Monthly Archives: July 2016

Look out Nemo! Incredible underwater creatures in the Pacific could be wiped out by deep-sea mining

A vast area of seabed targeted for deep sea mining is home to species previously unknown to man, a study warned. Pictured is a species of cnidarianv - which is closely related to anemones - with eight foot long tentacles attached to a dead sponge stalk on a nodule in the eastern Clarion-Clipperton Zone

A vast area of seabed targeted for deep sea mining is home to species previously unknown to man, a study warned. Pictured is a species of cnidarianv – which is closely related to anemones – with eight foot long tentacles attached to a dead sponge stalk on a nodule in the eastern Clarion-Clipperton Zone

  • Clarion-Clipperton Zone covers 4,500 miles across the Pacific Ocean
  • The area has lots of minerals for mining, including copper and nickel
  • However scientists have also found huge diversity of fish and plants
  • Researchers hope findings will mitigate environmental impact of mining

Shivali Best | Daily Mail | 29 July 2016

A vast area of seabed targeted for deep sea mining is home to species previously unknown to man, a study warned.

The seafloor in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, which covers 4,500 miles across the Pacific Ocean, appears to have a particularly diverse ecosystem. 

It is estimated there are billions of dollars worth of coveted minerals such as gold on the sea floor. 

Yet scientists fear this exploitation may deprive them of studying creatures of the depths that have so far eluded the attention of man. 

The study, by researchers at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), found that more than half of the species at the site were new to science.

Dr Diva Amon, lead author of the study, said: ‘We found that this exploration claim area harbours one of the most diverse communities of megafauna – animals over two centimetres in size – to be recorded at abyssal depths in the deep sea.’ 

The area has a high concentration of polymetallic manganese nodules, which are potentially valuable resources of copper, nickel, and other metals. 

The researchers used a remotely operated vehicle to survey the sea floor at five sites to estimate the abundance and diversity of the ecosystems.

They found that the areas with more manganese nodules appeared to have more animals. 

Megafauna in the area also appeared to be dependent on the nodules, which suggests that removing them for mining could negatively impact their diversity.

The researchers used a remotely operated vehicle to survey the sea floor at five sites to estimate the abundance and diversity of the ecosystems. They found that the areas with more manganese nodules appeared to have more animals, such as the Bathysaurus mollis fish (pictured)

The researchers used a remotely operated vehicle to survey the sea floor at five sites to estimate the abundance and diversity of the ecosystems. They found that the areas with more manganese nodules appeared to have more animals, such as the Bathysaurus mollis fish (pictured)

Dr Amon said: ‘The biggest surprises of this study were the high diversity, the large numbers of new species and the fact that more than half of the species seen rely on the nodules – the very part of the habitat that will be removed during the mining process.’

Despite these findings, which are published in Scientific Reports plans are still going ahead to begin mining.

The researchers will be publishing more papers about the seafloor biology of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, which they hope will help effectively manage the area and mitigate the environmental impacts of deep-sea mining. 

An Amperima holothurian or sea cucumber seen on a bed of polymetallic nodules in the eastern Clarion-Clipperton Zone. Several corals, a sponge and a brittle star can also be seen in the image

An Amperima holothurian or sea cucumber seen on a bed of polymetallic nodules in the eastern Clarion-Clipperton Zone. Several corals, a sponge and a brittle star can also be seen in the image

CAPTURING MARINE ORGANISMS IN THEIR NATURAL HABITAT 
Although corals and algae can be imaged in laboratories, a lot of information is lost outside their natural environment. 
The physical environment is continuously changing with variations in oxygen, pH, temperature and fluid motion.
Organisms interact with each other in complex and non-linear ways across a wide range of scales. 
Additionally, many of these biological and physical processes are coupled and influence one another. 
It is difficult to study these processes in the lab, as it is impossible to fully replicate the intricacies of these natural systems.
As a result, a distinct need exists to make observations of important environmental processes, under natural conditions. 

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MCC to resume logging operations at Ramu mine

MCC to resume logging operations at Ramu mine

MCC to resume logging operations at Ramu mine

Post Courier | July 28,2016

Mineral Resources Authority has granted permission for Ramu NiCo to resume logging operations at its Kurumbukari mine site. The permission was issued by Inspector Joseph Umare last Monday following a visit to the mine and logging training sites after the  logging cessation order was imposed in August last year by the inspectorate following a fatality following the logging activity by a logging contractor.

