Chemicals In River Affect Villagers

Michael Arnold | Post Courier | May 26, 2017

Medical teams have found trace amounts of cyanide in the blood of people living in the Mekeo villages of Veifa’a and Aipeana along the banks of the Angabanga River in Central Province.

According to councillor of Veifa’a ward two, Ben Afaisa, medical teams from Port Moresby had done an awareness on the effects, if any of the upstream Tolokuma Gold Mine in Veifa’a and other villages along the river, and had been approached by villagers who became sick after washing in the river.

Upon a return trip to the villages, doctors discovered that villagers had traces of cyanide in their blood which could have been absorbed through the skin or through consumption of plants and animals that also inhabit the area.

“We were tested by doctors from Port Moresby, and they found out that in our bodies we have cyanide and other harmful chemicals,” Cr Afaisa said.

Efforts to approach the Central governor with their concerns have been unsuccessful, and villagers are hoping that the new government will be able to address the issue.

“We haven’t heard anything from the governor about how they plan to address the issue. That river feeds all the west Mekeo villages along its banks, up till Bereina which is at the mouth of the river,” Cr Afaisa said.

The Angabanga River connects many other villages in the Mekeo LLG to Goilala where Tolokuma Gold Mine is also located.

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Taranaki seabed mining would harm sea life, hearing told

Busloads of people have been protesting outside the Environmental Protection Agency as the hearings have continued. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Eric Frykberg | Radio New Zealand | 25 May 2017

Opponents of a proposal to mine millions of tonnes of iron sands from the Taranaki seabed have resumed their attacks in the final day of hearings on the project.

Trans-Tasman Resources wants to dig five million tonnes of iron ore from the seabed every year for the next 35 years.

Two lobby groups, Greenpeace and Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM), want the scheme blocked by the Environmental Protection Agency.

KASM representative Ruby Haazen told the EPA hearing this morning a plume of mined sediment would harm the sea and sea life.

“Marine mammals is the most egregious example but the most fundamental example is the plume,” she said.

“The applicant knew how central it was, yet this hearing was delayed and thrown out of kilter by the need to re-run a worst case scenario, which for reasons we have canvassed was not worst case.”

Ms Haazen said the worst case did not stack up economically either.

The company will make its final statement this afternoon.

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NZ EPA must again refuse experimental seabed mining application

KASM | Scoop | 25 May 2017

Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) had failed to provide the information on the impacts of seabed mining that the EPA used as a basis for refusing the company’s first application in 2014, so there was no choice but to again refuse consent, Kiwis Against Seabed Mining and Greenpeace told the hearing today.

After a four-month EPA hearing into TTR’s application to mine 50 million tonnes of the South Taranaki Bight seabed every year for 35 years, KASM and Greenpeace gave their closing arguments to the EPA today (full document here).

In 2014, the EPA gave clear directives as to the information that should be gathered before submitting a new application, the groups told the hearing. TTR did some new modelling on the sediment “plume” and economics, but that was all.

“The other key areas for work such as marine mammals, benthic and seabird studies had not been undertaken. It just wasn’t done,” KASM and Greenpeace lawyer Ruby Haazen told the hearing.

“The South Taranaki Bight is an area that has not been the subject of any in -depth scientific or environmental research. What we know has always been limited. [TTR] has attempted to convince us that there is in fact a lack of environmental activity in the area.

“This thinking underpins the philosophy of the applicant in approaching this application and sums up how things have gone so wrong.

She noted that this application was – and still is – the first of its kind, not just in New Zealand but internationally; its effects are new and unique, and the scale of the proposed application is large and unlike any carried out in New Zealand before.

“The South Taranaki Bight is an environment that hosts an array of marine life, supporting some of the most threatened and rare species in the world and a feeding ground for seabirds, fish, marine mammals and a breeding ground for blue whales. This is only what we have found out so far.”

“The evidence presented has demonstrated that from what we do know, this area may be much more significant than anyone previously thought,” she said.

The company had modelled the spread of the “plume” of sediment around the STB, but had withheld key data. There were not enough samples for any expert to be able to verify the company’s claims that “flocculation” would reduce the effect of the plume. The so-called “worst case scenario” modelling that the EPA sent the company back to carry out was nothing like the “worst case” – and cannot be verified.

“Enormous uncertainties remain, not only on the worst case plume model but on the effects of the model presented as worst case, on primary productivity, the benthos, marine mammals and seabirds.”

Despite what the EPA said in its 2014 decision, TTR hadn’t done any further marine mammal surveys for this second application, and even then those surveys were only between the mine site and the shoreline.

This contrasted with evidence given by blue whale expert Dr Leigh Torres, who confirmed to the hearing that many blue whales had been seen in the South Taranaki Bight, and that her research confirmed that the Bight may be host to New Zealand’s own population of blue whales.

Nobody really knew what the effect of noise from the mining would have on marine mammals, including the whales.

“The underwater noise predictions are inadequate and insufficient as a basis for a biological risk assessment. Insufficient information is available at this time to estimate the noise levels that would be experienced by marine mammals in the area.”

The EPA decision is due around the end of June.

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CEO explains experimental undersea mining

In the article below Nautilus’ CEO paints a rosy picture that is very much at odds with the REAL STORY in its financial filings. Follow the links to read the true picture: 

Nautilus admits serious questions over Solwara 1 viability and future

Nautilus admits environmental impacts of experimental seabed mining unknown

The National aka The Loggers Times | May 25, 2017

THE first undersea mining in the country will take place in New Ireland and operated by Nautilus Minerals. Chief executive officer MIKE JOHNSTON explained to The National’s Business Editor SHIRLEY MAULUDU the nature of the project. He also discussed environmental aspects of the project.

