Monthly Archives: September 2015

Steel cutting marks start of physical construction of Nautilus’ production support vessel

As both local and global opposition continues to mount and the company’s environmental and financial claims are again discredited, Nautilus presses on with ship construction…

Nautilus Minerals | Junior Mining Network

Nautilus announces that the steel cutting ceremony for the Company’s production support vessel occurred on Friday, September 25, 2015. The vessel is to be used by Nautilus and its PNG partner, Eda Kopa (Solwara) Limited, as the base for its seafloor operations planned at the Solwara 1 Project, in the Bismarck Sea of Papua New Guinea.

The ceremony took place at the shipyard of Fujian Mawei Shipbuilding Ltd. It was attended by the General Manager of Fujian Shipbuilding Industry Group Company Limited, Mr Xie Rongxing, the Chairman, Mr Zhang Zhitong, and General Manager, Huang Yihao of Fujian Mawei Shipbuilding Ltd., Senior Vice President of Greater China (ABS), Mr Kwok-Wai Lee, Mr Robin Reeves, CEO of Marine Assets Corporation (MAC) and representatives from the MAC team. MAC will own and provide the marine management of the production support vessel, which will be chartered to Nautilus.

Mike Johnston, Nautilus’ CEO, commented, “I am delighted that steel cutting has happened on schedule and in line with our plan to commence testing and initial production activities at Solwara 1. As we have now moved into the physical construction phase of the vessel, it was important to mark such a significant occasion. We have worked with Fujian Mawei Shipyard, MAC and others on our project for nearly a year now, and have established a very good relationship, which will continue over the coming years. Our objective remains to develop the world’s first commercial high grade seafloor copper-gold project and launch the deep water seafloor resource production industry. With the eyes of the world waiting to see the dawn of this new industry, we look forward to taking delivery of the vessel in December 2017 to enable us to commence our seafloor operations in Q1 2018.”

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Chinese to do their own monitoring of marine waste dumping impacts

MCC, the Chinese company operating the Ramu nickel mine and Basamuk refinery will no longer use external experts to monitor the impacts of its toxic marine waste dumping. Instead the mining company will do its own monitoring using a newly acquired remotely operated vehicle. The PNG government is already entirely reliant on the company for data on the impacts of the dumping but now any semblance of independent input has been entirely removed.

MCC has also received final approval of its operational environmental management plan, despite the ongoing complaints from coastal communities about pollution affecting their garden crops and fisheries…

Ramu Nickel Miner acquires monitoring device
One PNG
The developers of the Ramu Nickel project in Madang have acquired a device which will assist it to conduct checks on its deep sea tailing placement disposal (DSTP).
The Remote Operating Vehicle (RVO) will also enable it to report to its stakeholders on a timely basis.
The ROV was purchased from SEABBOTIX Australia Ltd at the cost of US$94,290m (K276,510m) following recommendations from a sea-expert. “The device will enable the company to better meet the National Government’s environment regulatory compliance under the Operational Environment Management Plan (OEMP),” the company stated.
Its acquisition the company will no longer have source experts from abroad to conduct its DSTP checks. The ROV is deployed into the water body commencing at DSTP Mixing Tank tailings outlet pipe and along the 150m DSTP Pipeline right down to where the tailings falls off into the ocean floor.
With the ROV pilot’s control, the equipment travels along capturing images and records what is in front of the video camera and sound device which are mounted to the ROV. Data captured are normally downloaded off from the ROV at the end of the operation for consumption.
Meanwhile a ROV data acquisition training was conducted at Basamuk Refinery recently where a hands-on practical training session was part of the second quarter DSTP inspection activity for 2015.

Nickel project gets approval
The National
THE Ramu nickel and cobalt project has been given approval for its operational environment management plan by Conservation Environment and Protection Authority director Gunther Joku.
The company said Joku granted the approval “upon the developments achieved since the interim plan approval in 2011”.
Since 2011, the project based in Madang had been tasked to work on the plan for its operation but on a renewal basis. The plan contained all the requirements to be implemented during the project construction and production phase to protect the environment.
“Up to Aug 18, 2015, the environment team wrote to Michael Wau of CEPA seeking long-term approval for the OEMP for the Ramu NiCo project.
“The granting of the final approval now places the Ramu NiCo project to confidently implement all the environment protection requirements starting from its KBK Mine to Basamuk Refinery, including the 135km slurry pipeline.
“During the interim OEMP approval in 2011, the company had undertaken commissioning and ramping up of the project to its full production in the KBK mine, the pipeline and the Basamuk Refinery operations for over two years.”