Mr Umare in a letter presented to the registered mine manager and general manager of KBK mine Sarimu Kanu reads: “the matter has been examined in the light of what is stated in your submissions referred above along with assessments of training and competencies of your logging operators as well as the discussions held with you and your senior management team at your KBK Mine site.”

“The assurance and commitment given by you and your senior management team to take all necessary measures to ensure health and safety of all persons in your Logging Operation at KBK Mine, I hereby grant you permission to Resume Logging Operation at your KBK Mine.”

The permission was given with several conditions including the health and safety of logging crews and those who are engaged in the logging activity.

The logging permission follows immediately after the permission by the Inspectorate on Thursday, July 21, granting the company regular operation permission, permission for the restart and operation of HPAL (high pressure acid leach) Train Three at Basamuk refinery and the relaxation of cessation order of blasting of limestone at the Basamuk refinery quarry.

The SML8 land area allocated for mining activity at Kurumbukari in the Bundi LLG is mostly covered by natural forest and the permission by the Mines Inspectorate for logging now paves way for the company to clear the area without disruption.

The selected logs of economic value will be transported out of the mine site to a designated milling site by a contractor already engaged by the company.

Ramu nickel/cobalt project is the only mining company conducting logging activity apart from its approved mining permit for the benefit of the local landowners and the province given the economic value of the tree species.

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Bougainville i laikim agrikalsa winim mining

Cocoa pods displayed at Bougainville Chocolate festival (Laukai photo)

Cocoa pods displayed at Bougainville Chocolate festival (Laukai photo)

Caroline Tiriman | ABC Radio | 28 July 2016
Planti farmers long Autonomous Bougainville rijan long Papua New Guinea i tokim ABG gavman long lus tingting long ol wok mining na strongim agrikalsa.

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Fiji to Resume Bauxite Sales Next Month

bauxite

Aluminium Insider | July 27, 2016

The Fijian government confirmed this week that it will resume bauxite ore exports next month. A stagnant market for the ore has frustrated efforts to sell for the past year.

According to Apete Soro, acting director for mines at the Department of Mineral Resources, the firm of Aurum Exploration Fiji Ltd has secured an overseas buyer for the aluminium precursor. The stockpile in question presumably now resides at the Nawailevu stockpile area on Gaola Bay, Vanua Levu.

“Depending on the ship capacity, the plan is to export approximately 70,000 tonnes of bauxite as first shipment in 2016,” Soro explained. The sale of that quantity of bauxite should fetch a net price of US$1.92 million.

Soro went on to explain that the sale had been delayed thanks to weak demand from buyers in the People’s Republic of China. The fact that the bauxite mined in Fiji is of a low impurity content.

“Major bauxite buyers target high-grade or high-quality bauxite. Fiji bauxite is not classed as high-grade, hence, the immense challenge faced by Aurum Exploration in securing a market or buyer for Fiji bauxite,” Mr Soro said. “Due to its low impurity content, there is increasing efficiency of processing plants and reducing processing costs and overall costs of aluminium production.

“The commissioning of a bauxite ore washing plant at Aurum’s Naibulu, Dreketi mine site has assisted greatly in the company’s efforts to remove or reduce impurities in bauxite ore before export and has significantly improved the bauxite ore quality from Naibulu Mine,” he concluded.

This enabled the firm to find a buyer for its first shipment of the year, explained Soro.

According to Fiji’s director mineral Raijeli Taga, another 30,000 metric tons of low-grade bauxite remains in country at the mining site in Dreketi, Macuata, northeast of Nawailevu, awaiting a buyer.

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Solomon Islands: Axiom mining Pre-feasibility study nears completion

