Proposed Bougainville Mining Act changes go to committee

Radio New Zealand | 15 February 2019

Proposed changes to Bougainville’s Mining Act have been referred to a parliamentary committee for further discussion.

The Autonomous Bougainville Government’s proposed the changes which have met with widespread opposition as the region prepares for a referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea.

The government last month divulged its plans to re-open the long shut Panguna copper mine and operate it with a company majority owned by Bougainville.

It sought to pass amendments to the Mining Act to accommodate an Australian investor who will jointly own Bougainville Advance Mining.

The Bougainville Advance Mining Holdings Trust Authorisation Bill, the Bougainville Advance Mining Holdings Limited Authorisation Bill, and a bill to amend the Bougainville Mining Act 2015, have all gone through first readings.

However, after community concern over the proposed amendments, the bills were referred to the Legislative Review Committee.

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Fears for marine protected area after bauxite mine ship grounds in Solomons

Radio New Zealand | 13 February 2019 

Environmentalists fear the grounding of a ship off Rennell Island in the Solomons could bring more damage to a marine protected area.

The MV Solomon Trader hit a reef in Kangava Bay off Rennell Island just over a week ago as it was loading bauxite from a nearby mine.

Chris Bone of OceansWatch Solomon Islands told Sally Round the reef is likely to be damaged and comes on top of bauxite spillage in the bay and coral bleaching.

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Oil spill feared after ship grounding on reef in Solomon Islands

A disastrous oil spill could occur in Solomon Islands area, after the Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier ‘Solomon Trader’ ran aground on a reef on the remote island of Rennell, south of the capital Honiara.

Safety4Sea | 14 February 2019

The 225 meter-long ship grounded last week after she attempted to collect bauxite from a nearby mine site. Now the ship’s engine room is already filling with water, according to local media.Authorities in Solomon Islands are working to prevent the oil spill, but heavy weather conditions impede the salvage operations.

The location of the grounding is a marine-protected area which creates further concerns for the impact on the reef.

Jonah Mitau, the acting Director of the Solomon Islands Maritime Administration, told ABC news the biggest worry is the threat of oil leaking from the vessel:

If the weather continues to deteriorate, then we will be having an oil spill situation. We do not have the equipment to contain such a situation. We are trying to get the ship owner and agent to organise themselves,

…he was quoted as saying.

Authorities say the owner of the ship will attempt to use tug boats to pull the ship off the reef, once the weather improves.

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No Ramu extension until benefits are guaranteed: Govt

‘Ramu nickel mine is the worst ever State negotiated mine with no benefits to the locals’ – Yama

Loop PNG | February 12, 2019

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has announced there will be no extension of the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) for the Ramu NiCo mine in Madang Province.

The initial MoA was signed in 2000 and expired in March 2018. It is now due for a review, however the Prime Minister announced last Friday that there will be no agreement until government is sure there is fair benefit for the people and the State.

“The mine agreement has expired and we will renegotiate so that our people benefit most. Bai yumi stap na lukluk tasol ah? Nogat! Nogat! Em blong yumi. Yumi mas gat sampla sher stap insait. Bai yumi stretim, Gavana bai yumi stretim, mark my words. Yumi mas lukautim ol pipol blong yumi pastaim,” O’Neill said. (Will we just stand and watch? No! No! This is for us. We must have some share in this. We will fix this, Governor we will fix this, mark my words. We must first take care of our people.)

He told Governor Peter Yama that they had a big task ahead to negotiate the new terms and conditions of the new agreement.

Yama expressed passionately that the Ramu NiCo mine was the worst ever State negotiated mine with no benefits to the locals in Kurumbukari and Basamuk. Concerns have also been raised that other minerals apart from nickel and cobalt have been extracted and exported.

“The people of Basamuk must have spin off businesses. They must have good roads, good housing, health centres, schools, water supply and electricity. Right now Rai Coast and Usino-Bundi are the least developed districts in the country despite being hosts of the Ramu NiCo mine and also the Ramu Agro Industry for Usino Bundi,” Governor Yama said.