MAULUDU: Tell us briefly about the company Nautilus Minerals.
JOHNSTON: Nautilus is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and is the first public company to explore the deep ocean floor the world’s future mineral resources. Nautilus was granted the world’s first exploration licence for deep sea mineral resources in 1997. Our first mining lease and environment permit were granted in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
MAULUDU: Tell us about the Solwara 1 project in New Ireland.
JOHNSTON: The Solwara 1 project is located in the Bismarck Sea, Papua New Guinea, 30 kms from the coast of New Ireland and 1600 meters below the surface. The project uses technologies from the offshore oil and gas industry, and terrestrial underground mining to produce high grade copper and gold. The planned extractions area is very small at 0.1 km2.  Additional benefits include that no tailings are produced, no landowners are required to be moved, and there is no impact from mining above 1300m water depth. The project is being developed in partnership with the PNG Government. It is fully permitted and has strong local and national support.
MAULUDU: Which communities, wards or the district in New Ireland will be directly impacted by the project?
JOHNSTON: As Solwara 1 is located at 1,600m water depth in the ocean, 30km from land, no one is directly impacted by the project. There is also no requirement to clear land, and no impact on tuna or coastal fisheries. An area known as the “Coastal Area of Benefit” (CAB) has been established by the provincial and national governments, where communication and community benefit programmes are focussed. The CAB comprises seven wards on the west coast of New Ireland. Only last week, Nautilus, in partnership with the NIPG, and with the assistance of Abt Associates and the New Ireland Provincial Health Authority, completed a health patrol and data collection programme (began in Oct 2016). The team estimated during this programme that they saw 7000-plus patients, out of a population of around 8500. These programmes will be ongoing.
MAULUDU: What sort of tools will be used to carry out the mining?
JOHNSTON: The production system uses existing technology from the offshore oil and gas sector, combined with rock cutting and materials handling technologies used in land-based operations.
The three main components of the Seafloor Production System are:
l Seafloor Production Tools comprising auxiliary cutter, bulk cutter and collecting machine;
l riser and Lifting System; and,
l Production Support Vessel.
The mining tools cut the rock material, which is then transferred to the Production Support Vessel as a “sloppy slurry” via a very large pump and steel pipe (riser) system.  On board the vessel the high grade rock is separated from the water by gravity methods. The resulting rock is stored in the ship’s hull, to be later transfer to a bulk cargo vessel, then shipped directly to China.
MAULUDU: How will the minerals be mined from under the sea?
JOHNSTON: Rock is cut on the seafloor by the AC and the BC, and then pumped to an adjacent stockpile area. The third machine, CM, then collects the cut material, sucking it up and transferring it as seawater slurry to the main pump, situated at the bottom of the steel riser system. The riser system comprises a rigid steel riser pipe supported from the vessel which delivers the slurry to the surface. The large subsea pump is situated at the bottom of the riser pump, just off the sea floor.  The entire riser and pump system is suspended directly beneath the support vessel. On the deck of the Production Support Vessel, the slurry is dewatered using gravity. The solid material is stored temporarily in the PSV’s hull, and then discharged to a transportation vessel moored alongside. Filtered seawater is pumped back to the seafloor through the riser pipes and provides hydraulic power to operate the RALS pump. Discharge of the return water at the seafloor from where it came eliminates mixing of the water column, and minimises the environmental impact of the operation.
MAULUDU: What minerals in particular will Nautilus be mining for?
JOHNSTON: Copper and gold.
MAULUDU: Environmental issues have been raised by individuals, groups, regarding the Solwara 1 project. How will Nautilus avoid causing any impact on the environment within which it will operate?
JOHNSTON: There are many significant environmental benefits to mining in the deep sea. And our systems try to use these benefits as much as possible. These include effectively no mine tailings, minimal pre-stripping of sediment, low fresh water needs, no vegetation stripping or fresh water catchment issues, minimal rehabilitation costs with no permanent on-site infrastructure such as roads, power lines, buildings and so on. At Solwara 1 we were able for example to design our riser system as a fully enclosed pump and pipe system to extract the mineralised material from the seafloor. There is no mixing of the water column and there is no impact from mining shallower than 1300m water depth at Solwara 1 (more than 1000 meters below where most tuna, whales etc live)
MAULUDU: How is Nautilus doing with its awareness programme in educating the impact communities on the nature of the project?
JOHNSTON: Nautilus has always and continues to ensure that the communities located closest to its Solwara 1 Project (and the wider community in PNG) are fully informed about the Solwara 1 Project. During the development of the Solwara 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), we visited a number of villages and towns in PNG to ensure the views and concerns of local communities were heard. The specific villages and towns were determined in consultation with PNG national and provincial governments. Our commitment to the community does not end with the completion of the EIS or granting of the Environment Permit. Community engagements have continued to take place since the Environment Permit was granted by the then Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) in December 2009. Representatives from the national and provincial governments accompany Nautilus Minerals during these community engagement campaigns. To date, Nautilus Minerals has recorded the attendance of around 30,000 people at engagements/awareness campaigns held in 46 locations within PNG. Both numbers are still growing. We plan to continue with our community engagement campaigns in New Ireland and East New Britain as we move into the operations phase of the project. We have and will continue to focus our engagement programme on the villages located nearest to the Solwara 1 Project site, the CAB. This area covers the communities who have the greatest interest in understanding the project and this will be where many of our CSR programs will be implemented.
MAULUDU: Give an update on the progress of the Solwara 1 project.
JOHNSTON: Nautilus has taken delivery of the Seafloor Production Tools (SPTs). They are currently undergoing submerged trials in PNG. The Riser and Ancillary equipment is completed and currently in storage. The Subsea Slurry and Lift Pump is completed and Nautilus will take delivery of it later this year. The Production Support Vessel is currently being built in China and is progressing to schedule.

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Another ‘world class’ mine embroiled in controversy

Report blasts Antofagasta Minerals’ Los Pelambres mine in Chile

Valentina Ruiz Leotaud | MINING.com | 22 May 2017

An 18-pages long report released today by the London Mining Network slams Antofagasta Minerals’ 60%-owned Los Pelambres copper mine, located in the central-northern of Chile in Coquimbo Region.

