Monthly Archives: June 2019

‘Bodies are still under the rubble’: Death toll rises to 43 at TSX-listed Katanga Mining’s ‘Word Class’ Congo mine

A copper and cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo. PHOTO: SIMON DAWSON/BLOOMBERG

Reuters | June 27, 2019

At least 43 artisanal miners were killed on Thursday when part of a copper and cobalt mine owned by Glencore collapsed in southeast Congo, the provincial governor said.

The accident occurred in the KOV open-pit mine at the Kamoto Copper Company (KCC) concession, in which Glencore subsidiary Katanga Mining owns a 75 per cent stake, said Richard Muyej, the governor of Democratic Republic of Congo’s Lualaba province.

“It was caused by the clandestine artisanal diggers who have infiltrated (the mine),” he told Reuters. “The old terraces gave way, causing significant amounts of material to fall.”

“KOV is a delicate site and presents many risks,” he added.

Glencore said in a statement that it had confirmed 19 fatalities so far and was assisting search and rescue operations by local authorities.

Artisanal mining on the edge of commercial mine sites is a big problem across Africa. The rudimentary, outdated and unregulated practices miners employ can often compromise safety: mine disasters in Congo alone cost the lives of dozens a year.

Thousands of illegal miners operate in southern Congo, which produces more than half of the world’s cobalt, a key component in electric car batteries.

Glencore said an average of 2,000 illegal miners sneak daily onto the KCC concession, which spans a vast flat expanse on the outskirts of the city of Kolwezi near the Zambian border and is one of the country’s largest copper deposits.

Delphin Monga, provincial secretary of the UCDT union which represents KCC employees, said a crack in part of the pit had been noticed on Wednesday. He said KCC had put up red warning signs, but the diggers had ignored them.

This is not the first accident at the mine. In 2016, a 250-metre wall inside the KOV pit collapsed, killing seven mine employees.

Muyej said that the authorities were meeting to decide on new measures to secure large mines.

At least nine illegal gold miners died in Zimbabwe when they were trapped in a mine last month.

Twenty-two died in a previous Zimbabwean gold-mine flood in February, and 14 tin miners were buried alive in Rwanda after heavy rains in January.

In February, about 20 people died when a truck carrying acid to Glencore’s Mutanda Mine in DRC collided with two other vehicles.

Congo’s military deployed hundreds of soldiers last week to protect a copper and cobalt mine owned by China Molybdenum Co Ltd from illegal miners.

Shares in Glencore closed down 4.9 per cent, their worst day of trading since December. The company said the incident has not affected output.

BMO Capital Markets analyst Edward Sterck said if the incident is related to illegal mining, any impact may be relatively short-term beyond an investigative period.

“However, preventative action will likely be needed and it could impact Glencore’s social license to operate,” he added.

KCC produced a total of 152,400 tonnes of copper and 11,100 tonnes of cobalt last year. Glencore’s nearby Mutanda project produced 199,000 tonnes of copper and 27,300 tonnes of cobalt.

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Cancel all seabed mining licences

PNG Council of Churches | Voice of Milne Bay | Alliance of Solwara Warriors | Bismarck Ramu Group | Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights | 28 June 2019 

Dear Hon. Prime Minister,

Congratulations on your recent election as the new leader of Papua New Guinea and for the establishment of your new cabinet! This fills our hearts with hope for a better future. 

We, the PNG Council of Churches, Voice of Milne Bay, Alliance of Solwara Warriors, Bismarck Ramu Group and the Center for Environmental Law and Community Rights, would like to draw your attention to the issue of deep sea mining in our Bismarck and Solomon Seas.

We stand with the communities of the West Coast of New Ireland Province, Duke of York Islands, East New Britain, Madang, Manus and Milne Bay Provinces who oppose sea bed mining under the Alliance of Solwara Warriors. 

Together we call on the Papua New Guinean Government to cancel all Nautilus Minerals’ deep sea exploration licences, mining leases, and environment permits.

Our communities already face many unsustainable developments impacting our lands, oceans, lives, and livelihoods. This includes mining, logging, and oil palm operations. The risks and uncertainties of experimental seabed mining are too great to allow this industry to ever proceed in Papua New Guinea.

We have our own economies and natural resources to sustain and support our daily survival. We ask our government to invest in these.

Our coastal communities have always been connected with our seas. The sea is central to identity, livelihoods and culture practices. It cannot be separated. 

We simply do not want Seabed Mining in PNG’s Waters.

The former government made a bad investment decision by buying into Nautilus Minerals. Our country and ordinary citizens are paying the price. The $US120m equity, a loan from BSP, that the Government invested in the Solwara 1 project could have been used for medical supplies, education, and much-needed infrastructure. 

Nautilus Minerals is currently seeking protection for alleged bankruptcy and is re-arranging its affairs to protect the interests of its officers and two major shareholders. It seems like the company is not considering the impact on its shareholders which includes the PNG government.

We look to your leadership to ban seabed mining in our country and to use our nation’s funds wisely.

Therefore, we call on the new Papua New Guinea Government to:

1. Terminate the Solwara 1 mining lease and environmental permit, and all of Nautilus Minerals’ exploration licences

2. Demonstrate that it has learnt from the very costly mistakes of the former Government of purchasing a 15% stake in Nautilus Minerals and commit to:

a. Never taking up a stake in any deep sea mining venture in the future;

b. Not issuing any more exploration licences or mining leases for deep sea mining; and

c. Providing real and lasting support to communities right across Papua New Guinea by assisting thriving artisanal fisheries, growing the fledgling ocean based eco-tourism sector, and funding communications and transport infrastructure, education and health services. 

We anticipate your favourable response, and we thank you and wish all God’s blessings on your efforts as our new leader.

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Enga landowners say Porgera talks broken down

Radio New Zealand | 28 June 2019

A landowning group at the site of the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea’s Enga Province says negotiations with the owner Barrick have broken down.

The Canadian company is pushing to renew its contract in August for another 20 year period.

The company has said it had met with senior landowners to discuss their issues.

But the Justice Foundation for Porgera Ltd, which said it represented the bulk of local landowners, said without their commitment any agreement would be worthless.

It said Barrick needed to come to it to negotiate the necessary protocols.

The mine is currently the subject of a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit for damages caused over its 30-year life and PNG’s Prime Minister James Marape has recently committed to ensuring PNG citizens have greater control over their resource wealth.

The contract renewal comes amid unresolved allegations of rape, sexual assault, drownings and shootings at the mine site.

Justice Foundation for Porgera chair Jonathan Paraia said: “Barrick knows full well the vast majority of landowners are sick to death of the human rights abuses, the environmental destruction, the hollow promises”.

He said they were highly offended at the lack of respect Barrick’s CEO has shown towards them while trying to engage them in a significant international mining contract with a 20-year life.

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Papua New Guinea treasurer calls for more benefits from LNG, mining projects

Sonali Paul | Reuters | June 26, 2019

Papua New Guinea’s new treasurer on Wednesday put Total SA, Exxon Mobil Corp , Newcrest Mining and their partners on notice that the country wants to extract more benefits from their gas and mining projects.

Treasurer Sam Basil said the country also needs better forecasts from Exxon and Total on the expected income flow from a $13 billion plan to double the country’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. Basil was appointed earlier this month by Prime Minister James Marape, who led a revolt against former prime minister Peter O’Neill in May.

France’s Total is leading the Papua LNG project, which will develop the Elk-Antelope gas fields to feed two new LNG production units to be sited at the PNG LNG plant, run by Exxon.

At the same time, Exxon and its partners plan to add a third new unit at PNG LNG, which will partly be fed by another new field, P’nyang.

Total recently reached an agreement with the government setting terms for its Papua LNG project, while Exxon is in the process of negotiating a separate agreement with the government for P’nyang.

Treasurer Basil said the projects should all be treated as one, rather than “under the cloak of separate joint ventures”.

“I am putting each of the project partners in all of these projects on notice that the concerns of our people must be addressed through dialogue and negotiations with the state and that we expect all parties to contribute to a fair and equitable outcome,” he said.

Exxon’s original $19 billion PNG LNG project is the biggest foreign investment in the country and crucial to the economy, but the plant has been a disappointing contributor since it started exporting LNG in 2014.

Last year’s earthquake which forced a shutdown of PNG LNG dented the government’s take from the project more than Exxon had expected it would. The 2019 budget had assumed that oil and gas sector revenue would fall by 9.4 pct from 2018, but it actually fell by 16.4 percent, Basil said.

He plans to ask the Treasury and Exxon to come up with new detailed forecasts of future cash flows from the project to the national and provincial governments and local landowners.

He also said the government would put on hold talks with the owners of the Wafi Golpu gold project, Newcrest and South Africa’s Harmony Gold, until the state negotiating team has talked to the Morobe provincial government about its aspirations for the project.

“Our future prosperity depends on delivering these projects and delivering them well. But we must now find a way to ensure that these major resource project agreements capture enough value to the state and to our people,” he said.

Exxon and Total were not immediately available to comment. Newcrest had no immediate comment.

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Geopacific stitches up Woodlark gold project in PNG

The colonisers eye up their pot of gold

Matt Birney | Company Advertorial | The West Australian | 26 June 2019

Geopacific Resources has acquired 100% direct ownership of the flagship Woodlark gold project in Papua New Guinea, buying out fellow Australian Kula Gold’s remaining share in a cash and scrip transaction worth about $3.29m.

Kula will immediately utilise the cash component to repay a loan totalling about $0.72m to Geopacific.

The deal seems like exquisite timing for the company, with the gold price nearly 25% higher than that assumed in November’s definitive feasibility study for Woodlark, which already outlined robust economic metrics and strong margins to develop the project.

Additionally, full ownership streamlines the corporate structure with significant administrative cost reductions and importantly reduces the risk to external financiers, willing to fund the project’s start-up.

Geopacific Managing Director Ron Heeks said: “Moving to 100% ownership of the 1.6Moz Woodlark gold project is a major milestone for the company. Full ownership simplifies project financing discussions and further enhances the company’s attractiveness and general market appeal … (with) additional benefits … (including) a substantial reduction in corporate costs.”

“The timing of the transaction coincides with the near completion of project finance due diligence and a strengthening gold price that is well above the DFS pricing assumption of AUD$1,650/oz. Progression in these work streams alongside the increasing gold price is a positive step in taking advantage of the increasing margin.”

The company is now racing down the final lap with baton in hand and is currently in the closing stages of an Independent Technical Experts, or “ITE”, review of the gold project, with representatives attending a site visit to Woodlark Island this week.

Back in January, the ITE review was commissioned by a consortium of banks and non-bank lenders, after an indicative non-binding term sheet was received.

Perth-based SRK Consulting was appointed as the lead ITE to review the technical aspects of the Woodlark project on behalf of the group of potential lenders.

SRK completed an initial Fatal Flaws Review late in 2018, with none being identified for the project.

With the gold price only strengthening since, the free cash flow position of the proposed initial 13-year mine life project has ballooned with Mr Heeks saying in January: “Every AUD$10 (per ounce) increase in the gold price is an additional ~AUD$10m in revenue which is considerable upside for the +1Moz project …”

November’s DFS study optimised the project at AUD$1,650 per ounce and produced a pre-tax free cash flow of $424m.

Geopacific recently received indicative costs to build the proposed gold processing plant on Woodlark Island from three international standard contractors.

The company said that an initial review of those costs showed that the pricing is in line with the DFS parameters completed last year by Lycopodium.

Total capital establishment costs for the Woodlark gold project come in at just under $200m, with a third of those monies required to construct the processing plant, which is very respectable considering the relatively isolated overseas location.

With respect to the near completion of the ITE review of Woodlark, Mr Heeks added: “The ITE review is progressing well and Geopacific is confident with the technical aspects of the DFS completed by industry-leaders Lycopodium, Mining Plus and MPR Geological.”

“The results from the initial ITE fatals flaws review (built) confidence in the Woodlark project in addition to the conservative approach undertaken in calculating the (mineral) resource. The resource estimate uses a fully diluted resource model with a significant dilution factor.”

“This provides additional comfort that mining at the estimated grade is achievable. The Woodlark deposit is a permitted project with robust economics that are improving with the current gold price ~AUD$350/oz higher than that used in DFS.”

Last month, the company appointed Ian Clyne as its new Chairman to actively drive financing arrangements for the gold project.

Mr Clyne has been part of the company’s board since 2016 and brings with him a wealth of corporate experience including most recently as Group CEO of Bank South Pacific Limited, based in PNG’s capital Port Moresby for five years.

It was a strategic move for Geopacific, with Mr Clyne being a strong advocate for PNG’s potential and its people and holding a high level of commitment to social and community issues within the mainly rural population of the developing country.

Commenting at the time, Mr Clyne said: “As the Chairman of Geopacific, my priority is to drive the Woodlark gold project towards a successful project finance outcome that will maximise shareholder and stakeholder value and returns.”

“Woodlark Island is one of the most prospective regions of PNG and we take great pride in our positive relationships with the local community, the National & Provincial Governments, and the regulatory authorities who have also demonstrated strong levels of support for the permitted … project.”

The Woodlark project holds an ore reserve of nearly 29 million tonnes grading 1.12g/t gold for 1.04 million ounces, contained within a broader JORC-compliant mineral resource estimated at 1.57 million gold ounces.

This gold resource is also likely to build over time as the project has extensive gold and copper exploration potential, in a region where Geopacific holds the dominant land position on the 912 square kilometre area of Woodlark Island.

Once in production, the company will likely be able to self-fund and potentially sustain its mining operations at the Woodlark gold project to beyond the initial 13-year mine life.

The project area is blessed with flat terrain and soft outcropping ores with average metallurgical gold recoveries exceeding 90% during the first five years of production.

All permitting is granted and the project enjoys strong community support in the proven mining investment hub of PNG.