Minister for National Planning, Richard Maru, visited Basamuk last Thursday and met with the mine operator, MCC, and encouraged all stakeholders to now focus on a way forward that will benefit the company, province, landowners and the State.

At the moment, the State is not an equity partner in the mine project. There has not been any corporate tax and no Goods & Services Tax paid by the company since production began in 2012.

Furthermore, there is no benefit sharing agreement for the landowners in the project. Minister Maru said in the future, MoA’s must have benefit sharing agreements where landowners, the host province and the State must have shares in the project. This will be the case for Wafi-Golpu Mine, the Frieda Copper Mine and any other upcoming mines in the country.

“MCC is not the enemy, we are partners in development and so in the negotiations for the new MoA, we must ensure win-win situation for all parties involved,” Minister Maru said.

He said Madang had the economic potential and opportunity to double and triple its internal revenue and become a major economic hub in the Momase region. Minister Maru challenged Governor Yama and all the other MPs from Madang to focus, cooperate, communicate more for the greater good of the province.

Minister Maru is certain MCC has by now recovered its initial investments in the mine. This also explains why the Ramu mine is looking to invest a further US$2 billion to double production. The State, provincial government and landowners must now take up equity in this lucrative mine under the new agreement that the Government will take on together with MCC. The challenge now is to properly identify the landowners and Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) must ensure this exercise immediately by MCC.

In saying that the company must not feel that it has to solve all the problems in the area, Minister Maru encouraged MCC management to participate in the new-look Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme which will be launched in March. He also urged the company to work with the PNG Government to seek grant funding from the Chinese government to build most needed infrastructure in the Usino-Bundi and Rai Coast districts.

The particular focus would be to build a highway between Erima to Saido and other roads, health and education facilities within these two districts.

The Ramu NiCo mine has a 135km slurry pipeline that runs through Usino-Bundi and Rai Coast districts.

Minister Maru also maintained that mines should do away with the fly-in fly-out arrangement and return to the model of the Bougainville Copper Limited where mining townships must be built at the mine sites.

Governor Yama also supported the position of the Government of Morobe and the Tutumang Government that there shall be no “Fly in Fly Out”, for the Wafi -Golpu Mine Project and other Mines and Resource Projects into the future.

“We will maximize revenue flows from all these projects to go to the local people, landowners and to our Government and to remain in the country. Hospitals, schools, a township and other utility services are built there. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t use this model,” Maru said.

“If we want to allow the revenue from these mines to rotate within PNG and help build our country, in the form of taxes, employment and so on, we must walk away from the fly-in fly-out arrangement.”

Maru said the Government is committed to build a highway from Erima to Saidor in Rai Coast District to assist the people living along these areas access markets and services and is seeking the support of the Chinese government to focus their development grants away from Port Moresby to two the remote districts of Usino- Bundi and Rai Coast, which hosts the only Chinese owned mine in Papua New Guinea, the Ramu NiCo Mine.

A State Negotiation Team will be put together as soon as possible to commence discussion of the future of the mine and its stakeholders, including the State and the landowners.

The Prime Minister himself announced that he will chair the State negotiating team with the Madang Governor as key members of the State Negotiating Team.

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Half of the world’s biggest miners do not keep track of their tailings risk management measures -report

Brumadinho, where Vale SA’s dam collapsed. Photo Jeso Carneiro | Flickr.

Valentina Ruiz Leotaud | Mining.com | 11 February 2018

Following last month’s tailings dam disaster at Vale’s Córrego do Feijão mining complex, which left at least 140 dead, Amsterdam-based Responsible Mining Foundation issued a statement highlighting the findings of its 2018 Responsible Mining Index report related to miners’ tailing dams.

According to the report, many of the world’s largest mining companies are not able to ‘know and show’ how effectively they are addressing the risks of tailings dam failure and seepage.

“The 30 mining companies assessed in RMI 2018 scored an average of only 22% on tracking, reviewing and acting to improve their tailings risk management, with Vale scoring slightly above average. Fifteen of the 30 companies showed no evidence of keeping track of how effectively they are addressing these risks. And while 17 companies showed some sign of reviewing the effectiveness of their tailings risk management measures, no evidence was found of any of these companies publicly disclosing the extent to which they have taken systematic action on the basis of these reviews, to improve how they address tailings-related risks,” the document reads.

