Threat from mining’s race to the ocean floor?



Although Lockheed Martin was granted a mining license to explore the ocean depths in 2013, and Nautilus Minerals has had underwater mining rights near Papua New Guinea for 15 years, it was the International Seabed Authority’s (ISA) grant last week of a mining and exploration contract to the government-owned China Minmetals for a 73,000 square kilometer tract in the Pacific Ocean that has many concerned that the undersea pursuit of minerals will irreparably damage the ocean floor.

Land-based miners have suffered a reversal of fortunes as the industry’s once lucrative projects turn uneconomical. From environmental concerns to clashes over historical and religious rights, miners have seen projects that had been on the fast track end up on ice. Whether it has been gold, copper, coal, or other ores and minerals, company valuations have fallen significantly over the past year, and others still have gone bankrupt.

The promise ocean floor mining holds is that there are vast riches for the taking. The Clarion-Clipperton basin, for example, is estimated to potentially yield more than 27 billion tonnes of valuable ores, including 290 million tonnes of copper and 340 million tonnes of nickel. Some studies have suggested undersea deposits could yield as much as $8 billion worth of gold, copper, zinc, and silver.

Also, because they have been brought up to the ocean floor by undersea volcanic activity and geothermal vents, it could be easier than land-based mining to extract them. Until now, those minerals had been considered too difficult and risky to pursue, but technological advances have renewed interest in the possibility, and it is believed mining could start within five years.

No doubt that is part of the reason the Center for Biological Diversity sued the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in May for having issued the permits to the Lockheed Martin subsidiary OMCO Seabed Exploration. While the defense contractor has called the dive beneath the waves “an ecologically sound method for meeting the growing global demand for precious metals, as well as supporting economic growth,” environmental groups view it as an intolerable risk that threatens “underwater ecosystems before we even have a chance to fully study its impacts.”

With more than two dozen permits issued worldwide by the ISA, the effort to stop Lockheed Martin is like putting a finger in the dike, while new cracks emerge elsewhere.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Pacific region, Papua New Guinea

Fiji landowners get no say over mining lease

Luke Rawalai | The Fiji Times

LANDOWNERS automatically waive their rights to lease conditions when they deposit their land with the Land Bank Unit under the Ministry of Lands.

Director Land Bank Samuela Naicegucegu confirmed this yesterday saying lease agreements were only binding between the tenants and the unit.

Responding to concerns raised by the four landowning units in Nawailevu in Bua regarding how they had not received any lease conditions, Mr Naicegucegu said landowners had no entitlement to the leasing conditions.

This was evident in the meeting held earlier this week where mataqali Naicobo spokesman Vilikesa Kaidawa said when they were first approached about their land being used for bauxite mining, the two officers (who were named at the meeting) from the unit gave them just a short time to look at the documents over the lease.

Mr Kaidawa said at the meeting the landowners were also told whether they agreed or not, the bauxite mining would go ahead.

Representatives of the four landowning units told the Standing Committee on Natural Resources that they were still in the dark about the lease arrangements made between them and Aurum Explorations Fiji Ltd (XINFA).

Aurum Exploration Fiji Ltd’s executive Derek Qiu confirmed they did not deal with the landowners to discuss lease conditions.

“We only dealt with Government and not the landowners,” Mr Qiu said.

At the meeting, Mr Kaidawa said they were not aware of the goodwill agreements made from the leasing of their land nor they had any documents containing the lease arrangements between them (landowners) and the mining company.

He told the committee the onus was on the Land Bank Unit to provide them with these important documents.

He said so far, the landowners did not understand what part of their submissions had been formally included into the lease as part of the lease arrangements between them and the company, or what was agreed to as part of the lease.

Mr Kaidawa said this was why people continued to question and doubt the whole project, adding they did not have a clear idea of where they stood as landowners.

When committee chairman Joeli Cawaki enquired if it was the same situation for the remaining three landowning units, Mr Kaidawa said they were all in the dark.

In an interview, Mr Naicegucegu said they would dispatch copies of the lease arrangements to the standing committee and the landowning units.

Earlier, a report tabled to the standing committee heard that the four landowning units in Nawailevu had already received $400,000 of about $1.5million paid to them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiji, Human rights

PNG ready to blow any hopes of a climate friendly future on dirty coal?

Miner enthuses over high quality coal in PNG

Vailala River, Gulf Province, Papua New Guinea.

Vailala River, Gulf Province, Papua New Guinea.