axiom proposal

Stephen Diisango | Solomon Star | July 27, 2016
AXIOM Mining Limited is nearing the completion of a Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS) on the Isabel Nickel Project, covering both the San Jorge and Kolosori deposits.
The company’s update as of 25 July reaching this paper revealed that the study is nearing completion thus it is expected to validate the potential of the Isabel Nickel Project.
“Planning of a cost-effective development of the San Jorge tenement is well advanced in anticipation of the imminent commencement of operations to develop the company’s asset of medium to high grade tropical nickel laterite ore.
“Axiom is progressing with its discussions and negotiations with its strategic partners, and the recruitment of key personnel has commenced.
“The application for the Kolosori tenement is before the government. Axiom remains confident of its position as the preferred developer of sustainable mineral development in the Solomon Islands and anticipates a formal response from government shortly.
“Recent developments in the international nickel laterite market continue to bode well for Axiom and reinforce the value of the Isabel Nickel Project.”
Chief Executive Officer Ryan Mount according to the report said that he sees Axiom capitalising on the current market situation.
“The DSO nickel laterite ore market is undergoing unprecedented change. Indonesia, the Philippines and New Caledonia, holding 80% of the world’s nickel laterite reserves for DSO, are refusing to export any significant nickel ore to China.
“In what is becoming one of the most constrained nickel laterite markets in history, Axiom is in the incredible position of being potentially one of the only few viable DSO opportunities for the world’s largest nickel ore consumer, China.”
“The Company has continued to conduct studies in consultation with leading industry experts as to the economics and development of mining for nickel ore located within the Isabel Province, collectively known as the “Isabel Nickel Project.”
Meanwhile, Axiom mining Ltd (ASX: AVQ) has also appointed its new executive general manager, in charge of mining operations in Solomon Islands.
He is Mr Ken Stein who over 40 years’ experience in mining, with a career beginning with BHP in Australia and then to East Timor as Engineering Manager for Billiton, it was revealed.
“Stein was the chief operating officer for European Nickel and Toldeo Mining managing their nickel interests in the Philippines, including the Burong and Ipilan nickel laterite sites.
“Ryan Mount, CEO, commented, “We are delighted to have Ken on-board.
“His experience in most facets of nickel mining and his experience in dealing with governments, local communities and joint venture partners is valuable to Axiom as we advance the development of the our nickel interests in the Solomon Islands,” it said.
From 2004 to 2008 Mr Stein also led BHP’s operations in Angola as General Manager. Later, in Botswana, Ken was responsible for the construction and successful commissioning of the award-winning hydrometallurgical nickel extraction demonstration plant at the Tati Nickel Mine.
More recently he was the Chief Operating Officer for European Nickel and Toldeo Mining managing their nickel interests in the Philippines including the Burong and Ipilan nickel laterite sites.

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Dispute over proposed Frieda river mine location

Freida River_Map_Panaust

PanAust says the mine is on the border between East and West Sepik

Frieda located in West Sepik: Tekwie
Gedion Timothy | The National aka The Loggers Times | July 27, 2016
FORMER West Sepik governor John Tekwie says the Frieda River copper-gold project is situated in the province and not on the border with East Sepik.
He said the fundamental error that the Mineral Resource Authority (MRA), the lead explorer PanAust and its partner Highlands Pacific, had been misleading all this time was the actual location of the project.
A spokesperson from the MRA said a special mining lease (SML) was yet to be issued but confirmed that the area that would be given the SML would be exploration licence 58 (EL 58), which was in West Sepik.
The spokesperson indicated that areas surrounding EL 58 were mining easement licences for infrastructure and other mining purposes.
Tekwie said the project was geographically and legally located in the Telefomin local level government area with landownership commonly shared between the Telefol and Mianmin tribes.
“Telefomin is home of the five min tribes comprising Telefolmin, Mianmin, Oksapmin, Atbalmin and Faiwolmin. The project is about 80 kilometres Southwest from the common Sandaun-East Sepik border and is located on Nena mountain deep in Sandaun province,” Tekwie said.
“It is not on the border, nor is it in neighbouring East Sepik province. MRA officers and certain consultants have over the years misled the public staging the project as “on the border” or in East Sepik.”
He called on MRA and the two project partners to address this concern.
“All Sandaun (West Sepik) and PNG will benefit comes development, but as Melanesians we must always acknowledge who the customary owners are,” Tekwie said.
PanAust holds an 80 per cent interest in the Frieda River Copper-Gold Project with Joint venture partner, Highlands Pacific holds the remaining 20 per cent.
PanAust managing director Dr Fred Hess said work had progressed throughout the June quarter on the construction of an exploration access track.
“Close and ongoing engagement with the Government of Papua New Guinea, provincial administrations in Sandaun and East Sepik provinces, as well as with host communities continues,” he said.

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Sir Arnold Amet urges govt to call off Papua New Guinea-pig mining experiment

ASW-vs-Nautilus

ABC News

Former PNG Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Sir Arnold Amet, has joined the campaign against Solwara 1, the deep sea mining project in the Bismarck Sea off New Ireland province which is due to start operations in 2018.

He has accused the Mining Minister, Byron Chan, of granting the Canadian company Nautilus Minerals a world first licence to conduct what he calls a Papua New Guinea-pig experiment.

Sir Arnold says the licence was issued even though PNG has no national policy on deep sea mining nor an appropriate legal framework to regulate such operations, and against that background the project should not proceed.

Listen to the full interview

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Hidden Valley mine unlikely to survive

Hidden Valley

The future looks bleak for the loss making Hidden Valley mine, which could be closed down within 12 months according to The Australian newspaper [see story below].

Hidden Valley is jointly owned by Newcrest and Harmony Gold.

The latest financial figures from Newcrest show production costs of $1,564 an ounce are outstripping the price of gold.

According to The Australian, Newcrest are “reviewing all strategic options in relation to the future “ and “without further investment in pre-stripping operations, the mine will halt in about 12 months”.

Related stories:

Dividends back at Newcrest despite weak quarter
Barry Fitzgerald | The Australian | July 26, 2016
Leading gold producer Newcrest is set to resume dividend payments after a three-year hiatus despite finishing off the 2016 financial year with a weak June quarter production report.
Underpinning the resumption of dividends expectation was Newcrest’s $US800 million or 27 per cent reduction in net debt in the June year to $US2.1bn, helped as it was by strong margins of more than $US400 an ounce.
The debt level is down from peak debt of $US4bn in 2013, the last time dividends were paid.
Analysts expect Newcrest to announce at least a US5c a share dividend when it releases its results next month. That is expected to be US10c a share for 2017 and as much as US40c a share in 2018.
The group’s June quarter production report, released yesterday, was disappointing across all operations, according to Credit Suisse mining analyst Michael Slifirski.
Gold production for the period of 598,037 ounces was below the 636,521 ounces in the preceding March quarter, and all-in sustaining costs rose by 9 per cent $US787 an ounce.
Production for the full year was marginally higher at 2.4 million ounces, just over the line to meet the group’s guidance for production of between 2.4 million to 2.6 million ounces.
Chief executive Sandeep Biswas said Newcrest had delivered a solid performance considering challenges at some sites.
“The 27 per cent reduction in net debt reflects our focus on cash generation,’’ he said.
Gosowong’s overall output was down from 38,865 ounces in the preceding March quarter to 17,644 ounces.
At the half-owned Hidden Valley mine in PNG, lower grade and lower treatment rates brought a production cost blow-out to $US1562 an ounce, up from $US542 an ounce in the preceding March quarter.
The partners are reviewing are “reviewing all strategic options in relation to the future’’ of Hidden Valley. Without further investment in pre-stripping operations, the mine will halt in about 12 months.
At the mainstay Cadia mine in NSW, production was down from 203,512 ounces in the preceding March quarter to 178,754 ounces. Premature failure of liners in a concentrator resulted in higher than normal downtime.
All-in costs continued to impress at $US394 an ounce.

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“Major statement” due on PNG mining and gas projects

panguna mine pit

Radio New Zealand | July 25, 2016

Papua New Guinea’s government is to meet this week for discussions on ownership of major mining and petroleum projects and shareholding in the country.

Among the shareholding items which Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says the National Executive Council will discuss is its involvement with Bougainville Copper Ltd.

Last month Rio Tinto gave away its majority shareholding in BCL to the Bougainville and PNG national governments, a move that angered Bougainville which had expected all the shares so it had control of the mine.

PNG’s government is also to discuss ownership of the Ok Tedi mine in Western Province.

The government had a 37% share in Ok Tedi when in 2013 it moved to take on a majority share by subsuming the 63% stake of the Sustainable Development Programme.

The move has been disputed by the SDP in a series of court actions.

However PNG Loop reports Mr O’Neill signalling an imminent statement this week about both situations, and issues related to shares in PNG’s LNG Project.

“I will be making a major statement after that (proposal) has been deliberated by the NEC,” he said.

“Let me say it again: This government wants to empower landowners to have rightful ownership of their resources. I will deliver to them before I go to the elections, this is my promise.”

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Deep Sea Mining: An Invisible Land Grab

solwara mine

Sylvia Earle | National Geographic | July 21, 2016

Thousands of meters beneath the azure ocean waters in places like the South Pacific, down through a water column saturated with life and to the ocean floor carpeted in undiscovered ecosystems, machines the size of small buildings are poised to begin a campaign of wholesale destruction. I wish this assessment was hyperbole, but it is the reality we find ourselves in today.

A deep sea mining machine

A deep sea mining machine

After decades of being on the back burner owing to costs far outweighing benefits, deep sea mining is now emerging as a serious threat to the stability of ocean systems and processes that have yet to be understood well enough to sanction in good conscience their large-scale destruction.