The RMF states that the deficiencies many miners show when it comes to sharing information is not limited to their tailings dams. In general, the organization’s study found that most companies fail to adequately share information on how they are managing social and environmental risks. In particular, they fail to provide meaningful site-level performance information.

“Too often, workers, mining-affected communities, governments and investors are kept in the dark about the risks involved and how well companies are addressing these risks. Companies may be reticent to publicly reveal this potentially detrimental and sensitive information, yet it is workers and communities whose lives and livelihoods depend on adequate protection measures being in place,” the report reads.

The Responsible Mining Foundation is convinced that public disclosure would not only save thousands of lives but would also improve the safety of mining projects by allowing for the expert advice of the community which, in turn, would result in improved knowledge of the terrain.

Based on a 2001 report by the International Commission on Large Dams which found that 221 tailings dam failures could have been prevented, the RMF states that by really incorporating the input of all stakeholders in the design, planning and building phases of their projects, miners can learn to refrain from mining in areas where tailings dam failures are most likely to happen and achieve a shared zero-failure objective to tailings storage facilities.

The foundation’s research, on the other hand, has shown that failure risks are greatest for large, steep and old tailings dams in tropical zones where seismic activity and extreme weather events can precipitate dam collapses.

In the case of Vale’s facility, the RMF explained that it was built as part of a series of dams constructed upstream from the original dyke, which makes it the most likely type of tailings dam to fail.

“Vale has now committed to decommissioning all dams built by the upstream method and other companies can clearly follow suit,” the NGO suggested.

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Second Wave Due Diligence: The Case for Incorporating Free, Prior, and Informed Consent into the Deep Sea Mining Regulatory Regime

A new article, Second Wave Due Diligence, published in the Stanford Environmental Law Journal calls for the norm of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) for indigenous peoples to be applied to deep sea mining (DSM) projects carried out in the international seabed, particularly in the Pacific region, where numerous indigenous communities stand to be directly and disproportionately impacted by this new extractive industry.

Authors Julian Aguon and Julie Hunter’s argument, while novel, relies on core prescriptions of Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) requiring compliance with international law in general, including pertinent rules of international environmental and indigenous rights law.

UNCLOS’s clear parameters on the prevention of harm to the marine environment, expounded upon by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in a series of key decisions, have created a due diligence standard that is imposing ever higher duties on an increasingly wide range of actors, including in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

This standard is evolving alongside a robust norm requiring the FPIC of indigenous peoples threatened by large-scale extractive activities, even if those activities are not directly carried out on indigenous land.

When applied to DSM, whose exploratory stage has already resulted in an array of adverse impacts to Pacific indigenous peoples, these normative legal developments coalesce into a compelling argument for placing impacted indigenous peoples into key decision-making roles.

Such an approach, which is called a “second wave” of due diligence, represents a decisive break from a destructive history in which the Pacific served as a proving ground for the experiments of others, and a concrete step toward sustainable, rights-based development in the twenty-first century and beyond.

Download: Second Wave Due Diligence

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No tax paid by Ramu nickel mine

Terms Of Mine Extension To Be Renegotiated

Post Courier | February 11, 2019

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, has announced there will be no extension of the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) for the Ramu Nico in Madang province.

The initial MoA was signed in 2000 and expired in March 2018. It is now due for a review, however the Prime Minister announced last Friday that there will be no agreement until government is sure there is a fair benefit for the people and the State.

“The mine agreement has expired and we will renegotiate so that our people benefit most. Bai yumi stap na lukluk tasol ah? Nogat! Nogat! Em blong yumi. Yumi mas gat sampla share stap insait. Bai yumi stretim, Governor bai yumi stretim, mark my words. Yumi mas lukautim ol pipol blong yumi pastaim,” Mr O’Neill said.

He told Mr Yama they had a big task ahead to negotiate the terms and conditions of the new agreement.

Mr Yama said the Ramu Nico mine was the worst state-negotiated mine, with no benefits to the locals in Kurumbukari and Basamuk. Concerns have also been raised that minerals, apart from nickel and cobalt, have been extracted and exported.

