Solomon Islands seek Fiji assistance

Mika Loga | Fiji Broadcasting Corporation

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The Solomon Islands government has requested the assistance of Fiji’s defence forces to provide security at the Goldridge Mines which has recently been abandoned by St Barbara Mining of Australia.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Darcey Lilo made the request to Fiji’s non-resident High Commissioner to the Solomon Island Romanu Tikotikoca.

Lilo requested an urgent meeting with Romanu Tikotikoca on Monday.

He wanted me to find means and ways of resolving the impasse up at Goldridge. He advised that St Babara Mining had abandoned the mine totally and had repatriated all the ex pat staff that were working in Goldridge including our sixty security officers that were there and at the same time laid off about seven hundred local workers.

The excuse given to the Solomon Islands workers by the Australian mining company was they will be stood down for two weeks due to inconsistent fuel supply caused by the washing away of two bridges, by the recent floods.

Tikotikoca says, he offered Prime Minister Lilo the option of deploying Fijian Police to Goldridge as the services of the Solomon Islands defence forces was already stretched by the recent floods.

Prime Minister wanted the military to be deployed but I told him with what has unfolded in the Solomon Islands with the scaling down of military and other operations that RAMSI was undertaking, the deployment of the military will be sending a wrong message all together to members of the community.

Tikotikoca says, the Solomon Islands cabinet will make a decision on the deployment of Fijian Police Officers to undertake community Policing and conduct capacity building for the Royal Solomon Islands Police.

Once they choose which one they prefer then they will formally communicate with Fiji through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister Gordon Darcey Lilo would probably get in touch with his counterpart here Voreqe Bainimarama.

Meanwhile, St Barbara mining has told Radio Australia, it hasn’t pulled out of the country, saying its forced closure last Friday was due to flood damage and subsequent security risks.

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The robot is ready – so when will deep sea mining start?

Stephen Eisenhammer and Silvia Antonioli | Reuters

Employees of Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) work on a subsea mining machine being built for Nautilus Minerals at Wallsend, northern England April 14, 2014.

Employees of Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) work on a subsea mining machine being built for Nautilus Minerals at Wallsend, northern England April 14, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Nigel Roddis 

The world’s first deep sea mining robot sits idle on a British factory floor, waiting to claw up high grade copper and gold from the seabed off Papua New Guinea (PNG) – when a wrangle over terms is solved.

Beyond PNG, in international waters, regulation and royalty terms for mining the planet’s subsea wealth have also yet to be finalized. The world waits for the judgment of a United Nations agency based in Jamaica.

“If we can take care of the environment we have a brand new day ahead of us. The marine area beyond national jurisdiction is 50 percent of the Ocean,” said Nii Odunton, secretary general of the U.N.’s International Seabed Authority (ISA).

“I believe the grades look good, the abundance looks good, I believe that money will be made,” Odunton said from the ISA offices in Kingston.

High-tech advances, depleted easy-to-reach minerals onshore and historically high prices have boosted the idea of mining offshore, where metals can be fifteen times the quality of land deposits.

In Newcastle, the “beasty”, as engineer Keith Franklin calls his machine, lies in wait, resembling a submersible tank with four meter wide cutting blades.

Built by Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD), it will put Canadian listed Nautilus Minerals on course to become the first company to commercially mine in deep water.

Nautilus’ primary resource, Solwara 1, about 1,500 meters underwater, is a Seafloor Massive Sulphide (SMS) deposit, which forms along hydrothermal vents where mineral-rich fluids spurt from cracks in the ocean crust.

Equipped with cameras and 3D sonar sensors the robot is driven by two pilots from a control room on the vessel above, attached via a giant power cable.

“The cameras aren’t enough by themselves because the machine will be working by vents where black soot spurts from the ocean crust and it will sometimes be near impossible to see anything,” said Stef Kapusniak, business development manager for mining at SMD. “The 3D sonar will allow it to make images and send it back to the control room.”

