Monthly Archives: February 2019

Logging, mining and fisheries at centre of increasing slave trade in Pacific

The delegates that were in Apia for a people smuggling/human trafficking transnational crime workshop. Photo: Supplied

Concerns over increasing slave trade in Pacific

Radio New Zealand | 21 February 2019 

The Pacific Immigration Development Community says human trafficking to the point of slavery is increasingly common in industries like logging, mining and fishing.

The immigration watchdog says island countries are now both a source and destination for human trafficking and people smuggling.

The watchdog’s head Ioane Alama said people smuggling occurs when migrants cross borders illegally but human trafficking is more sinister.

“There is always an essence of exploitation. The person being trafficked, there is a form of exploitation, either be labour, forced labour, in some cases servitude, we’ve heard of sexual exploitation, in terms of prostitution.

“And also more recently we’re hearing references to slavery, of slavery, or practices similar to slavery.”

Ioane Alama said Pacific governments are improving how they detect and prevent human trafficking through better information sharing and increased vigilance.

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Filed under Human rights, Pacific region

Barrick offering 50% profit share in Tanzania

Will Barrick be offering PNG 50% of the profits from its Porgera mine?

New found resource nationalism may create complications for Barrick’s Bristow in PNG

Mining MX | February 21, 2019

A PROPOSED transaction in which Barrick Gold could share profits from its Acacia Mining with the Tanzanian government on a 50/50 basis could have ramifications for the Toronto-headquartered group in other mining districts, said Bloomberg News.

The newswire said that efforts by Barrick Gold to extend its mining licence agreement with the government of Papua New Guinea over the Porgera asset might be complication if that government sought to replicate the deal in Tanzania.

Mark Bristow, CEO of Barrick Gold, has suggested that the company might not divest of Porgera as the company previously suggested. He has also reached out to the new president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi, in the hope he’ll consider a review of the recently promulgated mining code.

All of these events might, therefore, by influenced by the outcome of the dispute with Tanzania which is where the offer to share the spoils of Acacia Mining comes from. Acacia, 63.9%-owned by Barrick Gold, has been in dispute with the Tanzanian government over unproved allegations it owes $190bn in unpaid tax dating back some two decades (including penalties and interest).

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Filed under Financial returns, Papua New Guinea

Bougainville Landowners Call On Momis For Protection

People on Bougainville want protection from Jeff McGlinn and his ‘draconian changes’ to resource ownership laws

Post Courier | February 22, 2019

Landowners throughout Bougainville are today calling on President John Momis for protection from a “callous opportunist.”

The landowners said that the customary laws of Bougainville and the basic human rights of landowners cannot be ignored.

A secret presentation, by an Australian, Jeff McGlinn, which was marked “strictly confidential, not for distribution” has just become public.

It evidences the unconscionable demand to strip landowners of all their rights under the Bougainville Mining Act.

McGlinn’s demand for these wholesale and draconian changes, is so that he can secure a complete monopoly over all large scale mines on Bougainville, including Panguna, without following the due processes of law, including the mandated Free Prior and Informed Consent of Landowners.

Panguna landowner Philip Miriori said: “The McGlinn draft Bills, which would strip landowners of all their rights, were actually drafted by McGlinn’s lawyers. It is completely unacceptable.

“We cannot allow foreigners to draft our laws, tearing up our entire Bougainville Mining Act, and all its safeguards, just so that he and his small group of insiders, including ex PNG Defence personnel can profit personally from our lands and our struggle.”

Mr Daveona said: “The Landowners of Bougainville call on President Momis to protect them, by immediately withdrawing these deeply offensive McGlinn drafted Bills.

There has been no prior opportunity for consultation. Anyone who has bothered to even read a little of the history of Bougainville, would understand that the Bougainville Conflict was a plea for better mining practices and the recognition of the rights of Customary Landowners.”

Mr Miriori said it would be difficult to think of something more deeply disrespectful and insensitive to landowners and the community generally than the demands of McGlinn.

“This comes at the very time the community is focused on continuing to build peace and reconciliation in the lead up to the referendum on independence. “Unreasonable, unconscionable and unconstitutional. If passed they will be challenged and Panguna is delayed indefinitely. Nobody wins – in fact we all lose. The general feeling about the amendment, from the 500 people who attended, was that no one agreed with it and those present were asking the ABG members to do away with the amendment immediately.

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Barrick must be accountable for environment destruction

We pray that Barrick is held to account for the misery, pain and loss our people suffered

David Mandi | Post Courier | 21 February 2019

The Porgera River Alluvial Miners Association is responding to an article in Tuesday’s edition of the Post-Courier titled ‘Barrick confirms continuing commitment to PNG Government and Porgera community, which was reportedly released by the new president and chief executive officer of Barrick, Mark Bristow.

First, we confirm our support and commend the Prime Minister, Hon Peter O’Neill’s bold announcement recently that there will be no automatic renewal of the Porgera special mining lease (SML) once it expires in August this year. The Prime Minister’s announcement is surely the best news in decades (30 years) for the poor and illiterate indigenous alluvial miners living along the Porgera river, who had been suppressed and marginalised by the world’s mining powers including Barrick.

Secondly, our response to Barrick’s press release follows.

Barrick has deliberately failed to maintain a positive relationship with us (affected people) in the past, while being fully aware that their operations were physically and economically displacing more than 10,000 people of the Porgera river through their continuous discharge of mine waste (more than 1.5 billion cubic meters per year) directly into the Porgera River system.

Further, to date, Barrick has intentionally failed to pay us compensation award made in our favour through the 1996 Ministerial Determination (“1996 MOil) to settle the six year (1990-1995) compensation dispute.

Thus, Barrick has been illegally discharging waste using a flawed Environment Permit number WD-L3 (121).

We pray that Barrick is held to account for the misery, pain and loss our people suffered.

Thus, Barrick’s continuous presence in Porgera is detrimental to the health, welfare and safety of the Porgera river alluvial miners.

And we will continue to vigorously oppose and protest to Barrick’s application to renew the Porgera SML and Exploration Licences 454 and 858.

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Brazil bans upstream mining dams after deadly Vale disaster

FILE PHOTO: A member of a rescue team walks next to a collapsed tailings dam owned by Brazilian mining company Vale SA, in Brumadinho, Brazil February 13, 2019. Picture taken February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Washington Alves/File Photo

Marta Nogueira | Reuters | 20 February 2019

Brazil’s government on Monday banned new upstream mining dams and ordered the decommissioning of all such dams by 2021, targeting the type of structure that burst last month in the town of Brumadinho, killing hundreds of people.

Those dams, which hold mining byproducts, are cheaper to build but present higher security risks because their walls are constructed over a base of muddy mining waste rather than on solid ground.

In January, one such dam operated by miner Vale SA, the world’s largest iron ore miner, collapsed, unleashing a wave of mud that bulldozed nearby structures and has likely killed more than 300 people.

The move by Brazil’s mining regulator, which would impact some 50 upstream mining dams in Brazil’s mining heartland of Minas Gerais state alone, is the strongest governmental response yet to the disaster.

The new regulation orders mining companies to present independently-produced decommission plans by August and ensure that those plans are executed by 2021.

The death toll rose to 169 people as of Sunday night, with 141 people yet to be located.

Several mid-level company executives have been arrested in the wake of the disaster, which comes less than four years after a similar deadly collapse at another upstream dam co-owned by Vale and BHP Group.

While Vale has said it considered the Brumadinho dam to be safe, an October 2018 report showed that the company classified the dam as being two times more likely to fail than the maximum level of risk tolerated under internal guidelines.

Around 200 residents were evacuated from an area near another dam operated by Vale late on Saturday, amid fears that it was structurally weak and could also collapse.

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Deep sea mining threatens indigenous culture in Papua New Guinea

Seabed Mining (Graphic: Greenpeace)

John Childs | The Conversation | February 19, 2019

When they start mining the seabed, they’ll start mining part of me.

These are the words of a clan chief of the Duke of York Islands – a small archipelago in the Bismarck Sea of Papua New Guinea which lies 30km from the world’s first commercial deep sea mine site, known as “Solwara 1”. The project, which has been delayed due to funding difficulties, is operated by Canadian company Nautilus Minerals and is poised to extract copper from the seabed, 1600m below the surface.

Valuable minerals are created as rapidly cooling gases emerge from volcanic vents on the seafloor. Mining the seabed for these minerals could supply the metals and rare earth elements essential to building electric vehicles, solar panels and other green energy infrastructure. But deep sea mining could also damage and contaminate these unique environments, where researchers have only begun to explore.

The industry’s environmental impact isn’t the only concern. It’s been assumed by the corporate sector that there is limited human impact from mining in the deep sea. It is a notion that is persuasive especially when compared with the socio-ecological impacts of land-based mining.

But such thinking is a fallacy – insights from my research with communities in Papua New Guinea over the past three years highlight that the deep sea and its seabed should be thought of as intimately connected to humanity, despite the geographical distances involved. For the people of the Duke of York Islands, deep sea mining disturbs a sense of who they are, including the spirits that inhabit their culture and beliefs.

