Jemima Garrett | ABC
The Pacific’s peak geoscience advisory body has been accused of assisting United States aerospace giant Lockheed Martin in negotiations for Fiji’s new draft decree on seafloor mining.
Watch the story on ABC News: SOPAC role in Lockhead bid queried
The Pacific Network on Globalisation has obtained a draft of Fiji’s International Seabed Minerals Management Decree, which includes feedback from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community Applied Geoscience and Technology Division (SOPAC) in the margin.
Maureen Penjuelli, the network’s coordinator, has told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat those margin notes show SOPAC has taken Lockheed’s Martin’s side.
“It is very clear that they are indeed lobbying on behalf of this one commercial entity, Lockheed Martin,” she said.
Lockheed Martin has approached Fiji’s interim government to be the sponsoring entity for its application to explore for seabed minerals in international waters close to the Fijian coast.
SOPAC director Mike Petterson completely rejects the accusation SOPAC is advocating on behalf of a mining company.
“I totally refute the allegations that SOPAC or SPC as an organisation has worked with any company of any name, on behalf of any company of any name,” he said. “I totally refute that allegation.”
Read the draft Decree with SOPAC’s annotations: DSM-Decree
Mr Petterson says SOPAC makes a record of stakeholder comments on the work they do, which is confidential advisory work with their member countries.
“SOPAC sometimes makes a record of a specific stakeholder and then that stakeholder’s views are put forward but they are not the views of SOPAC,” he said.
Duncan Currie, a New Zealand barrister who has given legal advice on Fiji’s draft seabed mining legislation to the Pacific Network on Globalisation says he’s concerned community organisations were given just three days to comment on the draft decree.
“There are a lot of important questions which have to be answered,” he said.
Mr Currie says Fiji needs to take a “roots and branch approach” to developing its seabed mining legislation, ensuring requirements for environmental impact assessments, protected areas, recovery of costs and redress are covered.
“One of the critical things is if there is environmental damage caused by mining, and there could very well be, then we have to be absolutely certain that money is there to clean up,” he said.