COAL – PNG’s next big thing?

As if the gold, copper, silver and nickel miners have not done enough damage already, now the government and MRA want to open PNG up to the most destructive and damaging mining of all – dirty old, climate destroying, coal… 

And they are wasting K10 million subsidizing the prospective coal miners – money that could be spent on our hospitals!

coal

HOT … SAMPLES OF COAL FROM SMIPEN AND NINGERUM WELLS IN PNG’S WESTERN PROVINCE.

Sam Vulum | Islands Business

COAL might be the next big thing for Papua New Guinea after gold, copper, silver, nickel, oil and gas.

Though research into coal mining potential is slow, it is now being religiously pursued with the Papua New Guinea Government for the first time ever taking ardent interest.

The Government has committed K10 million to Mineral Resource Authority (MRA) for research into coal mining and coal seam gas industries in the country.

Three international private backers are also behind the investigations to determine whether Papua New Guinea has feasible resources to underpin future coal mining and coal seam gas industries.

Mining Minister Byron Chan said in a unique cooperative approach, the three exploration companies are spearheading the coal exploration initiative.

Mr Chan said Waterford, Mayur Coal and Pacific Mining Partners have come together in Gulf province where highly-prospective discoveries have been made and a drilling program has started.

He said coal has also been identified in various other provinces and it is a mineral that provides much opportunity for PNG, including direct export, power generation and manufacturing.

MRA has confirmed this strong potential for coal and coal seam mining based on its ongoing research. MRA team leader for mapping Chris Wamugl indicated this in a presentation in November 2014 during a the 50th annual session of the Coordinating Committee for Geoscience Programs in East and South East Asia, in Kokopo, East New Britain Province.

He said PNG had the potential to go into coal mining and there was a need to develop this mining activity.

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ABG not doing enough awareness on potential dangers of alluvial mining

Too much time being spent on Rio Tinto rather than looking after families involved in small-scale alluvial mining? 

Tom Kathoa | New Dawn

Small gold mining operations by the local people particularly the landowners is not only a good business, but is also a risky and dangerous business.

Many people involved in alluvial mining are not aware of the dangers associated with this type of mining.

Concerned leader, Patrick Haromate told New Dawn that while miners get good money for their work, people must also be made aware of the dangers of such and industry.

He clarified that the dangerous part of this industry is on the side of the miners themselves because they directly exposed to toxic acids from chemicals like mercury.

Because of lack of knowledge on the dangers of these chemicals, people do not wear protective and safety gears to protect them from being infected.

He said the waste created by these local alluvial miners is much higher than that of big mining companies operating in the country.

The harm or side effects from direct contact and exposure to mercury and other chemicals include deformed babies, twisted limbs and other defects on people.

There are reports that the Arawa General Hospital has seen some cases that could be linked to chemical exposure.

The ABG government should carry out a vigorous awareness on this matter as more people are now turning to alluvial mining for quick money.

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China looks to mine Papua New Guinea assets

map-of-papua-new-guinea

Oxford Business Group

Chinese miners are looking to increase their presence in Papua New Guinea’s minerals industry, with two recent acquisitions giving companies from the mainland a firm hold on assets in the extractive sector.

China already has a presence in the PNG economy, through investments in the mining, infrastructure and property sectors, attracted by the country’s relatively untapped mineral wealth. Recently, firms have been looking to raise their profile in the minerals sector, taking advantage of the depressed commodities market to buy into ventures where existing operators are in need of a cash injection, as well as secure supplies to meet domestic demand.

Buying up

In May, Australian miner PanAust accepted a revised takeover offer worth about A$1.2bn ($923m) from Guangdong Rising Assets Management Company (GRAM). The move will see the state-owned Chinese company gain control of a large-scale gold and copper development on PNG’s Frieda River, building on its 22.5% stake in the firm.

According to Greg Anderson, the executive director of the PNG Chamber of Mines, Chinese investors are better placed than most to fund developments, particularly large-scale mining projects such as Frieda River, because they have the capital. “It is a mega, world-class project and raising the funds for it, particularly in the current market, would be extremely difficult,” he told Australia’s ABC radio in June. “With the entry of the Chinese into the project, it’s far more likely that it will go ahead, certainly within the next five years or so.”

