Monthly Archives: August 2012

MP appeals: Do not grant licence to Nautilus

By Grace Tiden | Post Courier

Prime Minister Peter O’Neil and Deputy Prime Minister Leo Dion must see common sense and rescind their decision on a license for Nautilus says Gazelle MP Malakai Tabar.

Mr Tabar said the government must listen to common appeal to stop this project.

“The people pushing this whole project, from within government and also outside of this country have no understanding of our living systems and would not give a hoot of how much we all lose,” he said.

The Gazelle MP said he attended a few presentations and had difficulty trying to understand how this sea bed “grading and digging” would not affect marine life.

“As the member for this electorate, mandated by my people, I believe my people and the other coastal communities throughout the eastern shoreline of Papua New Guinea would be worst affected,” he said.

“Apart from the Environment Impact Study report that was obviously done by somebody from Nautilus office in Canada, the question of how much we will gain and benefit from stands tall against Papua New Guineans. There is nothing in this project for Papua New Guineans. There is no proper or long term employment, there is no royalty and there is no business influence, especially for and by nationals,” Mr Tabar said.

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Wafi-Golpu land dispute ongoing

Haiveta Kivia | POst Courier

A Local Land Court Decision in 1981 awarded ownership of Mangense Land to the Babuaf (Babwaf) clan which covers Wafe (Wafi) Explorations License (EL) 440 and EL 1105.

The Babuafs are Lower Watut River people and they speak the Wampar (Markham) language. Wafe (Wafi) in their language means crab, in particular little black and red crabs that live along the banks of rivers in their area and that is where Wafi derived its name.

The Babuaf are split into two sub-clans Babuaf Saab and Babuaf Wale.

The 1981 Local Land Court decision that awarded ownership of Wafi and in particular EL 440 and EL 1103 still stands. It has never been set aside and appealed successfully by any disputing parties in the fight for ownership of the land at the Wafi-Golpu Mining Project on the borders of Bulolo and Huon Districts in Morobe province.

Wafi-Golpu according to latest exploration statistics is said to become the third largest mine in the World but some experts are predicting that it will be the largest.

However, landownership of EL 440, 1105 and 1103 is still being disputed and the fight lingers on in the court rooms of Bulolo, Mumeng, Lae and Port Moresby.

The dispute centres more on EL 440 and 1105 which is Wafi while EL 1103 is Golpu.

Court Documents dating as far as 1981 obtained by Post-Courier from a Bill Itamar, the Chairman of Sa’ab Babuaf Resources Limited, is contrary to what other claimants have stated in the newspapers and have reported to reporters and media outlets.

A Local Land Court sat in Mumeng in 1981 and 1982 after hearing all evidence, awarded the ownership to Babuaf, based on ancestral evidence.

That decision was appealed by Engabu (Hengabu- the same) tribe of Mumeng in 1983 to the District Land Court but the decision of the Local Land Court was upheld and the case was thrown out.

Mr Itamar said another appeal was launched through the District Land Court and was thrown out because the rules of the courts were not followed.

He said their ownership was also recognised by the National Court through Originating Summons 19 of 1987 before Justice Woods.

“All these decisions have not been challenged for the last 31 years and other claimants are misleading everyone,” he said.

According to the documents Babuaf then sought to evict the Engabus and an Eviction Order was granted in 1983 for the Engabus to be evicted from the vicinity of the Wafi-Golpu project area.

That order was reinforced again through Originating Summons 736 in the National Court in Lae before Acting Judge Justice Nema Yalo in 2008.

Mr Itamar said Justice Yalo had ordered for the Engabus to be evicted and that they are unlawfully occupying the land but they have defied the Court Orders to date, and are in Contempt of Court.

He also clarified that the Hengabu and Yanta clans only have 50/50 Compensation Rights at Wafi-Golpu for destruction of gardens, cash crops and sacred, ceremonial trees and grounds.

He said they want the Special Land Titles Commission discontinued by the Somare-Abal Government to be reconvened by

O’Neill/Dion Government and for the matter to be heard and be put to rest once and for all.

The matter is afoot in the Supreme Court in Port Moresby and is sought by Thomas Nen on behalf of Babuaf clan and others

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Guess what? Nautilus says its mine will be safe!

Phew! What a relief….

