Monthly Archives: December 2014

Win for Axiom in nickel legal row

axiom

Axiom plans to develop the deposit on Isabel island itself and export the nickel ore unprocessed. Picture:Bloomberg

Rowan Callick | The Australian

JUNIOR Australian explorer Axiom has gained further ground in its four-year battle to cement control of a large laterite nickel deposit in the Solomon Islands.

Axiom has also formed a groundbreaking alliance with a Papua New Guinea landowner company to develop the project.

The Solomons’ High Court yesterday announced that Japanese industrial and trading giant Sumitomo should pay Axiom $4.8 million in costs incurred by the Australian firm in obtaining a judgment in September confirming its right to ownership.

The deposit, on Isabel island at the centre of the archipelago, was first explored in the 1960s by Canadian miner Inco and then by ­California’s Kaiser Engineering.

Axiom also owns a gold target in the west of Guadalcanal, the ­island that contains the capital, Honiara.

Sumitomo will be required to complete the payment of costs only if and when it loses its appeal against the High Court verdict.

The Court of Appeal, whose panel includes Australian judges, will set the date for the hearing next month.

Solomon Islands has in recent decades proven a difficult environment in which to operate a successful mine.

Melbourne-based St Barbara, which in September took over the only substantial mine there — Gold Ridge, near Honiara — is the sixth owner in 20 years, and continues to encounter considerable problems.

The mine, which once provided 20 per cent of national income, is not operating at present.

But Axiom chief executive Ryan Mount told The Australian that the chief reason for former troubles was that “the international mining industry has failed to take the time to understand the unique culture and customs of the various provinces” of the country.

“Once you understand it, the next step is to respect it and ensure you are integrated into the community,” he said. “The issues are not geological but social.”

Axiom had concluded an equity agreement to give the Isabel project landowners 20 per cent of the mine.

Mr Mount said Axiom would develop the mine itself, looking to produce the first nickel — obtained simply by bulldozing, since it is at the surface — at the end of next year.

The company plans to export the ore unprocessed. Among the options is the prospect of shipping it to RamuNiCo, the mine operated in neighbouring PNG by China Metallurgical Group.

Axiom yesterday entered into a “strategic partnership” with one of the most prominent of PNG’s increasingly ambitious landowner companies, Anitua, owned chiefly by landowners of the Lihir mine.

Anitua has lent Axiom $5m, repayable in cash or in Axiom shares before July 7.

Anitua will provide services to the Isabel project.

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Axiom Mining lands A$5M funding, enters strategic partnership with Anitua

isabel nickel

Axiom Mining | Proactive Investors

Axiom Mining has entered into a strategic partnership with Anitua Limited, which is providing A$5 million in funding to advance development of the Isabel Nickel Project in Solomon Islands.

The company has also been awarded costs of SBD$29.3 million (A$4.7 million) by the Solomon Islands High Court in relation to its victory over Sumitomo.

Anitua is one of Papua New Guinea’s most experienced companies and is a highly experienced exploration and mining services contractor in the Pacific region. Its clients include ExxonMobil, InterOil, Newcrest (Lihir Gold) and Ramu NiCo.

In addition to the unsecured loan of A$5 million, the two parties have also agreed to negotiate arms’ length commercial terms for a range of services to be provided by Anitua for the Isabel project.

This may include exploration drilling, construction, camp management and contract mining.

The loan is repayable either in cash or in fully paid ordinary shares in Axiom at $0.02 per share, at the sole discretion of Axiom by no later than 7th July 2015.

“This partnership is a strong endorsement of Axiom’s strategy to develop the nickel resources of Solomon Islands in a respectful and culturally sensitive manner,” chief executive officer Ryan Mount said.

“It gives Axiom immediate access to funds to achieve project milestones, while Anitua gets the opportunity to provide the Isabel Nickel Project with contract mining services at market rates.

“There is a natural synergy between Axiom and Anitua — both companies are experienced in working with local communities in the Pacific, with a focus on collaboration and capacity building to ensure successful long-term operations.”

Anitua chief executive officer Colin Vale added that the potential size of the deposit, Axiom’s ability to deliver on milestones and their collaborative approach with stakeholders gave Anitua the confidence to offer its services and provide capital for development of the project.

Court costs awarded

Following the Solomon Islands High Court dismissing in September Sumitomo’s claims, Axiom has now being awarded A$4.7 million in court costs.

The company will be entitled to recover the costs upon obtaining a favourable judgment in the appeal lodged by Sumitomo in the Court of Appeal of Solomon Islands, which will be heard by a panel of three Commonwealth judges.

Axiom expects to be notified in January 2015 of a hearing date for the appeal.

Sumitomo is to provide the Court with an irrevocable and unconditional bank guarantee with a commercial bank in Solomon Islands by 16 January 2015 for the full sum of SBD$29.3 million.

It is also required to provide to the court with another irrevocable and unconditional bank guarantee with a commercial bank in Solomon Islands for the sum of US$177,200 (A$217,712) as security for Axiom’s costs of the appeal.

Axiom remains assured of the validity of its rights and will respond to the forthcoming appeal.

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Rio Tinto ‘representative of the destructive and devouring process of colonization’

Rio Tinto

Indigenous people all around the world have suffered at the hands of Rio Tinto

 

Congress’ Christmas Gift for the Rio Tinto Mining Company

Steven Newcomb | Indian Country

The Rio Tinto Mining Company, owned by interests in the United Kingdom and Australia, is representative of the destructive and devouring process of colonization which results in the expropriation and exploitation of the territories of original nations and peoples. The Apache Nation is an example of an Original Nation, well known for fearless and famous leaders such as Cochise and Geronimo who fought to maintain Apache independence from the American empire of the United States.

When the U.S Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 on December 12, 2014, it thereby approved a land swap that will hand over to the global Rio Tinto Mining Company a 2400 acre area that is part of the traditional territory of, and sacred to, the Apache Nation. The area is the location of a massive copper deposit which will be mined for the billions of dollars that will accrue to the dominating societies of the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

When Phil Stago of the White Mountain Apache Nation recently complained to Congressman Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) about the pending land swap travesty that Gosar was supporting, the U.S. representative demonstrated his sympathy with Stago’s concerns by saying: “You’re still wards of the federal government.” A ward is someone deemed to be an incompetent dependent under the control of a responsible guardian or trustee.

A follow-up statement issued by Representative Gosar’s office says in part: “One of the federal government’s dirty little secrets is that Native American tribes are not fully sovereign nations in today’s society.” Gosar’s statement further says that his “comments made at the roundtable last Friday were about this reality and current laws that govern the relationship between tribes and the federal government.”

Statements by rhetorically skilled statesmen need to be carefully parsed and examined in terms of words they have chosen not to use because to use them would reveal what they prefer to leave unsaid, especially when it comes to patterns of domination. Think, for example, of how much more precise and revealing Representative Gosar’s statement would have been if he had talked about “this reality and current laws that govern the colonial dominating relationship between tribes and the federal government.”

If Gosar had made explicit the colonial and colonizing relationship between the U.S. and Indian nations, his comment would trace to the word “colon,” which is the root of “colonization.” The root of the word “colon” is “colo,” which means, “to filter out impurities in the process of mining.” Mining all resources, even “human resources,” is the background context and purpose of the imperial process of colonization.

So, here’s a question for Congressman Gosar: Based on what rationale does the United States claim that Indian nations “are not fully sovereign nations?” A general answer to this question is found in Gosar’s statement: “current laws [of the U.S.] that govern the relationship between tribes and the federal government.” However, what needs clarification is the specific part of current U.S. law that he is referring to. Unfortunately, according to the Associated Press, the congressman’s office declined to elaborate on his statement.

To understand the rationale behind the U.S.’s claim that Indian nations are not fully sovereign nations, we must go back to the origin of the United States. We must turn to the original basis upon which the United States purported, as a political system, to be “the ruling sovereign” over the territories of Indian nations that the British crown had declared, by royal fiat, to be thirteen British colonies, or, in other words thirteen massive areas that were to be filtered and mined for the monetary and political benefit of “the crown” of England, which came to be called “the crown” of the British kingdom.

As part of that colonial and imperial enterprise, intellectuals working on behalf of what George Washington called “our infant empire” devised an argument that could be used to contend that Indian nations are not fully sovereign independent nations. This rationale was developed at length in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Johnson & Graham’s Lessee v. M’Intosh. The Christian religious basis of that rationale was distilled into a concise form by Justice Joseph Story who was a member of the Supreme Court when it wrote and issued the Johnson ruling.

In his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (1833), Story put the rationale in this manner: “As infidels, heathens, and savages, they [the Indian nations] were not allowed to possess the prerogatives belonging to absolute, sovereign, and independent nations.” On what basis did the United States claim the right to unilaterally declare a portion of the Apache Nation’s traditional territory to be the “Tonto National Forest?” According to Story and the Johnson ruling, the U.S.’s rationale is this:

“Because your ancestors were not Christians, and were looked upon by our ancestors as ‘infidels, heathens, and savages,’ we, as the government of the United States, which prevails over you to this day as ‘wards’ of the government, have the right to unilaterally declare, without your consent, your traditional Apache Nation territory to be a ‘U.S. national forest’ and to hand it over to a foreign global mining corporation.”

As Chief Justice John Marshall put it for the Supreme Court in the Johnson ruling: “They [the Christian nations of Europe] asserted the ultimate dominion to be in themselves, and claimed and exercised as a consequence of that ultimate dominion, a power to grant the soil while yet in the possession of the natives,”….”natives, who were heathens.” Such a power to grant “the soil” includes the minerals in the soil, such as copper. This is in keeping with what the U.S. Supreme Court said in United States v. Kagama in 1886: “These Indian tribes are wards of the nation [of the United States]” as a result of the U.S.’s claim of political power over the vast geographical area claimed by the United States.

This fiasco regarding the Apache Nation’s territory is a perfect demonstration of what I have been saying about the UN high level outcome document and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples not providing the basis for reforming the conceptual system of domination that constitutes U.S. federal Indian law and policy. This is because the United States government refuses to treat those documents as a basis for such reform.

Domination is one nation or people being forced to live subject to the arbitrary will, or control, of another. The land swap in Arizona illustrates perfectly the political relationship of domination that the United States has with originally and still rightfully free and independent Indian nations. In this case, Rio Tinto gets the mine on sacred Apache lands and the Apache Nation, once again, gets the shaft.

Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape) is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute and author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (Fulcrum, 2008). He has been studying federal Indian law and international law since the early 1980s.

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Alluvial mining helps rural families

aluvial

Bustin Anzu | PNG Loop

Mimingo Aaron left his Kapo village in Menyamya in Morobe Province almost 10 years ago with her family in search of a better life.

The roads were not reachable and the government services were hard to come.

But like other ordinary Papua New Guineans, they want a lifestyle that is enjoyable and easily accessible.

She and her husband Aaron decided to join their wantoks at Fine Top village, just near Bulolo town.

There, they fitted in well with their wantoks. The school was just down the road.

When one of her nine children is sick, she can quickly rush them to the Bulolo Hospital.

She can also travel to Lae city in the morning to buy her goodies and return home to Fine Top village the same day.

Money was easy to find through alluvial mining daily.

She said at first, she find it difficult to pan the dishes for gold dust. She learned the skills quickly and weeks later it was just another daily chore.

Two of her eldest children attend the nearby Fine Top Primary School. The others helped her with the gold penning.

Mimingo said she collects close to a K100 worth of gold dust daily.

“I collect close to K100 daily. I come back the next day and collect the same amount.

“I collect the whole grams and sell them to the local black market,” she said with a smile.

The happy hard working mother said the money is enough to feed her family and to provide for other basic needs like school fees for children, clothing, buy store foods and PMV fares to Lae city.

She said this is better for the family then staying at her Kapo village back at Menyamya where roads to basic government services is in accessible.

Mimingo said while she is busy penning the gold, her husband Aaron stays home and helps to look after their 12-months-old daughter.

After this interview with PNG Loop, Mimingo returned to the dirty Bulolo River to continue with her daily chore of penning for gold.

Husband Aaron said this is part of their life, which makes their life easier.

He said this is better than nothing if they were at their village in rural Menyamya.

Children in the area also take part in alluvial gold mining along the banks of Bulolo River.

Other villagers are also doing the same, penning the gold on this festive season.

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Solomon Islands mine boss paid for children’s schooling

Mining executive Mark Caruso, involved in Solomon Islands allegations. Source: Supplied

Mining executive Mark Caruso, involved in Solomon Islands allegations. Source: Supplied

Ean Higgins | The Australian

THE mining magnate at the centre of an alleged corruption scandal in Solomon Islands has admitted he arranged to pay for the children of an influential Solomons politician to attend a top Brisbane boarding school.

Mark Caruso, executive chairman of Perth-based Mineral Commodities, denied the schooling was paid for in exchange for politician Matthew Wale greasing wheels in government to get a series of permits for a goldmine.

Mr Caruso, who was the chief executive of Allied Gold, which owned the Gold Ridge mine at the time of the alleged corruption, also attacked the company that took over the mine, St Barbara Ltd.

Mr Caruso implied St Barbara had leaked the report on an ­internal investigation it carried out that alleges corruption on Allied Gold’s watch.

He claimed St Barbara was trying to make him a “scapegoat” to divert attention from the failure of the mine, which is to be transferred to the government.

Speaking for the first time about the allegations, which are under investigation by the Australian Federal Police and Solomon Islands authorities, Mr Caruso said:

“Is this the best ­St Barbara can do after they ­destroyed $1.3 billion of shareholder value … be bothered about two children being educated?”

In October, the Solomon Star newspaper ran an extensive story on the alleged corruption outlined in a report commissioned by St Barbara and conducted by a Melbourne law firm.

The report alleges that in 2010, Mr Caruso got to know Mr Wale, an accountant by ­profession and prominent MP, and asked him to help Allied Gold in its dealings with the ­government.

