The Pacific Conference of Churches is again calling for an end to seabed mining.
ABC Radio Australia
The group of Christian churches says governments must ensure proper studies are carried out before any work starts.
The group’s general-secretary, the Reverend Francois Pihaatae says there hasn’t been enough consultation.
Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker: Reverend Francois Pihaatae, general-secretary, Pacific Conference of Churches
PIHAATAE: During our General Assembly in Honiara, there was a big concern expressed by all communities in the region, including the members of our own respective congregation. They have grown in both volume and intensity, because of the inadequacy and even total absence of appropriate consultation and dialogue with our communities on mining-related policy committee and this process is commonly expressed challenge across the region. So that’s why we, and in an environment where the voices and fear of our peoples are unheard, that’s why the Pacific Conference of Churches, must stand on behalf of our communities and people in the Pacific as our responsibility also as stewarts of God’s creation, that’s we speak out to all those who extractive industries or big powers who are trying to explore the ocean floor for rare metals and other mineral deposits to stop all the research done for seabed mining.
COUTTS: Now, is the Pacific Conference of Churches just against deep seabed mining or at this stage, you’re not necessarily against it, but you want more research before it proceeds?
PIHAATAE: Yeah. Because we have look at seabed mining as a new phenomena. IIt has not been trialed as work, and the Pacific Ocean, a central element to any and all Pacific cultures, spiritual and life in general is expected to be testing ground, eh, for this new frontier in extractive industry. So what we are looking at is the consequences, especially in the ecological arena and the knowledge, I think is still unknown. Science remains silent on that issue.
COUTTS: Is it to late to make these kinds of objections, because Fiji’s already granted exploration licences, three of them. Solomon Islands and a number of other countries, Cook Islands have all expressed interest in deep seabed mining. So do you think the gates closed on argument now that it’s to late, because they’re all going ahead with exploration licences anyway?
PIHAATAE: I don’t think it’s to late. But as our mandate to stand by our communities and our people and we still hope and believe that there will be if a forum, a platform can be created for discussion and dialogue on these issues. Because if we speak against the seabed mining, it’s because we have a complete examples on the mining done the land base, like in Papua New Guinea’s, Solomon or Nauru, Fiji and Maohi Nui (French Polynesia). So that’s why we stand against the seabed mining and it is like repeating the same damages that have been done on the land to the ocean, that’s why we strongly speak against the seabed mining.
COUTTS: Now the Pacific Conference of Churches had passed a resolution to leaders meeting in Honiara last month. Was it the call to halt the progress on deep seabed mining a unanimous vote at that conference?
PIHAATAE: Yeah, it’s a unanimous voices of the conference and then the question we ask ourself why this extractive industry or big powers are always using us like guinea pigs for experiments in everything and why not do it in they’re own ocean? And why we always? Because our main concern is about the whole Pacific rely on ocean resources, where we our livelihood depend on it. So if that had been damaged, where do you think we will get our foods as our resources as from the ocean?
COUTTS: Well, what’s the next step for the Pacific Council of Churches. Are you going to go to each government or are involved in, or planning to be involved in deep seabed mining and express your concerns directly to them?
PIHAATAE: Yeah, that will be our next step is to approach all the constituents in the Pacific and also the governments, civil societies and mining companies.
We have to have a dialogue before anything is restarted and also affect our people in this new phenomena of the new development option by our governments, given the licence expenses of our ocean floor. So I think there’s still a way where we need to sit down with our governments and other constituency to speak, to dialogue and how can we move forward and not impacting and damaging again the creation of God.