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World’s first deep sea mining proposal ignores consequences of its impacts on oceans

accountability zero

Deep Sea Mining Campaign

As the deep sea mining industry chases investors at the Asia Pacific Deep Sea Mining Summit, a new critique by the Deep Sea Mining Campaign reveals indefensible flaws in the Environmental and Social Benchmarking Analysis of the Solwara 1 project commissioned by Nautilus Minerals. The proposed Solwara 1 deep sea mine, situated in the Bismarck Sea of Papua New Guinea, is the world’s first to receive an operating licence.

DOWNLOAD: Accountability Zero: A Critique of Nautilus Minerals Environmental and Social Benchmarking Analysis of the Solwara 1 project [600kb]

Endorsed by a coalition of economists, scientists and civil society groups, the critique entitled Accountability Zero, was be launched by Professor Richard Steiner during his presentation at the Summit yesterday.

“By using metrics that bear no relevance to deep sea and marine environments, the Solwara 1 ESBA values at zero the ecosystem goods and services provided by deep sea and marine ecosystems.” said Francis Grey, Founder of Economists at Large and co-author of Accountability Zero. He continued, “Fundamentally, the ESBA report fails to meet the well accepted requirements of a cost-benefit analysis. It is of little value to public policy and deep sea mining (DSM) decision-making,”

US based consultancy firm Earth Economics (EE), which Nautilus commissioned to write the report, compared the social and environmental impacts of the Solwara 1 deep sea mining project to existing and proposed land-based copper mines.

“Comparing the impacts of Solwara 1 to selectively chosen land-based mines is like comparing apples to oranges,” said Payal Sampat, Mining Program Director of Earthworks. She continued, “Nautilus commissioned a study that purports to make a case for seabed mining – but which neglects to value marine ecosystem services, or consider the likely impacts on sea water quality, marine ecosystems, or communities who depend on healthy oceans.”

The Solwara 1 deep sea mining project has been met with local and international opposition, including three independent science-based reports that detail deficiencies in the science and modelling employed by Nautilus.[1]

“The ESBA is not fit for its intended purpose. It fails to provide a framework to assist decisions about the advisability of Solwara 1 or of any other deep sea mining project. Indeed, the use of the ESBA for decision-making purposes would lead to very poor public policy outcomes. The risk of unexpected costs and losses due to unpredicted environmental and social impacts is high and could leave coastal and island communities carrying the brunt of the burden into the long term,” said Dr. Helen Rosenbaum, Coordinator of the Deep Sea Mining Campaign and co-author of the Accountability Zero critique.

Granted a 20 year mining licence in January 2011, Nautilus is yet to release the environmental management plan for Solwara 1.

“The time for public relation exercises such as the Solwara 1 ESBA is over. Investors, civil society, and governments looking at the world’s first deep sea mine need to see real substance. The release of the Solwara 1 Environmental Management Plan would be a good step,” said Professor Richard Steiner of Oasis Earth. He continued, “It is critical that this foundation document be subject to independent examination and feedback in the public domain.”

DOWNLOAD: Accountability Zero: A Critique of Nautilus Minerals Environmental and Social Benchmarking Analysis of the Solwara 1 project [600kb]

[1] Steiner, R (2009) Independent Review of the Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Nautilus Minerals Solwara 1 Seabed Mining Project, Papua New Guinea, Bismarck-Solomon Indigenous Peoples Council, http://www.deepseaminingoutofourdepth.org/wp-content/uploads/Steiner-Independent-review-DSM1.pdf;

Rosenbaum, H (2011) Out of Our Depth: Mining the Ocean Floor in Papua New Guinea, MiningWatch Canada, CELCOR PNG and Oxfam Australia, http://www.deepseaminingoutofourdepth.org/wp-content/uploads/Out-Of-Our-Depth-low-res1.pdf;

Luick, J (2012) Physical Oceanographic Assessment of the Nautilus Environmental Impact Statement for the Solwara 1 Project, http://www.deepseaminingoutofourdepth.org/wp-content/uploads/EIS-Review-FINAL-low-res.pdf

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Australian Mayur Resources pushing dirty coal on PNG while Pacific neighbours plead for climate action

Will PNG turn its back on its Pacific island neighbours and opt for coal mining and dirty, carbon emitting coal burning power stations?

At the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Port Moresby this month smaller Pacific island nations pleaded with Australia to ban new coal mines and cut its dirty coal emissions which are driving the climate change that is drowning their homes.

But the PNG government, which has recently invested K10 million in coal exploration remained strangely quiet.

Perhaps because Australian Mayur Resources is pushing the PNG government to build coal-burning power stations in Lae, Port Moresby and Madang and using disingenuous and misleading statistics to try and mask the real costs of coal fired power…

Mayur Power 1

Mayur Power 2

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Barrick Gold urged to come clean on rape victims’ compensation

barricks_porgera_mine-790x592

Radio New Zealand

The Canadian miner Barrick Gold is being urged to come clean about its handling of compensation for women raped by employees at its Porgera Joint Venture in Papua New Guinea’s Enga province.

Under Barrick’s “remedy programme” it provided compensation to 120 rape victims who had to sign legal waivers that they would not sue Barrick in civil court.

However, eleven other victims rejected the settlement and with representation by EarthRights International, negotiated a separate, far higher compensation from Barrick.

Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada told Johnny Blades that this angered the 120 women:

CATHERINE COUMANS: You know, they signed away their legal rights, nonetheless Barrick talked them up with another 30,000 kina but that brings them still to one-fourth of what the other women had received and so this is an ongoing issue. Now Barrick is being very quiet about this, there’s also no explanation being given by Barrick about why they’ve decided to give these women an additional 30,000, but there’s also no explanation about why Barrick isn’t just giving the 120 women the same amount that the women got who were represented by Earth Rights International. And it brings Barrick’s entire remedy programme into question.

JOHNNY BLADES: Just establishing again, people in Barrick Gold’s employment raped these women. Were they ever taken to task in the local judicial system? Did police investigate?

CC: Yeah this is of course a real problem, so what we are talking about are women who were raped — gang raped, very often beaten, you know these were often extremely brutal events — by personnel of Barrick’s Porgera venture mine. And when I interviewed women about this over a number of years, what very often was the case was that either they didn’t know who had raped them, because these were very often security guards who come from all over the place, they’re not local. So the women often didn’t know who it was, and then often they would say that these people, even if they did think they knew who it was, then the person would disappear so they would no longer be working at the mine, they would suddenly be moved out. But even if they filed complaints with police they were very often arrested because the police would often then say ‘well if you were raped by the security guard then you must have been trespassing’, and by trespassing they mean basically walking out onto the huge waste flows that surround this mine because the mine is dumping all of its waste rock and tailings directly into the surrounding environment, so these people have to cross these waste flows just to get from one part of the village to another. But that’s called trespassing and that would then give security guards permission, in their mind, to take action against these women and rape them — and very often they would rape them and then bring them to the police department and say ‘these people were trespassing’ and get the police to lock them up.

JB: How are things there on the ground these days? Are these rapes still going on? Are these pack rapes and assaults, do you know if the situation has improved?

CC: We understand that it has improved, that it’s not as extreme as it was for the many, many years that we were recording this information and bringing it to Barrick and having Barrick deny it. Now that Barrick is no longer denying that this has been happening and has been going on for a very long time it seems that the situation has somewhat improved. It’s hard to say because one of the things we discovered in doing the interviews that we did was that women were very often only willing to speak about the fact that this had happened to them around two years after it had happened.

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Petition calling on ISA to protect oceans from mining nears 800,000 signatures

dark side

Avaaz

For years they’ve poisoned rivers, devastated forests and displaced communities, and now massive companies are rushing to dig up the seabed for precious metals.

The people who can stop this plunder of our planet’s most fragile places are meeting now!! The International Seabed Authority normally attracts as little attention as an underwater mine miles offshore, but our community can change that.

A few countries have agreed full or partial bans, and leading scientists just appealed for a freeze on deep sea mining contracts. Let’s amplify their message with a million-strong call, take out newspaper ads to hand deliver to each delegate, then publish their names and their responses. Add your voice and send widely:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/deep_sea_mining_loc/?tXrNleb

Mining companies claim they can mine the seabed safely, but authorities in Namibia, Australia and New Zealand recently blocked seabed mining projects. Scientists point out that many deep water species are being discovered all the time, and that the ocean floor can take decades to recover from disturbances. Mining sediment may also spread heavy metals into marine food chains.