In a move that comes just a couple of days prior to Antofagasta’s annual general meeting in London, the document titled In the Valley of the Shadow of Death? A Report on Antofagasta Plc, Minera Los Pelambres and Los Caimanes, highlights allegations of corruption, environmental damage and water depletion caused by the project’s waste tailings dam.

According to the report, the El Mauro tailings dam, with a capacity of 1,700 million tonnes of mine waste, is the biggest in Latin America, surpassing Brazilian Samarco dam by 100 times. The magnitude of the dam, the dossier reads, is a cause of concern for both environmental groups and local residents, who think a similar the disaster to that that took place at Samarco in 2015 could happen in their own community.

Samarco’s breach was linked to small earthquakes and El Mauro’s facility not only is located in a highly seismic region, but it is also expected to grow in size as part of the Los Pelambres’ plans to expand production. “People living in the village of Caimanes would be expected to evacuate their homes within ten minutes of a breach at Antofagasta’s El Mauro dam,” the report states.

Los Pelambres has published a government-approved emergency plan, however, “residents’ attempts to access this plan using the Transparency Law have not been attended to,” today’s report adds.

Community concerns have resulted in a series of actions that date back to 2006 and that have delayed the company’s idea of building two new grinding mills and a desalination plant.

One of the major actions against the El Mauro tailings dam took place in July of 2013 when the Chilean Supreme Court ruled the tailings dam a “danger to human life” and made Minera Los Pelambres officially liable for any loss of human life in the event of a collapse of the dam.

El Mauro dam. Photo from Los Pelambres’ website.

Such ruling highlighted that the dam is constructed to withstand an earthquake of between 7.5 and 8.3 magnitude with an epicentre 80 km away, when the actual closest epicentre is just 60 km away. Thus, the company was ordered to submit the aforementioned emergency plan to reinforce the dam in case of an earthquake.

Later on, in May of 2014, Los Caimanes residents won a case against Minera Los Pelambres in the court of Los Vilos Province. The tailings dam was ruled a “Ruinous Work” (Obra Ruinosa – which asks for the demolition of the facility), in reference to the risk of the dam’s collapse in the event of an earthquake. However, the ruling was appealed in April of 2015, the company presented a safety action plan and a strategy to reduce the dam’s liquid content and, in the end, Los Pelambres won the appeal.

In October of that same year, in a case relating to the ongoing construction of the dam wall (“Obra Nueva”), the Chilean Supreme Court ordered Minera Los Pelambres to restore the free flow of uncontaminated water to the Pupio basin, where the tailings dam is located, and to do this by demolishing the tailings dam or by executing other actions that would help solve the situation. The company was permitted one month to present such alternative option.

In August of 2016, following an appeal of a prior decision against it by the Supreme Court, Los Pelambres was permitted to leave the dam in place, while improving its safety features and providing access to water in the area through pipes and tanks, rather than restoring the natural water flows.

The latter decision came following a May 2016 “Agreement of understanding and cooperation between the mining company and the residents of the Pupio valley,” which lays the groundwork for the expansion of the mine and tailings dam, or possible construction of another tailings dam in the area.

This agreement, says London Mining Network’s report quoting researchers and residents, had a lot of influence in the August of 2016 appeal and was led by lawyers that later on withdrew from the case. The document stated that families who signed would receive around £35,000 which, says LMN, wouldn’t sustain them for long. The activist group also says the money wouldn’t guarantee many of them the amount of land, or the standard of living, they had prior to the construction of the tailings dam.

On top of this, the report adds, the agreement would not compensate for the water scarcity caused in the area by the dam.

“Residents now rely on deliveries of bottled water for use in agriculture as well as human consumption. The river in the Pupio basin has had groundwater diverted away from El Mauro dam into wells; less water is readily available, and this water supply is likely to be contaminated.”

