Concern over experimental seabed mining and fisheries in Pacific

Fish caught just outside the Marine Protected Area (MPA) area in Tikina Wai, Fiji. Photograph: Brent Stirton/1521

Rosalyn Albaniel | Post Courier | December 9, 2016

THE Pacific’s two largest fisheries blocs – the Pacific Islands Fisheries Forum Agency and Parties the Nauru Agreement – are treating the issue of experimental seabed mining cautiously.

Pacific waters are home to the world’s largest fishery currently accounting for around 56 per cent of the global supply of tuna.

The dilemma the region faces is that those same waters will also be hosting the world’s first ever copper-gold project.

Papua New Guinea heavily relies on its extractive industry and the progress of the Solwara 1 project, now under development in its territorial waters, will mean added revenue to its national coffers while also much needed foreign exchange [will it? where is the evidence for this?].

Canadian miner Nautilus Minerals has already been granted the environment permit and mining lease required for resource development at this site. It has indicated plans to grow its tenement holdings in the exclusive economic zones and territorial waters also in the Solomon Islands, Tonga and other locations in the Western Pacific.

PNA chief executive officer Ludwig Kumoru, who trained and worked as a fisheries scientist, said he considered deep sea safer for tuna than land based mines.

This is because the proposed seafloor mining operations would be done at 1600 metres beneath the surface, well away from the 200 metre water level where the tuna live and breed.

However, he said the eight-member group recognised that being the first of its kind there were questions and different circumstances in different locations. However, land mines still posed more risk

“Worse is the tailings that come through the rivers from land based mines and into the sea, that to me will affect the fish to head the PNA.

“But it depends on the sites, in other places it may be different, there may be a lot of strong under-current which could move the cloud (plumes) up (to the 200m mark) or the way they move the minerals up, then there is going to be problem,” Mr Kumoru said.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Pacific region, Papua New Guinea

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