The International Seabed Authority has already issued licenses for exploratory mining across 1.2 million square kilometres of ocean floor. The body is almost unknown, and its 24-person Legal and Technical Committee does the detailed scrutiny of proposals and environmental safeguards with minimal transparency. We now have a unique opportunity to put all its members on notice with a demand that they freeze mining until independent science proves it safe and the ISA opens up to concerned scientists and citizens.

Often, we don’t realise the value of our most precious ecosystems until they’re destroyed — but this time we have the chance to take action before this whole new threat churns up the ocean floor. Join the call for a freeze on deep-sea mining, so we can hit a million and deliver to all delegates before their meeting ends:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/deep_sea_mining_loc/?tXrNleb

Together we’ve stood up to protect our earth’s most precious, awe-inspiring ecosystems — from the majestic trees of the Amazon to the stunning species in the Great Barrier Reef. Now, we are standing on the brink of a new gold rush that could devastate an ecosystem that has so far escaped the ravages of mankind.

With hope and determination

References / further reading
Deep sea mining: the new resource frontier? (Al-Arabiya)
Deep sea mining hopes hit by New Zealand decision (Financial Times)
New Interest in Seafloor Mining Revives Calls for Conservation (National Geographic)
Deep sea mining: the new frontier in the struggle for resources? (World Economic Forum)
Shedding some light on the International Seabed Authority (University of Southampton)
Marine mining: Underwater gold rush sparks fears of ocean catastrophe (The Guardian)
Scientists call for temporary halt on new deep sea mining projects (Popular Science)

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The Dangers of Deep Sea Mining

stop ocean crime banner

Shreema Mehta | EarthWorks

Papua New Guinea, a small and remote country tucked in a corner of the southwestern Pacific Ocean, has dealt with a long and tumultuous history of mining, including one mine that led to a civil war. So the recent news of yet another mining company securing permits to extract gold, despite community opposition, is a familiar one. But there’s a twist to this story: This mine would be located under the sea.

Canadian mining company Nautilus Minerals secured a permit from the PNG government to extract gold and copper from Solwara 1, a deep-sea basin of hydrothermal vents located in the Bismarck Sea. These vents release mineral-rich fluid from beneath the seafloor.

New technologies have made the world’s oceans the new frontier for mining. Both companies and governments have started exploration – and even tout deep-sea mining as a safer alternative to the problems caused by mineral extraction on land. But they do so in the absence of any scientific consensus on the long-term impacts of deep-sea mining, and in an environment with very little oversight  of mining and other industrial activity.

What accounts for this enthusiasm? Perhaps these mines’ locations, under the sea and out of sight, make this emerging industry abstract, making it easy to forget its dangers.

But in fact these projects pose real dangers. Mining the Solwara 1 site, which Nautilus expects to begin in 2018, would involve digging up sediment from the seabed and destroying the hydrothermal vent chimneys containing gold and copper ore deposits. This liquid ore slurry would then be transferred to a ship via pipe, where it would be dewatered before ultimately going to a land-based processing facility.

The effects of this project are unknown, as the Solwara 1 project is the first of its kind. However, the project will certainly kill off all living organisms living in the chimneys and seabed that would be destroyed and dug up.

In addition to the destruction of these fragile sources of marine biodiversity, Solwara 1 will create sediment plumes, or clouds of particles that would proliferate from the removal and dumping of sediments and waste. These plumes disrupt the natural movement of ocean water, and in the process can potentially:

  • Smother entire ecological communities on the seabed
  • Clog hydrothermal vents
  • Introduce nutrient-rich deep water into surface waters, which can cause increased algae production that can harm shallow-water organisms
  • Expose organisms to heavy metals:  Metals once out of reach to shallow-water organisms can be ingested and accumulate up the food chain — potentially harming the health of humans consuming fish as well. Consumption of these metals can also be fatal to these organisms, or lead to mutation or reproductive failure and other impacts.

It’s for these reasons that several community groups in Papua New Guinea have come together to oppose the Solwara 1. Communities that are still grappling with waterways devastated by mining projects are skeptical of this experimental project. “The PNG Government has put the cart before the horse by issuing Nautilus Minerals [the] Solwara 1 mining license without adequate and independent scientific studies, or comprehensive national policy, laws and regulations for Deep Sea Mining (DSM),” said Thomas Imal, a lawyer with local group Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights (CELCOR).

We know dangerously little about the world’s oceans. A sensible way forward would be to hit the pause button on deep-sea mining until greater scientific consensus can be reached on the full short and long-term impacts of this new industry.

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