Monthly Archives: September 2012

NZ: All Black star – west coast seabed mining a “blindside hit”


After attending a widely covered public meeting at Muriwai last week, horrified Piha residents have invited Kiwis Against Seabed Mining to give a similar presentation to anxious locals of the iconic Auckland beach.

KASM president Phil McCabe says,

“As you read this, internationally owned companies are preparing to extract mind-bogglingly large volumes of iron sand from the Taranaki sea floor, with potentially catastrophic impacts on the Tasman ecosystem, of which the Auckland west coast is a part,” he says.

“Aucklanders may think a mining proposal so far away won’t affect them, but that’s not the case. The entire west coast from Whanganui to Cape Reinga is covered by prospecting or exploration licenses, and the Continental Shelf and EEZ effects bill, which was passed in recent weeks, is designed specifically to enable this kind of operation,” he says.

This meeting is the second in a series of events that the group, who are based in Raglan and are strenuously opposed to the proposals, will be holding over the next few months.

Auckland resident and KASM ambassador Josh Kronfeld says,

“This is the worst kind of business proposition the country could ever consider, with extensive environmental damage guaranteed, few jobs on offer, and very little income for the country. Sure we invest nothing in it, but it would still be a dumb use of our natural capital.”

“Many West Auckland and Piha residents don’t know what’s currently happening behind the scenes on this issue. It’s a bit of a blindside hit.” says Kronfield.

This meeting is an opportunity for Auckland residents to be informed and have their questions answered. Kronfeld and ex Waitakare Mayor Bob Harvey, plus representatives of the Waitakare Ranges Protection Society, and local surf clubs are among a wide list of notable guests attending the meeting.


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Huge mining and gas projects not helping PNG women

PNG child mortality on rise

Ewa Kretowicz | Canberra Times

Mother-of-six, Wendy Daniell, with her one-year-old son, pictured next to the log she used to prop her legs up while giving birth in Papua New Guinea. Photo: Canberra Times

Mother-of-six Wendy Daniell is typical of women in remote areas of Papua New Guinea – she gave birth to her children without help.

Her most recent labour caught her by surprise so she propped her legs up on a log and gave birth in a garden.

But the most extraordinary thing is that she lived to tell her story.

”I gave birth to my youngest baby here, in this coffee garden right near this log. I haven’t ever had help to have my babies,” Mrs Daniell said.

In the island nation more than five women die every day during childbirth. By 1982, according to Charles Darwin University, most villages were within a two-hour walk of health care so the child mortality rate dropped from 20 per cent in 1960 to 11 per cent. But in the last 30 years this rate has started to climb again.

Aid organisation CARE Australia is hoping to raise $200,000 in the next month to help reverse that trend.

Chief executive officer of CARE Australia Julia Newton-Howes said the organisation needed to start educating men and empowering women to make their own choices for real change to occur.

”Women I have spoken to have talked about their desire to have fewer children and there is contraception available in the clinics but their husbands want to continue to have children so we are working on addressing gender norms and equality so that women can more readily access contraception,” Dr Newton-Howes said.

Officially the average woman in Papua New Guinea will have 4.6 children. But Dr Newton-Howes said women living in remote areas such as Goroka, where data collection is poor, have more.

In Papua New Guinea, 58 out of every 1000 children will die before reaching school age, compared with five in Australia. The children die from preventable illness such as diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia. They also die of measles – when a $1 vaccine could have protected them.

In remote areas income often comes from growing coffee beans, but women have no say on how it is spent.

”Coffee money is seen as men’s money and one of our long-term objectives is working with men and women to address some of the entrenched gender discrimination. When women have more say in how income is spent they prioritise feeding and children far more than men,” Dr Newton-Howes said.

She said women often had to make choices between getting help for a sick child or providing food for other children.

”If your child gets sick sometimes they are choosing between growing food and staying with your child,” she said.

The women who make the one- or two-hour trip to a clinic don’t always get the help they need.

Dr Newton-Howes said nearly all deaths of children under five in PNG could be prevented.

A $50 donation will pay for a safe baby delivery kit while $186 will train three female community health volunteers.

