Category Archives: Environmental impact

Taranaki seabed mining decision delayed by a week

Ngati Ruanui, of Patea, protest in Parliament grounds, Wellington, against the mining application. MONIQUE FORD / Fairfax NZ

Andrew Owen | Taranaki Daily News | July 25 2017

The decision on a controversial application to mine thousands of tons of iron sand off the Taranaki coast has been put back by a week.

The Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) decision-making committee is considering an application by Trans-Tasman Resources Ltd (TTR) to extract billions of dollars in iron ore in shallow waters about 25 kilometres off the coast of Patea.

The 20-year project would involve extracting about a quarter of a cubic kilometre of iron sands, weighing a billion tonnes, from under the sea within the South Taranaki Bight. Iron ore would be separated out on a ship before 90 per cent of the material was piped back onto the mined seabed.  

A hearing on the application took place earlier this year and a decision was expected to have been given to the EPA on Thursday.

But the committee announced on Tuesday that it “requires a further extension of one week to deliver its decision to the EPA”. 

It is now expected to be presented on Thursday, August 3 and will be made public in the week beginning August 14.  

“As you can appreciate this is an important application and the committee is determined to ensure it has given full consideration to all of the information presented at the hearing and prepare a fully reasoned decision,” Diane Robinson, EPA Group Manager: Communications, said in a statement.

“As is usual with such applications, we fully expect the decision document itself could run into hundreds of pages. Once we have received it, the document will need to be proof-read before hard copies are produced and bound for publication.”

This is the second application by TTR, which is about 45 per cent foreign-owned, to get approval for the project.

Its previous application was rejected by the EPA in 2014 but the company then modified its proposal and now describes the potential effects on the marine environment as “very small to negligible”. 

However, the application has attracted a great deal of opposition from iwi and hapu members in South Taranaki, as well as opposition from further afield.

Environmental groups including Greenpeace and Forest & Bird, along with fisheries companies, are opposing the mining permit, concerned about the impact on blue whales, Maui’s dolphins and other marine life.

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Caritas Calls For Halt To Experimental Deep Sea Mining

Caritas Aotearoa | SCOOP | 13 July 2017

“We call for an immediate halt to all deep-sea mining including exploratory testing as this will undermine the ability to achieve sustainable development goal 14” said Julianne Hickey, Director of Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, speaking in New York at an event associated with a United Nations High Level Political Forum on the progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals.

Mrs Hickey expressed deep concerns about the long-term impact on the oceans and marine life arising from experimental Deep Sea Mining.

“Such mining is far from being an established practice around the world. The technology involved is in its infancy and it is not credible to talk about so-called ‘best-practice’ regulatory regimes in the Oceania region. The fact is that many of the countries in which multinational mining corporations are seeking licenses do not have established regulatory scrutiny of such activities.”

“A factor that exacerbates the risks is the huge reliance of communities on the oceans. For example our community partners in Kiribati and the Solomon Islands rely on the oceans and healthy marine ecosystems for their very livelihoods” said Mrs Hickey.

But there was some good news too. Caritas welcomed two specific initiatives towards better care of the oceans and marine resources. In particular Mrs Hickey highlighted the development of special Marine Protection Areas in Tonga.

“The development of Marine Protection Areas at Felemea in the Ha’apai Islands of Tonga signals a very welcome approach to sustainable use practices in the region” said Mrs Hickey.

“We also acknowledge and welcome the move by the New Zealand government to ban plastic microbeads which have been shown to be harmful to waterways, fish and shellfish” said Mrs Hickey.

Mrs Hickey was speaking in New York this morning (NZ time) to an event associated with a United Nations High Level Political Forum on the progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals. The specific goal on which Mrs Hickey presented was Goal 14: conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources – with regard to the Oceania region.

Mrs Hickey is representing Caritas Oceania in order to ensure that the voices of Pacific peoples are heard on the world stage. Caritas works closely with partner organisations around the Pacific region – including Samoa, Kiribati, Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Exploration, Human rights, Mine construction, Pacific region, Papua New Guinea

Downturn in exploration affects jobs [oh, and our profits too!]

Nice bit of spin from the mining industry – all they care about is their own PROFITS not jobs for local people!

The great news is the people in the picture still have jobs living on and farming their own land. What the foreign mining execs are really worried about is losing their own jobs!

The truth is the foreign mining companies depend on PNG, but PNG does NOT need to depend on them. Sustainable development in PNG should be about agriculture, tourism and small manufacturing NOT big destructive mines!

Loop PNG | 11 July, 2017

A significant downturn in mineral exploration has resulted in loss of jobs and business opportunities in the country.

In its bi-monthly issue, the PNG Chamber of Mining and Petroleum highlighted the drop in exploration investment, which has the potential to severely impact the country’s mining sector.

In a survey conducted by the Chamber, covering the period between 2012 and 2015, mineral exploration expenditure dropped from a peak of K944.3 million in 2011 to K325.5 million in 2015.

This followed a near decade of high activity from 2003 to 2011.

The Chamber adds despite feasibility studies for the Frieda River and increased exploration expenditure in 2015 for the Wafi-Golpu Project, the overall expenditure was still well below 2013 levels.

The downturn has already affected many rural Papua New Guineans through the loss of direct employment and potential new business opportunities, while businesses and suppliers have also lost much-needed income as a result of many junior exploration companies ceasing their operations.

During the Chamber’s annual general meeting, president Gerea Aopi said this concern is exacerbated by the proposed changes to the mining act.

“We have to make every endeavour to ensure that this downward trend does not continue, although we have little or no control over the global commodity price market,” Aopi said.

“What PNG can control is the fiscal and legal frameworks that directly impact this sector. Our aim must be to ensure PNG can continue to grow existing projects and also foster an environment conducive to attract new investments.”

Aopi further added that the lodgment of Special Mining Lease applications for Frieda River and Wafi Golpu projects last year is an indication of why PNG must maintain its investment attractiveness.

“These projects are very important to the PNG economy as existing mines like Ok Tedi, Porgera and Lihir are in mature stages.

“Both projects, when developed, will have positive economic impact for PNG and together with the operating mines, could place PNG as one of the top copper and gold producers in the world,” he said.

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Experimental Seabed Mining and the Controversial Solwara 1 Project in Papua New Guinea

The Deep Sea Mining Campaign is a collaboration of organizations and citizens from Papua New Guinea, Australia and Canada concerned with the likely impacts of deep sea mining on marine and coastal ecosystems and communities.

Peter Neill – Director, World Ocean Observatory | Huffington Post | July 11, 2017

It has been some time since we’ve reflected on the issue of deep sea mining — the search for minerals of all types on the ocean floor. We have seen already how marine resources are being over-exploited — over-fishing by international fisheries being the most egregious example, mining for sand for construction projects and the creation of artificial islands, the exploitation of coral reefs and certain marine species for medical innovations and the next cure for human diseases based on understanding and synthesis of how such organisms function.

The Deep Sea Mining Campaign, an organization based in Australia and Canada, has been following the saga of Solwara 1, proposed by Nautilus Inc. for offshore Papua New Guinea that continues to seek financing year after year since 2011. The project is basically a kind of corporate speculation premised on the lucrative idea of the availability of such minerals conceptually in the region — indeed the company has declined to conduct a preliminary economic study or environmental risk assessment, the shareholders essentially engaged in a long odds probability wager comparable to those who invested in marine salvagers attempts to find and excavate “pay-ships” lost at sea with purported vast cargos of silver and gold. The idea that they should be required to justify their endeavors to governments, third-world or otherwise, or to coastwise populations whose livelihood and lives depend on a healthy ocean from which they have harvested for centuries, is anathema.

Deep Sea Mining recently reported on the recent Nautilus Annual General Meeting where CEO Michael Johnston was asked:

· Is it true that without the normal economic and feasibility studies, the economic viability of Solwara 1 is unknown?

· Is it true that the risk to shareholders of losing their entire investment in Nautilus is high and the potential returns promoted by Nautilus are entirely speculative?

· Is this why Nautilus is struggling to obtain the investment to complete the construction of its vessel and equipment?

According to the release, Johnston declined to have his responses recorded and evaded providing clear answers. He did, however, affirm the description accuracy of the Solwara 1 project in the Annual Information Forms as a ‘high’ and ‘significant’ risk.

Local communities are also not interested in the Nautilus experiment. In recent weeks, two large forums against the Solwara 1 deep sea mining project in the Bismarck Sea have been held in New Ireland and East New Britain provinces of Papua New Guinea. Supported by the Catholic Bishops and Caritas Papua New Guinea , both forums called for the halt of the Solwara 1 project and a complete ban on seabed mining in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific. Here are some comments from those meetings:

Patrick Kitaun, Caritas PNG Coordinator:

“The Bismarck Sea is not a Laboratory for the world to experiment with seabed mining. Our ocean is our life! We get all our basics from the ocean so we need to protect it. We will not allow experimental seabed mining in Papua New Guinea. It must be stopped and banned for good.”

Jonathan Mesulam of the Alliance of Solwara Warriors:

“Nautilus, we are not guinea pigs for your mining experiment! We in the Pacific are custodians of the world’s largest ocean. These oceans are important to us as sources of food and livelihoods. They are vital for our culture and our very identity. In New Ireland Province, we are only 25 km away from the Solwara 1 site. It is right in the middle of our traditional fishing grounds. We will stand up for our rights!”

Vicar General, Father Vincent Takin of the Diocese of Kavieng:

“In order, for any development to take place, the people must be the object of development and not subject to it. The people have not been fully informed about the impacts of Solwara 1 on the social, cultural, physical and spiritual aspects of their lives. Therefore they cannot give their consent.”

Nautilus Inc. does not appear to be major international energy company with the assets available to force this project forward as others might. The opposition is well organized and vocal with arguments and expectations that the company cannot overcome. We hope. As with offshore oil exploration alongshore and it the deep ocean, this project is isolated in an opposing political context and shifting market. It is not for this time, for these people in these places, who have no concern for the loss of the `stranded assets of invisible gamblers in the face of the gain of conserving and sustaining their ocean resources for local benefit and the future.

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Pacific Bauxite accused of tricking Solomon Islanders over mining rights

Tomoto Neo, Nendo, Santa Cruz Islands, Solomon Islands. A bauxite mining proposal has divided the small island community. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

The Australian mining company denies any impropriety and says landowners are keen to find out if there are mineral resources on their land

Ben Doherty | The Guardian | 6 July 2017

An Australian mining company is embroiled in a standoff with landowners in the Solomon Islands over allegations it coerced, bullied and tricked communities into signing over prospecting rights to their land.

A government has been overthrown and local landowners have taken to blocking the roads with stones, and even reportedly confronting miners with bows and arrows, to thwart prospecting on their island of Nendo, in Temotu, the easternmost province of the Solomon Islands.

The miner Pacific Bauxite denied any allegations of impropriety and said it had worked in close consultation with landowners who overwhelmingly supported their work. So far it has engaged only in hand-augered prospecting.

“Landowners are also very keen to determine the potential for minerals resources on their land,” it said. “Prospecting provides landowners with a free evaluation of their land while not committing to mining.”

The company’s application to prospect had divided the Nendo community, a former Solomon Islands governor general has said.

Several Nendo residents have said dozens of landowners across the island had withdrawn their authorisation for Pacific Bauxite to prospect on their land.

The company said it was not aware of any landowners withdrawing their consent and that it remained committed to consulting with all owners.

Some Nendo landowners have said they were not properly told about the environmental impact of mining, and others claimed they were coerced into signing, told to sign blank pieces of paper, or had their signatures forged.

Ruddy Oti, a Temotu landowner and legal adviser to the Temotu Conservation and Sustainable Development Association, told the Guardian many people on the island felt they had been manipulated into signing surface access agreements for the company on their land.

“There was no proper consultation, people were not informed about the potential impacts on their land,” Oti said.

“People were asked to sign blank pieces of paper and those signatures were collected and used to say these landowners have agreed to have prospecting on their land. They did not agree.

“Some signatures were forged. When I went to see those people, they said they had not agreed.

“And some landowners said they felt pressured to agree, or that they weren’t told about the impact upon their land. Those people have now written sworn affidavits to revoke their consent.”

Oti said landowners were resolute in their opposition, having seen the damage of logging on other parts of the island. Some villages have reportedly put roadblocks up to stop miners’ access or threatened vehicles with bows and arrows.

A video clip posted online shows some of the community resistance to bauxite mining on Nendo.

The short clip, shot on a phone, shows a group of primary school students and adults in the village of Noipe on Nendo blocking the road and not allowing a Pacific Bauxite vehicle to pass.

Mark Gwynne, the executive director of Pacific Bauxite, tells the group – most of the children are holding signs in protest – the company is engaged in “good, ethical mining”.

“There is good mining, and there is bad mining, and I have witnessed a lot of bad mining,” he says. “We work really hard with communities. We reach agreements with communities for good mining. We do everything we can to protect the land, the villages, the people. We provide education for the children, we provide training for the adults for working. Can I show you some photos?”

He is told by one man from the village:

“Excuse me. We don’t need photos.

“Just stop everything. We don’t need mining and we don’t need prospecting. That’s all. The land is our heritage and our future for young generations.”

The standoff ends politely and without incident.

Brett Smith, the director of Pacific Bauxite, told the Guardian that at this stage the company had only completed reconnaissance prospecting and that no landowners were compelled to allow mining.

The Solomon Islands. Mining has a damaged reputation in Nendo after logging and mining on Rennell Island, on the south-western edge of the Solomons archipelago. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

“The results from this are highly encouraging and warrant further work to determine the potential for mineable resources,” he said.

“We are hoping that the bauxite deposits at Nendo provide the potential for a long-term industry that will result in the generation of beneficial sustainable businesses for the people of the Temotu province.”

Smith said Pacific Bauxite had a strong commitment to the environment and the community on Nendo, in particular around health, education and future sustainable economic development.

“To date, the company has provided much needed medical equipment to the Lata hospital and donated equipment to several schools. This community support will continue while the company is working at Nendo.

“The company also has a policy of providing employment opportunities for the local community. Expatriate workers are kept to a minimum to allow maximum benefit and training to local people. In the event that mining takes place in the future, the company intends constructing a training facility to Australian standards. That will have the capacity to provide skilled employees from the local community.”

Smith said mining on Nendo would have the smallest possible footprint and minimise the environmental impact.

“Rehabilitation will focus on returning a large majority of affected land to its former condition, while small areas will be considered for future beneficial businesses which will be fully owned by the local community.”

He said the company was being discredited by a small group that had misinformed the community.

Solomon Islands’ director of mines, Thomas Toba, said officials from his department considered several objections to mining on Nendo before granting the prospecting licence. Department officials have travelled to Nendo to speak to concerned landowners.

Toba recently launched the Solomon Islands’ new national minerals policy, which established a legal framework for minerals extraction, something the country had not had previously.

“Another thing is people will realise that resource owners have a part to play in this; they have a voice in this industry compared to the past when they can only participate through signing of surface access agreements,” he said.

While some landowners say they are resolutely opposed to mining, others argue it will bring development to the most remote region of the Solomons archipelago, often overlooked by the central government in Honiara.

Father Brown Beu, a former provincial premier, said that Pacific Bauxite prospecting would bring educational and health facilities to the province.

“We trust this company,” Father Beu told a radio interview. “Unlike other investors who are invested in Temotu province, the AU Mining[50% owned by Pacific Bauxite] will shortly after this be able to provide medical facilities that we will never – I don’t know, for centuries to come – never have.”

But the penultimate premier of Temotu province, Nelson Omar, who was overthrown in March, believes he was ousted because of his resistance to business licences for miners and loggers in Nendo.

Omar’s government had refused to grant a business licence to Pacific Bauxite. In March he was defeated in a sudden vote of no confidence. Within a week, a business licence was granted by the new government to Pacific Bauxite.

Omar said he warned the Temotu assembly that his refusal to grant the licence – and another logging licence to an unrelated company – were the bases for efforts to remove him.

“In fact it did happen. Days after the closure of the assembly, the licence was granted in an urgent executive meeting, exactly as I predicted,” he said. “The consent from the resource owners, the landowners, how it was conducted, was not done in accordance with existing legislations which govern the mining and logging acts.”

A traditional ceremony in Nendo. The great majority of locals do not want the mine, says former governor general Father Sir John Ini Lapli. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

The former Solomon Islands governor general, Father Sir John Ini Lapli, said the possibility of mining had divided families and tribes.

“The great majority of people do not want this,” he told Radio New Zealand. “Just the few that … are working with [the miner]. And there is a real possibility for clashes between the landowners, tribal groups, even relatives themselves if the government is not clear cut about how to deal with this.”

Lapli said the people of Temotu felt their wishes had been ignored in the central government’s decision to issue a prospecting licence. He said the land belonged to the people, not the government.

“They came with some agent unknown, they didn’t come through the procedure, and so they were able to pay some people to sign accepting this proposal they signed up and that is how they locked [in] these landowners.”

Mining has a damaged reputation in Nendo after logging and mining on Rennell Island, on the south-western edge of the Solomons archipelago.

The mining, by Bintan Mining, was initially undertaken with an illegally granted mining licence and has left the island with widespread environmental damage and little development. A video, Ripples in Rennells, by the environmental advocacy organisation OceansWatch has been played widely across Nendo.

Pacific Bauxite was formerly Iron Mountain. Pacific Bauxite bought a 50% stake in AU Capital Mining, which was the original holder of the prospecting licence from the Solomon Islands Mines and Minerals Board.

Pacific Bauxite’s website says of the Nendo project:

“The company is extensively engaged with the local community and is ensuring that all stakeholders are made fully aware of current and future activities regarding the project. To this end, meetings held with local parties to date have been extremely positive and much enthusiasm has been generated by the recent phase of exploration.”

It says the company’s initial auger drilling and pit sampling had confirmed “extensive large-scale bauxite deposits” on the island.

The main area earmarked for mining is approximately 12km by 2km (24 square kilometres) but that is expected to grow.

“Identified areas of mineralisation are significantly larger than historically defined,” the company said.

Bauxite is the principal ore in aluminium and is also used to make refractory materials, chemicals and cements. Australia is the world’s largest producer of bauxite.

Bauxite deposits are found in tropical and subtropical areas, in deeply weathered volcanic rock, which make up many islands in the Solomon Islands archipelago.

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EX COMBATANTS SUPPORT PANGUNA WOMEN

Bougainville Revolutionary Army fighters look down on the Panguna mine in 1996

Aloysius Laukai | New Dawn | 30 June 2017

South Bougainville Ex combatants yesterday supported the actions made by Panguna women to block the ABG team from meeting with landowners to sign a MOU to open the closed PANGUNA COPPER MINE.

Chairman of the South Bougainville Ex-combatants Association, DAVID KONGKORI told New Dawn FM that the issue needs proper consultation between all stakeholders and not just the PANGUNA landowners.

He said that the issue could create division and must not be allowed to proceed with one part of the community against it.

MR. KONGKORI said that the ex-combatants view is that the ABG must not push for the re-opening when underlying issues that started the conflict are yet to be addressed.

He said that the GOVERNMENT must not think about how much in Kina they can get out of Panguna but also look at the reconciliation issues that are still outstanding between the PANGUNA landowners themselves.

MR. KONGKORI said Panguna people are still divided with different factions still operating like the MEKAMUI UNITY GOVERNMENT and the MEKAMUI Original government just to name a few.

He said all the people of Bougainville who died fighting for PANGUNA must not be forgotten in any new deals.
MR. KONGKORI said that as fighters of war, we don’t want to fight for the same thing again.

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Villagers fret over river gravel extraction

A digger works on the bank of Nakorotari River yesterday.

Luke Rawalai | The Fiji Times | July 04, 2017

VILLAGERS of Matalolo outside Labasa Town raised their concerns on the procedures for gravel extraction being carried out along the Nakorotari River bank.

A member of the public, Ropate Rakuro, told this newspaper that villagers were concerned with gravel extraction procedures because machines were digging soil along the river banks, instead of extracting rocks from the riverbed.

“It is a worry because this can cause soil erosion on the river banks during the wet season,” he said. “This is the problem when we do not have enough monitoring done on companies working along the river banks and they take advantage of their licence conditions because there is no one to monitor them. Something needs to be done to address this issue and authorities need to look into the concerns raised.”

Suweni district representative Po­a­sa Vocea said there were more than six companies extracting gravel along the Nakorotari River.

Responding to Mr Vocea’s concerns during Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s tour of the Northern Division recently, Lands and Mineral Resources Ministry’s permanent secretary Malakai Finau admitted there was not enough done to monitor gravel extraction.

Mr Finau said they recently set up an environment section within their department that would monitor these extraction and mining works.

The ministry’s director Mineral Department, Dr Raijeli Ta­ga, said it was not mandatory for gravel to be extracted from the riverbed but from where a proper licence had been given. Dr Taga said the Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources issued licences only for any extraction on State land or from the river.

“TLTB gives licences for extraction on Native land and communities near rivers that have gravel deposits need to know that they can assist to monitor and that they should have been consulted during the EIA process,” she said.

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