Monthly Archives: February 2016

Catastrophic Failure – Who is paying the price for BHP’s mine disaster in Brazil?

bhp brazil

Bento Rodrigues, Brazil by Greg Nelson

ABC Four Corners | 29 February 2016

“I ended up with nothing but the clothes I had on. I lost everything I had at home, documents, photos of my children.” Survivor

“Of course it will affect our bottom line.” Andrew Mackenzie, BHP CEO

The Melbourne headquarters of Australian mining giant BHP is a world away from the small Brazilian village of Bento Rodrigues, but what happened in this faraway place will cost BHP billions.

“The mud would come and drag me down, I would come up, it would take me down again…I screamed, calling my children, calling them, but nobody answered.” Survivor

Three months ago a horror mudslide swept through the towns and villages in the Gualaxo River Valley in Brazil, destroying homes, businesses and taking the lives of 19 people.

A tailings dam, holding back more than 50 million cubic metres of mining waste collapsed, unleashing a wave of mud several metres high. The waste in the dam came from the huge open cut Samarco iron ore mine, half owned by Australia’s BHP Billiton. Brazil’s chief environment officer calls it the biggest environmental disaster in the country’s mining history.

“This mud wave has killed anything that was alive in these water systems.” Marilene Ramos, Brazilian Environment Authority

Brazilian police have announced they will seek the arrest of six Samarco executives and managers on charges of negligent homicide, and offences against the environment.

“A dam doesn’t break by chance…There is repeated, continual negligence in the actions of a company owned by Vale and BHP.” Brazilian Prosecutor

Reporter Ben Knight arrived in Brazil within days of the dam collapse as the search for victims continued in atrocious conditions. Now in his first report for Four Corners, he returns to Brazil to investigate whether multiple warning signs were ignored. What he finds is a catalogue of failure, where even the emergency alert system didn’t work.

BHP has distanced itself from the operations of the mine, but the company’s bottom line has taken a hit. This week BHP announced a $US5.7 billion half year loss, writing off more than a billion dollars due to the dam disaster.

And in a feature interview with the BHP CEO, Ben Knight asks if BHP is making good on the promises they have made to rebuild the lives and communities affected, and what responsibility it will take for the disaster.

Catastrophic Failure, reported by Ben Knight and presented by Sarah Ferguson, goes to air on Monday 29th February at 8.30pm EDT. It is replayed on Tuesday 1st of March at 10.00am and Wednesday 2nd at 11pm. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 on Saturday at 11.00pm, ABC iview and at


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Filed under Corruption, Environmental impact, Financial returns

China Passes Seafloor Mining Law

Unlike PNG, China has put a law in place to regulate Experimental Seabed Mining BEFORE licensing any operations – common sense really!

great wall china seabed

The Maritime Executive | 27.02.2016

On Friday, China passed the country’s first law on deep seafloor mining. The law is designed to protect the maritime environment and ensure sustainable exploitation of its mineral resources.

Xinhua reports that the law stipulates that exploration and development should be peaceful and cooperative, in addition to protecting the maritime environment and safeguarding the common interests of mankind.

Prospectors must submit their plans to a Chinese maritime watchdog and must include environmental impact assessments in those plans. Only after the regulator approves the plans can application be made to the International Seabed Authority.

Deep sea project operators must have an emergency response mechanism and report immediately to authorities if an emergency occurs. If their activities result in pollution, they can be fined up to one million yuan ($153,000).

Operators are also required to take measures to preserve maritime ecosystems and biodiversity.

The new legislation will come into force on May 1, and it also mandates the government to formulate plans and promote research and surveys of resources.


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Bougainville Mining Loa ino helpim pipal

Siwai women bougainville

Ol meri blong Siwai long Bougainville

Caroline Tiriman | ABC Radio Australia | 25.02.2016

Wanpla save meri blong Bougainville i mekim bikpla askim igo long Autonomous Bougainville Gavman long tokim gut ol pipal long ol mining Loa em oli bin kamapim long 2015.

Dr Ruth Spriggs, wanpla meri blong Bougainville iet husat isave lukluk long ol wok kamap na sidaon blong ol pipal blong Bougainville i mekim despla askim long wonem emi tok despla mining law i havim tasol ABG na ol mining kampani.

Emi tok despla loa bai nap kamapim narapla bikpla heve olsem Bougainville Crisis em planti tausan pipal ibin dai long en.

Bikpla fait  ibin kamap long Bougainville long ol yia 1980’s long wonem ol papa graon klostu long Panguna Copper mine ibin gat kros wantem Mine na PNG Gavman.

Dr Spriggs itok, emi wari long wonem aninit long ol loa, gavman inap sasim ol papa graon samting olsem K20 tausan kina na kalabus inap long wanpla yia sopos oli brukim ol despla mining loa.

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A journalist’s insights into the war that ravaged her people

behind the blockade

Adam Elliott | PNG Attitude | 25.02.2016

I THOUGHT readers would be interested to know that Veronica Hatutasi has just published a book on the Bougainville crisis, Behind the Blockade.

Veronica is based in Port Moresby and has worked for a long time as senior reporter for Word Publishing’s Wantok newspaper.

The book starts in Toniva, just south of Kieta, as the conflict builds and follows Veronica’s story from there back to Monoitu in the Siwai District of south Bougainville.

Here Veronica stayed with her family until late 1992 when, in August of that year, she was able to get herself and her family to Port Moresby.

The book focuses on her personal experiences in the village as the crisis played out and then, from 1993, on her role as a journalist covering the Bougainville story from Port Moresby.

Veronica gained many insights into the conflict and how it affected the Bougainville people from repeated trips back to the island over the years and her book covers the restoration, reconstruction, reconciliation and peace processes.

Behind the Blockade will be launched tomorrow at the Grand Papua Hotel in Port Moresby.

The book is entirely Veronica’s initiative and I think it is great that she has managed to bring it to publication.

I worked with her through the late 1990s when I was based at Aitape after the tsunami, then for a few more years when based in Madang.

The book is 233 pages long and published by Word Publishing (ISBN 978 9980 89 024 5). It is available from Veronica and you can email her here for further information.


Book on Bougainville conflict aims to plug historical gaps

ABC News | 5.02.2016

There have been a number of books written about the Bougainville Civil War over the years, but the latest work from journalist Veronica Hatutasi aims to plug a gap in the history of the conflict that raged for nearly ten years.

Called Behind the Blockade, her book chronicles what life was like for her young family when the people of Bougainville were besieged by the PNG government.

Helicopters and patrol boats supplied to PNG as part of an aid deal with Australia were used to enforce the blockade after the leader of BRA, the Bougainville Revolutionary Army declared unilateral independence.

Now chief reporter with the Wantok newspaper, it’s taken Veronica Hatutasi a long time to get her book published.

But as the reconciliation process continues 18 years after hostilities ceased, she says people need to know what really happened behind the lines.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Tolukuma LOs threaten mine closure


Joe Gurina | Post Courier

LANDOWNERS are threatening to close down the Tolukuma gold mine in Central Province if the developer, Asi Dokona, fails to enforce the memorandum of agreement signed last year.

The MOA was between the Asi Dokona, the state and the landowners.

Yulai Landowner Association chairman George Gusi said yesterday they were forced to take this stance as numerous attempts by the landowners for a round table with them (the developer) had fallen on deaf ears.

Business spin offs, environmental issues and social and community issues were some of the issues that Mr Gusi says they had wanted to discuss.

“Up until today the developer hasn’t been working with the people. We are urging a round table to discuss these issues and how they intend on addressing them,” Mr Gusi said.

He said local landowners in the area had suffered for more than 20 years since the establishment of the mine and did not want the same woes to be repeated with the new developer.

“Our concern is for the developer to include us in the spin off businesses and have us captured in the operation of the mine so that the people are not left out,” Mr Gusi said.

He said one way effective was to offload contracts to the landowner company who would then partner through joint venture agreement with other reputable companies adding that would be one way landowners are given full participation.

He said there needed to be close consultation with the developer to find better ways to dispose of tailings from the mine affecting the livelihood of the people living along the Auga River and the Kairuku Hiri people living along the Angabanga river.

The chairman echoed the same statements by Minister for Petroleum Ben Micah to work in partnership to achieve results and people are satisfied.


Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Papua New Guinea

Has the Treasurer signed off on PNG’s EITI report?

PNG’s first Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Report has been published but the signature of Patrick Pruaitch, the Treasury Minister and Chairman of PNG EITI, is noticeably missing.

History of the World Bank’s EITI project in PNG

Why has the Minister not signed?

In the interests of TRANSPARENCY can someone give us an honest explanation?

EITI report

eiti pruaitch

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Filed under Financial returns, Papua New Guinea

Uncertain future for Simberi mine


St Barbara weighs its options at Simberi

Esmarie Swanepoel | Mining Weekly

Gold miner St Barbara has launched a strategic review of its Simberi operations, in Papua New Guinea, which would evaluate “various options” for the assets, including continued ownership, exploration and development, possible joint ventures and divestment of some or all of its assets in the country.

St Barbara this week pointed out that the Simberi operation produced 107 553 oz of gold during the 2015 calendar year, with production for 2016 forecast at between 100 000 oz and 110 000 oz.

The ASX-listed company was currently conducting a prefeasibility study into a sulphide project at Simberi, which could extend the existing oxide mine life by about three years by producing an additional one-million ounces of gold-in-concentrate over a further seven-year period.

The proposed sulphide project would use the existing infrastructure at Simberi, but would require a capital investment of about $100-million, with funds partly going towards a new mining fleet.

The prefeasibility study was due for completion in April.

To avoid any interruption in production, St Barbara was expected to make a decision on the sulphide project later this year.

The company, meanwhile, reported a statutory profit after tax of A$77-million for the half-year ended December, which was significantly up from the statutory loss of A$19.8-million reported in the previous corresponding period.

Revenue for the interim period was up from the A$236.5-million reported in the six months to December 2014, to A$311.6-million, as total production for the same period increased from 166 741 oz to 202 951 oz of gold.

Gold sales also increased from the 166 960 oz sold in the previous corresponding period, to 198 826 oz.

Consolidated all-in sustaining costs for the period declined from A$1 166/oz to A$922/oz, reflecting the benefits of strong gold production at the Gwalia mine, as well as improved performance from Simberi.

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Filed under Financial returns, Papua New Guinea

Seabed mining conservation strategies insufficient

New research reveals proposed conservation strategies at seabed mining sites are inadequate

seabed mining research

Seafloor massive sulfide deposits support unique megafaunal assemblages: Implications for seabed mining and conservation

Open Channels

Authors: Rachel Boschen, Ashley Rowden, Malcolm Clark, Arne Pallentin, Jonathan Gardner

Mining of seafloor massive sulfides (SMS) is imminent, but the ecology of assemblages at SMS deposits is poorly known. Proposed conservation strategies include protected areas to preserve biodiversity at risk from mining impacts. Determining site suitability requires biological characterisation of the mine site and protected area(s). Video survey of a proposed mine site and protected area off New Zealand revealed unique megafaunal assemblages at the mine site. Significant relationships were identified between assemblage structure and environmental conditions, including hydrothermal features. Unique assemblages occurred at both active and inactive chimneys and are particularly at risk from mining-related impacts. The occurrence of unique assemblages at the mine site suggests that the proposed protected area is insufficient alone and should instead form part of a network. These results provide support for including hydrothermally active and inactive features within networks of protected areas and emphasise the need for quantitative survey data of proposed sites.

PDF File [2.7MB] Seafloor massive sulfide deposits support unique megafaunal assemblages Implications for seabed mining and conservation.pdf

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Cooks Islands fails to find suitor for seabed mining

Mark_Brown cook islands

Cook Islands Finance Minister Mark Brown. Photo: Phillipa Webb / Cook Islands News

Cooks to take more direct approach to seabed mining

Radio New Zealand

The Cook Islands government says it will consider a more direct approach to find investors to mine its sea floor after a five month open tender process failed to register a single bid.

The country’s finance minister said he was not surprised by the lack of interest in the open tender process given the depressed state of global minerals markets and the high risk, high cost nature of deep sea mining.

Mark Brown said while the Cook Islands was reviewing its tender process, negotiations were already underway with various international companies from Europe, America and Canada.

“One of them we are engaged in discussions in a partnership arrangement also in the international seabed authority area in the northern Pacific in the Clarion Clipperton Zone.

“And the others we are in discussions with are looking at options for exploration in our own EEZ.”

The Cook Islands open tender process was launched in August last Year and expired last month.

The Cook Islands Seabed Minerals Authority said it received enquiries from companies in Japan, Korea, China, the US, UK and Germany but no formal applications were lodged.

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Cursed Generation: People along Angabanga river doomed to chemical poisoning

tolukuma cursed

Gloria Bauai | Post Courier | 23.02.2016

A cursed generation is how pathologist Dr Sylvester Kotapu describes the fate of the people living along the length of the Angabanga River in the Kairuku-Hiri district of Central Province.

“The physical derangement of the environment, we don’t need an expert opinion on this. You go there, you’ll see: the chaotic flooding because of the buildup of sediments, the loss of food crops.

“But what’s more specific affecting the people there is the chemical poisoning coming about because of practice of a tailings management which is unlawfully deemed in the world,” he says.

Dr Kotapu had been commissioned by the Central Provincial Government in 2007 to carry out a study on the communities along the river.

He has released his report which was to identify the cause of peculiar diseases being reported by Veifa and Bereina health centres. Dr Kotapu’s finding was in par with other preceding studies which reported high levels of mine-related chemicals in the river system, biota and bloodstream of people.

It was concluded with the understanding that these groups of people have been exposed to very dangerous toxic chemicals believed to be discharged from mining activities upstream.

“From there we realised that high chemicals of mercury and lead and all that, was affecting the people.

“In one or two of the post-mortems that I’ve done, the brains, lungs, kidney, everywhere are full of these chemicals,” he said.

He said this was the result of riverine tailings disposal (RTD) practised by Tolukuma Gold Mine, located at the Angabanga river head, in Goilala district of Central Province.

RDT had been outlawed worldwide because it is considered environmentally unfriendly and socially irresponsible.

Dr Kotapu’s report said the decision by the previous owners since productions in 1996 has cursed the generations of Goilala, Mekeo and Kuni villages forever.

“Our people are actually cursed for life because of the fact that genes transfer from one to another by way of egg and sperm, the genes transfer.

“If there is a mix-up in the father, I’m passing through to the next so it shows out in the way of expressing whatever chemicals – this is cross-generational inheritance,” Dr Kotapu said.

The report claims that the chemicals have increased from the normal levels.

Dr Kotapu said this a well-preserved and protected process of genocide on the Fuyuge, Kuni, Mekeos and the Roro-speaking people along the Auga-Angabanga River.


Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea