Seabed Mining Could Form Plumes: Dust Clouds Formed Within Sea

Piyali Roy | Science Times | 30 April 2017

Treasure troves of raw materials are laying on the sea floor and the abundance of these raw materials is driving the rise of deep sea mining, and hurling worries about the ecological effect. The sea covers 66 percent of our planet and offers significantly more potential in discovering profitable raw materials than the land.

According to HiTech Days, deep sea mining will also leave a mark on the planet Earth like any other type of mining. As per a statement from the managing director of Seascape Consultants, the biggest problem for the marine environment is the plumes. Plumes can destroy a part of underwater ecosystems or habitat to any type of marine creature.

What are plumes? How are they formed? Plumes are the dust clouds which are formed within the sea and are hung suspended in the water. The dust particles in the plumes can cause harm to the marine environment as they may also contain some kind of toxic chemicals in it. Mainly, deep sea mining can cause plumes to be formed, that is the main issue arising.

After deep sea mining, plumes can spread over a bigger area of seabed causing harmful effects on the marine ecosystems. Phys.org reported that there can be other issues arising up after sea mining other than plume formation, such as loss of habitat over large areas. In light of this, the EU-financed MIDAS look into venture united industry and NGOs to analyze how best to deal with the impacts of deep sea mining.

The impacts of deep sea mining were evaluated by carrying out a plume modeling by the MIDAS. Their research affirmed the significance of compelling plumes to avoid critical harm to ecological systems. It’s a responsibility for the scientists to find a sustainable technological solution for effective deep sea mining which will have less negative impacts on the marine underwater ecosystems.

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Historic decision as Bougainville lifts mining moratorium

Anthony Kaybing | PNG Attitude | 1 May 2017

THE Autonomous Bougainville Government has made an historic decision by lifting the mining and exploration moratorium in the province.

ABG president John Momis made the announcement on Friday after the Bougainville Executive Council carefully considered the implications of developing the capacity of the government to manage exploration applications and the needs of the people of Bougainville.

The decision allows for applications in the areas of Tore, Isina and Jaba, places which have large ore deposits, and does not include Panguna.

Since the development of the Panguna mine more than 40 years ago the rest of Bougainville was been covered by a moratorium on further exploration.

In 2006 the ABG requested the PNG government to provide it with powers over mining, oil and gas, with an agreement being signed in 2008.

It took another seven years for the process to conclude and the ABG enacted its own Mining Act in 2015 paving the way for it to regulate its own mining sector.

“The Bougainville Constitution and the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 clearly define the people as the owners of all the minerals found on all the land in Bougainville,” President Momis said.

“It is important that the people’s consent must be given before any mine is developed under the Mining Act,” Dr Momis said.

He added that the Bougainville Mining Act gives the ABG the opportunity to preserve and reserve certain areas in Bougainville from mineral exploration and mining.

The Bougainville Executive Council has the final authority to grant mining licenses and it will scrutinise applicants thoroughly to ensure only genuine investors are granted licenses.

“We have learnt our lessons from the Panguna experience and now we have the opportunity to do a better job,” Dr Momis said.

“On behalf of the people of Bougainville I invite and welcome applications from prospective applicants to invest in our mining sector.

“Bougainville is open for business and I look forward to the development of long term economic partnerships to allow Bougainville to fulfil the economic potential she rightly deserves.”

The Bougainville Mining Registrar will start accepting applications from 10am Bougainville Standard Time on Tuesday 9 May.

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Locals threaten armed campaign against PNG seabed mine

Credit: Alliance of Solwara Warriors

Radio New Zealand | 1 May 2017

Locals are prepared to take up arms if a seabed mining project in Papua New Guinea goes ahead, according to a anti-deep sea mining campaigner.

A campaigner against deep sea mining says locals have threatened to take up arms if a seabed mining project in Papua New Guinea goes ahead.

Canadian company Nautilus Minerals was given an Environmental Permit by the PNG government in 2009, to develop the the Solwara 1 Project, but work is still to begin.

