Monthly Archives: March 2019

Nautilus Minerals to be booted off Toronto Stock Exchange

The Toronto Stock Exchange is expelling failed seabed mining company Nautilus Minerals

See Also: Seabed mining project in PNG appears dead in the water

TSX delists marine miner Nautilus

Creamer’s Mining Weekly | 29th March 2019

Marine mining hopeful Nautilus Minerals will be delisted from the TSX on April 3, a decision from the Canadian bourse that the company has unsuccessfully appealed.

Nautilus last month filed for creditor protection while it restructures.

The company’s two major shareholders have agreed to advance up to $4-million to fund ongoing expenses and restructuring activities. To date about $1.1-million has been advanced and Nautilus said on Thursday that it would draw down further amounts as needed.

Nautilus is the first company to explore the ocean floor for polymetallic seafloor massive sulphide deposits, with a mining lease over a prospect known as Solwara 1, in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea, where it is aiming to produce copper, gold and silver. 


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Global ‘collapse’ in number of new coal-fired power plants

Rugeley power station in the UK is being demolished in phases until 2021. Coal plants are being retired at a record pace globally. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Not long before coal use is over, say analysts, while warning of possible resurgence in China

Damian Carrington | The Guardian | 28 March 2019

The number of coal-fired power plants being developed around the world has collapsed in the last three years, according to a report.

The number of plants on which construction has begun each year has fallen by 84% since 2015, and 39% in 2018 alone, while the number of completed plants has dropped by more than half since 2015.

The report, from the NGO-backed Global Energy Monitor, says the falling costs of renewable energy are pricing coal out of the electricity market, more than 100 financial institutions have blacklisted coal producers, and political action to cut carbon emissions is growing.

“It’s only a matter of time before coal is a thing of the past worldwide,” said one of the report’s authors, Neha Mathew-Shah, of the Sierra Club.

However, Christine Shearer, of Global Energy Monitor, said even emissions from the existing coal plants were incompatible with keeping global warming below 2C. “We need to radically phase down coal plant use over the next decade to keep on track for Paris climate goals,” she said.

The report warns of a possible coal plant resurgence in China, where satellite photos show developers have restarted work on dozens of suspended projects.

Coal plant retirements have continued at a record pace, the report finds, with the US accounting for more than half of the total despite efforts by the Trump administration to prevent the closure of ageing plants. A separate report this week found that three quarters of existing US coal-fired electricity production was now more expensive than new solar and wind energy.

However, data from the International Energy Agency published on Tuesday found that global carbon emissions rose in 2018, with a young fleet of coal plants in Asia accounting for a third of the increase.

The World Coal Association said in a statement: “As the largest source of electricity generation, coal will continue to be a critical enabler of development. For many countries, particularly in south and south-east Asia, it underpins economic development. We must respect and support them in their choice and fund low emissions technologies.”

However, the best modern coal plants are still significantly more polluting than even gas plants.

China and India have accounted for 85% of new coal power capacity since 2005, according to the Global Energy Monitor report. China permitted construction for the generation of less than 5GW of coal power in 2018, compared with 184GW in 2015. India permitted less than 3GW in 2018, compared with 39GW in 2010. India has added more solar and wind power capacity than coal over the last two years.

However, a report by the China Electricity Council, which represents the power utilities, proposes allowing 290GW of new capacity, more than the entire US coal fleet.

Lauri Myllyvirta, of Greenpeace, said: “Another coal power construction spree [in China] would be near impossible to reconcile with the emission reductions needed to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.”


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Seabed mining project in PNG appears dead in the water

Herdon Gazette | March 26, 2019

Environmentalists are celebrating signs that a deep sea mining project in Papua New Guinea appears to be dead in the water.

Canadian company Nautilus was given approval by PNG‘s government to mine the seafloor of the Bismarck Sea between the islands of New Ireland and New Britain.

Its Solwara 1 project faced deep opposition among local community groups because of the potential environmental impacts from what would be the world‘s first seabed mining project.

But before starting mining, Nautilus‘ project support vessel has been sold to Indian company MDL Energy for repurposing.

Helen Rosenbaum of the Deep Sea Mining Campaign said that without the vessel it was difficult to see Nautilus ever developing Solwara 1.

Dr Rosenbaum said that given Nautilus‘ dire financial circumstances it was fair to say the game was over for the project.

“There seems little chance of them re-paying their bridging loans when these become due in less than a month.

“The people of the Bismarck Sea of Papua New Guinea have hopefully been spared an environmental disaster.”