The machine then cuts up the sea floor and sucks the rocks through a pipe to deposit it in mounds behind – “like icing a cake,” Kapusniak said. Another machine, yet to be built, will then help suck the ore to the surface.

Nautilus aims to produce 80,000-100,000 metric tons of copper and 100,000-200,000 ounces of gold – equivalent to a modest onshore mine. It was supposed to be producing by now, but disagreements with the PNG government over financial terms have set it back.

Chief Executive Mike Johnston told Reuters he was confident a resolution would be sorted out and the company would be mining within two to three years.

Most of the world’s best deposits lie even deeper than Nautilus’ Solwara 1, at around 6,000 meters in an area known as the Clarion Clipperton Zone.

Large numbers of manganese nodules – potato sized rocks rich in copper, cobalt and nickel – lie across this 4.5 million square kilometer abyssal plain between Hawaii and Mexico.

LICENSES ALREADY AWARDED

The U.N.’s ISA is drawing up a code to deal with some environmental concerns and the commercial terms for deep-sea mining. It predicts it will be finished in around two or three years, with mining still 5-10 years away.

“It’s only after the code is in place and people are happy with it that the huge investments needed to start deep-sea mining will occur,” ISA’s Odunton, a Ghanaian, said.

ISA is, however, already doling out exploration licenses – 19 have been approved. Odunton said interest in them had “catapulted” in the past five years.

In order to get a license through ISA an applicant must be sponsored or partnered with a country. For nations like Japan which lack their own resource wealth, deep-sea mining is a potential way to secure mineral supply for the future.

China, the world’s largest metals consumers, is also one of the most active in exploring the area.

Britain has an exploration license in partnership with UK Seabed Resources, a subsidiary of defense firm Lockheed Martin

“These are the days you have to take a position, especially as a government,” said Martijn Schouten, managing director at IHC’s mining division – an equipment maker which targets seabed mining as its next growth driver.

IHC is the leading partner in an European Union funded project called Blue Mining, begun in February, and will look at the business case and technology for deep-sea mining over the next four years.

This new frontier is an exciting prospect for developing island nations like Tonga and Nauru, which both have exploration licenses. For Tonga, where Nautilus says it has been collecting encouraging exploration results, it could be a game changer.

“The revenue stream and taxes from a medium sized mine would have an enormous benefit to the country,” Nautilus’ Johnston said.

The main companies looking to mine the seabed, like Nautilus and UK Seabed Resources, are not, however, traditional mining firms, although Anglo American does have a 5 percent stake in the former.

IHC said most of its contracts were with technology-based companies that were not in the mining industry, although it would not specify further due to confidentiality clauses.

IHC said it has had discussions with oil majors who are beginning to show an interest in deep sea mining.

But, with little of the deep ocean mapped or explored, environmentalists worry about the potential loss of fauna and biospheres whose existence is not yet understood.

“Only 3 percent of the oceans are protected and less than 1 percent of the high seas, making them some of the least protected places on earth. The emerging threat of seabed mining is an urgent wake-up call,” Greenpeace said in a report last year.

“I think we really have to be careful about what happens to the environment,” said ISA’s Odunton. “We don’t know enough to take some of the risks we’ve taken on land.”

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PNG and USA cement deal to defend Exxon-Mobil LNG project amid growing tensions

admiral_signs_acsa_agreement_500

United States and PNG Sign Agreement to Strengthen Bilateral Partnership

The United States and Papua New Guinea signed an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA). This bilateral ACSA agreement will facilitate the exchange of logistics support, supplies, and services during exercises, training, or emergencies. The ACSA agreement does not, in any way commit either country to any military action.

U.S. Pacific Command Commander U.S. Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, Commander of the Papua New Guinean Defence Force Brigadier General Gilbert Toropo, Papua New Guinean Secretary of Defence John Porti, and U.S. Defense Attaché to Papua New Guinea Commander Scott Sherard signed the agreement at Murray Barracks on April 15.

