Category Archives: Environmental impact

Australian company pushing to open Papua New Guinea’s first coal-fired power plant

PHOTO: A new 60 megawatt power station would have the ability to burn coal as well as use renewable biomass. (ABC News: Peter Giafis)

An Australian company is pushing ahead with plans to open a coal-fired power plant and coal mine in Papua New Guinea, despite the recent call from the world’s most authoritative climate science body to completely cut greenhouse emissions by 2050.

Key points:

  • Mayur Resources plans to open a power plant and possible coal mine in PNG
  • A new power facility is expected in just over two years, the Energy Minister says
  • Activists say the move would be counter to PNG’s commitments under the Paris accords

Yara Murray-Atfield | ABC News | 19 October 2018

Australian-based and PNG-focused Mayur Resources is proposing the establishment of an “Enviro Energy Park” in the industrial hub of Lae in PNG’s Morobe province.

Mayur has been in talks for the project since at least 2014, but now a new memorandum of agreement (MOA) has been signed between the company, the Lae City Authority, and the Morobe Provincial Government.

The MOA details plans for a new 60 megawatt power station, with the ability to burn coal as well as use renewable biomass, solar energy, and by-product heat.

Mayur Resources’ managing director Paul Mulder told the ABC the company was essentially at the stage of being “construction-ready” for the project, which he said would significantly reduce the energy cost for Papua New Guineans.

On Tuesday, Mayur released a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange detailing further non-binding plans to work with coal exporter Square at a coal mine in another province, touting the “low-ash, low-sulphur coal” found at Gulf Province’s Depot Creek.

If the projects are built, they would mark the first coal-fired power plant and coal mine in the country.

Coal generates mixed reaction

The project has attracted high-profile supporters, including Energy Minister Sam Basil who did not respond to an ABC request for comment, but said in a Mayur press release that “we can expect a new power facility in just over two years from now”.

“Whilst there are always those that will criticise, I take this opportunity to outline that Australia enjoys its first world developed lifestyle with 70 per cent of its total energy coming from coal,” Mr Basil said in the release, adding that this project would only be a much smaller fraction of PNG’s total energy.

PNG is a signatory to the Paris Agreement and, like Australia, recently signed the Pacific Islands Forum’s Boe Declaration, which says climate change “remains the single greatest threat to the livelihood, security, and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific”.

An assessment from PNG’s Conservation and Environment Protection Agency has given its endorsement to the plan, but it still faces community backlash.

“Our neighbours are really facing an existential crisis from sea level rise,” Christian Lohberger, head of anti-coal activist group Nogat Coal, told the ABC.

“So we think it’s irresponsible for Papua New Guinea to invest in coal, especially because there are many, many alternatives in Papua New Guinea for energy generation,” added Mr Lohberger, who also works for the Astra Solar company in PNG.

In 2016, World Bank data suggested only 23 per cent of the population had access to electricity, and even larger, electrified cities like the capital Port Moresby and Lae experience severe and frequent power outages.

Mr Mulder of Mayur Resources said PNG was an “energy-starved nation” and that the proposal “reduces the emissions footprint of what is currently the state of play in Papua New Guinea.”

Most prominent businesses in Lae use diesel-powered generators, which can produce carbon dioxide and other particulate emissions, and are known to reduce air quality.

“We’ve got the emission thing, but by the same token, if you lived in Lae, you would understand,” Lae MP John Rosso told the ABC.

“We have huge power fluctuations and we [sometimes] go a week without power.

“Our factories are suffering, our consumers are suffering, and I had to make that call, because we can’t keep sitting in the dark and letting our kids sit in the dark.”

The plan does have some resistance within government circles, with the Minister for Lands and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Justin Tkatchenko telling the ABC “for me personally … I am against coal fire, 100 per cent”.

Final hurdle is ‘unsolicited’ power agreement

The recent MOA is not an official contract, but Mayur said it had completed a feasibility study, selected a site, secured environmental approval, and received bids for the construction of the facility.

The plan also details a commitment to fully fund a research institute at the University of Technology, and provide $130,000 per year for 25 years to a local charity.

The sticking point for the project is now getting national provider PNG Power to sign a Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA) before energy could be sold to the country’s grid.

PNG Power’s acting managing director Carolyn Blacklock said they had received four “unsolicited” PPA proposals from Mayur over several years, without a public tender process, and that it was unlikely a deal would be signed without a competitive bidding process.

But Mr Mulder said the company received a written request for a PPA and was provided with PNG Power documentation to submit, which they did in March 2016.

The ABC has sighted a letter that appears to be from then-director of strategic planning and business development Chris Bais dated October 2015, which “welcomes” Mayur to submit a PPA proposal.

Ms Blacklock took on the acting managing director job earlier this year following a reshuffle of the company’s board and has overseen a massive restructure of the company.

She said regardless of what correspondence the company had engaged in to date, PNG Power had no obligation to accept any PPA proposal.

“In PNG we have very high costs over power, in part driven because what has been done at PNG Power: uncompetitive processes that have led to uncompetitive prices that leads to uncompetitive tariffs for our consumers,” Ms Blacklock told the ABC.

Meanwhile Energy Minister Sam Basil was quoted in the press release as saying “there is no cheaper alternative ready to be built” and that it was time for PNG Power to “act swiftly” to finalise the agreement.

“It doesn’t mean just because there’s pressure applied, that the PNG Power board or myself or management are going to be swayed,” Ms Blacklock said.

A month ago, Mayur resources was floated on the Australian Stock Exchange and raised $15.5 million in an over-subscribed initial public offering — money they say will go towards developing further projects in PNG.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Papua New Guinea

Nautilus are you nuts!

 
Sccop NZ |12 October 2018

The United States Geological Survey reported that a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck close to the proposed Solwara 1 deep sea mine in Papua New Guinea yesterday at 7am local time. This follows a magnitude 6.6 quake nearby in March.

Second large earthquake near proposed Solwara 1 site

Dr. Helen Rosenbaum, of the Deep Sea Mining Campaign said:

“Thankfully there have been no reports of damage or injury. However, this is the second large earthquake this year right near the Solwara 1 deep sea mine proposed by Canadian company Nautilus. It’s also in the vicinity of several other exploration tenements in the Bismarck Sea between East New Britain and New Ireland Provinces that Nautilus aspires to turn into seafloor mines.”

Dr. Rosenbaum continued:

“Can you imagine the damage and pollution that would occur if Solwara 1 and these other proposed deep sea mines become a reality? Nautilus plans to have a 1.6 km long pipe moving ore slurry from the sea floor to the surface. An Independent oceanographic assessment indicates that currents in Bismarck Sea would carry pollution from the Solwara 1 shorewards towards New Ireland province, the Duke of York Islands and possibly to the coast of East New Britain.

“Where are our emergency response plans?”‘ asks Jonathan Mesulam from the Alliance of Solwara Warriors and a local community leader whose village is located in New Ireland province, only 25km from the proposed Solwara 1 project.

“There is already great uncertainty about the environmental damage that will occur from the normal operation of Solwara But such serious earthquakes will cause a catastrophe! Nautilus’s equipment has never been tested under these extreme conditions. We have no capacity at either the provincial or national level to deal with such an event.”

Jonathan Mesulam continued:

“Papua New Guinea sits right on the Pacific Ring of Fire. What was our Government thinking by approving Solwara 1. And not only did they approve the project but they have also invested heavily to purchase a 15% stake in this experimental venture. The company’s only credible shareholder Anglo American divested itself of this dodgy project in May and Nautilus’s share price has now hit an all-time low. Why is our National Government still backing this loser?”

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Mine construction, Papua New Guinea

Fiji govt needs to ensure people understand environmental impacts of mining

Peter Loy Chong. Photo: Pacific Theological College

“The majority of the people are not aware of the full consequences of mining, logging, stone extraction, black sand mining and how these will impoverish their food bank,” he said.

Fiji govt needs to walk the talk – archbishop

Radio New Zealand |10 October 2018 

The Fiji government should ensure environmental policies at home reflect the climate messages it promotes abroad, Fiji’s Catholic archbishop says.

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has been championing the fight against global warming as president of the current UN climate round, the COP23.

But the archbishop, Peter Loy Chong, said the government’s policies needed to be consistent with the proposals it touted during COP23.

Current government policy did too little to protect landowners, the archbishop said.

The government needed to ensure landowners fully understood environmental impacts when negotiating contracts for activities like mining.

“The majority of the people are not aware of the full consequences of mining, logging, stone extraction, black sand mining and how these will impoverish their food bank,” he said.

“It will have an implication on the shores on which they rely for food.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Fiji, Human rights

NZ groups opposed to seabed mining plan prepare to go back to court

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer has been leading the fight against seabed mining. SIMON O’CONNOR/STUFF

Catherine Groenestein | Stuff NZ | October 9 2018

Opponents of a plan to mine ironsand off the Taranaki coast are hoping the Court of Appeal will set a precedent to discourage other companies with similar aspirations.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM), Greenpeace, Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui Trust, Te Kaahui o Rauru, Te Ohu Kaimoana (the Maori Fisheries Trust) and the Taranaki-Whanganui Conservation Board have all sought leave to cross-appeal on the High Court judgment that quashed Trans-Tasman Resources Ltd’s (TTRL) consent to mine the South Taranaki Bight seabed for ironsand.  

The court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to grant it a consent was unlawful. 

Two weeks ago, TTRL sought leave to take its case to the Court of Appeal.

“There were a number of points we raised that the High Court decision did not uphold, and the Trans-Tasman Resources’ appeal has given us the opportunity to challenge those decisions,” KASM chairperson Cindy Baxter said.

“This is obviously a precedent-setting case, it’s the first application for consent, and it’s important to have this precedent as strong as possible.”

She said there were other companies interested in seabed mining along the country’s West Coast.

In May, Offshore Ironsands Mining Ltd was granted permission for mining exploration inside a marine sanctuary set up to protect the endangered Māui’s dolphins off the coast of New Plymouth.

“Our cross-appeal is a logical step to take in this precedent-setting decision, as there are other seabed mining companies waiting in the wings. There are enough pressures on our oceans already without having to deal with the impacts of seabed mining,” Emily Hunter of Greenpeace said.

Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui Trust is cross appealing on points including its mana whenua interest and rights and the EPA’s failure to take the cautionary approach required by the Act.

“We want to make sure that anyone else that comes in has to reach this extremely high benchmark, they’re not able to just bowl in without doing the research they’re required to do,” Kaiarataki Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said.

The iwi was disappointed the Labour Government had not included the mining programme in its move towards stopping oil and gas prospecting.

“We’re putting a lot of effort into fighting this sunset industry with absolutely shocking environmental practices, when we should be focusing on developing a progressive economy and energy sector we can all be proud of.”

Te Kaahui o Rauru and Te Ohu Kaimoana (the Maori Fisheries Trust) have jointly lodged a cross appeal.

Kaiwhakahaere (CEO) Anne-Marie Broughton said the process had been exhausting and expensive, but Te Kaahui o Rauru likened the protection of the sea to the protection of the marae.

“The ocean is a fragile and largely unknown ecosystem and the problem is that if we damage it, we don’t know how to fix it up again. We must stand up for our environment. There are other ways to grow a healthy and sustainable economy – seabed mining is not the answer.”

The Taranaki-Whanganui Conservation Board has also resolved to defend the High Court’s decision, as well as to seek leave to cross-appeal in order to have the High Court’s decision confirmed on other grounds.

“It’s disappointing that we have to continue to fight to protect our environment,” chairperson Brendon Te Tiwha Puketapu said.

A spokesperson from the Court of Appeal said Forest and Bird and the Fisheries Interests had also filed cross appeals.

No date had yet been set for a hearing.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, New Zealand

PNG landowner push for miner’s exit up against the odds

Johnny Blades | Radio New Zealand | 8 October 2018

A Canadian mining company appears to have government support in the face of landowner opposition to its presence in Papua New Guinea’s Highlands.

Barrick Gold is seeking a renewal of its Special Mining Lease licence at Enga province’s Porgera gold mine which it and Chinese miner ZiJin each own a 47.5 percent stake in.

But landowners are urging the government to reject the licence application due largely to Barrick’s stewardship of the Porgera Joint Venture for the past decade.

The Justice Foundation for Porgera says the mine has caused irreparable environmental damage and human rights abuses.

The group, which claims to represent landowners in the mine area, also accuses Barrick of failing to compensate victims of abuses or to resettle those displaced by the mine’s operations.

Its chairman Jonathan Paraia said that for almost thirty years the mine had caused many problems for landowners, and that the government should not renew Barrick’s permit.

“Because of overwhelming objection from the local community, even if they issue the exploration license, physically the landowners will not allow them to explore in their areas,” Mr Paraia explained.

“They want Barrick out of Porgera or Papua New Guinea. They want the mine to operate but they want to change the ownership rights.”

But the Lagaip Porgera MP, Tomait Kapili, claimed that the Justice Foundation for Porgera did not legally represent landowners, and said the Porgera Landowners Association remained the legitimate local representative body.

Mr Kapili has poured cold water on the Justice Foundation’s attempts to drive Barrick out.

A member of the national government, the MP said he expected the license would be renewed. But Mr Kapili said the new license could be granted on improved terms for landowners who currently have a 2 percent stake in the mine, and a measure of leverage.

“I’m ready to negotiate with Barrick and ZiJin on those funds, not to accuse them of this and that, and then tell them you’ve done enough damage, we take over the mine and all that,” he said.

“They (Barrick and ZiJin) have big investment in there, they are not going to move out. None of the allegations have been tested, except for the security guards’ harassment of ladies.”

Zijin Mining’s Chen Jinghe and Barrick Gold’s John Thornton Photo: Supplied

Some security personnel employed by Barrick were implicated in brutal gang rapes of local women and girls, part of a long history of lawlessness and violence around the Porgera mine.

A Barrick spokesperson denied that there have been any credible reports of rapes by its security contractors since the matter was investigated in 2010.

He also denied that the company hadn’t fulfilled its commitments to landowners removed from the mine lease area.

“The Porgera Mine pays significant statutory land use compensation to traditional landowners of the land on which the mine is situated,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“The company notes that this compensation is determined by government regulation, and that contrary to recent claims, the mine has always complied with its compensation payment obligations.”

Regarding Mr Paraia’s claim that the mine hasn’t produced promised benefits for the local community or those evicted due to the mining operations, Barrick defended its record.

“In addition to providing many thousands of jobs for Porgerans and other Papua New Guineans, the mine has provided funding for the development of critical public infrastructure in Enga and adjacent Provinces throughout its operating life to date.”

On the back of collapsed revenues over the past couple of years, PNG’s government is unlikely to want Barrick to leave the country when there is no obvious replacement with the know-how to exploit the Porgera deposit.

“To date the Porgera Joint Venture has paid over 3.3 billion kina in taxes and more than 520 million kina in royalties, providing a long-term source of important public revenue for Enga, the National Government and the Porgera Landowners themselves,” Barrick’s spokesperson said.

Porgera mine. Photo: wikicommons / Richard Farbellini

The Mining Warden, Kopi Wapa, has been conducting hearings in Porgera as part of public consultations over the license application, before submitting his report to the Mining Advisory Council which ultimately makes a recommendation to the minister on whether to appove the license.

In his recent visit to Mr Wapa witnessed vocal crowds of Porgera landowners demonstrating their opposition to Barrick remaining. But Mr Paraia said his group was frustrated that their legal counsel was denied an opportunity to present their case to Mr Wapa.

According to Mr Paraia, he fears the mining warden may have been compromised.

“It is alleged, he flew into the mining area at the cost of the company, and he was accommodated at the company. They were eating and dining together. And he was subject to influence by the company. That’s why we thought the lawyer was denied from speaking.”

However, the Justice Foundation of Porgera has indicated it will serve a notice of dispute, and has suggested an independent arbitrator be engaged by the government as it weighs up whether to renew the Porgera Joint Venture’s Special Mining Lease agreement which expires next year.

1 Comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

MP dispels claims for opposing miner in PNG’s Enga

A protest against Barrick Gold. Photo: Facebook/ Kelly Taila

Radio New Zealand | 5 October 2018

A Papua New Guinea MP says a group opposing a mining company’s presence in his district does not represent local landowners.

The Canadian company Barrick Gold is seeking to renew its licence at the Porgera mine in Enga, which it and Chinese miner ZiJin each own a 47.5 percent stake in.

The Justice Foundation for Porgera group, which claims to represent landowners, is urging the government to reject the licence application.

It said Barrick’s operations have caused great environmental damage and extensive human rights abuses.

However, Lagaip Porgera MP, Tomait Kapili said he believes the license will be renewed, but on improved equity terms.

“I’m ready to negotiate with Barrick and ZiJin on those funds, not to accuse them of this and that, and then tell them you’ve done enough damage, we take over the mine and all that.

“They have big investment in there, they are not going to move out. None of the allegations have been tested, except for the security guards’ harassment of ladies.”

Justice Foundation for Porgera’s chairman Jonathan Paraia said the mine had caused irreparable environmental damage and failed to deliver promised benefits for the community.

He said repeated rapes of local girls by Barrick’s security guards have also left a legacy.

“Over the years there are a lot of issues affecting landowners, caused by the company, and there is no remedy. It’s now thirty years. They want Barrick out of Porgera, or Papua New Guinea. They want the mine to operate but they want to change the ownership rights.”

But Mr Kapili said the Justice Foundation for Porgera group was falsely purporting to represent landowners, and had little grounds on which to oppose Barrick’s operaions.

Mr Kapili, who said the Porgera Landowners Association remained the legitimate local landowner representative body, predicted that Barrick’s license would be approved, but on improved terms.

“Improved terms to the landowners, the district Development Authority, the provincial government and the national government,” the MP said, adding that an increase in equity participation was the aim.

“We’ll need to amend the Mining Act to increase the 2 percent royalty up to about 10 percent.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Enga landowners want Canadian miner out of PNG

A protest against Barrick Gold. Photo: Facebook/ Kelly Taila

Radio New Zealand | 4 October 2018

Landowners are calling on Papua New Guinea’s government to reject an application for a renewed exploration permit for a Canadian miner.

Barrick Gold is seeking a renewal of its license at the Porgera gold mine in Enga province which it and Chinese miner ZiJin each own a 47.5 percent stake in.

The Justice Foundation for Porgera group represents most of the local landowner groups.

Its chairman Jonathan Paraia said the mine had caused irreparable environmental damage and failed to deliver promised benefits for the community.

He said repeated rapes of local girls by Barrick’s security guards have also left a legacy.

“Over the years there are a lot of issues affecting landowners, caused by the company, and there is no remedy. It’s now thirty years [that the mine has almost been in operation]. They want Barrick out of Porgera, or Papua New Guinea. They want the mine to operate but they want to change the ownership rights.”

The Mining Warden, Kopi Wapa, has been conducting hearings in Porgera as part of public consultations over the license application, before submitting his report to the Mining Advisory Council. The Council will subsequently make recommendations to the minister of mining on a final decision on this matter.

However, the Justice Foundation for Porgera group is concerned that Mr Wapa lacks impartiality in this matter, accusing him of being sponsored or compromised by Barrick.

“The Warden was on the podium surrounded by mining company employees, he gagged our legal counsel and tried to gag us,” Mr Paraia explained.

Mr Paraia said the landowners expected the warden to make a recommendation for Barrick to be refused approval for exploration, “because of overwhelming objection from the local community”.

“Because even if they issue the exploration license, physically the landowners will not allow them to explore in their areas.”

“This mine has turned us into mining refugees in our own land, we are subsistence people without land we cannot grow food to survive. People have died, women and girls have been gang raped, hundreds displaced on Barrick’s watch.”

Barrick has paid compensation for a number of the victims of its security guards’ abuses, however local groups have complained that there has been a lack of justice on many counts.

According to Mr Paraia, Enga’s provincial governor Sir Peter Ipatas had earlier indicated he supported the landowners in their opposition to Barrick.

The Special Mining Lease agreement which is the basis for any mining in Porgera is still valid until next year.

1 Comment

Filed under Corruption, Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea