Monthly Archives: October 2016

Nautilus Minerals linked to corruption allegations around Namibian seabed mining

nautilus

The giant machines Nautilus wants to use to mine the seafloor in Papua New Guinea

PNG Exposed | 31 October 2016

Prospective Solwara 1 seabed mining company Nautilus Minerals can be linked to the allegations of corruption surrounding a controversial decision by the Namibian government to allow seabed mining.

Namibia’s Fisheries Minister, Bernhard Esau, is crying foul over a government decision to allow phosphate mining on the seabed.

He says the decision to grant an environmental permit to Namibian Marine Phosphate was done behind closed doors and in defiance of an earlier government imposed ban. As Fisheries Minister, he says he was denied an opportunity to present his own proposal for a detailed 3-5 year environmental study before any approvals were granted.

Namibian Marine Phosphate is owned by the same company, MB Holdings, that is the largest shareholder in Nautilus Minerals.

MB Holdings owns 85% of Namibian Marine Phosphate through its wholly owned subsidiary, Mawarid Mining LLC.

MB Holdings is owned by Omani business man Mohammed Al Barwani.

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NZ DOC face backlash from Taranaki iwi for backing seabed mining company

seabed-mining-protest

“I just don’t understand how the heck DOC signed this off.”

Jeremy Wilkinson | Stuff NZ | October 28 2016

Backlash against the Department of Conservation is mounting after they gave the green light to a seabed mining company. 

Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) have applied to mine a 66 square kilometre area in South Taranaki of 50 million tonnes of iron-ore laden sand from the seabed per year. Their first application was rejected in 2014. 

The public can now make submissions for or against the mining application but DOC have chosen to refrain from submitting, saying in a statement that they’re satisfied all conservation measures have been met. 

One of Taranaki’s eight iwi – Ngati Ruanui – have said DOC’s decision not to submit may have cost the government a fast resolution to ongoing treaty settlements around Mt Taranaki with Ngati Ruanui and other iwi.

“There was no engagement, thats the real sadness in all of this, as treaty settlement partners we are supposed to work together,” Kaiarataki of Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said. 

TTR’s project overview video, explaining how the mining will work.

“They can ring and tell us when they’re releasing a kiwi but they can’t ring and tell us when they’re making a radical decision that will directly affect us.”

Ngarewa-Packer said as a result of DOC backing TTR and the lack of consultation the department had with iwi on the matter, treaty settlement negotiations in Taranaki with Ngati Ruanui would be impacted. 

“Our chair said at our last meeting after a unanimous call, that we will not go back into settlement with a government that endorses this type of activity.”

“This may have a huge follow on effect to other iwi engaged in settlement. I think they’ve underestimated the effect.

“I just don’t understand how the heck DOC signed this off.”

In TTR’s first application to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) DOC submitted against the company on the grounds more information was needed on the effects of mining-related noise on marine mammals and the potential destruction of habitat. 

A DOC spokesperson said the department had viewed TTR’s newest application to the EPA and its experts suggested several amendments to address effects on the marine environment.

“TTR accepted all the revised conditions and amendments to the monitoring and management plans requested and the department does not consider that further conservation gains will be made by submitting on the application,” the spokesperson said. 

DOC also highlighted several important differences between TTR’s first failed application and its current application in a report which stated TTR’s management conditions were “significantly more robust”.

One of the key reasons TTR’s first application was declined was due to a concern that sand stripped of iron ore wouldn’t return to the seafloor and would impact marine animals and organisms as a result.

DOC’s scientists concluded that fine sand would clump together and descend to the seafloor faster than originally thought, however Ngarewa-Packer said DOC were relying on theoretical data that hadn’t been tested in the field. 

A spokesperson for mining company Trans Tasman Resources said it would be inappropriate for the company to comment on EPA process. 

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Singapore nightclub owners pull out of Tolokuma gold mine purchase

life-brandz

LifeBrandz entertainment group said on Thursday it will not proceed with a proposed acquisition of Tolokuma gold mine

Singapore based entertainment company, LifeBrandz, is pulling out of its planned purchase of Tolokuma gold mine.

The PNG government controversially sold Tolokuma to Singaporean financial speculator Philip Soh Sai Kiang, for around K80 million, in November 2015.

Philip Soh Sai Kiang (also known as Soh Sai Kiang, Mr Soh and Mr Kiang), was inline to make a windfall profit of around K590 million from the proposed sale to LifeBrandz – Govt needs to explain huge difference in mine sale prices – but now he will be searching for a new buyer.

LifeBrandz decision is more egg on the face for Mining Minister Byron Chan who described Asidokona Resources, the front company Kiang used to but Tolokuma, as “reputable, committed, has integrity and capacity”, when it purchased Tolokoma – yet 12 months later the mine remains mothballed and ‘for sale’.

Lifebrandz ends Papua New Guinea buy, eyes firm with Mongolia business
Jamie Lee | The Business Times | October 27, 2016

LIFEBRANDZ, an entertainment group, said on Thursday it will not proceed with a proposed acquisition of a company based in Papua New Guinea, and will instead try to buy a company with business in Mongolia.
It said that it will no longer acquire all the shares of Tolukuma Gold Mines, a company incorporated in Papua New Guinea, for US$212 million.
The company owns a non-operational gold mine there. Tolukuma also holds five exploration licences, and has one exploration licence under application.
Lifebrandz said that the term sheets have lapsed, and both parties have not been able to finalise the agreement.

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Namibian Fisheries Minister wants phosphate mining clearance withdrawn

Corruption allegations threaten to sink experiemental seabed mining approval in Namibia

shifetaesau-namibia

Shinovene Immanuel | The Namibian | 27 October 2016

FISHERIES minister Bernhard Esau wants Cabinet to instruct the environment ministry to immediately withdraw the environmental clearance certificate issued to Namibia Marine Phosphate.

Esau’s rejection of the phosphate project and recommendations are contained in a draft report obtained by The Namibian this week which proposed a detailed study on marine phosphate mining over three to five years.

The minister wanted to make an urgent submission to Cabinet on Tuesday, but his attempt was blocked, possibly by the powerful group in Cabinet and some state officials who support phosphate mining.

The report also shows how Cabinet resolutions adopted by former President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s administration in 2013 were ignored when the ministry of environment approved an application to mine phosphates from the bottom of the ocean.

Efforts to get comment from Esau were not successful as his mobile phone was unreachable.

Environment minister Pohamba Shifeta and economic planning minister Tom Alweendo said the matter was not discussed at Cabinet this week.

Environmental commissioner Teofilus Nghitila issued an environmental clearance certificate to Namibia Marine Phosphate (NMP) on 5 September 2016.

Nghitila based his judgement on a secretive environmental impact assessment report by NMP.

NMP, which wants to mine marine phosphate to make fertilisers for sale abroad, is 85% owned by Omani oil billionaire Mohammed Al Barwani through his company Mawarid Mining LLC, while 15% is owned by serial middleman Knowledge Katti through his company Havana Investments.

Esau’s report said the fisheries ministry is concerned by the decision of the environment ministry to issue an environmental clearance certificate.

In fact, the fisheries ministry described that decision as “premature, and perhaps in contradiction of the precautionary principle as espoused by the Latin phrase in dubio, pro natura (when in doubt, favour nature)”.

Esau wanted Cabinet to know that his ministry was not consulted before the clearance certificate was issued to NMP.

The fisheries ministry is “concerned that marine phosphate mining may commence immediately, which may cause irreparable damage to the marine ecosystem, including fisheries stocks, and hence cause a conflict between the mining and fishing industries”.

In the report, Esau said Cabinet issued a ban on offshore phosphate mining, a decision that was backed up by a legal opinion obtained on 13 December 2013 and 2 July 2015 from the attorney general as binding on the ministry of fisheries, mines and other state organs.

“This moratorium, therefore, still stands until Cabinet pronounces itself otherwise,” the minister stated.

The conditions of that ban were that no phosphate environmental clearance would be issued in 18 months, and that an independent scoping study (a preliminary study to define the scope of a project) should be done.

After that, a comprehensive strategic environmental assessment – a process of predicting and evaluating the impact of a strategic action on the environment, and using that information in decision-making – would be conducted during the ban under supervision of the fisheries ministry, in consultation with the environment and energy ministries.

Esau said during that moratorium, a scoping study was done by an independent consultant from Norway, who recommended that a strategic assessment should be conducted in order to get sufficient scientific knowledge and regulatory mechanisms in place to mitigate the impact of seabed mining on the ocean.

That strategic assessment, which is the responsibility of the fisheries ministry as the “competent authority on the marine environment”, is still not yet completed, Esau said, adding that the findings of that report will inform the environment impact assessment process.

“It was expected that the ministry of fisheries will commence on the strategic assessment once Cabinet has pronounced itself on the scoping report,” Esau said.

The fisheries ministry presented the scoping study report to the deliberative Cabinet meeting, but the matter was referred to the Cabinet committee on trade and economic development chaired by Alweendo for further discussion.

“This process is still ongoing (the last meeting was on 27 April 2016, the last communication on 7 July 2016 raised questions that are still pending),” Esau said in the report.

This appears to be the point where Esau was sidelined by his fellow ministers on that committee. Instead of discussing the scoping report, the majority of ministers on the committee directed the environmental commissioner to decide on the phosphate application.

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The fisheries ministry wants Cabinet to re-endorse the decision and conditions made in 2013, and to ban phosphate mining and direct the environment ministry “to immediately withdraw the environmental impact assessment clearance certificate issued for marine phosphate mining on emergency grounds”.

Esau said once Cabinet clarifies the earlier decision, the next step in the marine phosphate mining consideration is to conduct a strategic environmental assessment, a process which will take three to five years.

Once the recommendations of the strategic assessment are completed, the fisheries ministry will submit the findings for a final environmental impact assessment on marine phosphate mining.

Esau said since 1990, the issue of phosphate mining has been one of the most important policy decisions for the country, apart from the issue of the dumping of nuclear waste, the poaching of wildlife and the international trade in endangered species.

“Therefore, it would have rendered a united government if adequate consultation had occurred before the environmental clearance certificate was issued,” he noted.

Esau also wants Cabinet to consider authorising the development of Namibia’s blue ocean economy policy, to act as government’s policy coordinator on cross-cutting issues.

This policy will be developed by the fisheries, mines and energy, environment, works and other line ministries.

The attorney general’s office will provide legal guidance on the process which involves these ministries.

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Seabed mining ‘catastrophic’

NOT CONVINCED: Professor Edosa Omregie.

NOT CONVINCED: Professor Edosa Omregie has given an apocalyptic prognosis

Marine phosphate mining is nothing like diamond dredging and will have extreme and irreversible consequences for millennia to come, says an expert.

Catherine Sasman | Namibian Sun | 26 October 2016

Marine biologist and former director of the Sam Nujoma Marine and Coastal Resources Research Centre of Unam, Professor Edosa Omoregie, has warned that marine phosphate mining, however small or large the scale, will lead to devastating and long-lasting effects on the marine ecosystem.

He said this could cause serious damage to the productivity of the Namibian marine environment and the country’s fisheries.

Omoregie made these remarks at the first annual research conference of the Sam Nujoma campus at Henties Bay in late September.

Despite strong resistance from environmental groups, environmental clearance has been granted to start with marine phosphate mining.

The Ministry of Environment and Tourism has granted the certificate to Namibia Marine Phosphate, which is developing the world”s first marine phosphate project off the coast of Namibia.

Omoregie said marine phosphate mining involves massive seabed dredging that removes as much as 20 metres of the top sediments that have accumulated for millions of years.

With massive removal of this large quantity of sediments, reclamation after mining would be practically impossible, hence other countries with huge marine phosphate deposits have refused to allow mining.

The presentation noted that the high productivity of the Namibian marine ecosystem is dependent on the biological and chemical processes taking place in these sediments.

Once these sediments are disturbed and eventually removed, the consequences could be extremely devastating to marine life.

Another concern raised by Omoregie is that marine sediments rich in phosphorite are known breeding grounds for several commercial fish species and other marine life. The removal of these sediments would, therefore, directly affect fish stocks.

There is currently no scientific data on the effects of marine phosphate mining on fish productivity because it has never been done anywhere in the world.

And for good reason, figured Omoregie, because of what is known about disturbances of the seabed, which should concern everyone, including decision-makers and politicians.

“Remedying phosphate mining on land is easy but in the deep sea reclamation would be practically zero and will take several million years to recover,” was Omoregie’s apocalyptic prognosis.

Another concern he raised is the release of several types of nutrients into the water column, including inorganic phosphates that have been locked up within aggregates in these sediments.

One consequence of this release would be red tide and sulphur eruptions, which the mariculture industry is scared of. Another consequence would be the direct toxic effects of nutrient over-loading.

Omoregie and others have investigated the effects of varying concentrations of a single superphosphate fertiliser on the survival and respiratory dynamics of Nile tilapia under laboratory conditions.

They concluded that fertilisers in water bodies stimulate growth of phytoplankton and waterweeds, which in turn provide food for fish.

However, at certain concentrations of these fertilisers, algae and waterweeds grow wildly, clogging the waterways and depleting the dissolved oxygen present in the system.

In short; aquatic life suffocates as a result.

Moreover, said Omoregie, the geology of the seabed is poorly understood and for this, it is not clear to what extent massive removal of seabed sediments would disrupt underlying rock formations.

It is a known scientific fact that there are several vents within underlying rocks of seabed sediments. Massive sediment dredging could expose some of these vents, making whatever has been locked up within the vents erupt into the water column.

Omoregie likened this eventuality to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, recognised as the worst oil spill in the history of the USA, in which an estimated 3.19 million barrels of oil spilled into the sea.

“The incident in the Gulf of Mexico will be child’s play if anything should happen here,” he warned, as it is a known fact that there are massive gas reserves beneath the sea bedrock.

He said while taking cognisance of rapid economic development in several countries and the global need for more food production both for human and bio-fuel production, extensive removal of deep seabed sediments would set up disruptive events that cannot be reverted for millions of years to come.

“Why would Namibia want to play the guinea pig?” he asked, since no other country has allowed massive removal of deep seabed sediments for whatever reason, be it marine phosphate mining or any other kind of mining based on the outcry from the scientific community.

“What we as scientists refer to is what can be proven scientifically but the choice lies with decision-makers and politicians,” Omoregie said.

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Namibia approves world’s first marine phosphate mining project

namibia

African News Agency via Mining Weekly | 19 October 2016

The Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) has approved the marine phosphate mining application from an Omani mining company, paving the way for the opening of the world’s first ever sea-bed phosphate mining project.

In a letter addressed to the company and circulated on local media, Namibian Environmental Affairs commissioner Teofilus Nghitila said the environmental impact management plan submitted by Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP) was sufficient enough to mitigate the anticipated impacts of sea-bed mining operations.

NMP is a subsidiary of the Omani mining joint venture company, Mawarid Mining, which is 85% owned by billionaire Mohammeb Al Barwani while the remaining 15% stake is held by local company Havana Investments. The mine will cover part of a sea-bed phosphate concession that lies about 120km into the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Walvis Bay.

“This letter serves as an environmental clearance certificate for the (marine phosphate mining) project to commence,” Nghitila said.

He said the company should carry out regular environmental monitoring and evaluation and set timelines for further improvement of the environmental impact management model.

He said the plans should be advanced in line with government regulations. Among other regulatory demands, the company would be required to regularly monitor sea-bed and water quality and submit reports on a quarterly basis.

“In view of the fact that your project is located in an environmentally sensitive area, this ministry reserves the right to attach further legislative and regulatory conditions during the operational phase of the project,” Nghitila said.

However, he said the clearance letter did not ‘in any way’ hold the Ministry of Environment and Tourism accountable for misleading information or any adverse effects that may arise from the implementation of the project.

“If it is identified at any time during the environmental monitoring and reporting stages that significant negative environmental impacts have been proven to be associated with the proposed mining, processing or beneficiation techniques, such operations will be terminated,” the commissioner said.

Meanwhile, the ministry has called on members of the public and interest groups, such as fishing companies, to submit any objections to the phosphate mining projects to its offices across the country. Local fishing groups have vehemently opposed the proposal for marine phosphate mining saying it was a threat to the industry while environmental conservation groups said it would upset an already fragile marine ecosystem. 

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Mining and logging highlighted as PNG gets worst human trafficking ranking

Papua New Guinea has been criticised by the US as a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking. Photo: Copyright: rafaelbenari / 123RF Stock Photo

Papua New Guinea has been criticised by the United States as a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking. Photo: Copyright: rafaelbenari / 123RF Stock Photo

Radio New Zealand | 26 October, 2016

In its annual Trafficking in Persons report, the US Department of State has downgraded PNG to the worst possible ranking of nations involved in the global trade of people.

It said it is a country whose government does not meet the minimum standard in protecting people from human trafficking and is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour.

Foreign and local women and children are trafficked for sex, domestic servitude, and forced begging, while foreign and local men are forced to work in logging and mining camps as well as on fishing vessels operating in PNG’s exclusive economic zone.

Women and girls from rural areas are deceived with promises of legitimate work to travel to different provinces where they are sold as sex slaves and children as young as five years old are reportedly subjected to sex trafficking or forced labour by members of their immediate family or tribe.

The report recommended PNG train law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges on human trafficking investigate and prosecute trafficking offences and punish traffickers, including parents.

The Marshall Islands is the only other Pacific territory the reports ranks as tier three while Solomon Islands and Tonga are on the tier two watchlist.

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