Monthly Archives: June 2017

Renzie Duncan and Philip Miriori team up in another illegal Bougainville venture

PNGExposed | June 28, 2017

Sydney lawyer and mining venture capitalist, Renzie Duncan, is on the prowl again for Bougainville’s mineral wealth, with his old friend Philip Miriori,  the scandal-plagued, self-appointed head of the Me’ekamui Tribal Government. 

This time its through Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited, which is in partnership with Australian mining firm RTG Mining.

Company extracts indicate that Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited, despite its very local name, is in fact a foreign enterprise.

This assertion is based on the fact it is 50% owned by Australian company, Central Exploration Pty Ltd. 

Central Exploration Pty Ltd’s thriving head office is 266 Burns Bay Road, Lane Cove, New South Wales, Australia. This leafy address on Sydney’s north shore, is also the registered home address for Renzie Duncan.

Under the Investment Promotion Act 1992, a company which is 50% owned by a foreign entity is deemed a foreign enterprise and must apply for certification to conduct business in Papua New Guinea.

Section 41 of the Investment Promotion Act 1992 states it is an offence to carry on business without certification, punishable by a K100,000 fine. 

There is no record with the Investment Promotion Authority that Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited has applied for certification, despite the fact it has been clearly conducting business with RTG Mining.

However, this is not the first time Duncan, Miriori and the other Central Exploration Director, Michael Etheridge, have conducted business in Bougainville. 

The last time it was through Transpacific Ventures Limited.

In that case Transpacific Ventures informed investors:

‘In the past 12 months, TPV has negotiated and signed an Agreement (the “Cairns Agreement”) with the Sovereign Me’ekamui Tribal Government on an exclusive basis for 20 years, renewable, to advise customary landowners (the Me’ekamui) in developing their natural resources sector, including potential oil and gas, on the island of Bougainville, PNG and surrounding atolls and marine territories, and to participate with the Me’ekamui in such development and other business opportunities’.

Yes, that’s right, Philip Mioriri and his self-styled tribal government proposed to sign away the natural resources, landed and marine, across Bougainville. Clearly, he had no right to, and Transpacific Ventures had no legal business publishing this information to investors.

Of course the claim by President Momis that RTG mining ‘doesn’t have any money’, is rather ironic given that his preferred operator, BCL, cant even afford permanent staff – and has no means whatsoever to raise the sort of capital to develop Panguna.

But the core point all this squabbling between various minority interests distracts from is this – 98% of the people in and around Panguna oppose mining, under any industrial guise. They have suffered the environment and human loss.

The ordinary people – real landowners – don’t have government support, nor do they have access to the internet or media. Their voice is unheard, except when they protest and resist.

The re-entry of Duncan and Mirori, will be cynically used by the government to label all landowner resistance, simply a plot to bring in an alternative developer by the backdoor. If this is argued, it is a lie.

Landowners throughout the mine area remain opposed, like they have since 1963, when the first rumblings of Panguna began. Journalists will not report this. They don’t leave their offices, much less speak with someone who cant reply in english.

On the rare occasions they do leave their office, they knock on the door of Lawrence Daveona, Philip Mioriori and other individuals, who falsely claiming they somehow speak for all landowners, which they don’t. Of course the colonial powers did this back in the 1960s. Some poor old man, was wielded out to say yes, while the mothers cried no.

History has been a cruel teacher, it is unlikely the mothers of the land will allow the bulldozers through this time.

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Filed under Corruption, Financial returns, Human rights, Mine construction, Papua New Guinea

How resource companies exploit a corrupt and dysfunctional government

There has been a barrage of media recently about mining companies teaming up with a range of parters to deliver health-care and other services direct to the community.

Newcrest Mining and the Australian government have announced a partnership to improve maternal health, Exxon-Mobil is partnering the Cancer Foundation and The Voice, Barrick Gold is delivering agriculture training in Porgera.

Praise be to the resource companies, willing and able to step in where government fails its people – and no matter the role these same companies play in causing the very diseases, illnesses and other problems they are so happy to patch up with their band-aid PR!