The Chinese drive gained further impetus when Zijin Mining Group acquired a 50% stake in Canadian-based miner Barrick Gold’s PNG Porgera gold operation for $298m in cash, at the end of May, as part of a broader strategic partnership. Barrick’s take from the mine was 493,000 ounces of gold last year, and it is expected to have an operational life of five years or more.

Barrick Gold is selling assets as it looks to reduce a $13bn debt pile, after investing heavily in assets when the market was high, only to see commodities prices dip.

Chairman John Thornton noted that Chinese firms would increasingly have a central role in the mining industry as the country’s appetite for minerals grows. “A 21st-century mining company with global reach and the intention to become an industry leader must, by definition, have a distinctive relationship with China,” he said.

Local opposition

Chinese miners have not always enjoyed a warm welcome in PNG. There have, for example, been clashes between locals and employees of the Metallurgical Corporation of China, which operates the Ramu nickel cobalt project via its subsidiary Ramu NiCo. At least four people were killed in 2009, when riots were sparked by fights between local and Chinese workers during the construction of the project, located near Madang on the north coast. Last August, production was halted for three days after five Chinese workers were injured in an attack by locals.

The $2.1bn Ramu mine was the first large-scale foray by China into the PNG minerals extraction sector. In 2014, the mine produced 21,000 tonnes of nickel, according to the Chinese firm’s junior partner Highlands Pacific, which is forecast to increase to 31,000 tonnes a year when the facility reaches full capacity over its 40-year lifespan.

Though global demand for many minerals remains sluggish, some analysts are forecasting a rebound for the mining industry in 2016. In particular, metals such as copper, gold and nickel – all of which are found in PNG – are expected to post solid price increases, in part on the back of higher demand from China.

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Mining Minister Byron Chan to save the world

“I take pride in the fact that we are not only developing these tools for ourselves but for all mankind who will benefit from their application in future and we the people of PNG are taking a leadership position in this new frontier of offshore mining,”  Byron ‘Baby’ Chan

Looks like Byron has not bothered to read the two recent New Zealand Environment Protection Agency evaluations that say the environmental risks are too great… And what about the 20,000 signature petition siting on Byron’s desk telling him his own people on New Ireland do not want this experimental mining…

byron chan

Chan confident seabed mining will start soon

Pacific Mining Watch

MINING Minister Byron Chan is confident that the mining of copper and gold on the seafloor in Bismarck Sea will start soon.

He recently visited Newcastle in the United Kingdom to witness Nautilus Minerals offshore mining tools being manufactured and assembled.

“The offshore mining tools are huge and are about to be completed. I can say with confidence now that I have seen and witnessed these equipment myself that seafloor mining within the Bismarck Sea is soon to become a reality,” he said.

Chan was referring to the construction and assembling of the three seafloor mining tools – the auxiliary cutter, the bulk cutter and the collector. He said it was satisfying to witness the seafloor mining tools being assembled.

“The advent of this technology being developed by Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd of Newcastle in the UK for Nautilus and the Government of PNG is nothing short of impressive,” he said.

“I commend SMD for their engineering and design expertise in delivering these tools.

“I take pride in the fact that we are not only developing these tools for ourselves but for all mankind who will benefit from their application in future and we the people of PNG are taking a leadership position in this new frontier of offshore mining,” Chan said.

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Few families remain in Fiji mining town

A view of neighbouring houses from Maria's residence at Loloma settlement in Vatukoula. Picture: BALJEET SINGH

A view of neighbouring houses from Maria’s residence at Loloma settlement in Vatukoula. Picture: BALJEET SINGH

Litia Mathewsell | The Fiji Times

FOR residents both past and present, Vatukoula retains childhood memories and the awakening of youth. Its layout was unorthodox, with several communities set apart by ethnic makeup and varying privileges but closely bound by a maze of narrow roads and social activities.

Those who grew up during the area’s booming days included Antonio Elaisa, a retired Human Resources training officer for the Fiji Sugar Corporation.

“I was three years old when I came to Fiji from the island (Rotuma), when my mum passed away,” the Lautoka resident related.

“I was bought up by foster parents, Jioje and Keponi. My foster mum was my mother’s twin sister and we stayed in Vatukoula in the 50s and 60s.”

Retaining cultural practices

Antonio noted that despite the distance from Rotuma, their traditional customs remained, still intact and practised through ceremonial formalities.

“The Rotuman community also held functions, especially by our elders. Most of us came from Rotuma and stayed in Vatukoula because we had relatives working there.”

These sentiments were echoed by Maria Vuan, a retired Nilsen College teacher who has lived in the area for over 20 years.

“This place was really a stepping stone for many,” she said.

Though she didn’t grow up in the area, she would become part of its vibrant communities through her husband, Sunia Albert, who worked at the mines and moved there in 1987.

As noted in the 1977 publication, Exiles and Migrants in Oceania, by Michael Lieber, Vatukoula had the highest percentage of expanded households of any of the Rotuman enclaves it studied. This was particularly due to a traditional obligation of well-off families looking after less privileged relatives, and this practice was prevalent in Vatukoula because of the high employment it afforded Rotumans who settled in Fiji.

The 50s and 60s

Antonio attended the Vatukoula Fijian Government School from Class One to eight and remembers taking a ten to 15-minute walk to school from Loloma — a settlement of mostly Rotuman families — with his cousins and friends.

“We would go to a lady named Mary Lala, who sold Indian sweets under a mango tree,” he recalled.

“At the time, the community was very close in Loloma, Dolphins and Vunisinu. There were many social activities too, especially for the church, as many of the Rotumans were Catholic, so we would get together for services on the weekends.”

The Emperor Theatre in Korowere was also a popular fixture, and regularly attracted a crowd of movie goers to its double-storey complex along Emperor Avenue, where supermarkets and grocery stores were also located.

“We didn’t have DVDs back then, so the movies were shown through reels. Admission to the movies was about 20 or 50 cents, very cheap. And we’d have movies shown in the morning, midday and in the afternoon. We just had three sessions in a day and would walk to Korowere.

“We didn’t go to Tavua because of transport problems. Buses were organised for businesses but there weren’t any daily runs otherwise. So we would all walk from our various communities to Korowere. There was a bakery owned by a Chinese businessman named Fong Lee, and a taxi base was also there. Good businesses were going on. But now the place is different.”

Greener pastures

“Vatukoula was very much prosperous in terms of business, in terms of the mining activities. It was really going very well and together with that, I could see the boom in businesses.”

As charming as Vatukoula was for Antonio, the struggles of being raised in a large household prompted his resolve to find his own path for the future.

“Sometimes I didn’t take lunch to school. It was a struggle. I set my goal to be well educated and to not have any second thoughts, but to focus on my future, and to get out of Vatukoula,” he said, noting that despite the prosperity, the mining town had limited work opportunities.

“I could see that my other friends had already proceeded to higher education and said they couldn’t come back to Vatukoula or they would be sent underground for casual works in the mines.”

Antonio managed to study afield at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, with a government scholarship and retains fond memories of growing up in the charming mining town, where he still has a few resident relatives.

Rotuman assertiveness

As studies and publications noted, the Rotumans of Vatukoula did not go without their share of challenges. One of these was the community’s insistence of retaining independence and control of their own affairs, which clashed with the rules of the mining companies. As cited by author Michael Lieber in Exiles and Migrants in Oceania, houses were symbolic to Rotuman social status and members of their community once approached a mining welfare office to request that their minister be allocated a house better than merited, which clashed with the mine management rules of how homes were assigned.

The Rotumans also ran their own mess hall and were noted as the only community in Vatukoula to take care of their own food, as a Chinese caterer oversaw the part-European and European mess, while the Fijian mess was taken care of by the mining company.

“The advantage enjoyed by Rotumans in their arrangement lies not only in profits but also in the capacity to allocate jobs within the mess to Rotumans,” it was noted.

The first Rotuman worker at Vatukoula was a man named Tafaki, who joined the mine in 1939 and was recognised as a headman. Following him, the Rotuman community elected an electrician named Riamkau as headman.

“In a short time he had gained a commitment from the company for better housing, but his aggressive manner also generated some antagonism within the community. Then chief Tausia, one of the seven paramount chiefs from Rotuma, visited Vatukoula in 1950 and appointed another man, Vai, as ‘headman’.”

Vai remained headman until he died in 1960, although his predecessor, Riamkau, remained an influential member of the community during Vai’s leadership and even put together a committee that compromised of one man of chiefly decent from each Rotuman district. They held monthly meetings.

“Interestingly, the resultant structure very nearly duplicated the social structure on Rotuma,” Lieber noted.

“Thus the ‘headman’ in Vatukoula put in a very similar position to the district officer on Rotuma, and the committee corresponded to the Council of Chiefs. Even the monthly meetings, which rotated among committee members’ households, paralleled the Rotuman custom of rotating host districts.”

