Seabed mining in PNG: environmental experiment, false hope of economic returns

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Nautilus Minerals pedalled false hope for experimental seabed mining at the PNG Petroleum and Mining Conference in Sydney. NGOs and civil society in PNG raise serious doubt about the commercial and environmental viability of the Solwara 1 seabed mining project.

Media Release | 14 December 2016

Natalie Lowrey, Deep Sea Mining campaign said, “Despite securing bridge financing with its two biggest shareholders to continue the Solwara 1 project, Nautilus faces significant technological and financial uncertainties. They are yet to demonstrate that seafloor resource development is commercially viable and environmentally sustainable.”

“The Nautilus Annual Information Form [pdf] for the Fiscal Year ending 2015 highlights the potential for equipment damage, mechanical failure and operational failure and it warns that the projected yields and costs for Solwara 1 should be viewed with a low level of confidence.”

According to the Form’s section on risk factors [pdf], Nautilus has not completed and does not intend to complete a preliminary economic assessment, pre-feasibility study or feasibility study before embarking on mining at the Solwara 1 Site. The Form also acknowledges that the impact of any seabed mining operation on the environment will only be determined by monitoring after Solwara 1 has been developed.

“This does nothing to reassure local communities. The proposed Solwara 1 site is right in the middle of our fishing grounds and ocean currents operating at the Solwara 1 site would bring pollutants to our shores,” stated Jonathan Mesulum, from the PNG Alliance of Solwara Warriors.

Christina Tony, from the Bismarck Ramu Group in PNG said, “These admissions formally confirm what community members and activists have asserted for some time, that Nautilus and the PNG Government are using the Bismarck Sea as their testing ground and that Solwara 1 is indeed Experimental Sea Bed Mining”

“The business case for Solwara 1 is extremely weak and is a huge risk for the PNG government. It will not generate revenue, employment or business opportunities for the local communities whose lives and livelihoods depend on the ocean. Our former prime minister and Governor of New Ireland province, Sir Julius Chan, cast his doubts about experimental seabed mining as a serious environmental risk for our seas which are the gardens for our people.”

The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), who control the world’s largest sustainable tuna purse seine fishery, have warned this week that without caution and adherence to the precautionary principle sea bed mining will go down the same track as the tuna fishery- foreign companies over exploiting Pacific Island resources with no tangible benefits delivered to local populations. The National Fisheries Authority in PNG has also expressed its concerns over seabed mining in the country.

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5 Comments

Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Papua New Guinea

5 responses to “Seabed mining in PNG: environmental experiment, false hope of economic returns

  1. Kenneth Unamba

    The “cautionary note” put on the presentation by Nautilus is a normal process of reporting which is published by all mining and exploration companies as part of a requirement of regulatory process when reporting to the public. This note is basically to advise possible investors of the pros and the cons of a resource project and they must be aware of the risks before making an investment decision. This is where you take the risk and you either make or break depending on the success of a project, and it does not say here that there is no mineral resource in Solwara 1 and it cannot be mined. Why are people not having a blink of an eye when millions and millions of waste and tailings are disposed of directly into the eco system next to human habitation in the big terrestrial mines in the country and are crying foul over a mining operation kilometers offshore and deep under water where there will be no tailings and insignificant waste rock generated?

  2. Obviously, we know how revolting mining practices are on the land and the environmental devastation these corporate thugs do. Are you now saying, “that out of sight, out of mind” by mining the sea should be accepted?
    It also seems you are aware how humans have suffered, the environment and eco systems but right now, it seems you want to let these environmental vandals to cause further damage without any regard for anyone.
    By the way, “crying foul over a mining operation kilometers offshore and deep under water where there will be no tailings and insignificant waste rock generated” just shows how brain washed you are.

    • Kenneth Unamba

      Mining is a practice where a lot of environmental and social issues are of a concern to every one. It has pros and cons and and it has made and broken governments and people over time. The way we operate mines in our country now is way below par with modern industry standards which are being followed now in other countries. A stringent control on mining practices by regulatory authorities and equal distribution of wealth should be built into the legislation ie; tailings storage facility, waste dump management, sediment and siltation controls, increased royalties, share holding, taxation and employment to indigenous communities which will make mining more responsible. The resource is ours, only we have to learn, to demand, to take part and make it useful to us to alleviate poverty and stop suffering in our communities.

  3. Yes Kenneth,
    As you state, “This is where you take the risk and you either make or break depending on the success of a project”, therefore at a guess you have put your money into this project. Right?

    Kenneth, where should we support you and put our money?
    “Ownership and Finance: Nautilus, a Canadian company with headquarters in Toronto, is jointly owned by several of the largest mining companies in the world – Barrick Gold Corporation, Anglo-American, Teck Cominco, and Epion Holdings. The Government of PNG has a legal right to acquire up to 30% equity in the project. Nautilus currently holds 51 exploration licenses in the Bismarck Solomon Seas in the southwest Pacific, covering 107,917 km2, as well as 37 exploration license applications, covering another 88,906 km2.”
    http://www.solwaramining.org/

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