Locals threaten armed campaign against PNG seabed mine

Credit: Alliance of Solwara Warriors

Radio New Zealand | 1 May 2017

Locals are prepared to take up arms if a seabed mining project in Papua New Guinea goes ahead, according to a anti-deep sea mining campaigner.

A campaigner against deep sea mining says locals have threatened to take up arms if a seabed mining project in Papua New Guinea goes ahead.

Canadian company Nautilus Minerals was given an Environmental Permit by the PNG government in 2009, to develop the the Solwara 1 Project, but work is still to begin.

Helen Rosenbaum from the Deep Sea Mining Campaign said locals in New Ireland province and the Duke of York Islands were feeling so desperate that they would consider taking up arms against the project.

“They know they can get access to explosives, it’s incredibly easy to get access to arms in a country like Papua New Guinea through the police, through the army,” she said.

Ms Rosenbaum said the mining project would be the first of its kind and would set a dangerous precedent in the Pacific.

HELEN ROSEBAUM: Well there’s quite different layers of risk. There’s of course environmental which is well documented by our own reports which are direct risks to the hydro-thermal vents that are being mined and the unique eco systems that are there. There’s also the risks that will result from the mining process and the plumes that are generated that are likely to contain metals and other toxics and the risk of those things getting into the food chain – the marine food web effecting marine species and of course effecting the communities that rely on those marine species for their substance and their quite thriving local economy. There’s also economic financial risk to the company which we’ve been outlining to Anglo American and other investors, their economic returns for Soera 1 are totally unknown and Nautilus are clear about this in documentation that this is a huge experiment from all perspectives. They’re clear they don’t know what the environmental impacts are going to be.

Last year I visited the Duke of York islands, New Ireland province and communities and provincial government in East New Britain as well. People are very concerned about the impacts. They’re already facing impacts from climate change, they’re already losing land on their islands due to sea level rise. They’re facing increasing frequency of storm event so their already feeling quite threatened, so this is the last straw for them. On top of  all of that they were saying now we have to deal with this, they were already facing a very uncertain future and because of losing land to sea level rises they’re feeling like their future is going to depend more on the marine environment for their nutrition and their livelihoods and they’re wondering how they’re going to exist and how are their children going to exist.

TG: What ways have they told you they might respond?

HR: Well, they are working with local groups over there to support them, to use political power means. It is PNG elections time in June and July this year. We’re looking at how they can hold candidates accountable for their policy platforms and ask them that hard questions about their positions on Sowara 1 project, but a lot of people are feeling quite desperate and because of  the high level of corruption and not feeling that in PNG that a candidate says something that  that sounds good to them on Nautilus they won’t change their minds later on. And one can see this happening all the time with Sir Julius Chan who is the governor of New Ireland province and he just flip-flops. Sowera 1 is in the water of New Ireland and last year he was voicing serious concerns about the Sowera 1 project and wondering whether it should go ahead, but this week a press release came out saying he has resigned to the Sowera 1 and he’s going to make the most of it. Goodness knows what’s going on behind the scenes in terms of money changing hands. Local people are feeling so desperate they are saying that they would even take up arms against the project. Many of them work at mining companies, or have worked at mining companies in the past. They have access to explosives and they know it’s incredibly easy and it’s only a matter of money to get arms in a country like PNG through the police of through the army. And they have the experience of Bougainville, many of them worked at the Bougainville mine prior to the civil war in Bougainville what was caused by impacts of the civil war – for them making this threat is no idle threat . Many people in the Duke of York Islands and the New Ireland province have married into Bougainville. They understand want it means to have conflict, and they not saying this loosely.

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Filed under Corruption, Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

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