Category Archives: Environmental impact

Environmental failure at Wild Dog mine

Traditional Baining Fire Dance

Alois Balar | Post Courier | 23 April 2019

Beyond reasonable doubt, the element of environmental risk was present in both the exploration and development stages of the Wild Dog mine.

This mine was developed at the very summit of the highest peak in ENB with the presence of this significant environmental risk, and to the detriment of the livelihoods of the people at the foot of Mt Sinivit as well as within its vicinity and right down to the coast. What rational justification was used by the (relevant government agencies) and the landowners to agree for the mine to be developed given the geographical risk to the river systems?

Mineral deposits in the mining lease area comprised of the oxide and the sulphide zones both of which were not technically viable to be developed at such steep slopes with very high loss of height. Juxtaposed against these is a high mountain backdrop (with huge physical divides) that forms the catchment of the river systems on all sides. These areas contain critical ecosystems and life support systems. The mine heap-leach areas were pitched on narrow patches of no more than 20sq m, at most, in both zones, with no fenders, that were susceptible to climate extremes.

This mine was developed on “persistence in error” by the developer who refused to draw inference from negative signs and technicalities. The developer should have waylaid the “sunk-cost effect” in favour of the critical environment.

It is very disturbing that the (relevant government agencies) have been sitting on this environmental problem since the developer abandoned the mine during its operation.

The cyanide heap-leach method should never have been allowed to be used up there by the developer. The developer abandoned huge open pits, heaps, and the ponds of cyanide which are a risk to the whole environment. Some of these heaps and ponds have cracks caused by earthquakes.

The recent rains caused the cyanide vets to overflow into the drains that fed the sources of streams and creeks that tributed to the two large rivers of Nengmutka and Rapmarini which are major tributaries of Waragoi river.

Once the toxics leak, it can result in total collapse of ecosystems and life support systems that are being used by the people(I don’t want to mention the deadly strength of cyanide against the volume of water in the rivers) . This mine was at a critical location and dangerously and carelessly developed out of economic greed.

Five long years have lapsed after the developer left with evidently nothing done to date to contain the leakage risk. These relevant government agencies have just woken up from their slumber to sanction a disaster and environmental assessment to be carried out.

The funds being spent on rebuilding the road up to the mine to enable the assessment to be carried out could have been spent on other impassable roads in the Bainings).Is this how long bureaucratic red tape can last in our government system, even if it meant so many people dead from a cyanide disaster over five years?

This kind of irrational behaviour by govt agencies could prove fatal for the communal environment and costly to the lives of the people. The lack of action by government agencies has resulted in people(men, women, and children) risking their lives by going up there to the mine site(after the developer left) to take whatever is useful to them, thus having direct contact with cyanide and
other toxic chemicals.

Leach pad liners were even taken by people, posing serious risks to themselves! The government’s complacency and ignorance of problem risks and for taking no leakage deterrent measures conjures up the reality of its ignorance of the height of thresholds for pain of the people and the environment when inflicted for economic reasons other than for their own benefit and upkeep.

Government agencies must ensure economic development is balanced against the natural environment, not the other way around! This is an aspect of sustainable development!.

The problem at Wild Dog is not ISEP, rather, it is everybody’s. And I’d rather the so-called Sinivit Mine Landowners Association stops talking about mine reopening and look more closely at ensuring the sustainability of the sources that support the livelihoods of its members and make sure these sources are not compromised.

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Coal too dirty for our good

Rugeley power station in the UK is being demolished in phases until 2021. Coal plants are being retired at a record pace globally. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

The National aka The Loggers Times | April 15, 2019

COAL is a cheap hydrocarbon fuel and can be used in the production of goods and services, such as electricity.

However, this cheap hydrocarbon fuel is also the No.1 cause of environmental pollution and other issues.

Coal mining and its use in Papua New Guinea should be banned.

The following direct and indirect costs of coal use support the ban.