Critical to evaluating what is at stake are technologies needed to access the deep sea. The mining company, Nautilus Minerals, has invested heavily in mining machinery. However, resources needed for independent scientific assessment at those depths are essentially non-existent.

The layout of a mining operation

The layout of a mining operation

China is investing heavily in submersibles, manned and robotic, that are able to at least provide superficial documentation of what is in the deep ocean. Imagine aliens with an appetite for minerals flying low over New York City taking photographs and occasional samples and using them to evaluate the relative importance of the streets and buildings with no capacity to understand (or interest) in the importance of Wall Street, the New York Times, Lincoln Center, Columbia University or even the role of taxi cabs and traffic signals. They might even wonder whether or not those little two-legged things running around would be useful for something.

The International Seabed Authority, located in Jamaica and created under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is currently issuing permits for mining exploration. At the very least, might there be ways to issue something like “restraining orders” owing to the lack of proof that no harm will be done to systems critical to human needs? Or also at the very least protecting very (very, very) large areas where no mining will be allowed?

The role of life in the deep sea relating to the carbon cycle is vaguely understood, and the influence of the microbial systems (only recently discovered) and the diverse ecosystems in the water column and sea bed have yet to be thoughtfully analyzed. If a doctor could only see the skin of a patient, or sample what is underneath with tiny probes, how could internal functions be understood?

The rationale for exploiting minerals in the deep sea is based on their perceived current monetary value. The living systems that will be destroyed are perceived to have no monetary value. Will decisions about use of the natural world continue to be based on the financial advantage for a small number of people despite risks to systems that underpin planetary stability – systems that support human survival?

In the 1980s, when deep sea mining first became a hot topic, it seemed preposterous to think that humans could up-end planetary processes by burning fossil fuels, clear-cutting forests and oceans, producing exotic chemicals and materials and otherwise transforming – “taming” – the distillation of all preceding earth history for our immediate use.

A tragedy of the commons for the benefit of the few

A tragedy of the commons for the benefit of the few

Buried within the Deep Seabed Hard Mineral Resources Act of 1980, US legislation sponsored by Senator Lowell Weicker about deep sea mining, there is a provision that mandates for US interests to establish “Stable Reference Zones” of equal size and quality to those proposed for exploitation. The wording in this law was taken from a resolution crafted at the IUCN meeting in Ashkabad in 1978 that I helped draft and later took to Senator Weicker’s trusted scientific advisor, Robert Wicklund, for consideration.

The IUCN World Conservation Congress occurring this September in Hawaii provides a ripe opportunity to set in motion some significant and very timely actions that could help blunt the sharp edge of enthusiasm for carving up the deep ocean. Whatever it takes, there must be ways to elevate recognition of the critical importance of intact natural systems.

The environmental destruction caused by open mining on land is well documented

The environmental destruction caused by open mining on land is well documented

We need technologies to access the deep sea to independently explore and understand the nature of Earth’s largest living system. But most importantly, we need the will to challenge and change the attitudes, traditions and policies about the natural world that have driven us to burn through the assets as if there is no tomorrow.

This “as if” can be a reality – or not – depending on what we do now. Or what we fail to do. However, there is undeniably cause for hope: there is still time to choose.

This article was published originally on the Mission Blue website; reproduced here with permission.

National Geographic Society Explorer in Residence Dr. Sylvia A. Earle, called Her Deepness by the New Yorker and the New York Times, Living Legend by the Library of Congress, and first Hero for the Planet by Time Magazine, is an oceanographer, explorer, author and lecturer with experience as a field research scientist, government official, and director for corporate and non-profit organizations including the Kerr McGee Corporation, Dresser Industries, Oryx Energy, the Aspen Institute, the Conservation Fund, American Rivers, Mote Marine Laboratory, Duke University Marine Laboratory, Rutgers Institute for Marine Science, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, and Ocean Futures.

Formerly Chief Scientist of NOAA, Dr. Earle is the Founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, Inc. (DOER), Founder of the Sylvia Earle Alliance (S.E.A.) / Mission Blue, Chair of the Advisory Council of the Harte Research Institute, inspiration for the Ocean in Google Earth, leader of the NGS Sustainable Seas Expeditions, and the subject of the 2014 Netflix film, Mission Blue. She has a B.S. degree from Florida State University, M.S. and PhD. from Duke University, 27 honorary degrees and has authored more than 200 scientific, technical and popular publications including 13 books (most recently Blue Hope in 2014), lectured in more than 90 countries, and appeared in hundreds of radio and television productions.

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