Radio New Zealand

An Australia-based miner says its drilling efforts in a 1.5 square kilometre-area in Papua New Guinea has revealed there is enough high quality coal to run a 50-megawatt power station for 30 years.

Mayur Resources has rights to explore a 120 km stretch of land in Gulf Province, close to the Purari and Vailala rivers.

Its chief executive officer Paul Mulder told Business Advantage PNG , that if his company keeps drilling as it intends to, the next five to 15 kilometres will reveal tens of millions of tonnes of coal.

He adds that the coal is some of the cleanest coal in the world, with low ash and sulphur levels.

The company is planning for the mine to be open cast, shallow at the surface, using local workers to provide the majority of the support required, he says.

Mr Mulder says a 50-megwatt power station would help fulfil the government’s stated aim of providing electricity to 70% of the country, from the current level of 11%.

Leave a comment

Filed under Exploration, Papua New Guinea

Drilling at Harmony’s Kili Teke confirms ‘fantastic copper-gold find’

Graham Briggs

Graham Briggs is tries to talk up Harmony’s share price

Megan Van Wyngaardt | Mining Weekly

In a world where new discoveries are rare, Harmony Gold is encouraged by the prospect that Kili Teke could well develop into another major copper-gold discovery, commented CEO Graham Briggs.

Additional drilling at the JSE-listed miner’s Kili Teke prospect in the Hela province, in Papua New Guinea (PNG), has returned porphyry copper-gold-style mineralisation, similar to deposit grades outlined for the company’s Frieda River and Ok Tedi projects.

Copper-gold mineralisation, defined by a 0.2% copper envelope, outlined over 600 m of strike, in excess of 200 m wide and extended 700 m below surface, grading at 0.72 g/t of gold and 1.02% copper.

Kili Teke’s early exploration drill results, including its KTDD013 and KTDD007 holes, yielded 0.55% copper and 0.43 g/t of gold.

The miner advised that more upside potential existed at its 100%-owned exploration licence, with mineralisation being open at depth and along strike, while drilling to scope out the extent and geometry of the system was still ongoing.

“The latest drilling results are extremely encouraging and confirm that this asset is yet another fantastic copper-gold find by Harmony in PNG. The mineralised footprint is growing as the drilling progresses with zones of higher-grade stockwork mineralisation and intervals of mineralised skarn breccia developing within the broader envelope,” outlined Briggs. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Exploration, Financial returns

Nautilus Mining awards vessel dewatering plant design contract

Yet another foreign company to profit from PNG taxpayer money given by the government to Canadian miner Nautilus Minerals…

See Also:

PNG people pay for profits of European firms feeding off experimental seabed mining plans

British to cash in on experimental seabed mining in PNG

mining vessel

Henry Lazenby | Mining Weekly

Prospective seafloor miner Nautilus Minerals has awarded a contract for the detailed design of the Solwara 1 dewatering plant to be used on the company’s production support vessel to the Brisbane office of the global consulting engineering firm DRA Group.

The scope of work awarded to DRA involved the detailed design of the vessel-mounted material processing facilities. With a design capacity of 400 t/h, the plant would include screening the seafloor massive sulphides into a number of size fractions, followed by dewatering using centrifuges and filter presses, eventually filtering to eight microns.

The combined dewatered product would then be temporarily stored in the vessel’s hold, before transhipment by Handimax vessels to Nautilus’ processing partner in China. The remaining filtered water would then be returned through the enclosed riser system to drive the subsea lift pump and discharged within 50 m of the seafloor from where it originally came.

The detailed design phase was expected to be complete by the fourth quarter, following which the vessel-mounted modules would be fabricated and precommissioned onshore before integration onto the completed vessel.

Construction of the process plant was expected to start early next year, with first production from the Solwara 1 project, offshore Papua New Guinea (PNG), being scheduled for 2018.

DRA had accumulated significant specialised experience from its offshore diamond recovery projects off the coast of southwest Africa. DRA regional director Donald Holley explained that this experience included overcoming the challenges in designing and operating process plants mounted on ships, resulting particularly from the impact of the dynamic environment from wave movement, and the need for modular construction.

The company was in the process of pioneering the concept of mining the ocean bed for copper, gold, zinc and silver.

Using a trio of submersible robots, Nautilus was intent on recovering high-grade polymetallic seafloor massive sulphide (SMS) deposits at 1 600 m below the surface of the Bismarck Sea, within the Western Pacific Ocean’s Rim of Fire.

The operation aimed to produce ore at a rate of more than 1.3-million tons a year, with the capacity to ultimately ramp up to 1.8-million tons a year of dewatered ore, which would be delivered to the PNG Port of Rabaul.

The Solwara 1 project team in 2007 reported the world’s first SMS resource statement after it drilled a National Instrument 43-101-compliant resource using newly developed, remotely operated drills.

As of November 25, 2011, the Solwara 1 project had an indicated mineral resource of one-million tons, grading 7.2% of copper, 5 g/t of gold, 23 g/t of silver and 0.4% of zinc. Its inferred resource comprised 1.54-million tons, grading 8.1 % of copper, 6.4 g/t of gold, 34 g/t of silver and 0.9% of zinc.

Leave a comment

Filed under Financial returns, Papua New Guinea

Pacific civil society wants seabed mining to stop

stop experimental seabed mining poster


​Citizens from all around the world including civil society organizations in the Pacific have joined the global call on the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to halt issuing further exploration licenses and to establish a moratorium on experimental dee

The Pacific coalition inclusive of partners with the Bismarck Ramu Group (BRG) in Madang, Papua New Guinea, and regional NGO, Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) supports the international call.

PANG’s Media and Campaigns Officer, Joey Tau says it is risky for the Pacific region as work on this experimental process of mining our seafloor is progressing faster than the science can catch up.

“Over 1.5 million square kilometres of ocean floor within Pacific EEZ’s is already under exploration leasehold in the Pacific Ocean alone and the ISA has approved 27 exploration licenses for deep sea mining in international waters,” said Tau.

Hey say it is disappointing that exploration in the Pacific has taken place with no proper understanding of the environmental impacts of exploration, let alone full scale exploitation of resources.  In addition the free and prior informed consent of customary land owners have not been considered in the rush to mine minerals on the seafloor.

BRG coordinator, John Chitoa, shared similar views, adding that terrestrial mining in PNG and the region have proven disastrous, thus we should not touch the sea which is our heritage, our identity, and our existence.

“The risks and impacts of this experimental mining are still unknown and Pacific people must be properly consulted before any work is carried including exploration,” said Chitoa.

New Zealand has rejected two marine applications to mine the seabed while the Northern Territory of Australia has extended the imposed moratoriums (which have later led to respective bans).

All of these decisions based on the lack of clear scientific understanding of the impact of seabed mining and therefore the strictest application of the precautionary principle, as well as the potential impact of livelihoods and customary practices of indigenous communities who are custodians of these resources.

Chitoa argues that both cases from New Zealand and Australia should be precedent cases for the Pacific, especially PNG to follow.

The coalition adds that the issue of deep sea mining is not just for scientists and mining companies. The debate has to be much broader and completely transparent.

There is insufficient scientific data about the impacts of experimental deep sea mining, no regulatory frameworks in place to govern mining operations and the capacity to enforce such frameworks does not yet exist.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Pacific region, Papua New Guinea

Solomon Islands government seizes Apid’s controversial log shipment


Solomon Islands loggingThe Solomon Islands Government through the Ministry of Forestry and Research (MFR) has halted a log shipment attempted by the Asia Pacific Investment Development (APID) this week.

A notice was issued against the company to stop any export of round logs and to immediately halt any logging operations on Rennell Island.

Permanent Secretary, Vaeno Vigulu said this action was taken following claims the mining company had felled and exported round logs ‘illegally’ without the right process which had angered landowners in Rennell.

Vigulu said the shipment is currently held up at Noro Port by customs officials and the matter is now pending a High Court ruling.

“We have applied for a seizure notice which means the logs are now state properties and as a responsible ministry we’ve played our part,” he said.

Vigulu also clarified that they have not issued any felling licence or export permit for APID to pursue logging activities on Rennell.

“The action by APID was not right, thus the Forestry Acts empowers the Ministry to issue a seizure notice to halt the operation,” he added.

The seizure notice was served to the company but APID continued to ignore and attempted logs out of the country.

He also warned that his Ministry will investigate further to determine if any Forestry Officials are involved in the matter.

APID is a mining company which has its license to mine bauxite on Rennell revoked by the Minister of Mines following controversies surrounding its operation.

A legal challenge between the company and the Minister of Mines is currently before the High Court.

Leave a comment

Filed under Corruption, Financial returns, Solomon Islands