Catherine Coumans of Mining Watch Canada stated that “if Nautilus sinks, the amazing hydrothermal vents targeted for mining with their unique and diverse life forms will be given a reprieve.

“As will the marine ecosystems and fisheries of the Bismarck Sea,” Dr Coumans said.

The news was also welcomed by Jonathan Mesulam from the Alliance of Solwara Warriors, whose New Ireland village is located 25 kilometres from the proposed mining area.

“It will be good news for my people if Nautilus goes bankrupt, instead of bankrupting our sea,” he said , adding that the community would “fight this project to the very end”.

The Alliance of Solwara launched a legal case against the project in PNG‘s courts last year.

“We are concerned that the Papua New Guinean Government has attempted to have our legal case dismissed,” Mr Mesulam said.

“We are now talking to our legal team about filing substantive court proceedings against Nautilus and the State to stop the project.

Supportive of the project from the outset, having granted Nautilus its licence in 2011, the PNG government purchased 15 percent of Nautilus.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Ramu NiCo rethinking expansion

The National aka The Loggers Times | March 26, 2019

RAMU NicO Nico Management (MCC) in Madang will reconsider its decision on the planned K5 billion expansion programme, vice-president Wang Baowen announced last Thursday.
He said the company was reconsidering its earlier announcement to expand the mine because of the costs involved.
Baowen said the company was yet to finish some of its obligations in its memorandum of agreement which expired last year.
He said the agreement must look after expectations and benefits of landowners, including stakeholders like the national government, provincial government, local level government and landowners.
Ramu NiCo Management, which runs the Ramu nickel and cobalt mine, announced a planned K5 billion expansion of the mine during Apec last year.
The announcement has created controversy among the landowners and other stakeholders.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Madang Governor Peter Yama both said mine expansion would be guaranteed only after the current agreement was reviewed.
Yama said the agreement review would ensure more benefits go to the landowners and stakeholders.
“The Ramu nickel mine expansion will wait till we conduct the review,” O’Neill said when he visited Usino-Bundi district last month.
Landowners of the Kurumbukari mining area at Enekwai threatened to shut the mine’s water supply in December when they heard about the expansion.

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Another Brazil dam in danger of collapse, mining company warns

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. REUTERS/Washington Alves

Diane Jeantet | Associated Press | March 24, 2019

Brazilian mining giant Vale announced communities in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais have been ordered to evacuate after independent auditors found one of its dams could collapse at any moment.

On Friday, the company raised the level of risk at a mining waste dam in the city of Barao de Cocais to three, the highest grade. According to Brazil’s mining and energy secretary, level three means that “a rupture is imminent or already happening.”

Residents within a 6-mile perimeter of the dam had already been told to leave by state authorities in February after Vale raised risk levels to grade two, a company spokesperson told the Associated Press. The spokesperson, who asked not to be identified, said 442 people had been relocated to temporary housing or with family members since February.

Lt. Col. Flavio Godinho, of the state’s civil defense department, told reporters that authorities are studying the Barao de Cocais structure to review the existing contingency plan.

“Any activity at the dam could trigger a rupture,” Godinho said on Globo TV.

The news comes nearly two months after another Vale-operated dam in the nearby city of Brumadinho collapsed, unleashing a wave of toxic mud that contaminated rivers and killed about 300 people.

The contamination of rivers with mining waste, or tailings, which contain high levels of iron-ore and other metals is of great concern and can last for years or even decades, experts say.

Brazilian environmental group SOS Mata Atlantica said it had proof of water contamination in the large Sao Francisco river as a result of the Brumadinho dam collapse. Hundreds of municipalities and larger cities such as Petrolina, 870 miles from Brumadinho, get drinking water from the Sao Francisco.

Brazil’s National Water Agency, which is carrying out its own water tests, denied further contamination of the Sao Francisco river, according to Globo’s news portal G1.

The type of structure used to hold back mining waste in Brumadinho was the same as the one currently in use in Barao de Cocais, which lies about 93 miles away.

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‘Coal is on the way out’: study finds fossil fuel now pricier than solar or wind

Coal power now more expensive than solar and wind options

Around 75% of coal production is more expensive than renewables, with industry out-competed on cost by 2025

Oliver Milman | The Guardian | 25 March 2019

Around three-quarters of US coal production is now more expensive than solar and wind energy in providing electricity to American households, according to a new study.

“Even without major policy shift we will continue to see coal retire pretty rapidly,” said Mike O’Boyle, the co-author of the report for Energy Innovation, a renewables analysis firm. “Our analysis shows that we can move a lot faster to replace coal with wind and solar. The fact that so much coal could be retired right now shows we are off the pace.”

