Nautilus boosts Mining Minister’s election campaign

With national elections just weeks away, Canadian mining company Nautilus Minerals has given a major boost to the re-election campaigns of Mining Minister Byron Chan and his father, New Ireland Governor, Julius Chan.

Nautilus invited both politicians to be the key speakers at the opening of a new bridge in New Ireland. What a beautiful way for a foreign company to buy the favours of two key politicians… 

Seabed Mining Company Nautilus Minerals Unveils New Bridge In PNG’s New Ireland

Miner yet to begin seabed mining in the Bismarck Sea off New Ireland coast

Rosalyn Albaniel | Post Courier | April 27, 2017

Canadian miner-Nautilus Minerals, this week delivered to the people of West Coast of New Ireland province, an all weather bridge worth K3.1million [US$953,000].

The Pubanom bridge spans 30 metres and has the capacity to take up to 40 tonnes at any one time.

This vital link, situated in ward six along the west coast of Namatanai at Rabehen village, was officially opened by Mining Minister and Namatanai Open MP Byron Chan on Monday.

Those also set to benefit from this bridge are the people of Central New Ireland as well.

Among the dignitaries that had attended this event were New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan, Nautilus Minerals PNG Social and Corporate Responsibility and Security Manager Stanley Komunt, acting Provincial Works Manager Solomon Pela, the managing director Aloga #42, Geraldine Gee, Ward six member Raphael Los.

Mr Komunt had stood in for the chief executive officer Mike Johnston at this event.

He had from the outset conveyed Mr Johnston’s apologies for not being able to attend this important event

He said the CEO was in England attending a board meeting relating to financing matters pertaining to the Solwara 1 project.

He said this event was an important one for the company and had come about as a result of an agreement which Mr Johnston and Sir Julius had signed off back in July 2013.

Mr Komunt said under the agreement, the parties had agreed that the first bridge would be delivered immediately after the signing while a further two after the company had begun production.

He had on behalf of the company, apologised that this had not happened and that this project was now being delivered four years on.

Nevertheless he said he was happy that this project had been completed on time and on budget and would be long lasting long lasting.

Both the New Ireland governor and mining minister had thanked Nautilus for this and the other projects the company has delivered especially at a time when the company had not yet commenced its operations in the province and is yet to make a return.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Nautilus boosts Mining Minister’s election campaign

  1. Dr. Bruce Harris

    For the sake of complete transparency my name is Dr. Bruce Harris and I work as the Chief Advisor to the New Ireland Government.

    I find your statement that the opening of a bridge at Pubanom is “a beautiful way for a foreign company to buy the favours of two key politicians” to be a curious interpretation of what is actually – I think – a significant achievement by the New Ireland Government. Let me give some background to the most recent events. I hope that with the following information you might be inclined to reassess your interpretation, but that is something for you to decide.

    The NIG has been skeptical of seabed mining since it was first proposed. We have insisted that if it proceeds it will be under strict conditions and with very explicit safeguards. We have insisted on independent environmental monitoring throughout all phases of operation, should it eventuate. We insisted that Nautilus sign an MoU with the NIG promising construction of at least four bridges on the west coast in the Coastal Area of Benefit. The recent opening is the first of these. The MoU does not commit NIG to support seabed mining. The bridges will be constructed whether or not seabed mining occurs. That MoU also committed Nautilus to providing sanitation and water facilities for schools in the west coast. Toilets and water tanks have been provided for 29 schools to date. Health and hygiene classes have also been conducted. Nautilus also committed to conducting health patrols, and has already fielded three such patrols with more to come.

    In all I hope you can see that the bridge opening is one small part of a significant commitment the NI Government was able to elicit from Nautilus. I truly do not think it can be characterised as an attempt by Nautilus to “buy” politicians. To the contrary, it is the politicians who have, frankly, insisted that Nautilus accept its corporate social responsibilities. This very phrase was introduced by the New Ireland Government in our discussions not only with Nautilus, but with the other major companies working in the province, several years ago. It has now beome accepted by all these companies that they have responsibiities that go beyond the legal commitments they have made and that include ensuring the quality of life of the people in the areas in which they are working are substantially improved. This is a major step forward in the leverage exercised by a Provincial Government over actual and proposed mining in its territory. We have advanced this concept further in New Ireland than in any other province in the country.