Helen Rosenbaum from the Deep Sea Mining Campaign said locals in New Ireland province and the Duke of York Islands were feeling so desperate that they would consider taking up arms against the project.

“They know they can get access to explosives, it’s incredibly easy to get access to arms in a country like Papua New Guinea through the police, through the army,” she said.

Ms Rosenbaum said the mining project would be the first of its kind and would set a dangerous precedent in the Pacific.

HELEN ROSEBAUM: Well there’s quite different layers of risk. There’s of course environmental which is well documented by our own reports which are direct risks to the hydro-thermal vents that are being mined and the unique eco systems that are there. There’s also the risks that will result from the mining process and the plumes that are generated that are likely to contain metals and other toxics and the risk of those things getting into the food chain – the marine food web effecting marine species and of course effecting the communities that rely on those marine species for their substance and their quite thriving local economy. There’s also economic financial risk to the company which we’ve been outlining to Anglo American and other investors, their economic returns for Soera 1 are totally unknown and Nautilus are clear about this in documentation that this is a huge experiment from all perspectives. They’re clear they don’t know what the environmental impacts are going to be.

Last year I visited the Duke of York islands, New Ireland province and communities and provincial government in East New Britain as well. People are very concerned about the impacts. They’re already facing impacts from climate change, they’re already losing land on their islands due to sea level rise. They’re facing increasing frequency of storm event so their already feeling quite threatened, so this is the last straw for them. On top of  all of that they were saying now we have to deal with this, they were already facing a very uncertain future and because of losing land to sea level rises they’re feeling like their future is going to depend more on the marine environment for their nutrition and their livelihoods and they’re wondering how they’re going to exist and how are their children going to exist.

TG: What ways have they told you they might respond?

HR: Well, they are working with local groups over there to support them, to use political power means. It is PNG elections time in June and July this year. We’re looking at how they can hold candidates accountable for their policy platforms and ask them that hard questions about their positions on Sowara 1 project, but a lot of people are feeling quite desperate and because of  the high level of corruption and not feeling that in PNG that a candidate says something that  that sounds good to them on Nautilus they won’t change their minds later on. And one can see this happening all the time with Sir Julius Chan who is the governor of New Ireland province and he just flip-flops. Sowera 1 is in the water of New Ireland and last year he was voicing serious concerns about the Sowera 1 project and wondering whether it should go ahead, but this week a press release came out saying he has resigned to the Sowera 1 and he’s going to make the most of it. Goodness knows what’s going on behind the scenes in terms of money changing hands. Local people are feeling so desperate they are saying that they would even take up arms against the project. Many of them work at mining companies, or have worked at mining companies in the past. They have access to explosives and they know it’s incredibly easy and it’s only a matter of money to get arms in a country like PNG through the police of through the army. And they have the experience of Bougainville, many of them worked at the Bougainville mine prior to the civil war in Bougainville what was caused by impacts of the civil war – for them making this threat is no idle threat . Many people in the Duke of York Islands and the New Ireland province have married into Bougainville. They understand want it means to have conflict, and they not saying this loosely.

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Philippines bans new open-pit metal mines

Regina Lopez, the Philippine secretary of the environment, addresses residents of Marinduque about steps she is taking to tame unlawful mining practices. The island east of Manila experienced one of the world’s worst mine tailing disasters in 1996. Photo by Keith Schneider.

Citing a need to protect communities and biodiversity, Philippine environment minister Regina Lopez announced the decision on Thursday.

  • The Philippines has banned new open-pit gold, copper and silver mines, Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources Regina Lopez announced April 27.
  • Lopez cited the need to protect biodiversity, evidence of injuries to communities and water supplies, and violations of environmental law by the mining industry.
  • Since taking office in July, Lopez has lauched an aggressive campaign to force the mining industry to improve its practices.
  • The ban could be one of Lopez’s last acts in office; on May 3, she faces review from a legislative committee that includes people linked to the mining industry.

