We need to look below the surface
Phil McCabe | The Domion Post
In the wake of two out of two failed seabed mining applications in less than a year, the sensible move for our Government at this point would be to place a moratorium on seabed mining in New Zealand waters.
The first Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision denying an ironsands proposal off Patea, Taranaki, last June stated that, overall, the application was premature. And that is precisely the point.
Moratoria have been placed in both the Northern Territory of Australia and Namibia to allow for more information to emerge and time for the people and authorities to better understand the implications of seabed mining.
Seabed mining has grown considerably in the consciousness of New Zealanders. Before the double denial from the EPA on the first two applications to mine for minerals in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), awareness was restricted to those pushing for – and against – the novel industry establishing itself off our shores.
On the one hand we have a Government standing with open arms bellowing, “Haere mai, we’ve got minerals, come get ‘em world”, and its call has been answered by the few who smelled the gold in them hills, pouring millions of dollars on the application process, only to be denied by the very regime that invited them in.
Then we have coastal communities, affected iwi and existing users of the marine environment uniting and spending countless hours and considerable resources fighting to protect their values, way of life and existing livelihoods.
The reality is that it’s an extremely complex situation and, it seems, no-one is prepared to back down at this point. There is too much at stake.
It cannot be denied that mining for minerals from the seabed, as proposed by the two companies, is destructive.
Scientifically, we have only scratched the surface when it comes to understanding the complexities of our marine environment, let alone what the effects would be if the untested activity of large-scale mining were introduced.
And no-one in the world has done seabed mining of this kind yet. The science and the engineering are new, and untested. Should we be the guinea pigs?
Our EEZ is massive: 20 times our land area and it is poorly understood. But the Government should not be relying solely on industry to fill the information vacuum. Its opening up of these areas was premature.
The EPA, in its Chatham Rock decision, said “it is incontestably the case that there remained significant gaps in the data and information provided about the consent area’s marine environment as well as uncertainty about the impact of the proposal on existing interests and the environment”.
It is time for the national discussion that one would expect for an issue that touches the core of New Zealand values and is of such potential significance to our environment and economy.
The Environmental Defence Society has called for a spatial planning exercise for our EEZ. I imagine that would be a considerable process but it would go a long way to resolving many of the unresolved issues that have surfaced.
Kiwis Against Seabed Mining, supported by by other groups, called for a moratorium on seabed mining in October 2013. In light of these decisions, it makes more sense than ever, offering time for a civil and proper process to take place.
The other options for Government would be to do nothing, which would be fine by us, as the bar has clearly been set high enough to stop applications in the absence of information.
Or it could bend to commercial pressure and roll back its legislation to favour industry, lower environmental standards and reduce the ability for we, the people, to have a say in the health of our oceans. That would be entirely unacceptable.
Phil McCabe is a tourism business owner from Raglan, and chairman of community group Kiwis Against Seabed Mining.
Use of force to Open Mine
Anthony Kaybing | New Dawn
A recent statement in the blogs site Papua New Guinea Mine Watch has come under fire following its misquotations of a speech given by Autonomous Bougainville Government President Grand Chief Dr. John Momis.
The scathing report gives a tainted view of the President’s outlook on the sensitive Panguna Mine issue with the report implying that the President is hell bent on reopening the mine by force and also expressing his dissatisfaction of the Panguna Landowners Association.
The actual speech given by President Momis during the first mass by newly ordained priest Fr. Ambrose Kakatai at the Tabago Parish, Buin District on Sunday 15th February 2015 contradicts the report at so many levels.
President Momis’ speech was simply about the responsibility that Bougainvilleans must now undertake to prepare themselves for the coming referendum and their responsibility to honor the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
Parts of the President’s speech were made in the Telei (Buin) dialect as the majority of the people at the event were from the Buin District.
The part of the President’s speech that was misconstrued may have been when he explained the ABG’s continued consultative approach to resolving the Panguna issue.
“The ABG continues to consult our people on the Panguna Mine’s reopening, because of the respect for our people the mine will not be reopened by force,” direct quote of the President’s speech made in the Telei Dialect.
This quote is the only one in which President Momis mentions anything about the use of force to reopen the mine.
The other allegation raised in the report on President Momis’ speech was his “criticism” of the Panguana Landowners Association which again contradicts the actual speech.