Nautilus: Solwara 1 is safe

By Malum Nalu | The National
NAUTILUS Minerals asserted yesterday that its Solwara 1 project between East New Britain and New Ireland provinces would have minimal impact on the marine environment.
In a comprehensive media briefing at a hotel in Port Moresby, Nautilus chief operating officer Anthony O’Sullivan and PNG country manager Mel Togolo, explained how the underwater mining would take place before taking questions from journalists.
Nautilus has developed a “closed” production system to ensure surface impacts were a minimum.
The mineralisation is disaggregated on the seafloor using robotic equipment, which delivers the material as slurry in seawater to the surface vessel, where the seawater and solids are separated using conventional equipment.
Sullivan, a geologist, said the Solwara 1 project was a ‘Level 3’ activity under the PNG Environment Act 2000 (Section 53), which required that an Environment Impact Statement (EIS) to be submitted to the PNG Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) for their review.
“The Solwara 1 project environmental footprint consists mainly of a single production support vessel, with attendant support vessels, and precision production machinery operating in an area proposed for extraction of approximately 0.11sqkm,” he said.
“There are no directly-affected landowners.
“An extensive multi-stakeholder approach has been used in preparing the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the EIS for the project.
“Workshops were held involving local and international NGOs, PNG government, and local and international scientists to determine the studies that were required to properly evaluate the environment, to identify which groups should conduct these studies, and to estimate project impacts.
“In order to promote transparency and to ensure that leading scientists would be involved with the EIA studies, it was agreed that collaborating scientists would be free to publish the results of these studies, no matter what their findings were.
“This has resulted in more than 36 papers and articles being published in international peer-reviewed journals and/or presented at international conferences.
“On completion of the studies, once again multi-stakeholder workshops were convened to review the findings holistically and to propose mitigation strategies to minimise environmental impact whilst maintaining overall biodiversity and ecosystem health and function.
“All the proposed mitigation strategies were taken on board by Nautilus and incorporated into the EIS and project plans.”
The EIS was submitted to the DEC in September 2009, and public hearings for the EIS were held on November 2009.
“The EIS was then reviewed by the DEC and an independent international consulting group was engaged by the DEC over a six-month period,” O’Sullivan said.
“The EIS was then reviewed by the Environment Council, a group of leading PNG scientists who recommended to the Environment Minister to issue an approval-in-principle of the EIS in August 2009.”

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Cook Islands lead the push for deep sea mining

Makereta Komai | PACNEWS 

Cook Islands is one of the first countries in the world to enact the Seabed Minerals Act 2009, which will commence in March 2013.

Launching the regional legislative and regulatory framework for deep sea mining in Rarotonga this week, Deputy Prime Minister, Tom Marsters said the Act was designed to regulate any future sea bed mining activities within Cook Islands exclusive economic zone (EEZ), in particular the island’s huge manganese nodules resource.

“I believe now, as ever before, it is very exciting time to be a Pacific Islander. We are sitting in a region that is looking to grow, develop and be part of an emerging deep sea minerals industry, both in national and international jurisdiction.

“Indeed, the opportunity these previously untapped resources may present, for improving economic well being of our Pacific people was once just a dream our past leaders and that dream I believe is fast becoming a reality.

However, with all the excitement, DPM Marsters called for caution.

“We would not want to do anything today that will ruin the lives of our children and grandchildren, in cultural, social, environmental and economic terms.

He called on all Pacific Island Countries and Territories to ‘enter this new seabed mineral frontier with common standards and best advice available.’

The proposed regional framework for deep sea mining seeks to provide Pacific Islands with tools necessary to make a decision about whether or not to engage with the emerging deep sea mining industry.

In 2009 Pacific Leaders at their meeting in Cairns called for the development of a regional framework on sea bed mining to allow countries to realize the economic benefits from their marine mineral resources, while supporting the environmental monitoring that preserves fragile marine ecosystems and biodiversity.

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Don’t you just love mining companies?

South African miners charged with murder of colleagues shot by police

Murder charges brought against 270 miners under obscure law previously used by apartheid government

David Batty | Guardian UK

The 270 miners arrested during violent strikes in South Africa have been charged with the murder of their 34 colleagues who were shot dead by police.

The murder charge – and associated charges for the attempted murder of 78 miners injured at the Marikana mine near Johannesburg – was brought by the national prosecuting authority under an obscure Roman-Dutch common law previously used by the apartheid government.

The move came as the men appeared in court charged with public violence over the clashes at the Lonmin platinum mine on 16 August when striking miners armed with clubs, machetes and at least one gun allegedly charged police, who opened fire. It suggests President Jacob Zuma’s government is trying to shift the blame for the killings to the striking miners.