When it comes to claims of pollution, the document cites a 2012 independent investigation undertaken by Andrei Tchernitchin from the University of Chile, who found high levels of manganese, mercury, iron, nickel and molybdenum in water sources in the area, caused by permanently occurring leakages into the groundwater channels in the area.

The report also quotes a Chile’s environmental regulator 2016 charges against Los Pelambres for extracting water from unauthorized sites, building unapproved wells and failing to reforest some areas as required by law.

Minera Los Pelambres produces levels of around 400,000 tonnes of copper and 8,000 tonnes of molybdenum per year.

The company did not respond to MINING.com‘s request for comment by closing time.

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New Ireland refuses to sign Simberi MOA approved by NEC

State Solicitor’s office accused of dishonesty 

Sharon Lowa | Post Courier | May 22, 2017

The New Ireland provincial government has refused to sign the Simberi Gold Mine memorandum of agreement recently approved by the National Executive Council (NEC) in April.

Deputy governor and chairman for natural resources in the provincial executive council Ambrose Silul said they are sick and tired of being misled by the state team negotiating the new MoA for both Simberi and Lihir Gold Mines.

Mr Silul insists that the state keep its word, and until it does, the New Ireland government will not sign any new MoA.

The New Ireland team had been renegotiating the Simberi MoA for over four years and a provisional MoA had been agreed in 2013, but that it was conditional on approval by the PEC.

“Our team wrote to the state team and Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) on October 6, 2013 that the draft MoA must include the provisions approved by the New Ireland PEC on May 21, 2013.

“That includes increasing the rate of royalties from two percent (FOB) annual revenues to 10 percent, as well as similar increases in the special support grant and tax credit scheme,” Mr Silul said.

Mr Silul further stated that the state solicitor’s office agreed that the changes the New Ireland government wanted made to the MoA would be included in the draft to go to the NEC.

He said that in a meeting in April 2015 in Kavieng, the state solicitor agreed they would include New Ireland’s provisions in both the Lihir and Simberi MoAs and allow the NEC to make a final decision.

“All we are asking is that NEC – and not the state bureaucrats – decide on the merits of our suggestions. Instead, we have a bunch of bureaucrats making decisions that should be made by NEC.”

“We will not accept this dishonesty on the part of the state team,” Mr Silul said.

Mr Silul is calling on the mining minister to conduct an immediate investigation into this affair.

The MRA mining coordinators and the state solicitor’s office deliberately and willfully misled the NEC by submitting an MoA that did not include the provisions they promised would be included.

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Call to implement advice in EITI report

The National aka The Loggers Times | May 22, 2017

GOVERNMENT agencies responsible for the mineral and petroleum sectors have been urged to implement a Cabinet decision to implement the recommendations in the first PNG Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Report.
The call came from the EITI secretariat following Cabinet’s directive last week that the recommendations based on the 2013 fiscal year be implemented.
The agencies include the Department of Petroleum and Energy, Mineral Resource Development Company, the three Kumul enterprises, Auditor-General, State Solicitor, Mineral Resource Authority and the departments of Finance and Treasury.
Head of Secretariat Lucas Alkan said the onus was now on the State agencies to act.
“It is important that we take action on the report recommendations now to validate the EITI candidate status early next year.
“It is only through these efforts that we will be seen as making meaningful progress to meeting global best practice in managing our resource wealth.
“And PNG can be accredited as an EITI member country by EITI International.”
The Petroleum and Energy minister is required “to immediately implement a reliable electronic registry to supersede the current paper ledger system”.
The minister responsible for the Kumul Consolidated Holdings Limited is to ensure it participates in the EITI process and regularly reports to the EITI process the State’s share/ interest in the mining and petroleum sectors it manages under the General Business Trust.
Alkan said similar directions were given to Finance Minister and Treasurer to make sure information on fiscal and finance data were conveniently available to help in the EITI reporting process.

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