“The people of Basamuk must have spin-off businesses. They must have good roads, good housing, health centers, schools, water supply and electricity. Right now, Rai Coast and Usino-Bundi are the least developed districts in the country despite being hosts of the Ramu Nico mine and the Ramu Agro Industry,” he said.

National planning minister Richard Maru visited Basamuk on Thursday last week and met with the mine operator, MCC, and encouraged all stakeholders to now focus on a way forward that will benefit the firm, province, landowners and the state.

At the moment, the state is not an equity partner in the mine project.

There has not been any corporate tax and no goods and services tax paid by the firm since production started in 2012.

Furthermore, there is no benefit sharing agreement for the landowners in the project.

Mr Maru said in the future, MoAs must have benefit-sharing agreements where landowners, the host province and the state must have shares in the project.

This will be the case for Wafi-Golpu mine, the Frieda Copper mine and any other new mines.

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Proposed Bougainville mining laws a ‘reckless land grab’, says Jubilee Australia

Panguna mine in operation, circa 1971 (Photo: Robert Owen Winkler/Wikimedia Commons)

Jubilee Australia | February 12, 2019

 Over the last two weeks, the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), led by its president the Reverend Dr John Momis, has announced its intention to amend Bougainville mining laws.

The proposed amendments to the 2015 Bougainville Mining Act, along with accompanying legislation, will give the ABG the power to hand over mining leases to all parts of the island not under existing leases to Bougainville Advanced Mining, a new entity created for this purpose. The ABG would have 60% ownership of Bougainville Advanced Mining, while 40% would be owned by a foreign partner.

Statements made by the President last week suggest that Caballus mining, a Perth-based company headed by Jeff McGlinn, will be the foreign partner involved.  

‘These are radical changes and appear to be nothing more than a reckless land grab,’ said Dr Luke Fletcher, Executive Director of Jubilee Australia. ‘First, this would hand over control of the majority of the island to the President and his foreign partner, Mr McGlinn.

‘Second, the President would have the power to unilaterally distribute leases without any consultation or permission from landowners. As a result, landowners will be cut out of the process. These amendments undermine the principal of Free, Prior and Informed Consent, said Dr Fletcher. ‘Doing so is both anathema to Melanesian culture and vitally important in the Bougainville context.’

‘It is not clear to us that this legislation is even constitutional,’ said Dr Fletcher. ‘It is a startling and dangerous move. Given the disastrous history of the Panguna mine in Bougainville, which has caused irreparable environmental damage to the Jaba river and was the major cause of the Pacific region’s worst ever civil war, forcing through such enormous changes with very little consultation is a reckless and desperate ploy.’

Comments made by the President to Radio New Zealand justified the move based on the need to hold the Bougainville independence referendum: ‘The people of Bougainville are determined to have the referendum and they must find the money to fund the referendum,’ the President said. ‘One way of doing it would be if we started our own company and generated the revenue to enable us to conduct the referendum. We cannot sit on our hands.’

‘As our recent study of the question demonstrates, we are highly dubious that mines like Panguna could ever raise enough revenues to satisfy both foreign investors and the people of Bougainville,’ said Dr Fletcher.

‘It is certainly impossible that the mine will raise any revenues before the independence vote. It will take years for the building/repair of infrastructure, the completion of environmental studies and other importance processes that need to take place before the mine can generate revenue.’

Background—Mining on Bougainville

The Panguna Mine was one of the world’s biggest copper-gold mines until a civil war forced its closure in 1989. The war took up to 20 000 lives and displaced an additional ten thousand people. The Panguna Mine was a leading cause of the war. The communities have not been offered redress for the damage.

Since 2009, there has been a push to re-open the mine, with proponents claiming that Bougainville needs the mine to be economically independent. President Momis has been at the forefront of this fight, under the auspices of former operator Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), claiming that it would be the best and quickest option to generate revenue.

In December 2017, however, the president announced a moratorium of mining at Panguna and revoked BCL’s  mining license, after a meeting of landowner meetings voted against such an extension.

See here for more information about the history of mining in Bougainville.

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