The study’s authors used public financial filings and data from the Energy Information Agency (EIA) to work out the cost of energy from coal plants compared with wind and solar options within a 35-mile radius. They found that 211 gigawatts of current US coal capacity, 74% of the coal fleet, is providing electricity that’s more expensive than wind or solar.

By 2025 the picture becomes even clearer, with nearly the entire US coal system out-competed on cost by wind and solar, even when factoring in the construction of new wind turbines and solar panels.

“We’ve seen we are at the ‘coal crossover’ point in many parts of the country but this is actually more widespread than previously thought,” O’Boyle said. “There is a huge potential for wind and solar to replace coal, while saving people money.”

Coal plants have suffered due to rising maintenance costs, including requirements to install pollution controls. Meanwhile, the cost of solar and wind has plummeted as the technology has improved. Cheap and abundant natural gas, as well as the growth of renewables, has hit coal demand, with the EIA reporting in January that half of all US coalmines have shut down over the past decade.

“Coal is on its way out,” said Curtis Morgan, the chief executive of Vistra Energy, a major Texas-based coal plant owner. “More and more plants are being retired.”

Data released last week highlighted the rise of renewables, with electricity generation from clean sources doubling since 2008. The bulk of renewable energy comes from hydro and wind, with solar playing a more minor, albeit growing, role.

Renewables now account for around 17% of US electricity generation, with coal’s share declining. However, the power of coal’s incumbency, bolstered by a sympathetic Trump administration, means it isn’t on track to be eliminated in the US as it is in the UK and Germany.

Fossil fuels continue to receive staunch institutional support, too. A recent report released by a coalition of environmental groups found that 33 global banks have provided $1.9tn in finance to coal, oil and gas companies since the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

In sobering figures released last week, the EIA predicted that US carbon dioxide emissions from energy will remain similar to current levels until 2050, with coal consumption dropping but then leveling off beyond 2020.

Such a scenario, disputed by other experts who argue the transition to renewables will be more rapid, would be compatible with disastrous climate change, causing vast areas of the US coastline to be inundated, the spread of deadly heatwaves, growth of destructive wildfires and food and water insecurity.

The Trump administration has largely ignored scientists’ warnings over these dangers, instead pushing ahead with an “energy dominance” mantra whereby enormous tracts of federal land and waters are opened up for oil and gas drilling.

The Energy Innovation report, which suggests the “smooth shut down” of ageing coal plants, comes as states and territories start to rally to California and Hawaii’s lead in committing to 100% renewable energy.

Lawmakers in New Mexico recently decided to follow suit, with Puerto Rico poised to vote on the issue this week as states and territories attempt to address climate change in lieu of the federal government.

“It would be better if we had a federal cohesive policy because not all states will take the initiative,” said O’Boyle. “In order to get an affordable, clean energy system we need both federal and state actors involved.”

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Seems politicians are selling PNG

Concerned Taxpayer | Post Courier | 25 March 2019

Papua New Guinea is heavily reliant on revenues from the development of its abundant natural resources, which are owned by the country and its people.

Prudent management and development of the resources is the key to achieving sustained economic growth and development of this nation and its citizens. It will enable PNG to progress and achieve the status of a developed country.

Some of the obvious cases where politicians and their associates have made very poor decisions and sold the interest of this nation are in the development of mineral, petroleum, and gas resources.

The favourable and generous tax and other concessions granted to the PNG LNG Project and Ramu Nickel project, and the fast-tracking of project agreement negotiation and conclusion for some of the large gas and mining projects by way of signing of memorandum of agreements (MOUs) in recent times, is a clear demonstration that politicians are selling this nation very fast without due care.

The fast rate of growth in the nation’s debt in recent years is mainly a result of declining revenues from natural resources, and is a consequence of the poor judgment and decisions by our politicians and their associates.

This debt will consume all future revenues and the current and future generations of PNG will struggle to make ends meet.

There will come a time when PNG will deplete its natural resources and the nation will decelerate into poverty and despair, with all sort of social and economic problems, if our politicians continue to make poor judgment and decisions on economic policy and commercial interest of our country.

They key issues resulting in the on-going poor judgment and decisions are following:

– Politicians do not have the experience and technical skills for dealing with complex policy matters and commercial operations, which lends them easily susceptible to strong influence and control of interested parties and project developers;
– Government institutions lack institutional capacity and technical skills for dealing with complex policy matters and commercial operations, which lends them easily susceptible to strong influence and control of interested parties and project developers; and
– The lack of good governance resulting in the lack of transparency and accountability in dealing with complex policy matters and commercial operations. This compounds poor judgment and decisions made by Government bureaucrats and politicians.

