PACNEWS | 4 September 2019
Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, James Marape supported Fiji’s call at the Pacific Islands Forum for a 10-year moratorium on seabed mining.
The PM’s support for a moratorium was welcomed by the PNG Council of Churches at its meeting last week. However, the churches and civil society remind the Prime Minister that the environmental, social and economic risks of seabed mining necessitate a complete ban.
An open letter to PM Marape published in June from 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 seeks commitments to cancel all licences issued to Nautilus, to not issue any more sea bed mining exploration or mining licences, and to invest in truly sustainable local enterprises that will benefit local economies.
Jonathon Mesulam of the Alliance of Solwara Warriors said, “We thank our Prime Minister for heeding the calls of our communities by backing a 10-year moratorium on seabed mining. But we need to go further to protect our seas, our livelihoods and traditions by imposing a ban.”
Peter Bosip, Director, Center for Environmental Law and Community Rights claimed, “PNG’s recent history is littered with many examples of land-based mines with disastrous impacts. It is very difficult to monitor and regulate the impacts of land-based mining let alone mines deep under the sea. Globally, ocean ecosystems are already under stress due to pollution, plastics, overfishing, climate change and accelerating biodiversity loss.
“PNG has no need for seabed mining” stated Christina Tony of the Bismarck Ramu Group. “We are blessed with abundant fisheries, productive agricultural lands and marine life. Seabed mining will benefit only a small number of people who are already wealthy and not bring prosperity to our communities.”
Nautilus is now approaching liquidation and PM Marape has described Solwara 1 as “a total failure”. PNG’s investment in Nautilus has resulted in loss equivalent to one third of its last national health budget. The PNG Government through Eda Kopa (Solwara) Limited is attempting to recoup some of its financial loss through the Canadian courts. Smaller shareholders considering a class action are hoping to collaborate with Eda Kopa.
A new international report describes how Nautilus’ early investors pushed the PNG Government into purchasing a 15% share in its Solwara 1 project. These investors increased the company’s share price with false promises of vast wealth and then walked away as multi-millionaires, leaving the company to flounder.
Sir Arnold Amet stated, “The approval of Solwara 1 occurred under my watch as an MP and Governor for Madang’. I regret that the O’Neill government didn’t adequately scrutinize that project and took up 15% equity in Nautilus PNG. It’s time to rectify that situation.
“Lets recognise this failed investment in the upcoming budget and ensure we don’t enter into seabed mining joint ventures in the future or issue any more seabed exploration or mining licences. We now know how deep sea mining companies attempt to manipulate governments according to their own narrow profit motives without any conscience. We look to PM Marape to stand up for Papua New Guineans against the pressure exerted by these corporations,” he said .