Keith Schneider | Mongabay | 28 April 2017

Prompted by powerful evidence of massive injury to communities and water supplies, and findings of rampant violations of environmental law, the Philippines has banned new open-pit gold, copper, nickel, and silver mines.

The order to block any more open-pit metal mines in the Philippines comes a month after El Salvador became the world’s first country to ban all metal mining.

“We have suffered long enough,” said Regina Lopez, the Philippine secretary of the environment, who announced the ban during a news conference here on April 27. “What are we doing? This goes against everything, everything that God wants. People are suffering so much. The Earth is suffering. It’s wrong. And it will stop.”

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, the industry’s influential trade group, did not respond to a request for an interview for this article. But Ronald S. Recidoro, the chamber’s vice president for legal and policy, told the Business Mirror newspaper that the ban was “absurd” and “biased” against the mining industry. “It did not undergo any study,” he said.

The order to prevent new open-pit mines does not affect quarries and the country’s sole open-pit coal mine. It was issued in the tenth month of an aggressive campaign by Lopez to force the Philippines mining industry to improve its practices and adhere to environmental law. On her first day in office last July, Lopez launched teams of compliance auditors to investigate how well the country’s 40 big mines were following regulations to protect water quality and ensure the safety of communities and the land.

In February, with the audit findings in hand, Lopez cancelled or suspended the mining licenses of 26 mines. She sent two more companies “show cause” letters that asked them justify why their operations should be allowed to continue. All but a handful of the companies appealed for relief directly to President Rodrigo Duterte. While the appeals are being considered, the mines continue to operate.

Lopez also cancelled agreements between the government and mining companies for 75 mines that were proposed to be built in some of the country’s most beautiful watersheds. Lopez’s orders appear to halt some $8 billion to $10 billlon in mine proposals, including the $ 5.9 billion Tampakan open-pit copper and gold mine in Mindanao.

Lopez made it clear from her first days in office that she opposed the Tampakan project. It would force hundreds of people off their land, she said, damage water and ruin a magnificent tropical watershed. “Water is life,” Lopez said on Thursday. “Is it right to let this go on? Is any amount of money worth it? Is this right? We need love. Love is courage. The courage to stand up for what is true.”

The order to outlaw new open-pit mines could very well be Lopez’s last as environment secretary. Next week a 25-member legislative committee that reviews cabinet appointments is scheduled to vote on approving or dismissing Lopez from her post. The committee includes a number of members that are heavily supported by mining companies. The family of the committee’s vice-chairman owns a big metal mine.

Abandoned equipment and toxic mine sludge occupy the abandoned Marcopper mine on Marinduque, an island east of Manilla. A breach in the mine’s tailing pond poured millions of tons of toxic mine wastes into the Boac River. Photo by Keith Schneider.

The struggle over metal mining in the Philippines has been especially fierce since 1995, when the country approved a mining statute that opened the country’s extensive gold, copper, and nickel reserves, among the world’s largest, to international development companies. The intent was to encourage foreign investment and new jobs.

The next year, though, Filipinos discovered just how environmentally risky an anticipated boom in open-pit mineral mining could be. On March 24, 1996 a tailings pond breached at the Marcopper open-pit copper mine on Marinduque, an island southeast of Manila. Millions of tons of toxic mine sludge roared down the Boac River, flooding communities, wrecking the river and contaminating the sea 27 kilometers (16.7 miles) away. The Canadian company closed the mine. It is now one of the 14 abandoned open-pit mines in the Philippines that are surrounded by acres of bare and eroded hillsides and big pools of toxic acidic water contaminated with high concentrations of heavy metals.

In August 2012, an even bigger tailings disaster followed torrential rains at the Philex copper and gold mine in Benguet, about 315 kilometers north of Manila. Some 20 million tons of mine tailings poured from the breached tailings pond and into nearby streams.

Lopez says her mining orders are meant to prevent any more damage from big new mines.