    NIG is also working to ensure that the benefit streams from not only Solwara 1, but also Lihir and Simberi Gold Mines, are substantially increased to landowners and the province as a whole. We are insisting that royalty rates be increased from the current absurdly low 2% to 10% f.o.b. annual revenues. PNG has suffered for more than 30 years from ridiculously low royalties. Most of the world charges royalties of between 5% and up to 20% (in Quebec, Canada). NIG has also insisted that the Special Support Grant be raised to 10% from the current figure of 1/4 of 1% f.o.b.annual revenues. Tax Credit Scheme will llikewise be increased from 3/4 of 1% of assessable income to 10% of assessable income.

    Even with the embarassingly low rates of benefits to date, NIG has already shown that it can use royalties, Special Support Grant and Tax Credit Scheme funds responsibly and for the benefit of the people’s development. Royalties and SSG have gone to pay for Free and Subsidised Education, which NI started in 2008, five years ahead of the National Government, and on which we have spent K75 million. We also have Pensions for the Elderly and Disabled, which no other province in the country has, and have spent K30 million on this since 2009. We also have Roof Over Heads, Sweat Equity and other programs. We have Ward Level Projects which delivers K30,000 per year to every LLG (K40,000 to remote LLGs) for projects defined by the Village Planning Committees and Ward Development Committees, amounting to K4.5 million per year. Under the Tax Credit Scheme we have built three new high schools, with two more coming. We have expanded five high schools into Secondary Schools. We now have a high or secondary school in every LLG, which saves our parents considerable money in transport and boarding costs. We are also using Tax Credit funds for sealing roads on the west coast and for ring roads on the offshore islands.

    Increases in royalties, SSG and Tax Credit will allow us to expand these programs and introduce new ones. We have also managed to reduce administrative costs – funds spent on the Provicial Administration and support services – from nearly 60% of total expenditure in 2006 to less than 30% today, meaning that twice the proportion of funding goes to services and development activities today as ten years ago. This is a much more efficient use of both internal and external revenues.

    In sum, NIG is proceeding in a responsible manner in this enterprise. More than that, NIG is demonstrating how a province can show the National Government the weaknesses and shortcomings in the entire mining regime in the country (and, by extension, oil and gas and renewable resources as well). Despite the incalculable wealth that has flowed from this country in minerals, oil and gas, forestry and fisheries PNG has fallen from number 97 in the Human Development Index in 1990 to number 158 in the 2015 HDI. That is a stunning indictment of the failure of National Government to equitably distribute the benefits from natural resource exploitation – both renewable and non-renewable.

    In NIG we are working hard to address these issues. While I agree in general with your perspective that Governments cannot be trusted and are almost invariably more interested in their own enrichment than in improving the lives of the people, that is not inevitably the case. It would be useful, I think, to at least recognise, if not encourage, the isolated instances in which a Government is making real efforts to achieve the latter.

    Let us exercise all the caution and safeguards we can, insist on a dramatically improved stream of benefits to the people and, based on our success or lack in those efforts, make an informed decision on whether or not to proceed with the project.

    But above all let us support those efforts to make Government work responsibly for the benefit of the people. If we do not support those isolated instances in which Governments are trying their best to change the way “business as usual” is done, then we will only diminish our prospects for success.

    My apologies for the extended nature of this note. I hope this at least makes it clear that we in New Ireland respect the work PNG Mine Watch is doing. It is important and courageous. We subscribe to and pay attention to your reports. We just want you to know that in New Ireland we are serious about improving governance. We are ready to work with anyone else who is similarly inclined. We are willing to provide any information we have should there be any questions or interest in what we are doing. We think we have some good ideas on how to proceed, but are more than aware that others have ideas as good or better and we are eager to hear them and share experiences.

    Thanks again for the good work you are doing. I hope you now understand a bit more clearly what we are trying to do in New Ireland. And I hope we can support each other in what I think is a community of interest to promote responsible development while safeguarding the environment and guaranteeing the people benefit from the wealth that flows from their land – and sea.

    Best regards
    Bruce Harris

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