Mr Wale is alleged to have helped arrange for a “letter of comfort” from the Solomons ­Attorney-General confirming the legality of blasting at the mine site; for the Minister for Mines to grant a special prospecting licence; and for immigration officials to lift visa restrictions on Allied Gold expatriate employees.

St Barbara, which took over the Gold Ridge mine after buying out Allied Gold in 2012, launched the investigation after being invoiced for more than $100,000 for the Wale children’s fees to attend Brisbane’s Anglican Church Grammar School.

The report also alleged that $13,500 was transferred directly into Mr Wale’s account for ­“office set-up expenses”.

Mr Caruso did not remember the payment but said the schooling of Mr Wale’s children was done through a selection process as a benevolent gesture, for which Allied Gold received no special favours.

Mr Caruso was scathing of St Barbara’s inability to reopen the mine after massive rains damaged access roads, and squatters moved in to pan for gold and looted plant, equipment and supplies, events that have contributed to the company’s share price tumbling from about 40c in March to about 10c now.

“They are leaving the country on the grounds it was raining — are you serious?” Mr Caruso said. “You wouldn’t let them manage the Mr Whippy van in the beach carpark. The electricity would go off and the ice cream would melt.”

A spokeswoman for St Bar­bara said:

“St Barbara identified the provision of benefits to a foreign public official that may violate anti-corruption laws. St Barbara reported the matter to relevant authorities. As the matters are under investigation by the AFP, St Barbara does not intend to comment further.”

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OTML welcomes findings into South Fly deaths

The mighty Fly River twisting through the Western Province

The mighty Fly River twisting through the Western Province

Ok Tedi Mining | PNG Loop

Ok Tedi Mining Limited (OTML) says it has been cleared of involvement in the reported deaths of a number of people in the South Fly area of Western Province last month.

The company which operates the massive copper and gold mine at Tabubil in the North Fly area of the province welcomed  the findings of a report by the South Fly District Health Services (SFDHS) which had  cleared OTML of being the cause of mysterious deaths in South Fly villages.

These deaths were reported by Pastor Steven Bagari on the Dateline Pacific program on Radio New Zealand on 28th of November.

Similar reports were made on the PNG Facts website on 21st of November and on the NBC News PNG page on Facebook on November 22.

The management of OTML has commended the quick action by the SFDHS in deploying a medical patrol team from November 26 to 29, to Tirere, Kabaturi, Sagero and Maipani villages to investigate the causes of illness and deaths allegedly from chemical poisoning caused by two 200L drums said to contain cyanide that had washed ashore.

According to the Incident medical report, the two drums contained an unidentified liquid substance however there was no evidence to suggest that they contributed to the cause of illness and deaths among the male group affected and highlighted other medical conditions as the cause.

OTML management stated that the findings had cleared OTML, and urged journalists, media organisations and social media users to find out facts before publishing stories from rumors that can create uncertainty and panic in the communities.

The area was given huge publicity many years ago when a load of drums containing cyanide spilled from a barge into the water. Many of the drums were recovered but some were never traced.

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Bougainville’s President Momis lies again about his disastrous mining policy

As opposition to Rio Tinto’s return grows on Bougainville , and the President’s optimistic predictions of unanimous support prove misguided, John Momis is embarking in a campaign to change the historical record so his own track-record of bad governance and poor judgement will not be recognised in the upcoming election.

Following the publication of the Bougainville Voices report in September 2014, Momis denied ever adopting a policy which called for Panguna’s reopening.

In a letter signed by the President on 22 September 2014 (evidence has been produced suggesting his Australian legal advisor actually wrote the contents), he alleges:

“The statements that the ABG has ‘initiated a campaign to reopen the Panguna mine’ and that I, as President, have been ‘spearheading this effort’ (p.14), are false … From the outset our goal has been to establish whether or not Bougainvilleans wanted to consider reopening Panguna and, if so, under what conditions”.

As we have had to sadly do so many times over the years, it is time once more to draw attention to the President’s dishonesty.

For example readers can view the President’s statement to The National made on 10 February 2011. Here he claimed:

“My view is that for the re-opening of the mine, the bulk of the people on Bougainville want the mine to be reopened … We want empowerment. Political power without economic power is nothing. Bougainville copper mine must open under a new regime”.

Or we could look at Meeting Minutes taken in November 2011, where the Panguna Management Consultative Committee (PMCC) was told by the Mining Minister, Michael Oni, “that there was no two ways about [it, the] Panguna mine [is] being opened in the not too distant future”. President Momis in agreement added, the mine “must be opened and there is an important need for a Unified Stand by ABG and Panguna Landowners”.

As the writer George Orwell wrote in his book 1984, “Those who control the present, control the past and those who control the past control the future”. We cannot allow the past to be rewritten by those looking to profit in the future at the cost of the masses.

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