for us to reflect on Australia’s neo-colonial strategy for Bougainville and how it is being executed…


Julie Bishop is in Bougainville as part of Australia’s strategy to continue its domination over the island

It goes without saying that stability and security is important to the people of the South Pacific who want to lead happy, independent lives free of exploitation. But of course stability is a fragile thing, and can regularly be threatened by a range of domestic and international forces.

One of the most significant international threats to stability in the region lies to the south in the form of the Australian government. It has used its military might, and extraordinary economic power over the past century to annex parts of South Pacific, and/or dominate national political elites.

The Australian government does this so it can open up the natural wealth of the South Pacific to foreign corporations, which make huge profits both through the extractive industries itself, and by supporting the extractive industries through finance, construction, transport and communications.

Bougainville stands out as one nation which has stood up to the Australian government, evicted their corporate monolith, Rio Tinto, and removed Australia’s destabilising influence. In response the Australian government flooded Bougainville with PNG troops in an attempt to reinstate control via Port Moresby. The people of Bougainville paid a very heavy price to come out victorious.

But this did not end Australian government efforts to assert dominance over Bougainville, and its resources. No, instead these efforts have changed form, from military force to economic and political might.

With their money-power Australia no longer floods Bougainville with PNG troops, instead it sends ‘aid’ and ‘advisers’. But this is not to help the people, but forge new chains for Bougainville.

Lets look at one prime example. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), which oversaw the PNG military effort, now funds dozens of advisers who we are told come to Bougainville to ‘help’ us ‘develop’, which is code for opening up our natural resources for foreign companies.

One avenue of influence is the State Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) project, an Australian university think tank fully funded by DFAT to collect intelligence on the region and report back to Australian government officials.

The project even boasts about how much influence their staff have on our national governments. Lets take the controversial example of Anthony Regan, President Momis’ close adviser, who is also the head of the extractive industries research cluster at SSGM. SSGM states in its last annual report:

‘Anthony Regan continues to assist the Autonomous Bougainville Government in implementing the Bougainville Peace Agreement. This work includes negotiating the financial arrangements under the Agreement, consulting with stakeholder and community groups about the future of large-scale mining in Bougainville, and assisting in the development of the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s legislation on mining. Anthony works closely with President John Momis and the Minister for Mining in this work’.

SSGM even boasts that Regan, who has been parachuted into the President’s office, goes back to Australia and briefs the Foreign Minister and DFAT on what he has learnt about Bougainville:

‘SSGM continues to play an integral role in the formulation of Australia’s policy in Bougainville … Anthony Regan regularly participates in consultations with a specially convened group in DFAT, chaired by the Deputy Secretary, DFAT. This group monitors political, social, and economic issues in Bougainville’.

Image: Anthony Regan reports regularly to the Australian government on Bougainville affairs.

Anthony Regan reports regularly to the Australian government on Bougainville affairs.

In fact SSGM claims it acts as a resource centre for the Australian government, ‘in the last 12 months, we [SSGM] have conducted over 100 discrete briefings’. Beneficiaries of these briefings include DFAT, the Department of Defence and Australia’s intelligence agency, the Office of National Assessment.

What we are seeing is a new method of asserting Australia’s power abroad. It is no longer troops but advisers Australia sends to Bougainville. They then write our laws, ‘advise’ our senior statesman, and provide them with ‘information’ on the proper course Bougainville should steer – and why is it this course involves opening up Bougainville to Australian miners and land-grabbers?!

These same advisers then go back to Canberra and tell the Australian government – who bankrolls their operations – all they have learnt about Bougainville when working in the ABG.

It is a very good thing the war is over, but those defeated in the battlefield will always try to win by other means so they can take Bougainville’s resources, and once again control our nation. Political tools must now be used to challenge Australia’s destabilising influence in the region.


Filed under Corruption, Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea