Monthly Archives: May 2014

PNG Bougainville’s Me’ekamui re-states opposition to mining

Radio New Zealand

The head of the Papua New Guinea’s Bougainville separatist group, the Me’ekamui, says he is against a resumption of mining before a vote on independence.

The leadership in the autonomous PNG province has been promoting a return to mining as the filip its economy needs.

Don Wiseman has more:

“President John Momis says the re-opening of the huge Panguna mine would bring immediate economic benefits that could not be achieved so quickly in other sectors. He says this is vital to show the province is economically viable ahead of the vote on possible independence, which can occur from 2015 onwards. Philip Miriori, who is styled as the president of the Me’ekamui Government of Unity, says the Me’ekamui position is clear. They are not opposed to mining and are happy for the people to decide but this cannot happen until after independence is achieved. Mr Miriori says this would ensure royalties stay in the province. He has also reiterated a call for Rio Tinto to pay compensation to the landowners of ten billion kina, or about two and a half billion US dollars, for damage caused by the mine. And he says the Me’ekamui will not allow access to their areas for government reconciliation efforts. He says President Momis needs to leave the sore to be healed. “


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Bougainville’s President Momis breaks the irony meter

Do you remember President John Momis, that fearless patriot defending Bougainville from exploitation by foreign predators? No. We don’t either.

But overnight, the President has had a conversion and obviously fallen out with one of his rich Australian mates!

In an interview with ABC, President Momis has joined with the bloggers and his critics on Bougainville (there is a first for everything) to condemn Bougainville Islands Group’s Executive Chairman, Godfrey Mantle (a property developer from QLD), who has bought up 12,500 hectares of land on Bougainville.

The President of Bougainville claims that while perhaps legal, this large scale land-grabbing is unethical. Why after a long and bloody war over sovereignty, Momis argues, should a foreign capitalist be allowed to come in and scoop up Bougainville’s wealth.

Are you rubbing your eyes? Is this for real you ask?

Yes it is, the interview is below. We await eagerly for Momis’ to condemn as unethical BCL/Rio-Tinto’s proposed return.

Yet what the President failed to explain to the ABC is why just over a week ago he would honour this unethical land-grabber, Godfrey Mantle, by speaking at a seminar Chaired by Mantle, and sponsored by the Bougainville Islands Group (see photo below).

When thieves fall out?


Bougainville president Momis says Australian cocoa project may not be ‘ethically right’

Jemima Garrett | ABC Radio

Bougainville’s president John Momis says a major Australian cocoa project may not be ‘ethically right’.

The President of Bougainville has cast doubt on the future of a major cocoa project being developed by an Australian-based company.

Bougainville Island’s Group, owned by Australian businessman Godfrey Mantle, has acquired 99-year-long leases to 15 abandoned cocoa plantations, totalling 12,500 hectares.

Mr Mantle said the traditional landowners will receive a 30 per cent stake in the company and up to 4,000 locals will get jobs.

“We just don’t want their ownership we want their involvement, we want to show how a business should be run in best practice but with transparency and a high level of integrity,” he told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat.

“I see the CEO of the business in a fairly short period of time being a Bougainvillean, in fact I have got somebody in mind … but we want to build the skills first.”

However, Bougainville’s president John Momis said while the land leases may be legal, they are not ethical.

“We have just had a war over land,” Mr Morris said.

“For one foreigner to own so much, in fact to own the best, choicest lands, is not seen as ethically right.”

But Mr Mantle said he has addressed all of the President’s concerns.

He said his company will bring a skilled marketing, distribution and scientific team that will benefit all the island’s cocoa growers.

“You need scientists. And the people who benefit from that are not just your plantations,” he said.

“That is an extension to the rest of the Bougainville cocoa producing community.”

Joint ventures preferred

An inquiry into the project is due to report on its findings next month, but president Momis said it will still take a lot of convincing.

“In the final analysis, the people will respect the government,” he said.

“We are spending a lot of time with them … telling them that international best practices must be adhered to.

“Our zeal to make money should not be used as pretexts to break rules and to break conventions and protocols.”

He said the Bougainville government would like to encourage joint venture deals between foreign and local companies, rather than stand-alone foreign businesses.

“The reason for that is to make the people feel they have a sense of ownership and therefore they will take responsibility to protect the properties and operations of the companies,” Mr Momis said.

Cocoa boom

Cocoa production is booming on the autonomous island.

It is putting 200 million kina ($A74 million) a year directly into the hands of small holders.

President John Momis said it will delivering more in the near future.

“There [are] a lot of new cocoa plantings and we are told by experts that by 2017, cocoa price will triple,” he said.

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New Caledonia Vale damage tops US$34m

Radio New Zealand

Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

The damage caused by vandalism at the Vale nickel plant in New Caledonia is now estimated to be more than 34 million US dollars.

The violence, which began at the weekend, has seen days of confrontations at St Louis near Noumea where about 150 riot police have been battling young Kanaks using firearms.

Three security personnel have been shot and injured.

The unrest has led to repeated road closures and angered residents unable to travel between Noumea and Mont Dore.

Dozens of people have expressed their frustration outside the French High Commission while hundreds blocked the access to the SLN plant in Noumea in protest at some workers risking losing their pay because they cannot get to work.

The protest by the young Kanaks was accompanied by calls for the Vale plant to be closed for good after another acid spill three weeks ago led to operations being suspended.

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Woodlark discussions ‘satisfactory’

Press Release 

Progressive discussions towards agreeing on a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) for the Woodlark Advance Exploration Project in Milne Bay have so far been satisfactory.

Stakeholders in the project expressed their views during a meeting this week in Alotau saying they were happy with the outcomes of the discussions.

The stakeholders are the State, DAL Wanuwan landowners Association, the MilneBay provincial government and the developer Kula Gold.

State team leader and the Mineral Resources Authority’s (MRA) exploration coordinator for Woodlark Project Moses Mambu said he was expected to conduct two more meetings during which everything should be finalised in preparation for the MoA signing sometime towards the end of the year.

Chief executive officer of Kula Gold Ltd Stuart Pether said the level of input by all stakeholders in the meetings was encouraging and indicated a good progress so far.

Landowners’ association chairman David Asi said discussions have progressed smoothly since the development forum last December and that he was certain that with the cooperation and understanding from all stakeholders, the parties could agree on an MoA at the end of the year.

These preliminary discussions relating to an MoA was conducted in light of the application for a Mining License (ML) for which Kula Gold Ltd has applied for. It was expected that the ML wouldbe granted to the company soon by the Mining Minister Hon Byron Chan.

The Woodlark project boasts two million ounces of gold reserves and a life span of 10 years.  Depending on further exploration and positive results, the life span of the mine could be extended.

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Nautilus starts building second underwater machine

Henry Lazenby | MIning Weekly

Employees of Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) work on a subsea mining machine being built for Nautilus Minerals at Wallsend, northern England April 14, 2014.

Employees of Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) work on a subsea mining machine being built for Nautilus Minerals at Wallsend, northern England April 14, 2014.

Prospective Canadian deep-sea miner Nautilus Minerals on Wednesday announced that it had started building its second seafloor production tool (SPT), the collecting machine (CM), at third-party manufacturer Soil Machine Dynamics’ (SMD) facility at Newcastle upon Tyne, in the UK.

Nautilus, which plans to mine copper and gold from the Solwara 1 seafloor project, offshore Papua New Guinea (PNG), said that it had split excavation and collecting mineralised material into three individual tasks, which would each be carried out by a different SPT.

The Toronto-based company explained that the auxiliary cutter (AC) is designed as the pioneering tool, which prepares the rugged seabed for the more powerful bulk cutter (BC), which the company had already built.

While these two tools gather the excavated material, the third – the CM – would collect the cut material by drawing it in as seawater slurry with internal pumps and push it through a flexible pipe to the subsea pump and on to the production support vessel (PSV) through the riser and lifting system (RALS).

“Having already announced in April this year, the completion of the assembly of the BC, we are delighted that the assembly of the CM has now started, with the arrival of the chassis at the SMD facility.

“This is an exciting time for the company as we continue to build the seafloor production equipment. We look forward to start the assembly of the third and final SPT, the AC, when its chassis is delivered next month,” Nautilus CEO Mike Johnston said.

Last month, Nautilus reported that the PNG government has paid $113-million into escrow, representing the balance of the State’s 15% share of capital required to complete the Solwara 1 offshore project up to first production.

At the end of last month, Nautilus announced that it had resolved the dispute with the State and signed an agreement with the State’s nominee, Eda Kopa (Solwara) Limited, a subsidiary of Petromin PNG Holdings, enabling the project to move forward toward production.

With Eda Kopa having paid its share of the project development capital, Nautilus’ focus now shifts to chartering a production support vessel and securing certain intellectual property rights within six months for Eda Kopa. The funds will be released to Nautilus when both conditions have been met.

The company is in discussion with potential vessel partners, while also undertaking a tender process with shipyards experienced in building offshore construction vessels.

Nautilus own 70% of the project, with the government of PNG holding a 30% interest.

Nautilus’s share price had more than doubled since the start of the year, spiking to its highest level in two years last month, after the company announced it had resolved its dispute with the PNG government. However, in the stock’s recent history, at C$0.53 apiece on Wednesday, the share price was nowhere close to the lofty C$3.48-level seen early in 2011.