  • Coal is an unsustainable source of energy and it cannot be replaced once it has been used;
  • carbon emissions from mine blasts and machinery used in mining coal will cause irreparable environmental damage;
  • environmental damage and carbon and heat emissions from coal mining and the industrial use of coal will contribute to global warming and exacerbate the problems we are facing with adverse weather conditions and rising sea levels globally;
  • adverse weather conditions damage roads and highways which are expensive to build, repair and maintain. They also cause major traffic delays at sea ports and airports affecting international trade and the movement of people locally and internationally;
  • adverse weather conditions are causing extensive damage to food gardens and cities and towns, as well as dislocating residents of cities, towns and villages, causing hardship and inconvenience;
  • it is costly to provide assistance to people affected by natural disasters, which are being made worse by global warming;
  • coal mining will result in the loss of the value of forests to local communities because when communities lose their forests they also lose food, shelter, and other things they depend on as people of the land; and,
  • Smog produced from the industrial use of coal in cities will increase respiratory and lung problems. Of course, the medical cost of treating the diseases is another consideration against the use of coal. PNG has so much natural resources that can be harnessed to produce cheaper, dependable and clean electricity. Coal is not one of them.

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Outrage: deep-sea mining poses an existential threat

Seabed mining machines

Stephanie Hessler | The Architectural Review | 11 April, 2019

The greed for ever more and ever cheaper minerals drives seabed mining – but at what cost?

At the height of the Cold War, in a top-secret mission titled Project Azorian, the CIA tried to retrieve Soviet submarine K-129, which had sunk in 1968. Under the auspices of the billionaire Howard Hughes, in 1974 a US ship was sent to recover the vessel with the hope of gathering valuable intelligence. The Agency needed a cover-up story to deflect from its actual target, so the public was told that Hughes’ ship was a commercial deep-sea mining vessel. After a series of mishaps, however, journalists broke the story in 1975, and the CIA aborted the mission.

It is no surprise that a cover-up story was used to distract the public from the actual aims of the mission. Misinformation is often paired with greed. The greed for ever more and ever cheaper minerals, used in devices such as the computer I am typing on, but also in ‘green’ technologies, drives seabed mining. Today, the minerals ostensibly targeted by the CIA mission have become subject to real prospecting. In oceanic resource grab, imperial and colonial asymmetric power relations of the past are reinforced. And so is the ecological and social havoc it will cause. –

The scientific and technocratic apparatus surrounding the world’s hydrosphere is largely governed by research institutes and companies of the Global North, which have at their command the know-how, technologies and financial means to engage in these highly complex and costly projects. The insights emerging from research at, for example, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, are employed by businesses such as the Canada-registered international company Nautilus Minerals. ‘The first company to commercially explore the seafloor for massive sulfide systems, a potential source of high grade copper, gold, zinc and silver’, as its website reads, Nautilus struck a deal with the Papua New Guinea government to mine minerals in the country’s national waters.

Mining in international waters, beyond a country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles or up to the margin of the continental shelf, is unlikely to begin in the near future. However, the International Seabed Authority (ISA), a UN body to administrate resource extractions in international waters, has started distributing claims to prospecting countries such as France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Russia and the UK, as well as the Pacific Island states of Kiribati, Nauru and Tonga. The claimed areas are in the Clarion- Clipperton Zone spanning 4.5 million km2 in the North Pacific Ocean, an area deemed to hold vast and unmatched potential for minerals. As of today, the holders are entitled to explore, not yet exploit. Yet this is the first move towards extraction in the so-called ‘Area’ beyond national jurisdiction defined by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as the ‘common heritage of humankind’.

Long-term effects of deep-sea mining are devastating. Extractivist enterprises are likely to cause unprecedented damage to marine environments in directly affected zones as well as in neighbouring areas. In Papua New Guinea, where extraction in national waters is about to commence, land-based mining is already threatening ecosystems, lifestyles and health as well as economic and political self-determination. The deal with Nautilus Minerals bears the promise of short-term profit, but neglects the long-term ecological, social and economic consequences. It demonstrates the foreign dependency of economically deprived regions such as Papua New Guinea, pointing to the distributed complex of infrastructural and legal systems that the architect and researcher Keller Easterling has called ‘extrastatecraft’.

Not only resource extraction, but also tensions caused by territorial claims today gain further urgency. As sea levels rise, the baselines of island states such as Kiribati face dramatic change. International bodies discuss whether baselines should be frozen and, if so, when to set the starting date. This not only affects future access to essential foods such as fish, but also raises questions of nationhood and land rights. Does a country with no surface area above water cease to exist? What happens to the spiritual legacy, the graves and sacred sites, if they are submerged in water and disappear?

Deep-sea exploration and exploitation prospects utilise tropes reminiscent of the ‘new frontier’ rhetoric in previous imperialist endeavours. Using concepts of distance – often employed in colonial projects and environmental extraction alike – seabed mining will supposedly take place ‘far away’: deep below the ocean surface and in geographically remote areas. Clearly, the oceans are an intricately connected complex ecological system, and impacts in the seabed will not remain isolated and contained. And, importantly, such viewpoints are blatantly Eurocentric, begging the question: remote for whom? Technologies such as underwater cameras and scuba diving equipment have made what lies below the ocean surface visualisable, revealing the diversity of subaquatic life. This could contribute to the protection of the oceans.

Yet as depictions of the sea have moved from the impenetrable surface of a monstrous Leviathan to a space that can be seen, studied and conquered, techno-scientific advancements have also contributed to its exploitation. As anthropogenic actions affect ecosystems above and below water, often with the aim to extract resources and ameliorate human livelihoods, these projects deplete rather than augment, and close in rather than expand life worlds.

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Another ‘World Class’ Mining Company in ‘World Class’ Coverup

Rio Tinto’s QIT Madagascar Minerals mine in southeastern Madagascar. Image courtesy of Google Earth.

Madagascar: Rio Tinto mine breaches sensitive wetland

Edward Carver | Mongabay | 9 April 2019

  • A large mineral sands mine in southeastern Madagascar has trespassed into a “sensitive zone,” violating national law and raising the possibility that radionuclide-enriched tailings could enter a lake that local people use for drinking water, two recent studies confirm.
  • Rio Tinto, the London-based multinational that owns the mine, acknowledged the breach for the first time in a March 23 memo, more than five years after the breach initially occurred.
  • Rio Tinto will hold its annual general meeting April 10 in London.
  • The director of an NGO that commissioned one of the studies is a shareholder and said she hopes to speak about what’s happened at the lake.

A large mineral sands mine in southeastern Madagascar has trespassed into a “sensitive zone,” violating national law and raising the possibility that radionuclide-enriched tailings could enter a lake.

There is no evidence that radioactive elements or mine tailings have entered the lake so far, but two recent studies confirmed the encroachment of mining activities into the lake. Rio Tinto, the London-based multinational that owns the mine, acknowledged the breach for the first time in a March 23 memo to the Andrew Lees Trust (ALT), a social and environmental advocacy group that commissioned one of the studies.

The breach raises health and safety concerns in one of Madagascar’s most impoverished regions. The lake, part of a forested estuary system a few miles from the city of Tôlanaro, commonly known as Fort Dauphin, serves as a fishing and foraging ground for people in nearby villages.

“It would be a human rights and environmental catastrophe if you flood that estuary with radioactive water,” Steven Emerman, a Utah-based geophysicist and hydrology consultant who authored the 2018 study commissioned by ALT, told Mongabay.

Emerman said he worries that a cyclone could cause tailings in the mining basins to overflow into the lake or seep in if the water table level changes. The mineral sands being mined have high levels of uranium and thorium, and the removal of the mine’s main product, ilmenite, can increase the concentration of radioactive elements. Ilmenite yields titanium dioxide, used as a whitener in products like paint and toothpaste.

A different study published today by ALT found safe radionuclide levels in rivers and lakes in the area. It also found that the area around the mine, including river water, had high levels of uranium that could pose risks to local residents, although it’s not known if these levels are naturally occurring or caused by mining activities. The author of the study noted that she had to rely on “limited” and “questionable” data provided by Rio Tinto, and called on the company to improve its monitoring and management of radioactive materials. In response to the study, Rio Tinto maintained that the high uranium levels were naturally occurring and cited a baseline study as evidence.

Emerman and Rio Tinto have sharply different opinions about how best to protect the lake from mine tailings. Rio Tinto has set a barrier in place, but in his study, Emerman writes that the safety criteria that the company used to build it would be more appropriate for “storm drains at a shopping mall parking lot” and that reading Rio Tinto’s reports leads him “to believe that the dam was not designed to meet any safety criteria, but was simply ‘designed’ by piling up sand with a bulldozer.”

Emerman expressed further concern that the dam itself was made largely out of tailings — a fact acknowledged by Rio Tinto. This could contribute further seepage into the lake that the dam is meant to protect. “If you build the dam out of tailings, what good is the dam doing?” Emerman said to Mongabay.

Rio Tinto has initiated an action plan to assess and possibly redesign the dam (or berm — there’s debate about what to call it) before the end of the year, the company said in the memo.

In 2018, Rio Tinto commissioned Ozius Spatial, an Australian consultancy, to determine whether mining activities had breached the lake and buffer zone, as ALT had claimed. Like Emerman, Ozius found that the company’s mining activities had encroached not only all the way through the buffer zone on one side of the lake — littoral forest made up of unique evergreen species — but onto the lake bed.

Rio Tinto declined to publish the Ozius study and has not acknowledged the breach publicly, aside from its communications with ALT. The company did provide a copy of the Ozius study to ALT so that Emerman could use it is in his work. Neither Rio Tinto nor Ozius responded to requests for comment for this article.

It is unclear whether Rio Tinto’s encroachment into the lake was intentional. In its recent memo, Rio Tinto called the breach an “unintended occurrence that has produced several important learnings.” However, the company had been aware of the possibility of a breach for several years. In 2014, it asked Madagascar’s National Environment Office (ONE), a regulatory body, for permission to change the buffer zone around the lake from 80 meters (262 feet) — the standard, per national law — to 50 meters. ONE granted the request. Yet the Ozius study shows that by the start of 2014 Rio Tinto had not only already worked its way through the buffer zone but had encroached 52 meters into the lake itself, according to Emerman, who reproduced this finding in his own study

ONE inspected the breach in August 2018, deemed its impact “negligible” and chose not to take regulatory action, according to Rio Tinto’s recent memo to ALT.

Financial considerations appear to have driven Rio Tinto to mine near the lake, where the highest-quality ilmenite in the area occurs. In a 2017 memo to ALT, Rio Tinto explained its actions from a dollars-and-cents point of view. “The impact of complying with the 80m buffer zone would be 1) A 9 % loss of Reserves; 2) a non-optimal life of mine plan, the higher grade and lowest cost ore to the North East would only be accessible at the end of the mine life.”

In Madagascar, Rio Tinto operates through QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM), which is 80 percent owned by Rio Tinto and, at least on paper, 20 percent by the government of Madagascar. QMM is the second-largest mining operation in the country. Rio Tinto has invested more than $1 billion in the project and sends most of the ilmenite to be processed in Canada. The company shipped its first batch of ilmenite in 2009 and operations could continue for 40 years across three sites, including places that border protected areas. Operations are currently underway only at the Mandena site, which breached the estuary system. (The estuary system is now a freshwater wetland, as Rio Tinto built a weir to close it off from the ocean before it began mining.)

Critics have questioned ONE’s independence and ability to act as a neutral regulator. ONE’s website lists Rio Tinto alongside the World Bank and the European Union as a financial backer. And because of government funding issues, Rio Tinto has to pay for the regulatory body’s staff to fly down from the capital, stay in local hotels and monitor the company.

“This sets up an obvious conflict of interest that no one is happy with, including QMM,” Pete Lowry, a Paris-based botanist with the Missouri Botanical Garden who has decades of experience working in southeast Madagascar and sits on QMM’s biodiversity and natural resource management committee, told Mongabay. “But the reality is that if monitoring is going to get done, QMM is going to pay for it.”

A ONE representative did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Rio Tinto will hold its annual general meeting in London on April 10. Yvonne Orengo, ALT’s director, owns one share of the company and said she hopes to speak about what’s happened at the lake.

“It’s taken the Trust [ALT] two years and a huge effort to get Rio Tinto to admit the breach,” she told Mongabay in an email. “This highlights just how difficult it is for local people to hold QMM to account when it does wrong or fails in its obligations.”

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Kikori MP opposes coal mining

MP is against coal mining and has no interest in having it in the Kikori District

Loop Business | April 11, 2019

The Member for Kikori Open has expressed disgust and total dissatisfaction with the manner in which Mayur Resources has failed to consult him or his office regarding their coal development ideas in his district.

Soroi Eoe, who is also Minister for Community Development, Youth & Religion, said since Mayur Resources began operations in country and more so in their plans for the Kikori District, in Gulf Province, “the company hasn’t initiated any dialogue with my office nor had the courtesy to consult me on my views regarding coal development”.

“The cheap energy argument pushed by proponents (including national politicians) for coal development in my district need to be weighed against other relatively cleaner and healthier options that are available – alternative energy sources that my District is richly blessed with, such as: Small- Medium Hydro, Wind and Solar energy,” said the MP in a statement.

“Furthermore, on behalf of my people and the State, I am involved right now in the process of and negotiating a decent DMO (Domestic Market Obligation) component in the Papua LNG project agreement and I cannot entertain coal development for energy use at the same time on exactly the same strip of land. This makes little sense.

“I am against coal mining and have no interest in having the project in the Kikori District.”

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Electricity from hydropower, solar and wind is always better than coal

Yaengolism Yalanem |The National aka The Loggers Times | April 10, 2019

PAPUA New Guinea is blessed with numerous pristine mountains and rivers, with high rainfall in the sense that we can get hydropower anywhere in the mountainous region.

Even wasted energy from the LNG is not utilised.

The commercialisation of the LNG wasted gas energy is optimal as in the case of gas-power commercialisation by Dirio Gas & Power Company.

Hydropower is wasted energy when not utilised. The high rainfall in most areas of the country provide for numerous rivers, all with good volume and flow rate.

These can provide both a source of clean, sustainable power, water for export and carbon credits. A single dam on the Purari River, for example, can provide five times the required on and off grid current power requirement for the country, but instead they have resorted to the coal seam west of Herd Base up the Purari River for the coal-fired power by Mayur Resources.

Climate change is a major threat to livelihoods in PNG.

Gulf Governor Chris Haiveta reiterated in The National on March 22 that coal was a base-load power while energy sources like solar, hydro and wind fluctuates.

Is base-load power really relevant? Because solar and wind are intermittent, hydro can be used to balance intermittent solar and wind, but experts say the term is a “dinosaur” that has been misunderstood and that no longer can apply to our dynamic energy market. Demand varies hugely and energy production needs to be responsive.

Coal-fired power stations can take days to fire up from cold to full capacity and when demand slumps during off-peak periods, shutting down isn’t an option.

So when these power plants are being built in PNG, a market solution will be created. To stop them from having to turn off overnight, the regulators and the operators will offer very, very low-cost electricity for consumers to run their electrification systems, which will in turn sustain the ‘base-load’ on the power station.

The thought of producing clean coal is just a notion made by the coal company and its proponents and promoting coal as clean is a little bit just like an advertising slogan. As the saying goes, whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.

Power-lust is a weed that grows only in the vacant lots of an abandoned mind.

Clean energy will only be generated from hydro, solar, wind, tide, geothermal and bio-fuels.

By then, the energy from fossil fuel is replaced by clean energy and environmental degradation and climate change is minimized.

Remember not to be charmed into promises or offers to receive any property or benefit for your greed to satiate your desires.

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UPNG students report on Frieda mine awareness

The mighty Sepik river is under threat from mining

The National aka The Loggers Times | April 8, 2019

EAST Sepik students attending the University of Papua New Guinea completed a Frieda mine awareness report last week.

The report is from an awareness campaign against the proposed Frieda mine that was carried out by the UPNG Avisat Students Association comprising of students from Ambunti, Gawi and Angoram in East Sepik.

Association president Dipson Ban said they carried out a two week awareness from Dec 9-21 last year from Iniok, Tunap Hunsten LLG to Avatip, Ambunti LLG of East Sepik.

Ban said they covered villages that were vulnerable to the proposed mine, educating people to understand and to make wise decision to save the Sepik River.

“The awareness campaign was intended for the benefit of everyone in the community and not only Sepik river people.

“Understanding ecosystem for the benefit of food security, sustainability of the culture which is our main identity and protecting our only life.”

The awareness was the initiative of UPNG Avisat Students Association and supported by sponsors including Mariwia Ltd, Hungo Ltd plus contribution from various Sepik communities.

“The final report will be presented to East Sepik government for policy purposes,” Ban said.

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