President Momis said on the same speech that the ABG was working closely with important stakeholders such as the Panguna Landowners to resolve the issue and that the government had already created a channel of communication with the Mekamui Traibal Government of Unity who at first were suspicious of the ABG’s interest in the Panguna Mine.
An observer noted that the publishing of such derogatory reports is only to derail the progress the ABG has made in resolving the Panguna issue and on the eve of the ABG Elections in June this was just a smear campaign against President Momis and his cabinet.
Petromin to determine future of Tolukuma mine
Niugini Nius | Pacific Mining Watch
Tolukuma gold mine’s (TGM) future will be discussed by the board of Petromin this Friday, managing director of Petromin PNG Holdings Limited (Petromin) Thomas Abe said.
Mr Abe said this following reports on social media stating that Petromin was in the process of closing the mine over the weekend.
Information on social media (Facebook) stated that this announcement was made known to staff by the management and all critical services at the mine have been placed under care maintenance since.
“Petromin has been funding Tolukuma for sometime now and its future will be discussed by the board of Petromin on Friday,” Mr Abe told the Post-Courier.
George Gusi, chairman of the Yulai Landowner Association (YLA) from the mine impacted area said he was not aware of any plans to close Tolukuma.
Mr Gusi explained that in the case where the mine is to be close, for the satisfaction of all parties; the government, stakeholders and relevant landowners are to meet and be formally informed of the closure where necessary arrangements will be made.
“There is something called the mine closure plan and we never had this,” he said.
But sources from the mine have confirmed that there has been talk by management at Tolukuma on the closing of the gold mine.
The sources also claim there has been no work for almost a month now and are awaiting final words from the board meeting to be held this Friday.
In a related case, YLA chairman George Gusi said their petition to Petromin PNG presented last month has not been addressed yet.
According to Gusi, among points mentioned in the petition, YLA had asked Petromin to sell the mine if they were not capable of handling Tolukuma.
Not only do communities remain firmly opposed to Nautilus experimental seabed mining, the company still does not have enough money to fund its destructive plans…
Nautilus on track to seafloor production, but funding challenge remains
Peter Koven | Financial Post
The investment community has always been a bit skeptical of Nautilus Minerals Inc. When you’re trying to be the first company to ever mine minerals off the ocean floor, it’s only natural that some people won’t believe it until they see it.
But that day should be coming soon, chief executive Mike Johnston said in an interview. Nautilus settled a key dispute with the government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) last year, and since then, progress has moved quickly on the Solwara 1 project. The company expects to have all its undersea mining tools ready to go by the middle of next year. It has also entered a charter agreement for a massive mining vessel, which it expects to receive in late 2017. After that, Nautilus expects to start digging up copper and precious metals almost right away.
“As soon as we’re happy everything has been incorporated onto the vessel and it’s working as it should, we’ll bring it straight down to PNG. The government’s very eager to get the vessel as early as we can and get the mine in production,” Mr. Johnston said.
Of course, one big barrier remains: capital. Nautilus has spent about US$180 million to date, but will need significantly more money – potentially around $200 million. That is almost as much as the company’s current market capitalization.
Raising that amount through equity, if it can be done, would be extremely dilutive. But Mr. Johnston maintained the company has a number of other options. Royalty and streaming companies were interested in Solwara 1 before the government dispute, and he thinks they might get interested again now that it is settled. The state of Papua New Guinea has an option to boost its stake in the project, and the company is looking at potential joint ventures with mining companies, service providers, or offshore oil and gas firms.
There is still skepticism out there, but Mr. Johnston said the PDAC crowd is getting genuinely excited about his story.
“It’s a lot more exciting than going to Caterpillar and buying some trucks,” he joked.
Chief Minister must rule out destructive open cut seabed mining in the Territory
Australian Marine Conservation Society
A coalition of groups, including the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), Environment Centre NT and Protect Arnhem Land have called on Chief Minister Adam Giles to permanently ban seabed mining in the Northern Territory. The existing moratorium on seabed mining in NT waters introduced by the previous Territory government is set to expire this week, on 6 March.
“Open cut sea bed mining is like taking a giant grinder to the sea floor, destroying the habitats of our precious marine life and smothering fish feeding and nursery grounds,” Jacqueline Taylor, AMCS Northern Marine Campaigner said.
“The moratorium on seabed mining was first put in place to protect precious places such as Roper River mouth, the seagrass beds and islands of the Gulf near Borroloola, and Elcho Island from open cut seabed mining. We now need a permanent ban.
“When Chief Minister Giles supported a ban on open cut seabed mining he was right in saying that the mining was unproven science and could damage the environment.
“We have major problems with pollution and failed remediation of mines on land in the Northern Territory. We can’t pretend that open cut mines on the seafloor can be safely managed without massive damage to the marine environment.”
Protect Arnhem Land representative, Helena Gulwa said “many Traditional Owners and residents of West Arnhem Land are concerned about damage that seabed mining would have on our sea country and the coastal environment. These areas are rich in cultural and historical sites, tribal burial grounds, dreaming and song lines.
“Areas like seagrasses and mangroves, support turtles and dugongs and are vital to the culture and livelihoods of our communities.
“We’re concerned about the future of our children and the future for Australians. The government must permanently ban seabed mining. Mining companies keep coming back wanting access to sea country and we need protection,” said Helena Gulwa.
Environment Centre NT Acting Director Anna Boustead said “destroying the seafloor habitat that our marine life and communities depend on is short term thinking at its worst. The Northern Territory has some of the healthiest tropical seas in the world but they won’t stay that way unless we manage them carefully by protecting them from destructive activities such as seabed mining.”
David Morris of the NT Environment Defenders Office said “the Government can easily make the ban permanent. That would be consistent with the bipartisan position up until now that seabed mining is too destructive for our seas.”
New Mining Law to criminalize community opposition to mining…
When the Bougainville mine was imposed on communities by the Australian colonial administration it triggered prolonged battles of resistance by the land’s custodians. These battles continued as the colonial batten passed from the colonial authorities to the neocolonial authorities in Waigani. Now under the new Bougainville mining bill drafted by Adam Smith International, community resistance is a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment.
For example, when Conzinc Rio Tinto of Australia (CRA) first began marking out the mine, landowners removed the survey pegs placed on their land in violation of customary law. This act of removing the markers is now a criminal offence under the draft Mining Act.
Section 336, creatively entitled ‘injury to boundary marks’, states, ‘a person who breaks, defaces or removes, or in any other way interferes with any boundary mark erected for any of the purposes of this Act, without the necessary approval or authority under this Act is guilty of an offence. Penalty: A fine not exceeding K25,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding thirty (30) calendar days, or both’.
When CRA moved in its bulldozers, the mothers of Rorovana famously protected their land by blocking the company’s equipment. Under the draft bill this is a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment.
Section 334 states, ‘A person who – (a) unlawfully interferes with or obstructs any exploration, mining or other operations authorised by or under this Act, or (b) unlawfully interferes with any machinery, plant, road, work or property on, in, under or over any tenement or community mining licence area that is used in the exercise of a right conferred by or under this Act, is guilty of an offence. Penalty: A fine not exceeding K25,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding thirty (30) calendar days, or both’.
When the mine’s destructive effects became intolerable, the Panguna Landowners Association issued a compensation demand of K10 billion – when the company ignored their claim, they threatened to stage protests and implement road blocks. Under the drift mining bill such threats are now a criminal offence punishable by a substantial prison sentence.
Section 335 states, ‘A person who demands a payment from a tenement or community mining licence holder, other than a payment to which that person is entitled to receive under this Act, and who: (a) unlawfully interferes or threatens to interfere with or obstructs or threatens to obstruct any exploration, mining or other operations authorised by or under this Act unless the tenement or licence holder agrees to such payment, or (b) unlawfully interferes or threatens to interfere with any machinery, plant, road, work or property on, in, under or over any tenement that is used in the exercise of a right conferred by or under this Act unless the tenement or licence holder agrees to such payment, is guilty of an offence. Penalty: A fine not exceeding K100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or both’.
So under the proposed mining bill the great folk heroes who resisted CRA exploration, defied the bulldozers and issued compensation demands for destruction of the environment, would now be criminalised, fined and thrown in prison. This should not come as any great surprise, Adam Smith International and the World Bank – the architects of this law – have shown many times they place the property ‘rights’ of foreign businesses over the human rights of indigenous populations.