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Protesters attack Vale’s New Caledonia nickel mine after effluent spill

Reuters | South China Morning Post

A French firefighter extinguishes burning debris that were used to create a roadblock on a road in Mont-Dore in New Caledonia. Photo: AFP

A French firefighter extinguishes burning debris that were used to create a roadblock on a road in Mont-Dore in New Caledonia. Photo: AFP

Dozens of protesters have caused tens of millions of dollars in damage to vehicles, equipment and buildings at a nickel mining site in New Caledonia, as anger boiled over at a chemical spill into a local river.

The US$6 billion Vale plant at Goro in southern New Caledonia was closed this month after 100,000 litres of acid-tainted effluent spilled, killing about 1,000 fish and sparking protests at the mine site.

The Vale plant had been expected to produce about 40,000 tonnes of nickel this year, out of global supply of around two million tonnes. But it has been beset by problems, including spills and protests.

Tensions between the local population and Brazil-based Vale escalated over the weekend, with young protesters frustrated at the latest spill and a lack of response from indigenous Kanak chiefs, according to local media reports. Television footage showed images of burned mining vehicles and equipment.

“We had burned vehicles, one administration building was damaged, but no damage to the plant itself,” Vale spokesman Corey McPhee said.

Peter Poppinga, an executive director at Vale, told Les Nouvelles Caledoniennes newspaper that damage to the mining site was estimated at at least US$20 million to US$30 million, including the destruction of perhaps one third of the truck fleet.

“If there is no activity for several months, we will shut the plant, but that’s not the case. The closing of the plant is not on the table,” Poppinga was quoted as saying.

The French Pacific territory’s southern provincial government ordered an immediate halt to operations and started legal proceedings under its environmental code after the spill.

The local government, which had a leadership change last week, has yet to say when Vale can resume production.

New Caledonia police fear more unrest

Radio New Zealand

The New Caledonia police say while clashes near Noumea with young Kanaks opposed to the nearby Vale nickel plant have eased, it is likely more unrest is to come.

The youths are calling for the plant, which has been closed for three weeks after an acid spill, to be closed for good.

About 150 riot police with armoured vehicles have been trying to permanently re-open a key road south of Noumea, which was first blocked on Saturday when the unrest started.

Three police officers have suffered gunshot wounds during the clashes.

A police officer says the situation is now stable and the road is open, but he says the Kanak youths involved might try to block the road again during the night.

“During the night we had some tension, and we had some young teenagers blocking the road. This morning we had some forces that they conduct some operations in order to make free the road, and for the time being the situation is calm.”

The police officer says they are yet to make any arrests for the shooting and injuring of police officers.

In Noumea, hundreds of people blocked access to the SLN nickel plant this morning in protest at some workers risking to lose pay because the road blocks prevented them from going to work.


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Pacific churches back Lutheran opposition to experimental seabed mining

PCC to support Evangelical Lutheran Church PNG Initiative

Pacific Islands News Association

PROTEST 2 600 by 400The Pacific Conference of Churches has supported calls from a PNG church for a halt to Deep Sea Mining (DSM).

About 1.2 million members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea (ELCPNG) have said no to Experimental Seabed Mining after its synod on Karkar Island, Madang Province.

The members have also given their church leaders approval to address the issue with the PNG Government.

PCC General Secretary, Reverend Francois Pihaatae, said the initiative was one of self-determination and Pacific people should be encouraged to decide what was best for their future.

“Just because Western economic models call for the use of deep sea mineral deposits does not mean we should mine the floor of the ocean with possible disruption of the eco-systems,” Rev Pihaatae said.

“Two weeks ago in the Cook Islands the region’s leading authority on seabed mining admitted there is not enough research with which to support the safety of this mining – we must be very careful.

“Therefore, the PCC stands in solidarity with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in PNG and says no to deep sea mining.”

This vote against seabed mining is in line with a Pacific Conference of Churches General Assembly resolution in Honiara last year.

The church is expected to make a statement shortly, challenging the PNG government’s move to allow international and local corporations to take part in mining the seabed.

The church will also challenge Prime Minister Peter O’Neil as a member of the Lutheran church to act on this call from his people.

Lutherans make up 20 per cent of PNG’s population.

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Violent opposition to reopening of nickel mine in New Caledonia

  • 2 police shot
  • $20 million in damage
  • 150 locals arrested
  • massive acid spill

Clashes near Vale plant in Noumea

Radio New Zealand

valeTwo more police officers in New Caledonia have suffered gun shot wounds in renewed clashes near Noumea with scores of Kanak youth opposed to the nearby Vale nickel plant.

About 150 riot police with armoured vehicles have been trying to reopen a key road south of Noumea which was first blocked on Saturday when the unrest started.

The Vale plant has been shut for three weeks after a further acid spill, which has prompted calls for the six-billion US dollar plant to be closed for good.

About 15 people are reported to have been arrested after driving a van into a police car.