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Locals want Porgera review restarted

Jeffrey Elapa | The National

Porgera landowners in Enga are calling on Mining Minister Byron Chan to restart a review of the Porgera Mine Agreement.

Porgera Landowners Association chairman Mark Tony Ekepa said yesterday that Chan had initiated a review of the agreement while serving as mining minister in the previous government but did not complete it.

“Since the government has reappointed Chan as minister, the landowners think that it is proper for him to restart the review.”

Ekepa said from Porgera that landowners did not want to be kept waiting in suspense.

“The Porgera mine memorandum of agreement review is overdue by some 20 years and our patience is running out,” he said.

He said the mine has been the mainstay in the economy of the country for more than 20 years after the closure of the Panguna mine in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and yet the resource owners have missed out on huge of benefits over the same period as there has not been any review at all.

“The question now before the government is when will the review take place and how long should the people and the provincial government wait?” he said.

Ekepa said landowners of Porgera deserve fair treatment from the government, just like those of the PNG LNG project, Lihir, Hidden Valley, Ramu and other mines in the country.

Chan could not be contacted for comment.


Filed under Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Panguna mine update, Momis

Winterford Toteas | Post Courier

The National government annual K500 million reconciliation payment to Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) with the first K100 million given by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill paved forward negotiations on the re-opening of the Panguna mine which still in progress with many positive achievements and changes already taking place.

ABG President John Momis said during the recent ABG Parliamentary sitting this month, much work has already been done in preparing the ABG and landowners to negotiate the future of the Panguna mine.

President Momis said 98 percent work on the preparation of the initial six landowner associations has already been completed, with the Rorovana Association still awaiting its certificate of incorporation.

An interim landowner organisation known as the United Panguna Resource Owners Association (UPROA) has also been established with the appointment of interim executives comprised of executives of the initial six landowner associations, as well as the additional three landowner associations that were approved by the Bougainville Executive Council (BEC) early this year.

Mr Momis said that a joint delegation comprising of officers from both the ABG and the PNG National Government also completed their two weeks scoping mission in and around the Panguna mining areas.

The purpose of this two weeks survey was to determine what was actually in Panguna and apart from this studies on the conditions of the people affected and impacted by the Panguna mine operations and other kinds of detailed studies required were also conducted.

A joint coordination committee will receive the report of the scoping mission and then develop and approve terms of references for the detailed baseline studies that would be required to be undertaken on behalf of the parties to the negotiations.

He also revealed that three regional forums have already been planned for the latter part of this year in the three regions of North, Central and South Bougainville.

The aim of this forum is to inform the people of Bougainville on what the government is doing regarding negotiations on the possible reopening of the Panguna mine.

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Tonga exploration results boost Nautilus share price

Nautilus Minerals plumbs new depths, comes up smelling of roses

Frik Els |

Nautilus Minerals shot up 9.5% to $1.15 by the close of trade on Wednesday as investors digested the maiden mineral resource estimate for the company’s polymetallic nodule project in the central Pacific Ocean.

In a statement yesterday the Toronto-based company said the nodules occur in 4,000 and 6,000 meter deep waters and contain significant grades of manganese, nickel, copper and cobalt.

The nodules in the Pacific’s Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone (CCZ) are formed by the precipitation of metals on the seafloor, either directly from ocean waters or via decomposing microorganisms the company explains. Contractors from Germany, Korea, France and Russia are among others exploring the CCZ.

What really counts in favour of the 100%-owned Tonga Offshore Mining’s project says Nautilus is the regulatory framework the International Seabed Authority has put in place since 1994 and what the company terms “reduced social disturbance” due to the nature of deep water mining versus “large land based resource developments”.

The CCZ find is a rare bit of good news for Nautilus which has run into troubles at its flagship project off the Papua New Guinea coast.

The company’s Solwara project – what would be the world’s first seabed mine – is already half built and was slated to begin production in the fourth quarter of 2013, but a dispute with the PNG government over ownership and funding issues with its partners building a surface vessel for the operation have the put the project on ice.

Shareholders in Nautilus – after today’s jump worth $224 million on the Toronto big board – have seen the value of their investments plummet by 44% since the company initiated a legal battle on June 1 over the copper-gold-silver project in the Bismarck Sea and the troubles with its German shipbuilders.