With full ownership of the exciting project within its grasp, the gold price behaving itself and a new Chairman at the helm, Geopacific now has clear air ahead towards the construction, development and ultimately gold production at the impressive and undervalued Woodlark project.

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No tangible development in Western despite decades of mining

A father holds his malnourished son in Western Province, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Sally Lloyd

Marape Tells Awi Yoto To Improve Western

Leiao Gerega  | Post Courier | June 24, 2019

For almost 38 years Western province has seen no tangible development taking place despite helping the country generate millions in kina from the Tabubil mine.

The province remains one of the least developed in the country with low health status and lack of basic delivery of service to its people.

Prime Minister James Marape who visited the province on Friday to launch both the provincial and district five year development plans was implored by Governor Taboi Awi Yoto to look at the provinces needs which include;

  • Creation of one or two electorate added to the province’s current three electorates;
  • Uplift moratorium on the Province’s need to recruit new public servants;
  • Fix issues with the province’s dividend trust account through former operations with Ok-Tedi;
  • Find common ground on issues regarding WP’s major development program called the PNG sustainable development program;
  • Building of a major port to export its resources;
  • Request Ok-Tedi and Porgera to compensate middle and south Fly over mining waste pollution;
  • Current 33 percent shares in Ok-Tedi be lifted to previous 64 percent and
  • Stop fly-in and fly out of Ok Tedi workers to ensure money goes back to the people

Mr AwiYoto admits that the slow progress of development of the province was due to disunity amongst the leaders.

He assured Mr Marape that they are now ready to work together to ensure their people benefit from the money owed to them.

The 2018-2022 development plan under the theme “a new way forward” focuses on three key areas which are health, education agriculture and covers the province and its three districts in the Middle, South and North y.

“This is no easy task….everyone in this country have their own issues,” Mr Marape said while giving examples to how Buka and Lihir have fared poorly over the years despite the huge mining activities.

“Our agriculture and mining resources have been lost over the years while the people are suffering. Waigani is stealing from them and we are here now to turn things around,” Mr Marape said.

“These new work will take years but we want to direct and steer the country in the right path,” he said.

Mr Marape who travelled later to Tabubil to hear presentations from Ok-Tedi mining limited says everything will be discussed in Waigani after which they would strictly ensure monies owed to the people under various areas will be “unlocked.”

Mr AwiYoto says despite giving so much to the country the province has been failed by so many governments over the past years and is confident there is certainly a positive journey ahead.

Around 17,000 people gathered to welcome the prime minister at the Kiunga Township on Friday.

Mr Marape grew up as a child in Western province where his father was a Seventh Day Adventist pastor.

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Govt To Review FIFO: Minister

Gorethy Kenneth | Post Courier | June 25, 2019

The government will review the fly in-fly out (FIFO) workforce arrangements for foreign workers. This may now put an end to K91 million spent annually on this exercise. Minister for Immigration and Border Security Petrus Thomas announced this yesterday.

Mr Thomas said the Immigration and Citizen Authority (ICA) is now looking at issuing long-term working residence visas by next year which is in line with its organisational reform and improvement of service delivery under its Five-year Corporate Development Plan (2018-22).

The Minister referred to the study carried out by National Research Institute in 1997 on the effects of fly in-fly out on the Porgera mining project which revealed that the PNG economy was losing between K36 million and K91 million annually on direct national income.

He said the Bougainville Copper Mine had successfully maintained a small satellite mining town with classic facilities that were built to accommodate workers for the Bougainville Copper Mine.

“There was sufficient cash flow injected directly into the local communities with high returns gained from the capital investments, he said.

Mr Thomas said these changes to the frequent abuse of the 60-day multiple entry visa by foreigners had prompted him to suspend it last year.

“The multiple entry visa category had been reviewed and will be introduced again once cabinet approves the new conditions, fees and guidelines,” he said.

Similarly, Mr Thomas was of the view that the fly in-fly out practice has also been abused by many foreign em-ployers and contractors after receiving criticisms lately from MPs and concerned landowners of resource project areas.

“The fly in-fly out practice may have worked in some short-lived projects, but the impact of FIFO and contribution to host communities, their social welfare and economy has never been truly assessed in long-term projects,” he said.

Mr Thomas said part of the issue lies in the distant lack of national data. “Various agencies supposed to be integrated to streamline these processes had not succeeded,” he said.

“There was no viable data or studies carried out in the past to justify foreign workers’ fly in-fly outs continuous practice.

“It appears that PNG has been under the notion that the FIFO system works in every particular way and no one bothered to review it.”

Mr Thomas said while the government is embarking on developing few new resource projects like Wafi-Golpu and the Papua LNG Project, it should also be mindful of such fly in-fly out arrangements that could potentially suck opportunities during this thriving economic situation.

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