The prosecuting authority said all 270 miners had been charged. Less than one in 10 Lonmin miners turned up for work at the mine on Tuesday, the lowest level since workers returned to work following the clashes. Violence has since spread to Lonmin’s other operations.

The firm said 8% of its 28,000 workers showed up as union protests continued.

Lonmin had initially threatened to sack striking workers.

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SPC defends criticisms against regional framework on deep sea mining

Makereta Komai | PACNEWS 

The Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Dr Jimmie Rogers has defended criticisms leveled at the regional legislative and regulatory framework for Deep Sea Mining (DSM) launched in Rarotonga at the margins of the Pacific Forum Leaders meeting Tuesday.

A coalition of regional civil society groups had earlier in the week called for a moratorium on deep sea mining activities in the Pacific until all risks and uncertainties are properly analysed.

The civil society groups sought legal opinion from the U.S Office of the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide to provide clarity on the appropriate level of action that must be undertaken by Pacific governments to meet their national obligations on the ‘precautionary’ principle in seabed mining.

Dr Jimmie Rodgers does not agree with the interpretation of the civil society groups.

“The regional framework provides our countries and territories of the Pacific a set of tools that will allow them to assess, firstly do we want to engage in deep sea mineral mining, if the answer is yes, what are the steps we go through.

“For any legislation to work, it must have a regulatory framework, similar to what we are recommending. We are saying, if you do this, these are benefits and you have to make sure there are safeguard mechanisms to protect your resources.

Dr Rogers said the DSM framework is a tool that enables countries to engage in the development process of the legislative framework.

“Most of them don’t have that. This is our concern, if commercial companies come into the region and push the agenda for mining, our resource owners might see and love the dollar sign and agree to allow companies to come in without any legislative base.

The SPC head argued the new regional framework will allow Pacific countries and territories to think through their options before developing a legislative and regulatory framework for deep sea mining activity.

“Our agenda is to enable countries to be knowledgeable and have the tools they require to think through the process. And if they want to engage, they should know who they want to be engaged with at the national level, with NGOS, civil societies, churches, governments and industries.

Dr Rogers assured the DSM framework launched by Pacific Forum Leaders was developed with stakeholders.

“I understand these NGOs are here. I’d like to talk to them because I think we are operating at two different levels. I don’t think we necessarily disagree with the principles they are saying that should be safeguarded, they are in the framework.

“Their concerns are real. I am not belittling their concerns but I think they can be too closed shop and not opened to looking at what the framework is trying to achieve – to enable the countries to develop.

“Let me pose these questions – would these NGOs prefer that Pacific Island Countries don’t have any legislation and commercial companies walk in, offer money and buy off the minerals?

“I don’t think so, and if what I think is what they want, then the framework provides a protection, said Dr Rogers.

The framework was launched by Dr Rogers and Cook Islands Deputy Prime Minister, Tom Masters in the presence of a number of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders.

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Stop seabed mining in PNG

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India joins deep sea mining race

India looks to exploit rare earth minerals beneath its oceans, following moves towards deep sea mining in Papua New Guinea

Paula Park and T.V. Padma | Gaurdian UK

India has joined the race to explore and develop deep-sea mining for rare earth elements — further  complicating the geopolitics surrounding untapped sources of valuable minerals beneath the oceans.

The country is building a rare-earth mineral processing plant in the east coast state of Orissa and it is spending around US$135 million to buy a new exploration ship and to retool another for sophisticated deep-water exploration off its coast.

The Central Indian Basin, for example, is rich in nickel, copper, cobalt and potentially rare-earth minerals, which are highly lucrative and used widely in manufacturing electronics such as mobile phone batteries. They are found in potato-shaped nodules on the deep-sea floor.

“These nodules offer a good solution to meeting the nation’s demand for metals,” C. R. Deepak, head of the deep-sea mining division at the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), Chennai, told SciDev.Net.

The Indian government also plans to bring together its marine science experts and engineers in nuclear energy, space research and defence, using the their expertise to help accelerate mineral extraction, according to a July press statement.

India’s network of government-sponsored marine science programmes has already studied the seabed and carried out test mining, according to Rahul Sharma, a scientist at India’s National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) in the west coast state of Goa.

India’s ocean exploration programme is about two decades old, and focuses on ‘polymetallic nodules’ containing cobalt, copper, manganese and nickel, in addition to small amounts of aluminium iron and rare earths such as molybdenum, tellurium and titanium.

“The mining engineers have already tested some systems at lower depths and are in the process of up-scaling for deeper depths,” Sharma told SciDev.Net.

NIO has tested deep-sea mining systems up to a depth of 512 metres, off the coast of Mavlan, Goa, and is now working on systems suited to depths of up to 6,000 metres.

The recent push for deep-sea mining exploration reflects India’s concerns that China’s deep-sea excavations will further increase China’s dominance over rare-earth elements, which are used in aviation and defence manufacturing, as well as electronics.

Late last year, the China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association (COMRA) obtained a licence to mine polymetallic sulphides in the Southwest Indian Ridge (SWIR). The SWIR is a divergent tectonic plate boundary between the African and Antarctic plates, running from the South Atlantic to a junction — the place where two or more plates meet — in the Indian Ocean just south of Madagascar.

In July, Ashwani Kumar, India’s minister of planning, science and technology, and earth sciences, told local media that countries like China have begun deep-sea mining with the strategic purpose of staking a claim in the oceans.

Deep-sea mining will help meet the “critical and strategic needs of the country, particularly in the area of access to rare earth materials”, Kumar said during last month’s announcements regarding deep-sea deployments.

China currently controls around 95 per cent of global rare-earth mineral output. The country has been accused of unfairly restricting overseas mineral sales through taxes and quotas, to force more high technology production to move to China.

The World Trade Organization agreed last month (23 July) to create a panel to investigate China’s influence in the market, following complaints filed by the United States, the European Union and Japan — the second biggest consumer of rare earths after China.

In 2010, for example, China blocked Japan’s supply of rare-earth minerals for two months, over skirmishes relating to disputed territorial claims in the China Seas. Over the past week, tensions between the two countries over similar territorial disputes have been growing.

In June this year, Japan opened the Rare Earth Research and Technology Transfer Centre in Hanoi, in partnership with Vietnam, as a response to fears over a supply crunch. It is also in negotiations with India over investments in the Orissa processing plant, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.

All three countries have been eyeing exploration of as yet untapped deep-sea deposits of rare-earth minerals in the wider region. Last year, Japanese scientists identified major new mineral supplies in the Pacific.

But so far, India has done little relating to the commercial mining of the seabeds.

In the past, like most governments, India found that establishing mines under the sea would be more expensive than land-based mining, according to Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of the global marine and polar programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It also considered that mineral costs did not justify the expenditure, Lundin explained.

More recently, however, worries over China’s market domination and its ability to set prices for rare earth and other minerals have increased international interest in deep-sea mining. At the same time, innovations in underwater robotics created for the petroleum industry have improved prospects for mining undersea metals, Lundin said. So far, the only company with a licence to mine the seabed is the Canadian firm Nautilus Minerals.

In 2011, the company received a licence to mine massive seabed sulphide resources at a depth of about 1,600 metres off the coast of Papua New Guinea, as part of the much criticised Solwara 1 project.

However, Nautilus’s president and executive director, Stephen Rogers, told SciDev.Net that countries like India may be better positioned than private companies to develop undersea resources.

“We see that there are many countries both exploring and developing technologies,” Rogers said.

Several countries, including China and Korea, have been granted seabed access; Japan is investing US$200 million in deep-sea prospecting; and the United States has extensive research programmes underway, Rogers said.

However, as the Indian Ocean explorations accelerate and the first commercial endeavours in the Pacific get underway, a clear international overview of the potential environmental impact of the projects is still lacking.

Indian scientists have participated in International Seabed Authority (ISA) workshops aimed at outlining how to regulate mines and protect the marine environment, said NIO’s Sharma. But these regulations are still not finalised.

Helen Rosenbaum, campaign coordinator for the Australia-based Deep Sea Mining campaign, told SciDev.Net: “There’s no regulatory framework, either at a national or international level, for deep-sea mining”.

She said the International Seabed Authority, which has jurisdiction over the open seas outside national territories, has done too little to investigate and regulate the potential for environmental damage.

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Analysts caution Harmony on taking $5bn Papua New Guinea tiger by the tail

Martin Creamer | Mining Weekly

South African analysts cautioned South Africa’s Harmony Gold against going ahead with its $5-billion Papua New Guinea (PNG) project for which it was failing to get credit in its share price.

In an interactive Harmony Gold investor day session on Wednesday, Afrifocus mining analyst John Kransdorff, speaking spontaneously from the floor, said that in the Golpu project in PNG, Harmony had a “tiger by the tail”, which was of investor concern.

Harmony had earlier calculated that the cost of the initial stage of the Golpu project, in which it was in a 50:50 joint venture with Newcrest, of Australia, would be $5-billion.