Last week the firm closed a private placement at 90c that raised $33.9 million to continue to build its Seafloor Production System.

All the major shareholders of the company supported the offer – Oman’s MB Holdings increased its stake to just under 17%, Metalloinvest held at 21% while Anglo American maintained its interest at 11%.

Nautilus has not ruled out returning to the market for more money or finding JV partners to bring the project to completion.

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India: CBI begins probe in offshore mining licences scam

The Asian Age 

Just a week after filing cases in coal block allocation scam, CBI has begun probing alleged irregularities in the country’s first-ever attempt to explore untapped mineral wealth worth thousands of crores lying in the deep sea bed, sensing another mega scam.

CBI sources said a preliminary enquiry has been registered by the agency in connection with the alleged favours extended to the companies by the unknown officials of the Indian Bureau of Mines while awarding licences for exploring minerals in the sea bed of Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.

It is alleged four beneficiaries companies owned by the family members of an Indian Revenue Service officer are also under the agency’s scanner as they bagged nearly half of the blocks despite lacking necessary qualification, they said.

The sources said in March last year government, in a first attempt to explore offshore mineral wealth, had placed 62 blocks on offer out of which 28, nearly half, were bagged by companies owned by family members of the former Enforcement Directorate official who had also served in Mines Ministry.

The final award of licences had been put on hold after aggrieved parties approached the Bombay High Court and the Andhra Pradesh High Court seeking their cancellation.

The companies allegedly owned by the son and brother of the officer are based at the same address on Kasturba Gandhi Marg in the national capital, they said.

It is alleged that companies were incorporated after bids were invited from the interested parties willing to go for exploration and did not have any experience in offshore mining at the time of notification.

The CBI sources said it is a matter of probe how these companies with such alleged lacunae managed to score over rival firms which were in fray for the lucrative contracts.

Sources claimed it has been alleged that at screening committee level the companies belonging to the kin of the officer scored much above the rival firms.

Indian Bureau of Mines, which works under the Ministry of Mines, had announced in March 2011 the list of companies that had won the bids of exploration of mineral wealth.

However, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court had stayed the execution after accepting the plea of Tamil Nadu- based company Rare (H) minerals.

“Controller General, Indian Bureau of Mines has issued a notification dated 7th June, 2010 inviting applications for the grant of Exploration Licence in the offshore areas of the country. 377 applications have been received in IBM for grant of exploration licence,” the Ministry of Mines had said in a statement last year.

The sources said that each block measuring about 800 sq km is estimated to have huge unexplored mineral wealth in the sea bed of Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.

A similar case is also going on in the Andhra Pradesh High Court after a company, Trimex Sands, challenged the award of exploration licence.

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NZ: Coastal residents battle seabed mining

Katie Shepherd | Te Waha Nui

A lobby group which helps coastal residents voice their opinions is concerned about the environmental impacts of seabed mining.

Seabed mining is proposed primarily for the west coasts of the North and South islands, with smaller sites on eastern and southern coasts.

Seabed mining involves extracting minerals and resources from the sea floor and focuses particularly on iron sands in New Zealand.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) communications spokesperson Tim Rainger describes suction dredging as similar to vacuuming.

“They have a big hoover which can suck up to 20 metres of the seabed in its entirety. Solid matter is then sieved out – shellfish, rocks, anything that is not sand. The sand is then washed and dried and the ore is magnetically separated. The silica would be returned to the sea floor,” he says.

Waitakere Ranges Protection Society president John Edgar believes this will have a devastating effect.

“You can’t just vacuum it up and put it back again and say it’s fine, as you’ve just destroyed a whole ecosystem that’s been established on the coast over hundreds of years,” he says.

KASM chairman Phil McCabe says seabed mining is detrimental to the environment but there is no way for scientists to know the extent of the effects.

Trans Tasman Resources (TTR), which is investigating the South Taranaki Bight area, says the area it plans to operate in will be relatively small and out to sea.

“The environmental effects of the proposed activities are being looked at by independent experts,” says a TTR spokesperson.

TTR says the seabed in South Taranaki Bight is a very high energy environment with the seabed constantly being churned over by large waves.

“Organisms living in that area have adapted to having to frequently re-establish, and are well distributed throughout the area.”

Prospecting and exploration of the potential area is done to verify the quantities and values of the resource, which allows the company to gain funding and investors.

McCabe says KASM is a platform for people to voice their opinions.

He says to stop seabed mining a broad spectrum of society needs to stand up in large numbers and make themselves heard, and youth especially need to get off the couch and tune in to these issues before it is too late.

“The Government is selling off the ground we stand on, the ocean we benefit from. It’s in the best interest of youth to stand up.”

KASM facilitates meetings in local communities to help inform those who want to know what will happen if seabed mining goes ahead.

Meetings are based on giving attendees as much information as possible.

“We have short films, visual aids and answer questions. It’s an information thing, that’s the key,” says Rainger.

Rainger says the legal process for granting consents to mine is a bit of a grey area and they are not entirely sure which legislation it will fall under.

If the public is denied input or the input is ignored there will be legal action, he says.

“This is a last ditch resort as it is expensive and has certain liabilities.”

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Nautilus EIS team discredited in Ramu mine litigation

Controversial experimental seabed mining company, Nautilus Minerals have used David Gwyther and his team at Coffey Natural Systems to prepare its Environmental Impact Statement for the Solwara 1 mine. This is the same team  (formerly NSR Consultants, and Enesar Consultants) whose work was discredited in the Ramu mine litigation and which endorsed the environmental systems that led to the disasters at Ok Tedi and Misima and the environmental pollution as Lihir.

In the Ramu mine litigation  Justice Cannings in the National Court found the Coffey scientists to be only generalists and not experts and their evidence was rejected in favour of expert scientific witnesses who spoke against the proposed marine waste dumping.

In one astonishing revelation, the Coffey scientist who “designed” the toxicity tests and monitoring from the Ramu mine admitted under cross examination he had in fact never done a toxicity test and had sourced the method for the toxicity testing by cutting and pasting off the internet.  Justice Cannings rejected Coffey’s claims that the tailings would not be  toxic and ruled the tests were inadequate.

Can we trust Coffey Natural Systems and Nautilus when then say the Solwara 1 ‘s mine impacts will be minimal?


Filed under Environmental impact, Papua New Guinea

Nautilus tries to set the record straight on fishing

Setting record straight on Solwara 1

Mel Togolo, Nautilus Limited | Post Courier

I wish to correct some misunderstandings and set the record straight regarding some of the responses to my Letter “Fishing will not be affected by Nautilus Mineral’s Solwara 1 Project.”

Light is visible in the top 200 m of the sea and this is where fish like tuna can readily find the food and nutrients they need. For this reason, the vast majority of fish species, such as tuna, etc., live in the top 200 m of the sea and occasionally move into the 200 to 400m layer below. The commercial and traditional fisheries that are so important to Papua New Guineans are found in this surface layer between 0 and 400 m.

Some types of fish have been found that can live in the complete darkness found at the bottom of the sea, however, in the studies conducted by marine research organizations examining the bottom layers of water in the Bismarck Sea, few fish were observed at the depth of Solwara 1. Fish that were observed included fish which are typical of the deep sea environment, not tuna or fish species that we eat. The main animals found at Solwara 1 include snails and barnacles.

Research conducted on these, including DNA analyses, has found them to be similar to the general populations found throughout the Bismarck Sea and beyond, for example near Fiji and Tonga.

Research on the animals found on or close to the seafloor at Solwara 1 along with computer modelling and studies of ocean currents have shown that seafloor mineral extraction at Solwara 1 will not affect fish stocks or fishing in the Bismarck Sea. Further, there is no evidence that suggests that tuna and other near surface fish feed on the snails or other animals found in the sea through the food chain.

Solwara 1 is located approximately 30 km from the nearest coast and 1600 m below the surface of the sea, well away from coral reefs and fish stocks. In addition to this, there are a number of steps Nautilus has taken to ensure that the surface fish will not be harmed by the Solwara 1 Project. Robotic equipment on the seafloor will recover the resource to the production vessel where the mineralised material is separated from the seawater in a conventional process called dewatering. The seawater is then filtered and returned to depth where it is discharged about 25 to 50 m above the seafloor, close to its source. The fully enclosed pipe and pumping system ensures that the copper resource is taken from the seafloor to the surface vessel without ever coming into contact with the seawater above the Solwara 1 site. Unlike other resource projects, there will be no blasting and the Solwara 1 Project will use biodegradable fluids and oils in all equipment operated in the sea. No hazardous chemicals or tailings will be discharged to the sea.

Furthermore, Nautilus is taking steps to ensure that Solwara 1 will be repopulated following resource production. One of the ways we will do this is by creating a nearby “set aside” area that will remain untouched by the extraction of minerals. Based on observations made over a number of years at Solwara 1 and other sites around the world, it is estimated that the major animal elements at Solwara 1 will have re-established within a few months to a few years.


Filed under Environmental impact, Papua New Guinea

Ross Garnaut extends his links with PNG’s mining polluters

The National newspaper has reported Professor Ross Garnaut has joined the Board of junior mining company, Highlands Pacific.

Garnaut was the adviser on climate change to the Australian Government of John Howard, but despite his role as an environmental advisor in Australia he is very much involved in the mining business in PNG – including the high polluters.

Garnaut is Chair of the Board of the PNG Sustainable Development Programme (PNGSDP) – which is the entity that holds Ok Tedi Mining Ltd (OTML) shares on behalf of the State of PNG and invests the dividends (currently around a billion dollars) in Singapore. PNGSDP’s role is to bring the interest onshore to provide development funding for projects in Western Province and the rest of PNG – although many people are asking what development, as there is very little to show for the last eleven years of funding (which leads some to quip the money is brought onshore just to pay large salaries to expatriate consultants and board members….).

Garnaut is also the Chairman of the Board of OTML, which is still polluting the Fly River, and is now on the Board of a company, Highlands Pacific, that owns 8.7% in the Ramu Nickel mine and is party to their dumping of 5 million tonnes of toxic mine waste into the Bismark sea, 400m off shore and at a depth of 150m.

This means not only is Garnaut at the helm of what has been one of the worlds biggest environmental mining disasters (Ok Tedi) he is now on the Board of a company that scientists and environmentalists fear could be responsible for another world class mining disaster – Ramu Nickel.

Garnaut was also Chair of Lihir Gold for 10 years during which time the sea dumping of mine waste off Lihir Island resulted in 60 square miles of smothered sea floor – a role for which Garnaut is claimed to have been paid $300,000 per year.

As Chairman of the Board of PNGSDP Garnaut will be taking a slice of the $600,000 per year that is split between the seven directors.

At OTML, where he is also Chairman of the Board and has been a director for at least the last 11 years, he will also be earning director’s fees.

Some of this wealth is used by Garnaut to fiercely defend his reputation, as Greg Hoy, a reporter on the 7:30 Report on the ABC in Australia found when he reported on Lihir and exposed the environmental damage in September 2010.

Garnaut complained to the ABC and within 24 hours there was an apology up on the ABC website and the the program transcript and the evidence from the report supporting the statements was removed. The ABC conducted an initial inquiry which upheld Garnaut’s complaint (see here on the ABC website) but it seems a later review by the ABC Complaints Review Executive did NOT uphold the complaint (see here on the ABC website).

Read how the Sydney Morning Herald reported on the ABC program and Garnaut’s response – Garnaut defends dumping mine waste in river.

Garnaut also threatened an Australian NGO with a defamation case at the same time for their role in the ABC story and because they had reproduced the ABC transcript on their website. Garnaut’s ‘litigation counsel’, lawyer Stuart Gibson,  even tried to contact this blog demanding that stories linking Garnaut to the environmental damage at Lihir be removed.

“Ross threatens to sue, and proceeds with legal action, against anyone who says anything remotely negative about him. He will not have the media questioning his career, his motivations, or his wealth” says a well-placed corporate commentator.

Garnaut’s response to the ABC program that highlighted his connection to the environmental impacts of the Lihir mine can be read on his own website.


Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Papua New Guinea