Riamkau was re-elected leader after Vai’s death, though the committee passed a motion for the headman’s term to be limited to two years.

Close-knit

“The community has been close but when you look at it, it has really depended on the kind of managers we used to have,” Maria said.

“Some managers before were very easy, some were strict and managed to control the drunkards in the area.”

One of the former regulations she noted included the eviction of a whole family if a member of their household damaged property or stole from other homes.

“That kind of eased off the rowdiness of the drunkards. We only had one or two cases of when that happened, because they would worry that no matter where they were, if they got into trouble, then their whole family was put out. And it was good, because it eased off the rowdiness and danger.”

Mine managers differed in character, with some taking a more avid interest in the affairs of Vatukoula’s community, while others were more centred on production.

“Some came in and both cared for the community, as well as the production,” she said.

Likewise, the characters of those regarded as Rotuman leaders have also varied, though they have played pivotal roles of overseeing their people outside the traditional frameworks of Rotuman villages.

“Even though Rotumans are now everywhere, in Loloma, Nasivi and at Low-Cost, we still have what we call our area leader, similar to the village set-up. So whatever happens, we still do things together,” Maria noted.

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Japanese government set to mine mineral resources off Okinawa

japan seabed

The Yomiuri Shimbun | The Japan News

The Natural Resources and Energy Agency intends to conduct deep-sea test mining of minerals found on the seabed off Okinawa Island, in fiscal 2017.

The government aims to mine as much as 1,000 tons of zinc, silver and other mineral resources at a depth of about 1,600 meters in the sea off the island.

It is a world first to conduct such large-scale mining of minerals that lie under the seabed, according to the agency.

A large number of mineral deposits have lately been found one after another in waters near Japan.

Currently, the Hishikari gold mine in Kagoshima Prefecture is the only domestic commercial mine in the country, the agency said.

Japan is 100 percent dependent on imports for minerals such as iron, copper and zinc, which are indispensable for the production of cars and home electrical appliances.

The test mining is expected to be the first step to realizing commercial exploitation in the future, observers said, which would end Japan’s reputation as a country with limited natural resources.

The agency plans to conduct the test mining on deposits found at the so-called Izena sea hole at about 100 kilometers northwest of Okinawa Island. It plans to use two mining machines developed by the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, the agency said.

The agency plans to conduct the test mining by the end of fiscal 2017, using a special-purpose pump — which is expected to be developed in fiscal 2016 — to pull up unearthed minerals to a mother ship on the surface.

It plans to mine about 100 tons of minerals every day for two to four weeks. The costs are expected to come to around ¥15 billion to ¥20 billion, according to the agency.

Meanwhile, a Canadian company has launched the development of a machine to mine seabed minerals at a depth of more than 1,000 meters in the sea.

A successful operational test of a Japanese-made mining machine at the Izena hole in the summer of 2012 confirmed the existence of about 3.4 million tons of mineral deposits including zinc, silver and gold.

Mineral deposits also have been found in the coastal seas of Kumejima island in Okinawa Prefecture and Hachijojima island in Tokyo.

The agency also plans to conduct a detailed survey of such mineral deposits.

The government plans to conduct a full-scale project to conduct an integrated operation from exploitation to refinement in cooperation with private companies in the 2020s.

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200 jobs expected to be made in multi-million dollar Gold project in Nadi

200 jobs – but at what cost to the environment, our sustainable livelihoods and our culture?

Lets not forget what another Canadian company, Barrick, has done at Porgera in PNG…

lion one

Watisoni Butabua | Fiji Village

Lion One the Metals Limited was granted a Special Mining lease by the Lands and Mineral Resources Ministry.

About 200 jobs are expected to be created at the multi-million dollar Tuvatu Gold project in Nadi.

This is after the Canadian company Lion One the Metals Limited was granted a Special Mining lease by the Lands and Mineral Resources Ministry.

Land and Permit Manager, Moape Navia says the details are expected to be finalised at the end of this month.

He says the special mining lease provides them the exclusive rights to the potential development, construction, and operation of mining, processing, and waste management infrastructure at Tuvatu and the surrounding lease area.

He says the company was also granted a 21 year surface lease.

Meanwhile, the Mataqali Nacokula of Natawa village and the Mataqali Nabouwalu of Korobebe in Nadi have received $700,000 as a premium payment.

The mining lease area covers 373 hectares of land.

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