The solution is to make the negotiation and decision making process of natural resources development in PNG become a fully transparent and accountable process. This also means that any relevant documents will become publicly available and accessible for use by the public. It will assist improve the quality of judgment and decisions made by the politicians and their associates.

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Filed under Financial returns, Papua New Guinea

New Ireland Forum to Focus on Experimental Seabed Mining and Logging

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March 26, 2019 · 8:21 am

Resource nationalism risk in PNG rated as “extreme”

“government measures such as tax pressures, changing contractual terms and strict regulations can still make countries difficult to operate in” | 23 March 2019

According to global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft’s latest Resource Nationalism Index (RNI) report, a total of 30 countries have registered a significant increase in resource nationalism risk metrics over the past year, 21 of which are considered major producers of oil, gas and minerals.

The RNI is aimed to measure the risk of expropriation, the imposition of more stringent fiscal regimes, and the pressure for companies to source goods and services from local providers. Countries are also rated and ranked based on these risk metrics.

Specifically, the RNI report names Russia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as the two notable movers on the list, with both being downgraded to ‘extreme risk’ to indicate that the risk of governments taking greater control of natural resources is the highest. In DRC’s case, the risk bump was mostly a byproduct of its new Mining Code, which allowed more government interventions and oppressive fiscal terms for existing operators. Eight countries now have the ‘extreme risk’ rating (starting from highest risk): Venezuela, DRC, Tanzania, Russia, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea.

Government interference poses threat to operators

Although outright expropriation has become a less likely scenario than before, government measures such as tax pressures, changing contractual terms and strict regulations can still make countries difficult to operate in.

Africa has long been recognized as a high-risk jurisdiction. It has gotten worse over the past year as 10 nations experienced growth in risk factors, according the RNI report. Other countries such as Mexico, India, Malaysia, Turkey and Iraq also saw increased risks as governments took measures to erode the revenues of operators.

Improvement in Zimbabwe, Ecuador

On the upside, the RNI report shows that 24 nations have seen improvements in their index performance, including Zimbabwe (joint 5th), Vietnam (25th), Ecuador (46th) and Guinea (94th). Even though Zimbabwe is still far away from what is considered a stable mining destination, its score has improved thanks to a new government regime that has been actively encouraging foreign investment. The country boasts the world’s second largest platinum and chromium reserves, according to Verisk Maplecroft, and could attract meaningful investment from abroad and even shed its ‘extreme risk’ tag.

Ecuador has made more significant progress. Since President Lenín Moreno came to power in 2017, Ecuador has jumped from ranking 3rd and ‘extreme risk’ in the Resource Nationalism Index two years ago to 46th and ‘medium risk’ in 2019.

Read the full report here. 

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Filed under Financial returns, Papua New Guinea

Anger after Solomon Islands miner involved in spill gets new licence

MV Solomon Trader oil spill on Rennell Island, Solomon Islands. Photo: The Australian High Commission Solomon Islands

Radio New Zealand | 22 March 2019 

Transparency Solomon Islands says it’s concerned about new mining licences to a company at the centre of an environmental disaster.

The licences given to Bintan Mining Solomon Islands are under fire amid a cleanup of an estimated 100 tonnes of its oil spilled into a marine reserve.

Since a ship contracted by Bintan grounded on a reef off Rennell Island in early February, the company has faced widespread criticism.

But on 8 March, just one day after Prime Minister Rick Hou threatened to put it on an international blacklist, Bintan was issued two mine prospecting licences.

The licences, which were confirmed by the Director of Mines, Nicholas Biliki, are in the islands of Isabel and San Jorge in Isabel province.

Transparency Solomon Islands said Bintan’s licences should be revoked because of the damage done on Rennell.

“Why issue the Licence to a company we know how incapable and irresponsible the company is when it comes to risk sharing of benefits, management and capacity to deal with any disaster,” the NGO said in a statement.

Meanwhile, officials estimate it will take at least two months to salvage the grounded ship.

Mr Biliki declined to be interviewed on Thursday but said he would issue a statement to local media.

The Mining Minister, Bradley Tovosia, appeared to have disconnected his office phone after repeated calls from RNZ Pacific.

Officials estimate it will take at least two months to salvage the ship, the MV Solomon Trader, with the spill contained only this week.

Clean up efforts after the oil spill off Rennell Island in Solomon Islands. Photo: Supplied/ Derek Pongi

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Filed under Corruption, Environmental impact, Exploration, Solomon Islands