“We have the most unique biodiversity on the planet,” she said in an interview. “We are the center of the center of marine biodiversity of the entire planet in the Verde Passage. It’s a passage through the islands. It’s beautiful and so clean. They want to put up a gold mine there. So I cancelled it. Hello? It’s cancelled.”

Keith Schneider is an international correspondent specializing in global trends related to water, energy, and food. Based in northern Michigan, he has reported from six continents. Read his blog at ModeShift.org and reach him on Twitter @modeshift

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Panguna petition proves BCL not welcome and the BCL claim of ‘unanimous Landowner consent’ is false

One PNG | 28 April 2017

Panguna landowners today presented a petition to the Bougainville Government office of President John Momis, rejecting BCL’s application for an exploration licence.

The petition is a direct response to reports that President Momis is considering supporting the BCL application because he understood it was supported by local landholders.

Philip Miriori and a number of other representatives of SMLOLA met with President Momis in March this year following the misleading statements made suggesting BCL had unanimous consent.

Although it was acknowledged at that meeting that President Momis had been misinformed, unfortunately there has been continued support for BCL and the landowners felt it important to demonstrate the overwhelming and heart felt view of the owners of the minerals – BCL will never be accepted on their lands.

The Chairman of the SMLOLA, Philip Miriori, said the petition proved President Momis had been misled about the supposed local support for the BCL application.

“We are the landholders who own the land and the minerals beneath the ground at the Panguna minesite,” Chairman Miriori said.

“We will never accept BCL, as these signatures show,” he said.

“We will be explaining the alternative proposal we have developed and presented to the ABG – a proposal that will get the mine back up and running professionally, and far earlier than BCL plans, which represents real benefits for Bougainville and its independent future economic prosperity.”

The petition presented today includes over 500 signatures – an over whelming majority of the landholders within the Panguna minesite boundary.

SMLOLA Chairman Miriori said the petition called on the ABG to reject the BCL renewal application.

“President Momis should do what he said he would do and listen to and respect the views of  local people, the people the law has now given ownership of the minerals to,” he said.

“He should be looking at the alternative we have developed, instead of listening to more empty promises from BCL.”

SMLOLA Chairman Miriori said all of the petition signatories were landholders within the Panguna mining licence area. Many would be attending the community briefing about the SMLOLA alternative proposal in Arawa soon.

“For the first step, the grant of an exploration licence, those within that boundary are the only landholders who are relevant and affected by activities. Landholders in surrounding areas will also have a say when the mine takes the next step from exploration to a mining licence if the reopening of the mine  needs to expand into those surrounding lands.

“BCL’s exploration licence renewal application should be rejected for many reasons but as many feel, the company has failed to address the environmental damage caused when the mine was operating up to 1989.  All that was left for us was that environmental damage, division in the community and the loss of our land and many lives.  

“We believe BCL left terrible damage which it has never tried to repair, it then had 2 years to try and progress the mine, it did nothing and ignored us.  Now it expects the Government to give it another licence to return to Panguna. President Momis says BCL do not have a development partner and first need to find a development partner to be able to progress but can’t tell us who that is – more empty promises about what it might do in the future.  How can we believe them after so many years of nothing. This is not acceptable to us.  We will never allow it to happen,” Chairman Miriori said.

“There is a better way forward.  We have a proposal which can deliver a real prospect for Panguna and future prosperity for Bougainville .

“Instead of trusting BCL’s false claim that it has unanimous landowner consent, the Government should be giving respect to the true local landholders and working with us,” he stressed.

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PNG Rape Survivors Confront Barrick Gold in Canada 

Joycelyn Mandi and Everlyn Gaupe in Toronto/VICE News

Barrick Gold has been accused by Porgera women, of being complicit in their rape by mine security. Corporate consultant Dame Carol Kidu has defended Barrick Gold before the UN, claiming the company has handled the matter appropriately. Survivors have gone to Canada to argue this is not the case!

Women from Papua New Guinea bring rape complaints to Canadian mining company’s door

Hilary Beaumont | Vice News | April 26, 2017

Two women from Papua New Guinea flew half-way around the world this week to tell their stories of sexual assault at a Canadian mining giant’s shareholders’ meeting — but when they arrived at the meeting, they say they were told they couldn’t speak.

Everlyn Gaupe and Joycelyn Mandi allege they were raped years ago by security guards employed by the Porgera Joint Venture mine, which is co-owned by Barrick Gold and Chinese company Zijin Mining Group. The company has compensated about 130 women, including Gaupe, although she says her payment was not enough. Mandi also sought compensation, but didn’t receive any. The women claim that rapes, beatings, and environmental contamination are still happening at the mine’s dumping site today.

Protesters gather outside of a downtown Toronto building where Barrick Gold held its AGM. Photo by Hilary Beaumont/VICE News

“They said no, they told us we were not going to speak, we don’t know why,” Mandi told VICE News inside the meeting. “We followed every rule to come in to speak. We don’t know. Something’s going wrong.”

Mining Watch Canada paid their airfare and arranged for Barrick shareholders to appoint the women as their proxies so they could ask questions at the end to the meeting. But as they entered the AGM, the women said they were told their proxy shares weren’t valid. Instead, a Mining Watch Canada activist read prepared statements for them.

Jacob Sternberg confirmed to VICE News that he appointed Mandi as his proxy holder so she could speak in his place at the meeting. Rachel Small confirmed that she appointed Gaupe as her proxy. That the women were given the impression they couldn’t speak was “disrespectful, to put it mildly,” she said. The company said while the women were told their proxies were invalid, no one told them they couldn’t speak. Barrick knew a week in advance that the women were coming.

Although they didn’t get to read their statements, the women said they felt proud and happy that their voices were heard inside the meeting. “I am feeling lighter now,” Gaupe said after the meeting. “Barrick and the world have heard us and we are satisfied.”

The women’s visit to Canada comes amid new reports of violence near the mine, and renews questions about the accountability of Canadian mining companies operating overseas — something the Liberal government is facing pressure to address.

Trade minister François-Philippe Champagne is “a little pre-occupied with Trump these days” so the mining file isn’t getting much attention, Liberal MP John McKay told VICE News. However the government is actively considering creating a mining ombudsman’s office that would investigate serious complaints overseas, he said. “I have a sense that they do want to get this done. I have a sense they don’t want to be answering these questions come next election.” 

Champagne’s office said the minister, who was appointed to his position in January, is engaged in the file. He met with Canada’s existing Corporate Social Responsibility Counselor to evaluate how to strengthen the counselor’s role, and has also met directly with the mining sector at the annual Prospector’s and Developers Association of Canada conference in Toronto in March, according to his press secretary.

On March 25, local police funded by the mine entered a settlement in Porgera, Papua New Guinea and burned down a number of houses. During the raid, police allegedly gang raped women and assaulted men, according to a local human rights group the Akali Tange Association. The company disputes that any sexual assault or beatings happened during the raid.

Days before the shareholders meeting, the ATA’s executive officer McDiyan Robert Yapari said he was arrested and charged with reporting false news about the March 25 raid. He said his phone was confiscated and he was accused of tarnishing the reputation of the police.

The company confirmed the raid took place, but said only 18 structures were burned down — not 150 houses as McDiyan had reported — and the whole operation was conducted legally with warrants. However the company did not provide those warrants when VICE News asked to see them.

In interviews with VICE News, Gaupe and Mandi explained that the mine has drawn a large population into the valley around it in search of wealth, and so the valley is crowded with people living in slum-like conditions, making it difficult if not impossible for them to farm and produce food as they used to. Instead, they say the only way to survive is to go to the mine dump site every day to pan for gold, which they can exchange for money to buy rice.

But Barrick security considers this illegal mining and trespassing, so they chase the miners off the site, threatening them with guard dogs and shooting them with rubber bullets, according to the women.

“When they run and catch us, they do whatever they want,” Gaupe told VICE News. “They beat us brutally. …They arrest us too, and for the women we are likely to be raped.”

“It’s happening now, while I’m talking. They like raping us, the security guards,” she continued. “Two weeks ago, we heard three women were seized up by security personnels and they were raped.”

Company spokesperson Andy Lloyd told VICE News the company was aware of another rape report in the last two weeks, but that no claims had been submitted to the company.

“We absolutely condemn sexual assault, it’s a horrific crime and we don’t support it,” Lloyd said following the meeting. “It’s unacceptable and it’s not something we want to see happening on any mine or around any mine that we operate.”

“There is no question that sexual assault is a huge problem in this part of the world,” he added. “We’ve seen surveys where 80 percent of the women in the community have said they have been sexually assaulted by a family member, by members of the community, so it’s a pervasive problem, it’s not a mine problem.”

Mandi said she had submitted a claim to the company’s grievance process in 2014, but had not heard anything from the company since then.

Lloyd explained that the grievance mechanism takes a long time, and is not set up to address serious human rights violations like sexual assault. If someone does submit a sexual assault claim through the grievance process, it gets put aside into a legal claims process, he said. If it’s found to be valid, the mine “would discuss a remedy.” He was unable to say whether any sexual assault allegations had been resolved through this process.

He said there were a large number of claims submitted together in one batch, and there were “issues with documentation” of some of those claims. “I have no idea if her claim was one of those, but that may be a reason for why it has taken some time to actually pursue.” In 2015 alone, the company says it received 805 complaints through its grievance mechanism, although the company would not say how many of those were complaints of sexual assault versus resettlement requests, employment grievances and other claims.

In some cases, local human rights groups will bring grievances forward on behalf of people who say they were wronged by the mine, and Lloyd said the company must do its due diligence to ensure those groups are authorized to represent the complainant.

“The commitment from [President Kelvin Dushinsky] today was to follow up with her and to understand what her claim was, and whether there is anything we can do to help move it along, I think that’s something we’re happy to do,” he said of Mandi’s claim.

The company has no plans at the moment to re-open its remedy framework that previously compensated women for alleged sexual assaults.

Other than the grievance process, women can report sexual assault allegations to a human rights observer in the valley, or to the police, Lloyd explained, although police themselves have been accused of raping women.

Lloyd said the company “has tried to be a positive force” in the dialogue around sexual assault, training police and employees on human rights, funding a police sexual violence response unit and has brought the anti-gender violence NGO White Ribbon to several of its mine sites to raise awareness about the issue.

Gaupe said the company had promised to pay school fees for her children and medical fees, and set up business for women living in the valley. “Empty promises, it didn’t happen,” she said.

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Locals Call For Leaders To Stop Politicising On PNGSDP

Post Courier | April 28, 2017

LEADERS from the special mining Lease area in Ok Tedi in the Western Province have called on intending candidates to stop politicising the PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP).
They said they were making the call after concluding the signing of the heads of agreement for the transfer of 33 percent of the mine to them this week.
They said the road to the finalisation of the deal had been long and challenging after suffering years of neglect and marginal benefits from the mine.
They said this had been the status quo since closure of the Panguna which offsetting opening of OK Tedi which had been the country’s economic backbone for a long time.
“We particularly are very concerned that the matter of the Long Term Fund under the PNGSDP has been used as an issue for people with vested interest to score political mileage at the expense of the very people who are entitled to benefit from this fund,” CMCA region core group chairman Richard Zumoi said.
He also called for the immediate resignation of Sir Mekere Morauta as Chairman of the Board of PNGSDP to remove all possible political interference and influence on the organisation because he should not be politicising the issue in the elections.
He said outside of politics it was time for the people of Western Province to be in control of their own development destinies adding there should be two representatives from their people appointed onto the PNGSDP board.
“We are now demanding that there should not be any more statements relating to the PNGSDP issue unless there is a sincere intention and will to reform the program charter and rules to ensure that the people of Western Province receive full benefits in the form of tangible and sustainable
infrastructure and services because we the people gave the social license for the mine to continue to operate,” Mr Zumoi said.

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