During the signing, Admiral Locklear said that although PNG’s defense forces “are small, they are doing significant things; they are involved in UN support and peacekeeping operations in Darfur [demonstrating] an outward look to the rest of the world with the values of democracy and the values of humanity.”

An ACSA provides the basic framework for cooperation in military logistic matters. The overall purpose of these agreements is to increase readiness of military partnerships by reducing the initial logistics hurdles. The United States has bilateral ACSAs with over 100 countries around the world.

During his visit to Port Moresby, Admiral Locklear met with the Governor General Sir Michael Ogio, Prime Minister Peter O’Neil, Minister of Defence Fabian Pok, Defence Secretary John Porti, and Commander Gilbert Toropo to reaffirm the strength of the United States-Papua New Guinean bilateral relationship and partnership.

The United States is a Pacific nation and it continues to rebalance its efforts to this region because of its importance, not only to its own national security, but also to the global community. The United States seeks a secure and prosperous Papua New Guinea that is able to play a positive leadership role in the Pacific Islands region.

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Solomon Islands disaster exposes Australia’s real agenda in the Pacific

The response of the Australian and New Zealand governments and other Pacific powers to the crisis underscores their utter indifference to the plight of the country’s ordinary working people.

[RAMSIs] real purpose remains to maintain Australian and NZ economic and political domination over the under-developed nation and the wider southwest Pacific.

Canberra’s principal concern about this month’s flooding is revealed by its commitment of $600,000 for technical assistance to assess the damage to the Gold Ridge mine, which is operated by St Barbara, an Australian mining company.

RAMSI police officers were also dispatched to help secure the mine after St Barbara abandoned it following the flood.

Major floods devastate Solomon Islands

Allan Leigh | WSWS | via PNG Exposed

Honiara floods

Honiara floods

Torrential rain, high winds and severe flooding devastated Solomon Islands on April 3, killing 21 people, destroying thousands of homes, and displacing over 50,000 people, mainly in Guadalcanal province and the capital Honiara. The impoverished Pacific nation, which includes 300 separate islands, lies about 1,800 kilometres east of Papua New Guinea.

National Disaster Management Office chief Loti Yates said: “This is by far the worst flooding I have witnessed since heading this organisation—the scale and magnitude is overwhelming.”

As of yesterday, two people remained missing, with at least 10,000 homeless in Honiara alone. The Isabel, Makira and Malaita islands are among the other Solomons provinces severely impacted. Extensive damage to basic infrastructure, however, has made it impossible to fully assess the impact in communities outside the capital.

Honiara and other parts of Guadalcanal have been declared disaster zones, with major damage to roads, water pipes and sewerage systems. Honiara’s Chinatown Bridge collapsed last Thursday, splitting the city in two. According to the Solomon Islands Water Authority, 50 percent of the capital, which has a population of about 65,000, has no access to safe water and it could be weeks before supplies are restored.

Aid organisations have warned that diseases such as dysentery, malaria and dengue fever could spread and seriously worsen the catastrophe. Solomons Islands Save the Children Fund spokesman Graham Kenna told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that a dengue fever outbreak had already begun before the floods and warned that the numbers hit by the disease would rapidly increase.

The response of the Australian and New Zealand governments and other Pacific powers to the crisis underscores their utter indifference to the plight of the country’s ordinary working people.

Australia offered $3 million in total, with only $2 million for “immediate humanitarian needs.” New Zealand promised $1.12 million, with only $281,000 for agencies directly working with the flood-affected people. The US pledged just over $100,000 for emergency relief through the French Red Cross Society.

This is for one of the poorest countries on the planet, lacking the resources and infrastructure to cope with a disaster of this magnitude. Solomon Islands has a gross domestic product of approximately $2,500 per person—ranked 177th in the world.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the remaining $1 million of Canberra’s “aid” would be used to send Australian Civilian Corps engineers, Australian Government Rapid Response Team members and a dozen Australian Defence Force personnel to the Solomons.