But there is an even more sinister side to these good news stories that further illustrates how mining and other resource companies feed off a corrupt and dysfunctional government.

If government was doing its job and delivering decent basic services to the population, mining and resource companies would not have the opportunity to appear as ‘knights in shining armour’ the good news stories would disappear and, most importantly, customary landowners would not feel compelled to give away their land in the desperate hope that mining and logging companies might provide some basic services.

Resource companies are able to thrive in PNG because of, not despite, a corrupt and dysfunctional government. They rely on bad governance to open the doors to what they most desire – land and the resources it contains.

No matter the environmental and community destruction, their logging and mining cause, no matter the deaths, the violence against women, the unwanted pregnancies, the rape and prostitution, the pollution of rivers and loss of sustainable livelihoods when they can parade their social conscience in the media and have us all believe they are our saviours – just as long as we continue to give them what is most precious to us, OUR LAND!

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Can deep-sea mining avoid the environmental mistakes of mining on land?

Ambitious research aims to limit environmental damage on the sea floor – but some scientists fear mining this pitch black world will do more harm than good

Carol J Clouse | The Guardian | 28 June 2017 

Each of the three mining machines outweighs the 200-ton blue whale – the largest animal the world has ever known – and they look fearsome, especially the bulk-cutter designed to grind up the ocean floor with its enormous roller, covered in spikes.

If all goes as planned, come 2019 these giant remote-controlled robots will steamroll across the bottom of the Bismarck Sea off the coast of Papua New Guinea, chewing it up in pursuit of rich copper and gold reserves for a Canadian company called Nautilus Minerals. Nautilus chief executive Michael Johnston is anxious to demonstrate something besides making handsome profits. He also wants to show that his company has designed the mining expedition to have a small environmental footprint, especially when compared to the land-based counterpart.

“People have a view of mining, and they think we’re going to transport that view into the ocean, and it’s going to be ugly,” says Johnston, a soft-spoken New Zealand native and a 30-year veteran of mining.

“It’s important to all of us, especially those of us who’ve worked in mining for a number of years, to show people that you can do it better. I think a lot of people will be surprised,” says Johnson, 54, who joined Nautilus in 2006.

Johnston will have a lot to prove. The project, Solwara-1, will be the first ever attempt to extract minerals from the deep sea, and with the world watching closely.

Deep sea mining presents an ethical conundrum and an opportunity to avoid the costly environmental and social mistakes of land-based mining. That has prompted a group of policymakers, businesses and academic researchers to design rules that they hope will minimize environmental harm. They have proposed ideas that range from setting aside no-mining zones within a region rich in minerals to using technology that will reduce the extent of sediment plumes during dredging.

“We have the opportunity from the very beginning to understand the science, to understand the impact and to understand how to ameliorate the impacts,” says Dr James Hein, a senior scientist with the US Geological Survey. “This will really be the first time we can approach it from step one.”

But whether any of those ideas will work as designed to reduce environmental impact won’t be known until the machines are put to work. Some of Nautilus’s proposals, such as relocating some of the wildlife temporary to another location during mineral extraction – and recolonizing the spot afterward – attract strong skepticism.

“Nautilus’s claims that they can simply relocate parts of the site’s ecosystem elsewhere don’t stand up to scientific scrutiny, and the effectiveness of any measures to reduce other impacts will be difficult, if not impossible, to verify independently,” says Dr David Santillo, senior scientist at Greenpeace Research Laboratories at the University of Exeter in the UK.

Earth’s last mining frontier

The deep ocean plays a critical role in the Earth’s biosphere – it regulates global temperatures, stores carbon and provides habitat for a huge array of creatures. Scientists and environmental advocates fear that mining this pitch black, frigid world will not only kill any marine life that gets in the way of the machines but could potentially devastate far wider areas by stirring up plumes of sediment and introducing chemical, noise and light pollution.

Their worries underpin a sentiment that deep-sea mining appears inevitable. Demand for minerals to make virtually everything we use, including the phones and computers that run our lives, will only increase. Even technology that promises to cut our oil addiction and reduce emissions requires a reliable supply of raw materials, from tellurium for solar panels to lithium for electric vehicle batteries.

The vast treasure of untouched resources on the ocean floor – copper, zinc, cobalt, manganese, titanium and other minerals – has tantalized mining companies around the globe.

The Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) is a particularly a coveted mining area that’s roughly the size of the continental US and lies between Mexico and Hawaii. It contains potato-sized nodules of manganese, cobalt, nickel, copper and molybdenum worth roughly $25.2tn, according to Hein’s calculations. Not all of this amount would be economically recoverable, Hein says, but even 30% would equal $7.56tn.

Moreover, these minerals exist at much higher grades than on land, where supplies that are easily accessible have mostly been depleted and mining companies are blowing the tops off mountains, cutting down wider expanses of forests and digging ever-bigger holes to extract from harder-to-reach deposits.

Mining copper in the Andes, which produces about 40% of the world’s supply, would require the removal of 50 tons of barren rock to get to a 20 million ton ore deposit with 0.5% copper in it, Hein says. In a marine environment, you can find a 7% copper deposit sitting right on the seafloor.

Of the 28 exploratory contracts signed with the International Seabed Authority, which regulates undersea mining in international waters, 16 are for mining in the CCZ. The US hasn’t ratified the treaty and joined the ISA. US aerospace and defense firm Lockheed Martin has obtained two exploratory contracts through its British subsidiary UK Seabed Resources.

Deep-sea mining is an expensive undertaking. Nautilus has encountered delays for its roughly $480m project and still needs to raise $150m to $250m to move ahead.

Around the world, extensive work is now going into mapping ocean floor ecosystems and researching ways to mitigate the environmental impact of deep-sea mining. In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has done exploratory and mapping work off the coast of Hawaii, along with projects by university researchers.

The European Union has contributed millions of dollars to organizations such as MIDAS (Managing Impacts of Deep-Sea Resource Exploitation), and Blue Mining, an international consortium of 19 industry and research organizations.

A UK-funded expedition conducted the first ever controlled deep-sea sediment plume experiment in the Atlantic last year, about 300 miles from the Canary Islands. Sediment plumes are big dust clouds kicked up by mineral extraction, and scientists worry that the plumes could travel great distances, choking sea life along the way.

“There’s a lot more research to be done on sediment plumes,” says Dr Bramley Murton, who led the expedition and heads the marine mineral research at the UK’s National Oceanography Center. “But we got some data and, at the moment, the initial indication is that we can’t see the plume from a kilometer, or roughly 0.6 miles, away.”

That’s an encouraging result, because scientists previously suspected that sediment plumes would travel much further.

Another way to minimize impact is to aside protected areas within mining zones. Back in 2013, a team of scientists led by Dr Craig Smith, a professor of oceanography in University of Hawaii’s Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology, recommended the ISA to designate roughly a quarter of the CCZ as a protected area. The ISA accepted the team’s recommendations provisionally but will need to decide whether to include them in the final rules, which could take three to five years to finalize.

Improving the precision of mining robots will also help to reduce environmental disturbances. Companies with the technology that could solve the problem include the Seattle-based BluHaptics, which has developed software that enables a robot to recalibrate its aim and movement to improve precision by learning from each trip it makes to the seabed.

“We use machine learning software to identify and track objects in real time, with high resolution situational awareness, so it can see through sediment or oil spills,” says Don Pickering, BluHaptics’ CEO.

What will Nautilus do?

At the Solwara-1 site, 25km off the Papua New Guinea coast, Nautilus plans to launch its project from a ship 230 meters long and 40 meters wide, with roughly 130 employees on it. The company will go after minerals born 1,000–3,000 meters deep in volcanically active zones, around vents that spurt super hot, acidic water containing metals dissolved from the earth’s crust. The active vents are populated by numerous species, including tubeworms, clams, snails, shrimp, crabs and many species that are not yet known.

The three Nautilus robots, designed by UK-based SMD, will be lowered into the water, break up the rocks and collect them to be piped back to the vessel.

The ore will then be transported by smaller boats to China and sold to the Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group Holding Co. The ship plans to remain at the first project site for roughly three years, bringing up 2.5 million metric tons of ore containing metals worth roughly $1.5bn, give or take shifts in commodity prices.

To address sediment plumes, SMD designed the robots to suck the plume into the slurry with the ore and pump it up into the vessel. “Our ultimate goal is to recover as much of the material as possible, not to blow it away,” Johnston says.

Using a steel riser and pump system designed by GE Oil & Gas, once the ore is dropped into the vessel, the icy water will be pumped back down to the sea floor so it doesn’t mix with the warmer surface water and potentially cause algae blooms and other environmental disturbances. To minimize the use of bright light, which could disrupt marine life in the pitch black world, Nautilus will use sonar and digital cameras to create 3D maps to guide its extraction with the remotely operated robots.

“These populations grow fast and they reproduce a lot, so in some sense one can argue that they might recover quickly. But the environmental issue is that these habitats are relatively rare on the sea floor, and they’re different from one site to the next because the animals have adapted to the fluid chemistries,” says Dr Cindy Lee Van Dover, director of the Duke University Marine Laboratory in North Carolina and a member of the Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative, an international group of scientists, lawyers and advocates that makes environmental recommendations to the ISA.

“We aren’t talking about stopping mining, just thinking about how to do it well. We can map these environments to show where the highest density of animals is and avoid those high-density places. That’s a very rational approach,” says Van Dover. “I’m reasonably optimistic that we can come up with progressive environmental regulations.”

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Weak Capacity And Lack Of Accountability A Challenge In Mining Sector

Weak Capacity And Lack Of Accountability Remains A Challenge In Implementing Legislation And Policies In The Mining And Petroleum Sector.

Post Courier | June 28, 2017

Weak capacity and lack of accountability remains a challenge in implementing legislation and policies in the mining and petroleum sector.
This is according to the PNG Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Report 2014.
The report states that lack of transparency also leaves the way open for corruption.
It also noted that a revised Mining Act will be presented to Parliament after 2017 elections.
This will include regulations for offshore mining, mine closure and rehabilitation, resettlement and geothermal resources and standards for employing mine workers.
The Mining (Safety) Act is also under review.
The report also highlighted that the relationship between three different legislation including the Environment Act 2000, Mining (Ok Tedi Agreement) Act 1976 and (Bougainville Copper Agreement) Act 1967, is unclear as the former has not been repealed, nor have the references to it in the mining Act been amended.
It said, the petroleum industry is governed by the Oil and Gas Act 1998, (OGA) and the Oil and Gas Regulation 2002 under the administration and management of the Department of Petroleum and Energy (DPE), headed by the minister for Petroleum and Energy.
“The OGA specifies regulatory instruments for oil and gas development activities such as: licensing, exploration, development, processing, storage, transportation, and sale of products,” the report said.
PNG EITI head of National Secretariat Lucas Alkan said: “It is only fitting to have such a robust legislative and policy framework for a resource rich country like ours.”
“The PNGEITI has already capitalised on such fiscal and legislative setting”.

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RTG in fresh bid to get Panguna running

RTG Mining has put its hand up to be involved in the redevelopment of the massive Panguna copper-gold mine in Bougainville.

Kristie Batten | PNG Industry News | 28 June, 2017 

RTG confirmed that it had joined a consortium comprising the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA) and Central Exploration.

The company has paid US$750,000 for a minority stake in Central. 

The SMLOLA owns the minerals within the old Panguna mine and control the land.

The autonomous Bougainville government (ABG) owns a controlling stake in ASX-listed Bougainville Copper (BCL) after being gifted shares by former major shareholder Rio Tinto last year.

The ABG supports BCL’s plans to redevelop the abandoned mine.

According to Radio New Zealand, a protest by local landowners last week prevented the ABG from signing a memorandum of understanding with other landowners last week.

The SMLOLA is not prepared to grant access to the land to BCL.

RTG has agreed to partner SMLOLA in its proposed Panguna redevelopment if the proposal is successful.

SMLOLA is seeking to redevelop the mine in stages, starting with an initial 15 million tonne per annum plant.

RTG said there were strong parallels between the proposed redevelopment and the redevelopment of the Masbate gold mine in the Philippines, which was completed by the RTG management team.