Young people on Duke of York Islands. Paul Hearne, Author provided

Out of sight, out of mined

In Western thought, the sea has not only been considered to be marginal to politics, but also as entirely distinct from the land. Separating nature from humanity has proved useful in enabling exploitation of the natural world for human means. Deep sea mining, with all its material connections between a dynamic seabed and sites of consumption on land, provokes new questions.

If humanity can’t physically encounter the deep seabed, then how are we to treat it ethically?. By conceptually “distancing” the deep ocean, who is being marginalised?

For the people who live close to Solwara 1, the answer is pointed. These communities have long understood the world as a connection between “nature”, “spirits” and “beings”. Central within this cosmology are the spirits – masalai – some of which are understood as guardians of the seabed and its resources.

The people of Duke of York Islands are tied spiritually to events in the deep sea. John Childs, Author provided

Masalai are a fundamental part of the islanders’ world. Thus, the prospect of deep sea mining means not just social and economic disruption, but spiritual turmoil. The digging up of the seabed and the extraction of its resources cuts through the very fabric of their spiritual world and its sacred links to the sea and land.

As the historian Neil Macgregor put it in the Radio 4 series “Living with the Gods”, masalai are not

out there… [like] tourists in the human realm, from somewhere else … but in a world in which we co-inhabit.

The political implication for island communities here is clear. The copper which might be mined from the seabed is effectively constituted by these spirits. Thus, as copper “resurfaces” in the objects and technologies of the future – in batteries and wiring – it also carries a spirituality from the region where it originated.

Spirits infuse the traditions and everyday practises of the people on the Duke of York Islands. “Shark calling” is one such example which is practised along parts of the west coast of New Ireland Province – the closest point on land to Solwara 1.

Every few weeks, when the sea conditions allow, “shark callers” attempt to attract sharks to their hand-carved wooden canoes by rattling a mesh of coconut shells in the water, before capturing them by hand. Shark meat is a key part of local diets that generally lack protein.

Shark callers communicate with spirits which are “resident” in stones found on local beaches prior to their expeditions. It’s no surprise then, that these communities fear noise pollution generated by deep sea mining and the physical disturbance of the seabed which could sever the cultural connections they have with the ocean.

Deep sea mining companies should consider the spirituality of the people their work affects and other kinds of environmental knowledge as important in their own right. As this new industry collides with cultural belief systems in different parts of the world, it will be essential to understand the complex ways in which deep sea mining does have “human” impacts after all. Culture is a key part of any understanding of environmental politics, no matter how extreme the environment in question.

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Bulk carrier runs aground on Solomon Islands reef spilling oil

The bulk carrier, MV Solomon Trader, ran aground on a coral reef near Rennell Island in the Solomon Islands about a fortnight ago. Photograph: Alamy

Cyclone delays cleanup after ship runs aground in rough seas near Rennell Island

Lisa Martin | The Guardian | 19 February 2019

Solomon Islands authorities are scrambling to clean up an oil spill caused after a bulk carrier came aground about a fortnight ago on a coral reef on the southern coast.

Category 2 cyclone Oma and rough weather had delayed efforts to salvage the ship, MV Solomon Trader.

Salvage crews and oil spill response teams are bringing in their equipment and are heading to Rennell Island from the capital Honiara on Tuesday, a government source told the Guardian.

“The weather has moderated,” he said. “The sea is still running very heavily and it’s diffusing the oil, it’s leaking at a low rate. It’s starting to spread as slick.” He said there was gas oil on the ship and heavy fuel oil.

The ship had been loading bauxite when rough seas pushed it aground at Kangava Bay, Rennell Island the night of 4 February.

The spill location is near the East Rennell world heritage site – the island is the largest raised coral atoll in the world. Since 2013 the site has been on a Unesco danger list because of logging and overfishing.

A National Disaster Management Office spokesman confirmed water has breached the hull of the ship but declined to confirm the oil spill. A team is carrying out an assessment on Tuesday morning.

The director of the disaster office and head of the maritime authority are having urgent talks with the Solomon Islands caretaker prime minister, Rick Houenipwela, on Tuesday.

“Nothing has been done for the past two weeks because of the weather, but now the weather has eased down, we can get people across,” a spokesman for the maritime authority said.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority officials have had a briefing on the situation on Tuesday morning to work out what resources can be offered to help.

The OceansWatch Solomon Islands spokesman, Lawrence Nodua, said there’s likely to be significant reef damage. “The area is an important fishing ground for local villagers,” he told the Guardian.

Meanwhile the impact of cyclone Oma is expected to bring hazardous surf and tidal conditions along the central and south-east Queensland coasts, which will be exacerbated by king tides, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

The cyclone is expected to pass close to New Caledonia’s north and is likely to track south to New Zealand or west towards Queensland.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Solomon Islands