Australian Federal Police attached to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), which was established in 2003, are also involved.

The RAMSI intervention, cynically codenamed Operation Helpem Fren (Help a Friend), has always been promoted by the Australian and New Zealand governments and the mainstream media as an “aid mission.” Its real purpose remains to maintain Australian and NZ economic and political domination over the under-developed nation and the wider southwest Pacific.

Alongside RAMSI troops and police contingents, Australian and NZ officials took control of key government posts, refashioning the state apparatus in line with the interests of Canberra and Wellington. More than 10 years on, the mayhem and human suffering caused by the flooding underscores the fact that RAMSI was never about uplifting the country’s facilities and living standards.

No RAMSI resources were allocated to establish adequate health services and other vital infrastructure, or the sort of equipment required to respond to flooding, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

RAMSI’s military forces were withdrawn in 2012, but about 100 Australian Federal Police remain, at a budgeted cost of $500 million over four years—many times more than the flood aid. Contingency plans no doubt exist for troops to return whenever Canberra and Wellington consider there is a threat to their imperialist interests.

Canberra’s principal concern about this month’s flooding is revealed by its commitment of $600,000 for technical assistance to assess the damage to the Gold Ridge mine, which is operated by St Barbara, an Australian mining company.

RAMSI police officers were also dispatched to help secure the mine after St Barbara abandoned it following the flood. There is widespread speculation over the mine’s future because of recent falls in St Barbara’s share values.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo warned parliament that protection of the mine and re-building of the severely damaged Mataniko Bridge, which provides access to the mine, were priorities.

“If this bridge collapses,” he said, “policing in town [Honiara] would be in real danger and the normal flow of social and economic services would be really affected … What we have done last night is deploy members of the Police Response Team to go and maintain security up there [to Gold Ridge] because that asset belongs to the state.”

Lilo’s government approved a $SI15 million fund ($A2.19 million) to be distributed to members of parliament, with each MP receiving $SI300,000. The Pacific Media Centre reported that some MPs visited evacuation centres around Honiara, distributing assistance to those they thought would vote for them in national elections later this year.

On April 8, the National Disaster Operations Committee said it was safe for people to leave the overcrowded and inadequate evacuation centres and return home. But more than 50,000 people remain homeless, with no access to clean water and basic food supplies.

The so-called aid pledged by Australia and New Zealand will barely provide for the immediate food and water needs of flood victims, let alone rebuild their houses and villages. Those rendered homeless will be forced to live in tents and other makeshift shelters for months.

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Exxon-Mobil brings in the troops

The level of anger and distrust over Exxon-Mobil’s LNG project is rising alarmingly in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea as local people realize they have been conned and the promised benefits from the multi-billion dollar project are never going to come. What is also rising just as fast is the number of sophisticated guns, weapons and ammunition in the hands of local tribes.

So Exxon-Mobil is preparing for the worst and bringing in the US military to help defend its operations from the sabotage and armed attacks that everyone knows are coming…

Papua New Guinea Seeks Increased US Army Presence

Bernama

Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Prime Minister Peter O’Neill wants to increase the presence of the US military in his country.

O’Neill on Tuesday met with the United States-Pacific Naval Commander, Admiral Samuel Locklear III, to discuss the US military presence in Papua New Guinea.

In a statement O’Neill said the talks included his government’s interest in increasing the US army presence in the country. They also discussed training for PNG soldiers and US security assistance security during the 2018 Asia Pacific Economic Corporation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit in PNG.

“Admiral Locklear and I today discussed the possibility of increasing the US army presence in PNG, particularly its navy,” O’Neill said, adding that there will also be a training arrangement, where PNG soldiers will be trained by the US army, to aid capacity building.

“During our talks, Admiral Locklear, upon my invitation, further agreed to provide additional naval security support during the 2018 APEC Leaders’ Summit, which will be hosted here in Port Moresby,” O’Neill said.

 

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Madang government confirms Ramu nickel acid pollution

“Rain water is not safe for human consumption even from creeks and rivers”

Villagers face effects of smoke

The National aka The Loggers Times

COASTAL villages near Ramu Nickel plant site in Basamuk, Rai Coast, in Madang, are experiencing the effects of harmful smoke from the mine.

A report by Madang provincial government Director of Mines John Bivi revealed that villagers in Malalmai and Bongu had noticed thick fumes and smelt acid.

Taro plant damaged by the gas

Taro plant damaged by the gas

The report stated that according to assessments done, plants and food crops, especially banana, taro and yam leaves, had withered because of the effects of the acid.

Villagers along the Rai Coast have complained of skin diseases.  But Bivi said they would have to be medically tested to confirm the cause.

“Rain water is not safe for human consumption even from creeks and rivers,” Bivi said.

He suggested that a medical team visit Basamuk to check and treat people affected by the smoke and smell.

He urged Government bodies to continuously monitor mining activities at Ramu Nickel project sites at Kurumbukari and Basamuk.

No comment could be obtained from the mine project owners.

He said the court order on the deep sea tailings placement  (DSTP) required a quarterly monitoring and awareness programme every year and that was not done in last quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of

He said the Government must set up an Office in Basamuk to monitor and assess the harmful smoke.

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Solomon Islands Gavman i wari long plen blong pasim main long Gold Ridge

Caroline Tiriman | Radio Australia

Solomon Islands Gavman i wari tru long bihain taem blong Gold Ridge main bihainim ol tingting blong St. Barbara kampani long pasim main.

Disasta i bagarapim Honiara taun na Guadalcanal Plains, Solomon Islands.

Disasta i bagarapim Honiara taun na Guadalcanal Plains, Solomon Islands.

Gavman blong Solomon Islands i wari tru long bihaen taem oa future blong Gold Ridge mine bihaenim tingting blong kampani blong Australia, St Barbara long pasim main na rausim olgeta wokman na meri long main.

Gold Ridge main ibin wanpla long ol bisnis i bungim heve long disasta.

Kampani ibin tokaut olsem oli bin pasim main long wonem ol tait wara ibin bagarapim bris em ol i save iusim blong go ikam long Honiara siti.

Narapla samting em oli tok ibin fosim ol long pasim main, em ol i wari long sekuriti  blong ol wokman na tu ol masin na blong main.

Praim Minista Gordon Darcy Lilo i bekim displa ol tingtng blong kampani taem em igo raun long God Ridge eria long Sande.

Tokman blongen, George Hemming husait igo pas long Communications Unit long Ofis blong Praim Minista i tok makim displa ol toktok blong em long tok em i wari long displa ol tingting bikos main i stap antap long mauden na wara ino kisim em.

“Main eria ia istap antap long mauden na wanpla samting tasol i stopim wok, em long bris i kontekim Gold Ridge wantaim rot igo long Honiara taun,” em ibin tok.

Tasol CEO blong kampani, Tim Lehaney i tokim Pacific Beat olsem planti ol arapla samting i mekim ol long pasim pastaem main, na ino long bris tasol.

“Kaikai ibin sot, fuel tu na mipla tu i wari long wok sekuriti long bikpla namba blong ol wok man meri blong mipla.”

Tasol Praim Minista Gordon Darcy Lilo i tok em ino wanbel wantaem displa kaen toktok.

George Hemming itok, tok makim toktok blong Praim Minista olsem “displa ol toktok ino sidaun gut wantaem em.”

“Praim Minista i askim strong olsem St Barbara imas holim miting wantaem gavman long bihain taem blong main bihainim displa disasta.”

Tony Koraua, foma Siaman na bod memba blong f the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce i tokim Caroline Tiriman, kampani imas wok wantaem gavman long stretim displa isu.

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