At the weekend, an unidentified group caused an estimated 20 million US dollars in damage by vandalising Vale offices and wrecking cars and trucks over the weekend.

The nickel company has said the plant’s closure is out of question.

New Caledonia nickel plant to resume any time from tomorrow – MEDEF

Radio New Zealand – 27 May 2014

The New Caledonia business organisation MEDEF says the Vale nickel processing plant, which has been closed for almost three weeks, will resume operations any time from tomorrow.

The Goro plant was temporarily shut down after 100,000 litres of effluent, containing some acid, ended up in a creek.

MEDEF’s chief executive, Catherine Weahde, says Vale is waiting for authorisation from the government of the Southern Province for it to re-open, which should happen tomorrow.

She says some employees have been sent into the plant to set it up for re-start this week.

“The police has secured to permit the employees of Vale and also some subcontractors to go in the site, and they will secure all that needs to be secured and that they will start again progressively to have an activity.”

Catherine Weahde says if the plant were to close permanently, there would be huge economic and social implications for the region.

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Miriori and Mekamui back Miringtoro over Momis and his Australian advisors

Philip Miriori | Makamui News

Miriori 1

miriori 2

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EU excludes civil society from MIDAS project on experimental seabed mining

MIDAS (Managing Impacts of Deep-seA reSource exploitation) Project and EU DG Mare (Maritime Affairs and Fisheries) Stakeholder Consultation on Seabed Mining 

Magdalena A K Muir | EUCC News

The MIDAS project – Managing Impacts of Deep-seA reSource exploitation – is a multidisciplinary research programme that will investigate the environmental impacts of extracting mineral and energy resources from the deep-sea environment. This includes the exploitation of materials such as polymetallic sulphides, manganese nodules, cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts, methane hydrates and the potential mining of rare earth elements. MIDAS is funded under the European Commission’s Framework 7 programme and started on 1 November 2013 for a period of 3 years

The MIDAS project intends to carry out research into the nature and scales of the potential impacts of mining, including 1) the physical destruction of the seabed by mining, creation of mine tailings and the potential for catastrophic slope failures from methane hydrate exploitation; 2) the potential effects of particle-laden plumes in the water column, and 3) the possible toxic chemicals that might be released by the mining process and their effect on deep-sea ecosystems. Key biological unknowns, such as the connectivity between populations, impacts of the loss of biological diversity on ecosystem functioning, and how quickly the ecosystems will recover will be considered. A major element of MIDAS is the development of methods and technologies for preparing baseline assessments of biodiversity in areas of potential commercial extraction, and monitoring activities remotely in the deep sea during and after exploitation.

The MIDAS project intends to use this information to develop recommendations for best practice in the mining industry. A key component of MIDAS is the involvement of industry within the project and through stakeholder engagements to find feasible solutions. It will also work closely with European and international regulatory organisations to take these recommendations forward into legislation. Despite the broad scope of this project, there is no reference to civil society, or the inclusion of any parties other than industry.

The MIDAS partners are predominantly academic institutions, industry, and consultants, with the  32 partners  listed on the project website here. No environmental non governmental organisations (ENGOs) are partners, though some partners have links with or work with ENGOs. The MIDAS project is referred to by EU DG Mare website in its discussion of seabed mining here, so the project could have an important role in shaping future EU policy.

Upon inquiry to the MIDAS project, it was indicated that there may only be an opportunity for ENGOs and civil society to participate in open conferences near the end of the project. Information will also be published on the project website and newsletter. However, information provision is not  meaningful engagement or participation. Therefore,  there is no meaningful opportunity for civil society organizations and local communities to participate in the MIDAS project, or in the development of best practices for deep sea resource exploitation under this project. In the absence of meaningful civil society and local community participation, DG Mare should not rely solely or significantly on deliverables of the MIDAS project for determining best practices or any regulatory framework.

EU DG Mare will need to establish a separate process for civil society participation in the development of best practices and the overall regulatory framework for deep sea resource exploitation. This separate process would also be required to facilitate the development of broad social acceptance by civil society and local communities for these deep sea and seabed activities This social acceptance has been an EU priority for offshore renewable energy and grid infrastructure development in the North Sea, see article here and been recognized as of great importance by the EU across its many activities.

This observation about meaningful participation by civil society and local communities has relevance for the DG Mare Stakeholder Consultation on Seabed Mining. The European Commission’s Directorate for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries has  initiated a stakeholder consultation exercise on seabed mining. It is posted as an online questionnaire.  DG Mare is seeking responses from public authorities, citizens, companies and organisations concerned with seabed mining. This seabed mining consultation is open until 16 June 2014, and it is very important that that civil society and local communities provide their views.  EUCC will be participating in this consultation, and will post consultation remarks subsequently through this blog and documentation on the EUCC website.

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