Monthly Archives: August 2013

Concern at government power over land in Fiji constitution

A group of young professionals from Bua in Fiji are worried about provisions in the new constitution which affect the rights of indigenous landowners.

ABC

The Bua Urban Youth Network have written to the Chairman of the iTaukei Affairs Board expressing dismay that the new constitution appears to give the government more of a say in development matters than landowners.

A spokesperson for the group, Vani Catanasiga, tells Bruce Hill the issue of land rights is a very sensitive one for all Fijians.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker:Vani Catanasiga, a spokesperson for the Bua Urban Youth Network

CATANASIGA: Our network started in 2007, we’re just a group of young professionals that work in Suva, but are originally from the province in Bua. And if you know about Bua, basically there’s a mining boom in our province right now and we’re concerned about that, because we have relatives that live in the villages and reported that to us about what’s happening and because we kept hearing stories about this. We did  do a base line survey where the mine site is at right now in 2012 and basically we just started working from there. So our network evolved from a social network into something more meaningful, trying to do work to get our people in the villages to understand the impacts of mining, yeah.

HILL: Well, these sections in the Constitution 27 to 30, talk about land rights, royalties and the Fijian peoples rights to control their own land. What is it in these parts of the new Constitution that you have problems with?

CATANASIGA: We’ve heard about the promise of royalty, that’s going to be paid out to people, if they’re land is being mined, they get to share in the royalties and they also. I mean for us, the Constitution, when they first announced it, it was a bit of sort of we were curious, because the issues that we had concerns about were seemingly being dealt with effectively in this Constitution. But we’ve had a read of it and from our understanding, we’ve decided it’s of concern, because even though it promises the ability for customary landowners to have, it protects their right and interest. I mean if you read further into the document, it’s concerning, because one, the issue of land bank. We’ve had some experiences of the land bank in our province, not so good,  and what it basically says is that it’s prioritised, for us we read it as state in these sections of the Constitution, it’s prioritising the economic interests, rather than our ability to decide how we use that land.

HILL: I suppose in every Pacific country though, the governments have to make a trade off between the rights of landowners and the country’s need for economic development?

CATANASIGA: Well, I think for us it’s because, for us it’s easy, we see that more as the easy option, that this is an easier option to take. But in reality, for the long run, it costs more to people to give up something like land for mining, because in the end future generations will have to pay twice as much or even more for the loss of their livelihoods, their ability to practice their culture, things like this we have to take into consideration and not just short term  economic benefits. For us, it’s more the issue of, OK if you’re interested in developing, but developing meaning fully  for the long term, then we have to be able to research what kind of developments are effective, but also protects the interest of future generations.

HILL: So what would the Bua Urban Youth Network want the government to change about these elements in the Constitution, what kind of changes are you looking for?

CATANASIGA: Well, when we had done our Constitution submissions last year when government was accepting submissions. What we particularly asked for was to build into the Constitution, a clause that allows, that makes it mandatory that free prior informed consent of landowners are sought before they’re natural resources are used for development programs and that’s not  something that appears in this Constitution and something that we’re really concerned about, which is why we’ve written to the Chairman of the iTaukei Affairs Board.

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Filed under Fiji, Human rights

Large-scale mining does not raise living standards

Studies show no decline in PNG poverty

EMTV

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Filed under Financial returns, Papua New Guinea

Total ban on deep sea tailing placement in PNG: NGO

PINA

An NGO activist in the country has called for a total ban on the Deep Sea Tailing Placement system by mining companies operating in Papua New Guinea.

Theresa Kas, Coordinator of The Nature Conservancy, an NGO that works closely with the local people in protecting their environment, said this last week in Madang whilst expressing her views on the use of the Deep Sea Tailing Placement system used by certain mining companies operating in the country, including Madang- based Ramu Nickel mine, Lihir, Simberi and Misima.

Kas described the DSTP which Ramu Nickel Mine is using to dispose its mine wastes into the Basamuk Bay, as ‘a long term death sentence’ for the people of Madang Province and Papua New Guinea as a whole.

She said the government has imposed a long term death sentence on its own people by allowing through the law mining companies to dump their wastes into our ocean and river systems.

Kas went on to say that the laws of Papua New Guinea are contradicting themselves, in that whilst there are bylaws protecting the environment, there are also provisions that allow for destructions.

She further elaborated that the tide in the Bismarck Sea is very strong and can carry poison as far as New Ireland and even the Solomon Islands, and therefore DSTP must be stopped and should never be allowed in any mine at all in the country.

Meanwhile, the PNG Constitutional and Law Reform Commission has called on stakeholders in the Islands region to participate in the review of environmental and mining laws relating to management and disposal of tailings or mining waste.

A team from the CLRC made this call in Kokopo, East New Britain on Wednesday.

It is understood CLRC was now consulting with relevant stakeholders, including the department of environment and conservation, mining, petroleum and energy, the chamber of mines and other industry groups.

CLRC on Wednesday urged people and stakeholders in NGI region to state their views on the current state of waste management and disposal of tailings and make proposals for change.

The call was made especially to those stakeholders with various concerns living in the mine tailings disposal areas, including water-ways and coastal areas over mining waste management and disposal into the environment and the consequential harm to the environment.

It is understood that there has been recent concerns and reports on the high toxicity levels of hazardous chemicals and heavy metal traces which have been found to occur in the sample of population in mining waste disposal areas throughout the country and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

CLRC also highlighted in Kokopo that there was a need to systemically and properly consider the concerns raised by indigenous citizens and consider corrective measures.

While mining is one of the most important economic sectors in PNG, it also causes negative impacts on the environment.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Papua New Guinea

Nautilus warns on ‘impostors’

The National aka The Loggers Times

NAUTILUS Minerals has warned people to be wary of persons going to villages claiming to represent the company and issuing statements.

Nautilus Minerals country manager Mel Togolo issued the warning while denying claims posted on social media that said the company was trying to evict New Ireland villagers from their homes.

According to the Radio Australia Pacific Beat programme, locals from Danu village said they were approached at night by a Nautilus representative and forced to sign papers agreeing to relocation.

Togolo said the eviction claims for west coast New Irelanders to make way for onshore facilities were completely false.

“One of the main advantages of a sea-based project compared with many land-based projects is that no people need to be moved and there will be no tailings,” Togolo said in a statement.

He also denied the company had any links with Benson Tomarum.

“Benson Tomarum does not work for Nautilus Minerals nor is he affiliated with the company in any form,” Togolo said.

“The communities of New Ireland should be aware that the statements attributed to Tomarum in the social media are not authorised by the company and are untrue and unfounded.

“We urge our community members, and the social media to act appropriately and responsibly.

“Untrue statements and releases are irresponsible and cause undue stress for all concerned.”

The Danu villagers had voiced their fears in a video posted online, where they outlined their concerns of losing access to their fishing grounds and fresh water as well as schools and health services.

Several men detailed how they were approached and forced to sign documents.

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Filed under Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Commission: Participate in review

The National aka The Loggers Times

THE Constitutional and Law Reform Commission has called on stakeholders in the Islands region to participate in the review of environmental and mining laws relating to management and disposal of tailings or mining waste.

A team from the CLRC made this call in Kokopo, East New Britain on Wednesday.

It is understood CLRC was now consulting with relevant stakeholders, including the department of environment and conservation, mining, petroleum and energy, the chamber of mines and other industry groups.

CLRC on Wednesday urged people and stakeholders in NGI region to state their views on the current state of waste management and disposal of tailings and make proposals for change.

The call was made especially to those stakeholders with various concerns living in the mine tailings disposal areas, including water-ways and coastal areas over mining waste management and disposal into the environment and the consequential harm to the environment.

It is understood that there has been recent concerns and reports on the high toxicity levels of hazardous chemicals and heavy metal traces which have been found to occur in the sample of population in mining waste disposal areas throughout the country and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

CLRC also highlighted in Kokopo that there was a need to systemically and properly consider the concerns raised by indigenous citizens and consider corrective measures.

While mining is one of the most important economic sectors in PNG, it also causes negative impacts on the environment.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Papua New Guinea

Experimental Seabed Mining is genocide

ESM poster

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August 30, 2013 · 11:24 am

Solomons gold mine company hamstrung over illegal miners

Radio New Zealand

The head of the company that owns the gold mine in Solomon Islands says there is little more it can do to stop illegal mining.

Tim Lehany says up to 200 people – including children – unlawfully extract gold from the Gold Ridge pits every night and a small amount of illegal mining also occurs during the day.

Transparency Solomon Islands has expressed concern about the miners’ safety but Mr Lehany says the site’s terrain and issues of customary land ownership make it difficult to keep them away.

He says the mining company security team is not there to get into physical confrontations.

“We believe that is the role of the Royal Solomons Police.These people are all armed with bush knives, we’ve had threats made, we’ve had stones thrown and particularly people who’re intoxicated can get pretty excited and that just adds another dimension to this whole thing.”

Tim Lehany says his company is very concerned that someone will get hurt and is working closely with the police.

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Papua New Guinea holds new Bougainville peace talks, 10 years on from end of civil war

Liam Fox | Australian News Network

Papua New Guinea politicians, academics and community leaders have gathered in the capital Port Moresby to discuss the future of the country’s autonomous province of Bougainville, more than 10 years after the signing of the island’s peace agreement.

Signed in 2001, the Bougainville Peace Agreement formally ended the island’s bloody civil war in Papua New Guinea – a decade-long conflict that had been sparked by local opposition to the Australian-owned Panguna copper mine.

The agreement’s three main pillars were to grant Bougainville a high degree of autonomy, the de-militarisation of Bougainville, including weapons disposal, and a future referendum on independence from PNG.

Initially there was plenty of help from the PNG government and the international community to implement the agreement, but that has since fallen away.

Bougainville’s President John Momis told the gathering negotiations with the PNG Government have dropped off and talks about funding have broken down.

“I think it is a mistake to expect us to carry out huge responsibilities with meagre resources, with a bureaucracy that does not have the capacity,” he said.

“We are coming out of the ashes of war, dealing with a society that is highly divided.”

Australian academic Anthony Regan, who is advising the Bougainville government, told the meeting a number of factors have caused this slow-down in interest in the implementation of the agreement.

Mr Regan, who helped to draft the peace agreement, and Bougainville’s constitution, says there has been a high turnover of PNG politicians since the agreement was signed and most of those initially involved have now moved on.

Funding constraints

The other main problem Mr Regan recognised was financial, saying that “We’re now in arrears by 188 million kina.”

The issue will only get more important as Bougainville takes tentative steps toward reopening the Panguna mine and as the window for the referendum on independence opens in 2015.

According to the agreement, talks about the referendum must be held between 2015 and 2020.

Leaders of the gathering in Port Moresby are hoping to organise another meeting in Bougainville’s Buka or Arawa later this year, to generate momentum on the issue.

PNG’s deputy prime minister, Leo Dion, was supposed to appear at the meeting, but was replaced by vice minister Joe Sungi, alongside other government representatives.

The meeting continues on Friday and the issue of the Panguna gold and copper mine is expected to feature on the agenda, in combination with the Bougainville government’s efforts to develop a mining policy.

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Solomons gold mine dam alarming downstream communities

Radio New Zealand

A local MP of communities downstream of a gold mine tailings dam in Solomon Islands says thousands of people are living in fear of their lives.

Martin Sopage, who represents North Guadalcanal, says the dam – which belongs to the Gold Ridge mine on Guadalcanal – is being built higher to accommodate an increasing amount of water.

He says between four and five thousand people live downstream and there are other coastal communities that would also be affected if the dam failed.

“The dam is continuing to rise and the construction is continuing to build up and the water is continuing to build up so we can’t think this is safe for us at the downstream. So there’s a very risk for us in the community there.”

Martin Sopage says the communities concerned want the mining company to discharge some of the water being held in the dam.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Solomon Islands

Forum in PNG concerned about Madang tailings

Radio New Zealand

Community and local level leaders from across Papua New Guinea’s Madang province are gathering for a public forum on the Ramu nickel mine’s deep sea tailings placement system.

The huge Chinese-run mine has been dumping tailings into the Bismarck Sea for a year after the national court rejected a legal challenge against it by landowners.

Last week, the Madang Governor, Jim Kas, announced that the tailings disposal system must stop because of its environmental impact.

One of the forum’s organisers, John Simoi, says the event comes as PNG’s Law Reform Commission seeks a provincial position on environmental and mining laws relating to tailings disposal.

“What the Governor is doing is asking the PNG Law Reform Commission to make changes in the law governing the deep sea tailing disposal system in Madang. And he’s trying to totally ban the deep sea tailings disposal system and look for an alternative option of dumping the waste – maybe dig a hole and bury the waste or something.”

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