Kransdorff also urged Harmony CEO Graham Briggs to review the company’s big-project strategy and look to smaller quick-cash projects to lift its share price, adding that Golpu was big in relation to the size of Harmony’s $4-billion market capitalisation.

He said that shareholders, who were looking for yield, would have to wait another seven years before the exploration project became a producing copper/gold mine that would yield cash.

Until then, it would consume cash generated in South Africa, another analyst remarked, while urging  Harmony to devote more presentation time to producing South African mines and refrain from continuing to give its PNG assets, which were really ‘tomorrow’s gold’, disproportionate exposure.

In his response, Briggs said that the value that Harmony had added to its PNG assets by taking them up the value curve had not been reflected in the company’s share price.

In response to a query from Deutsche Bank mining analyst Anna Mulholland, Harmony South East Asia CEO Johannes van Heerden said that there were no specific terms in the agreement between Harmony and Newcrest that included the right to buy out one another’s interests.

Elaborating on Kransdorff’s comments, JP Morgan analyst Steve Shepherd said Harmony was “a tiny company” to start developing massive orebodies and that it was clear from Harmony’s stock  trading at way under half of its net present value that the market did not believe that the company was big enough to develop the PNG orebodies.

Shepherd asked whether the time had come for Harmony to house its PNG assets in a separate exploration company in which Harmony could be a significant shareholder.

Briggs responded that while Harmony’s market capitalisation was small, the company was the world’s ninth-largest gold producer and was turning out gold at a good margin of profit.

With gold at $1 600/oz, the company would be able to fund the development of Golpu.

In its 2012 financial year, Harmony funded all of its capital expenditure, and increased exploration and dividends for the third consecutive year.

It had increased its operational profit by 80% in the 12 months to June 30, against a gold price increase of 36% and its cash flow rose by R2-billion to R4.7-billion.

“We’re a big company when it comes to gold production,” Briggs said, adding that the company continued to engage with shareholders.

Ten Harmony shareholders own 65% of the company and twenty own 75%.

“Obviously, if our shareholders want to make 19 phone calls, they can actually instruct us what to do, but they haven’t,” he said.

Because gold would be produced as a by-product of copper at Golpu, the gold would be more than fully paid for by the copper alone, assuming a gold price of $1 650/oz and a copper price of $3.50/lb.

Golpu would be a mine that was on the lowest cost quartile of both the copper producers and the gold producers, with an expected copper cash cost of $0.54/lb.

SOUTH AFRICAN MINING

Kransdorff said that the South African mining industry, as a whole, had done a poor management job, which had resulted in the problems being experience the platinum sector.

He said that many of the far higher price-earnings ratios of the shares of other Johannesburg Stock Exchange companies were indirectly dependent on the success of South African mining companies.

If local mining companies failed, those price-earnings ratios would no longer be sustainable, but that message had failed to get across, for which he criticised the management of South African mining companies.

He said everything came back to management as far as the current platinum-sector impasse was concerned.

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Dr Temu, consider future impacts of seabed mining

RT | Post Courier

The president of the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum, Dr Ila Temu should not think about the developments of a temporary gain and benefit of the country, but rather look into a longer view of what disastrous, fatal environmental impacts the deep sea mining can cause directly to the people of the mines locality.

In the Post-Courier on August 23, in the business section, he stated, “This would also raise concerns in the international investment community of the dangers of sovereign risk…”, which means those in the PNGCMP, seem concerned by these points below:

  • What would best benefit the bureaucrats, and not the locals, meaning the business activities will be a form of bonding the friendship ties with international investors and those in charge, and not the people of PNG and their environment,
  • They seem interested in the business side of the developments for short-term benefits and not in the long-term disastrous impacts, which may greatly impact the people.
  • Not considered is the fact that this will be the first-ever underwater mining activity in the world and it will be like a ‘guinea-pig’ in the waters of PNG, which means the global community will be curious as to what impacts will eventuate – if any.

I, for one, am not happy about what is going on, where it seemed that this issue of the mining approval should be aired and discussed with the public long before being approved. So far as I have been keeping up-to-date with the media since 1997, I have not heard or seen any open-air forums or debate regarding the Underwater Mining Proposal. Only after it has been approved or in the channel of approval, then the Government of the day put it out for the public to view, which, might be quite late to raise concerns.

I appeal to the activists and firebrand controversalists to take this into discussion and let us protest because it really shows how our Government can be so greedy for themselves and not thnking about our well-being when it comes to monetary benefits.

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