RTG’s primary focus to date has been the Mabilo copper-gold project in the Philippines.

The company said its three largest shareholders are backing the proposed Panguna development.

Panguna has been suspended since 1989 due to the outbreak of civil war in Bougainville.

BCL has not had access to the mine since, and the company and Rio have faced allegations and lawsuits regarding their involvement in the conflict, as well as environmental damage.

BCL plans to spend more than $A100 million on feasibility studies and potentially introduce a new strategic partner.

A 2016 order of magnitude study considered a 60 million tonne per annum operation, with a possible expansion to 90Mtpa.

Under that scenario, capital costs would be $US6 billion for a 24-year mine starting in 2027. 

The expansion would cost a further $1 billion.

At the end of 2015, Panguna had resources of 1.8 billion tonnes at 0.3% copper and 0.34 grams per tonne gold for 5.3 million tonnes of copper and 19.3 million ounces of gold.

On the announcement, RTG shares jumped by 21% to A17c, capitalising the company at $28.5 million. At BCL’s last price of 33c, it had a market capitalisation of just over $130 million.

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Fiji: No plans for deep sea mining

Felix Chaudhary | The Fiji Times |  June 28, 2017

SEABED deep sea mineral mining will not be conducted in waters around Fiji in the near future, says Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources permanent secretary Malakai Finau.

“The costs involved are absolutely huge,” he said.

“Current exploration interest is in its very early or preliminary stages, we haven’t even reached the advanced stages as yet.

“Seabed resource exploration requires a lot of resources. One of the biggest costs is the need to engage a state-of-the-art marine research vessel.

“Getting exploratory work done on land is very expensive, so you can imagine what it’s like when you are attempting to do this out at sea.”

Meanwhile, a report by the World Bank released in April last year titled “Precautionary Management of Deep Sea Mining Potential”, called on Pacific Island countries to be extra vigilant and cautious over any plans for seabed mining.

The report said any Pacific country supporting or considering deep sea mining activities must proceed with a high degree of caution to avoid irreversible damage to ecosystems.

The World Bank report also emphasised the need for strong governance measures to ensure that appropriate social and environmental safeguards were in place.

Pacific Island countries that have granted permits for deep sea mining exploration include Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. The Cook Islands has advanced its efforts and done a minerals exploration tender process.

Mr Finau is chairing the Science Technology and Resources (STAR) Network’s 2017 conference at the Tanoa International Hotel in Nadi.

The conference is supported by the Geoscience Division of the Pacific Community and sponsored by Standard Concrete Industries (Fiji), XINFA Mines (Fiji) and the UNDP neglected development minerals project with support also from the Circum-Pacific Council.

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Nautilus says mine will not be in breach of law

Post Courier | June 28, 2017

Canadian miner, NAUTILUS Minerals, asserts the world’s first deep sea mine to be developed in Papua New Guinea, says it will not be in breach of any international laws.

The company was responding to recent reports published by the Catholic Professionals Society, which had claimed there would be breach to the freedom of navigation by international vessels, if the project gets off the ground.

The Solwara-1 project, will be developed in the waters between New Ireland and East New Britain provinces.

In a statement sent to the Post-Courier yesterday, the Canadian miner said: “Nautilus would like to clarify that its operations will not be in breach of international laws.”

“While there will be an exclusion zone around its operations, it is only 1.25-km in radius.”

“This was determined by placing a 500 meter buffer around all mining areas.”

“This buffer area was approved by the National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA) in September 2016, with the relevant information sent to the Australian Hydrographic Service for inclusion on the relevant charts,” the miner said.

Nautilus said the exclusion zone will ensure shipping does not interfere with mining operations, and will no way impede shipping passing through the St George passage (it doesn’t interfere with the Right of Passage as guaranteed by UNCLOS).

“This exclusion zone is no different to the exclusion zone around an oil and gas production platform, for which, there are thousands all around the world and they too are not in breach of international law.”

“Its position will be marked on maritime charts and will be noted by all vessels and vessel captains,” the firm further stated.

Questions were put to NMSA to comment but the state agency had yet to respond at the time this paper went to press.

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