Category Archives: Environmental impact

Bougainville to continue pursuit of Rio Tinto

It is a bit late now Mr Momis, how long have you been President and done nothing?

Sounds like an election soundbite not a genuine commitment! 

Radio New Zealand | 27 March, 2017

The President of Bougainville, John Momis, says his government is going ahead with legal action against mining giant Rio Tinto over the destruction caused by the Panguna mine.

Rio Tinto was the majority owner of Bougainville Copper Ltd, which ran the mine for 20 years before it was shut down by a civil war, fostered by environmental and social damage attributed to the mine.

Rio Tinto’s shares in BCL were given to the Papua New Guinea and Bougainville governments and the multi-national walked away from further involvement.

Mr Momis, whose government was now the biggest shareholder in BCL, said his administration would still prosecute Rio Tinto over its Panguna legacy.

“We are going to pursue this matter as a moral issue because they caused so much damage and just think they can get away scot free,” he said.

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World’s First Experimental-Sea Mining Venture Set to Launch in 2019

Remote-controlled robots will journey to the bottom of the ocean in search of copper, nickel, cobalt, gold, and platinum as global demand for minerals surges.

Greg Walters | Seeker | 24 March 2017

The world’s first deep-sea mining operation will [may] kick off in early 2019 when a Canadian firm, Nautilus Minerals Inc., lowers a trio of massive remote-controlled mining robots to the floor of the Bismarck Sea off the coast of Papua New Guinea in pursuit of rich copper and gold reserves.

The machines, each the size of a small house, are equipped with rock-crushing teeth resembling the large incisors of a dinosaur. The robots will lumber across the ocean floor on mammoth treads, grinding and chewing the encrusted seabed, sending plumes of sediment into the surrounding waters and killing marine life that gets in their way. The smallest of the robots weighs 200 tons.

“A lot of people don’t realize that there are more mineral resources on the seafloor than on land,” said Michael Johnston, CEO of Nautilus, by phone from the company’s field office in Brisbane, Australia. “Technology has allowed us to go there.”

If Nautilus succeeds, an undersea gold rush could be at hand.

Over two-dozen contracts have already been granted to explore hundreds of thousands of square miles of ocean floor by a United Nations body called the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which regulates areas of the seafloor that lie outside of any national jurisdiction.

“In the seabed, resources are incredibly rich,” said Michael Lodge, Secretary-General of the ISA. “These are virgin resources. They’re extremely high-grade. And they are super-abundant.”

An Auxiliary Cutter goes along the sea floor first, removing rough terrain and creating benches for the other machines to work on. It has a boom-mounted cutting head for flexibility

The Collecting Machine gathers cut material by drawing it in as seawater slurry with internal pumps and pushing it through a flexible pipe to the riser and lifting system

Analysts warn that population growth and a transition to low-carbon economies will test global supply constraints for minerals. Indeed, current levels of mining exploration are not keeping pace with future demand, according to a peer-reviewed paper published in March by a team of researchers led by the University of Delaware’s Saleem Ali.

The prospect of mineral demand outstripping supply has led an increasing number of firms to consider operations at the bottom of the ocean, where reserves of copper, nickel, and cobalt are thought to be plentiful, along with lesser amounts of gold and platinum.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that there are thousands of years’ supply of minerals in the seabed,” Secretary-General Lodge said. “There is just absolutely no shortage.”

Nautilus says early tests show their Bismark Sea site, called Solwara-1, is over 10-times as rich in copper as comparable land-based mines, with a copper grade above 7 percent versus an average 0.6 percent grade on land. The site also boasts over 20 grams per ton of gold, versus an average grade of 6 grams per ton on land.

Many of the world’s best options for surface mining have long since been explored and developed, according to Thomas Graedel, an industrial ecologist at Yale University.

“The planet has been extensively explored on land,” he said by phone from New Haven. “I think industry will continue to want to explore for new potential deposits of minerals.”

Indeed, mining the ocean floor has been under consideration for decades, but seen as a remote possibility.

In one famous case in 1974, the CIA used a fake ocean floor mining expedition, ostensibly backed by the eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, as cover for an attempt to hoist a sunken Soviet submarine off the coast of Hawaii.

But now, the practice is shifting from fantasy to reality — a fact that is causing alarm among environmental groups who argue that not enough research has been done to prove seabed mining is ecologically sound.

“There are too many unknowns for this industry to go ahead,” said Natalie Lowrey of the Australia-based Deep Sea Mining Campaign, which is calling for the practice to be banned. “We’ve already desecrated a lot of our lands. We don’t need to be doing that in the deep sea.”

Lowrey worries that the plume of seafloor sediment stirred up by the mining robots could travel with sea currents, disturbing ocean ecosystems. Sediment clouds could prove harmful to filter-feeders, environmentalists argue, undercutting the lower rungs of the food chain and potentially causing knock-on effects for other creatures.

“There’s a serious concern that the toxicity from disturbing the deep sea can move up the food chain to the local communities,” who live along the coast of Papua New Guinea, she said.

Johnston of Nautilus said his company is taking the sediment plume issue seriously, and that the company’s machines are designed to minimize the undersea cloud through the collection procedure itself.

“When we’re cutting, we have suction turned on,” he said. “It’s not like we’re blowing stuff all over the place. We’re actually sucking it up. So the plume gets minimized through the mining process.”

Johnston added, “We go to great efforts to minimize the impact of the plumes. We’re quite confident that the impact from these activities will be significantly less than some of these people claim.”

At Solwara-1, Nautilus is going after a type of deposit known as Seafloor Massive Sulfides (SMS), which form next to subsea hydrothermal vents at the margins of tectonic plates.

The deposits, which include copper, gold, and potentially other valuable minerals, collect after cold water seeps into the earth and becomes geothermally heated, dissolving metals and sulfides from the surrounding rocks before being spewed back out of the vent at temperatures up to 400 degrees Celsius and collecting on the sea floor — along with the minerals brought up from below.

The mining robots have been designed to operate in near-freezing temperatures, under pressure 150 times greater than at sea level.

The first robot, the auxiliary cutter, carves a level path to make way for the second machine, the bulk cutter, which is equipped with a wide, powerful cutting drum.

The third robot, called the collecting machine, follows behind them, slurping up the seawater slurry with a consistency like wet cement through internal pumps before sending the material to the ship at the surface via a riser system.

On the ship, the water is filtered, and solids larger than eight microns are removed, before being returned back into the ocean. The cargo is then transferred to a transport vessel and sent directly to customers in China.

Now, as Nautilus prepares for its maiden voyage, many will be watching from the sidelines — and if it succeeds, imitators will likely try to follow.

“If Nautilus goes ahead, it’s going to open the gateway for this industry,” Lowrey said.

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The Sinking Titanic: German Government facilitating Deep Sea Mining

NGOs and civil society from Papua New Guinea, Australia, Germany and around the world are calling for a ban on seabed mining. They challenge the development of regulations[1] by the International Sea Bed Authority (ISA) and the German Government’s push to strengthen these regulations this week at a meeting in Berlin[2].

“Enough is enough!” stated Pastor Matei from the Alliance of Solwara Warriors, Papua New Guinea (PNG). The Solwara 1 Project is risky business as it is an experiment and people do not want to be used as guinea pigs. The Bismarck Sea is not a science laboratory for Nautilus Minerals Inc.

“People from the Pacific are custodians of the world’s largest oceans and it is these oceans that connect everyone in the Pacific. The oceans are as important as land. They are sources of food and livelihoods and they are of strong cultural and spiritual importance. Experimental seabed mining threatens this.”

“The demand for a ban on deep sea mining reflects the views of communities in PNG and across the Pacific. Our opposition is strong and growing[3].”

Natalie Lowrey, Deep Sea Mining campaign stated,

“The demand by Pacific communities for a ban on this frontier industry is joined by the Deep Sea Mining campaign and leading NGOs in Germany. The development of regulations for deep sea mining is akin to loading more passengers onto a sinking Titanic. Report after report[4] demonstrate that the world’s oceans are already on the brink of peril.”

“Recent research from the MIDAS consortium indicates a concrete risk that deep sea mining would lead to serious irreversible harm. The ISA and the German Government are paving the way for yet another assault upon our oceans – an unprecedented and unnecessary assault.”

“The demand for a ban highlights the need to debate whether we should open up our oceans seabed to mining when alternatives are available. Germany and the EU should promote sustainable sources of minerals. such as urban mining.

Christina Tony, from the Bismarck Ramu Group in PNG said,

“In Papua New Guinea and across the Pacific we do not see experimental seabed mining as meeting any of our communities’ needs, nor does it provide a benefit for humankind as a whole. In PNG, and across the world, we already have plenty of land-based mines and they have plenty of problems.”

“Imposing this industry on us is another form of colonisation. By promoting experimental seabed mining, Germany and the EU are complicit in continuing the ‘empire’ tradition in which it believes it should be free to rape and pillage the Pacific for its own profit.”

 


NOTES

[1] See submissions by the Deep Sea Mining Campaign: http://www.deepseaminingoutofourdepth.org/wp-content/uploads/Deep-Sea-Mining-Campaign-submission-to-the-ISA-Nov-2016.pdf  and Seas At Risk: https://www.isa.org.jm/files/documents/EN/Regs/DraftExpl/Comments/SAR.pdf

[2] Organised by the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources the ‘Towards an ISA Environmental Management Strategy’ workshop is being held in Berlin this week 19-14 March. The meeting aims to progress an ISA Environmental Management Strategy for deep sea mining.

[3] Lutherans Walk 9 days Across Highlands Region Campaigning Against Deep Sea Mining in Papua New Guinea, EMTV; VIDEO: Lutherans Campaign Against Deep Sea Mining in PNG, EMTV online and Caritas PNG Forum call for ban on Sea bed mining

[4] Reports include: World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Reviving the Ocean Economy (2015) and The Living Planet (2016);  International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) State of the Ocean (2013) and Explaining Ocean Warming (2016); and the United Nation’s World Ocean Assessment 2016 which is a global inventory of the state of the marine environment and problems threatening to degrade the oceans.

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We must protect our seas

These giant seabed mining machines will do enormous damage

 Editorial | The National aka The Loggers Times | March 20, 2017

PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill has conveyed another powerful message about the imminent threats of pollution, illegal fishing and climate change to Pacific Island nations, including Papua New Guinea.

And he has called on island nations around the world to come together for global action to protect their communities from marine damage.

O’Neill told leaders attending the Pacific Regional Preparatory High-Level Meeting for the United Nations Conference on Oceans in Suva, Fiji, that they had valid marine resources concerns that must be taken up by the global community.

“Pollution, illegal fishing and climate change destroys ecosystems in island nation maritime areas. We did not cause these problems but these problems cause damage to our communities today and into the future.”

The meeting in Suva on Thursday and Friday focused on building consensus and establishing a way forward to seek the global community’s support and assistance in preventing the destruction of marine resources in the island nations.

This is the third occasion that O’Neill has raised concern about the imminent dangers that the Pacific Island community faces.

In 2015, he warned to global leaders attending the COP21 UN climate change conference in Paris to find a workable solution to save lives and protect island communities.

And last year, he warned leaders attending the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) meeting in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, that the threat posed by illegal fishing on their economic survival was growing.

As chairman of the PIF, O’Neill is spearheading the Pacific Island community’s cause for greater attention by the global community on these pertinent issues.

This is part of his address to leaders at the Suva meeting:

“Our ocean and its vast resources, not only provide nourishment for us, it also provides 20 per cent of the world’s protein and economic returns for our countries from fisheries.

Our ocean is a highway for significant shipping and trade generating significant economic value but with minimal returns to us.

But, we are seeing alarming statistics about the health of our ocean; of the poor state of our coral reefs caused by coral bleaching and pollution, of the negative consequences for our marine biodiversity and of the levels of Illegal Unreported and Unregulated fisheries.

So we need to not only make declarations but to accelerate and step up our actions and demand the same of others to restore our ocean’s health, through embracing integrated ocean management approaches and sustainably managing and conserving our coastal, inshore and ocean resources.”

Insofar as Papua New Guinea is concerned, the effects of climate change are already evident in the Carterets Islands, islands in Manus and the outer atolls in coastal provinces that have experienced the rise in the sea level.

While climate change needs a global approach and solution, illegal fishing remains a sticky point for individual island nations.

The PIF meeting last September resolved for greater action in dealing with illegal fishing and related activities.

The increase in illegal fishing and human trafficking, especially by fishermen and companies of Asian origin, in our region is a growing concern.

These illegal activities seriously affect the economic survival of the small island nations, especially when large importers like the European Union and the United States raise questions and threaten to impose trade restrictions.

Efforts by the fisheries authorities of the various, mostly ill-equipped island countries and their collective voice, the Forum Fisheries Agency, have been largely unsuccessful in effectively curbing illegal fishing.

In a way, the PNG National Fisheries Authority (NFA) is far better placed to monitor and report on illegal fishing.

The NFA has, over the years, drawn on the assistance of the maritime element of the PNG Defence Force and the Australian Navy to patrol our waters.

For the smaller island nations, a lot is left to goodwill and hope that sovereign territorial rights will be respected by our neighbours.

Still, we may never get to know the full extent of what is happening on the high seas.

Ongoing incursions into territorial waters are indicative of blatant disrespect for sovereignty. And such a practice does nothing to help mutual relations between countries.

Repercussions of illegal fishing are not only about economic losses for small island nations but there are also greater environmental concerns involving the maintenance of marine species.

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Fiji villagers claim mine spill destroying fishing grounds

Shalend Prasad points at a water outlet from the bauxite mine alleged by members of the public to be waste water from sediment ponds within the mine. Picture: LUKE RAWALAI

Luke Rawalai | Fiji Times | March 20, 2017

PEOPLE in Nasarawaqa, Bua and those living along the Dreketi River claim the decline in marine resources around the area is due to spillage of waste water from the bauxite mining in Naibulu, Dreketi.

Sasake villager Apisalome Tumuri claimed that the spill off from the mine during heavy rain forced marine life out from the area to the deep sea.

The 52-year-old fisherman claims there had been a lot of changes in their fishing ground since mining began in nearby Naibulu, Dreketi.

Mr Tumuri said fish, crabs and bech-de-mer had begun disappearing from their fishing grounds during the past three years. He said in the past, villagers could pick shellfish and fetch mud crabs from nearby mangroves.

He said they now had to go out into the open sea to get these.

Dreketi resident Losana Lomani said the Dreketi River had turned red last week after heavy rain was experienced in the area.

Ms Lomani said they learnt that the muddy water originated from the mining site and that women in the area found it hard to find freshwater mussels in the river.

XINFA Aurum Exploration Fiji Ltd’s senior officer Sang Lei said the muddy water witnessed by villagers was normal rain run-off from land.

Mr Lei said all waste water from the mine was contained in the sediment pond at the mine and that none had seeped into the waterways as claimed.

Responding to queries, permanent secretary for Lands and Mineral Resources Ministry Malakai Finau said it was normal for the sea to turn muddy during heavy rain.

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PNG PM O’Neill calls on the Island Nations around the World to Work Together to Protect Marine Resources

Has O’Neill forgotten his government is forging ahead with experimental seabed mining? 

Open cut strip mining of the sea floor doesn’t sound like a good way of ‘preventing marine resources being destroyed’!

PNG Today | March 17, 2017

The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea,  Peter O’Neill has called on Island Nations around the world to  come together for global action to protect their communities from marine damage.

Prime Minister O’Neill made the comments in Suva, Fiji, where he attended the Pacific Regional Preparatory High-Level Meeting for the United Nations Conference on Oceans on March 16-17.

PM O’Neill said island nations have valid marine resources concerns that must be taken up by the global community.

“Island Nations might be small in terms of geography, but we are many in number, and together we can bring about global change on issues harming our communities,” the Prime Minister said.

“We are not only the Pacific Island nations, but island nations and communities from oceans and seas right around the world.

“Pollution, illegal fishing and climate change destroys ecosystems in island nation maritime areas.

“We did not cause these problems, but these problems cause damage to our communities today and into the future.

“This meeting in Suva is all about building consensus and establishing a way forward to bring the global community with us to prevent our marine resources being destroyed.”

Following earlier meetings with United Nations representatives and partner Pacific Island nations, Leaders attended the High-Level meeting today to finalise the actions to move forward ahead of the UN Conference of Oceans in June.

“All countries, including our own, have a role to play in managing our own waterways, as well as the pollutants that flow to the world’s oceans.

“Papua New Guinea’s Vision 2050 is a National Development Roadmap further underscores environmental protection as an important pillar.

“Selected areas are being considered as Marine Protected Areas so that nature can replenish marine resources.

“Papua New Guinea already has in place the Strategy for Responsible Sustainable Development, STARs, which addresses the integration of the global 2030 Agenda.

“This includes the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 incorporated into the national planning process.

“SDG 14 is intended to conserve and manage the sustainability of the world’s oceans, seas and marine resources so as to ensure sustainable development.

“This is in its early phase and will ensure marine life sustainability and bio-diversity for decades to come.

“But ultimately, there is only so much individual countries can do. We have to come together as a global community to have workable solutions for our future generations.

“For Pacific nations, we have to ensure that we lay the groundwork now to ensure real and tangible outcomes from the UN Conference of Oceans later this year.”

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Fiji villagers complain of ‘red’ sea

The sediment pond at the XINFA Bauxite mine in Naibulu, Dreketi which is said to have spilled waste water. Picture: LUKE RAWALAI

Luke Rawalai | Fiji Times | March 17, 2017

XINFA Aurum Exploration Fiji Ltd has strongly denied claims that sediment ponds at their mining site were overflowing, spilling into waterways and ending up in the sea.

The sediment ponds hold wastewater from the mining process.

The company made the statement after people raised concerns regarding the change in water colour during adverse weather experienced last week in Nasarawaqa, Naibulu, Nakalou and surrounding areas.

The company’s senior officer San Lei said it was just normal water runoff from land.

Mr Lei said all wastewater from the mine was contained in the sediment pond at the mine and none had seeped into the waterways as claimed. However, villagers of Sasake in Bua claimed heavy rain in the mine area caused spill-off from the sediment ponds that ended up in the sea.

Viliame Bailato, who claims to have fished in the area for 20 years, said seawater around the village turned red during the heavy rain, claiming it was soil carried by rain water from the mining site and the sediment pond.

Mr Bailato said the normal run-off from land during heavy rain was different from what they experienced last week.

He said last week they had to travel to open sea to catch fish because there were no fish within the lagoon.

The 53-year-old said the incident had been happening for a while now, claiming the spillage had even driven mud crabs and other marine organisms from their shores.

Nasarawaqa fisherman Oliva Uga alleged fish numbers in the area had dwindled because of the spillage.

Mr Uga said the waters in the area used to be known for the schools of mackerel or salala.

He said for three years now they had no sign of the fish in their fishing grounds.

Other fishermen in both areas claim waters within the Nasarawaqa, Dreketi and Nakalou areas had been affected by the spillage last week.

Responding to questions from this newspaper, permanent secretary for the Lands and Mineral Resources Ministry, Malakai Finau, said muddy water experienced last week was the result of normal run-off from land. Mr Finau said it was normal for the sea to turn muddy during heavy rain, adding this even happened at the Rewa River.

He said officials from the ministry had been at the mine to verify claims from people, adding they would send them to the mine site again to verify the current claims.

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