Category Archives: Environmental impact

PNG landowners fight against one of the largest gold miners in the world

Jarni Blakkarly | SBS | October 1, 2018

Papua New Guinea’s neighbours living next to one of the largest gold mines in the world are asking the government to block attempts to extend their mining license.

The mine has been operating for almost 30 years, but the license for the Porgera gold mine in Enga province, Papua New Guinea, expires in May.

Jonathan Paraia is the president of the Justice Foundation for Porgera and is leading the charges against the mining companies.

“The people were not treated properly, they are suffering in terms of their human rights, destroying their homes and gardens and the land they live on,” he said.

The Porgera gold mine is operated by a joint venture between Canada’s Barrick and Chinese miners ZiJin, which have a 47.5 percent stake each.

The remaining five percent is in the hands of a regional government agency, Mineral Resources, Enga.

The villagers say that promises of jobs and benefits from the mine have only reached a few, while the rest still live in extreme poverty and have lost access to their traditional lands.

The members of the community met at a meeting last Thursday to express their anger. Along with the traditional drums and songs, they were “Barrick out” songs.

Hundreds gathered in the province of Enga to oppose the extension of the license of the mine.

Jonathan Paraia says that the operation of the mine has caused significant environmental damage.

He says he expects a different mining company to have the opportunity to enter the area, one that will extend the benefits more widely through the community.

Australian lawyers who inform the group that opposes the extension of the mine say the owners deserve adequate compensation.

“People want to be treated fairly, they want to see a much fairer distribution of mine profits. They want to see their people with more opportunities and if they can not be approached, they will oppose the mine continuing in any way, “said attorney Matthew Graham.

“Ideally, the mine should continue to operate, and people can be better off in the future and compensated for environmental damage in the past,” he added.

A spokesperson for Barrick Niguini Limited, the local arm of the company that operates the joint venture, said they always paid compensation and royalties, and that the mine had brought significant infrastructure and benefits to the local area.

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Barrick Gold Put On Notice For Nearly 30 Years Of Rent Owing

“We are wiped out because our land is covered by the waste from the mining, we have no land, no rivers, no pigs, no food and gardens. We only want to be resettled somewhere where we can call home and stand as men and women on our own two feet.”

Yombi Kep | Post Courier | October 1, 2018

PNG’s second largest mine, the Porgera Gold Mine, has been in operation for nearly 30 years but it has yet to resettle the Special Mining Lease (SML) landowners whom it displaced since it first started its operation in 1990.

Chairman of Tuanda ILG Sole Taro said that he and his people were displaced by Barrick who promised to relocate them since their land, the place which they called home was used by the mine to dump waste from the mine.

“It’s nearly 30 years now, me and my people have been displaced by the company with promises of resettlement but so far nothing has been done,” said Mr Taro.

He said that Tuanda ILG owned 600 hectares of land in the SML area.

“Barrick have used 600 hectares of our land for 30 years and we have never received any benefit.”

He said that apart from the homes and gardens that were damaged, schools as well as churches were damaged.

“They used my land to dump waste from the mine.”

Mr Taro said that they haven’t built schools, churches or aid posts to compensate for the ones that are now covered in waste.

“There is no council ward, my people are scattered all over,” he said.

“Our village is destroyed by the company and now we have no place to call home.”

As the chairman of Tuanda ILG and a leader for his people, he is calling on Barrick Gold to at least resettle his people somewhere together where they can call home and restart their already crumbled life.

“We are wiped out because our land is covered by the waste from the mining, we have no land, no rivers, no pigs, no food and gardens. We only want to be resettled somewhere where we can call home and stand as men and women on our own two feet.”

Chairman of Justice Foundation of Porgera Ltd Jonathan Paraia said that the company has displaced landowners making them refugees on their own land.

“In PNG people live on a piece of land and when that is gone they are displaced so they become environmental refugees or you can call it mining infected refugees. They have no other place to go.”

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Guyanese Indigenous Council Calls for Rejection of Canadian Company’s Mining Permit

Local People have Denounced a ‘Flimsy’ Environmental and Social Impact Assessment

Center for Human Rights and Global Justice | 28 September 2018 

Last week, the South Rupununi District Council (SRDC), a legal representative institution for the Wapichan people, released a statement forcefully denouncing the procedurally and substantively defective environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) submitted by a Canadian mining company (Guyana Goldstrike) seeking to begin large-scale mining operations on Marutu Taawa through its Guyanese subsidiary (Romanex). Marutu Taawa, also known as Marudi Mountain, stands deep in the traditional territory of the Wapichan and holds historical, cultural, spiritual and biological significance for the entire region. Because Marutu Taawa sits at a critical watershed, the environmental impact of large-scale mining operations would threaten the ability of the Wapichan people to continue living in the ancestral lands they have called home for centuries.

Notwithstanding the threat to the Wapichan people posed by large-scale mining, SRDC finds that Guyana Goldstrike’s ESIA relies on incomplete, inaccurate, or decades-old information to ignore the substantial environmental, public health, and cultural consequences that would occur if such mining operations were allowed to proceed. The SRDC also strongly condemns the mining company’s failure to consult the Council, as a legal representative institution of the Wapichan people. This failure to meaningfully consult stands in direct violation of both Guyanese and international law.

Given the inadequacy of the  ESIA and Guyana Goldstrike’s flouting of domestic and international law, the SRDC has strongly encouraged the Guyanese Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to deny the Canadian company’s subsidiary the environmental permit needed to initiate large-scale operations in the territory. The SRDC also calls on the EPA to oversee a process that ensures that Guyana Goldstrike and Romanex adhere to Guyanese and international law and best practices in the international mining sector.

The Global Justice Clinic has been working with the SRDC since 2016. Through the clinic, students have provided data analysis and legal support for monitoring activity undertaken by the SRDC. Click here for more information on the clinic’s work.

Read the SRDC press release here. Visit the SRDC website here.

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CEDAW and Extraterritorial Obligations: PNG Activists Highlight Australia’s Role in Human Rights Violations

Papua New Guinea activists Ruth Saovana Spriggs (left) and Sabet Cox in Geneva. Image still from forthcoming IWRAW Asia Pacific video

Nikta Daijavad | IWRAW

At IWRAW Asia Pacific’s most recent From Global to Local training programme, run in parallel to the 70th CEDAW Session, we were joined by two activists from a small group of Papua New Guinea women working to expose the gendered harms of Australia’s large-scale extractive industries – which have operated across many provinces of Papua New Guinea for five decades. Dr Ruth Saovana Spriggs (left, above) is the director of the Bougainville People’s Research Center (based in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville), and Elizabeth (Sabet) Cox (right, above) is a technical advisor to HELP Resources and Voice for Change (based in the Sepik and the Highlands regions of Papua New Guinea) and an emerging women’s organisation in Hela – the site of Papua New Guinea’s controversial vast and expanding gas fields in a context of underdevelopment and armed conflict. These four local NGOs were supported by Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), to prepare and submit a shadow report to the CEDAW Committee’s review of Australia, held on 3 July.

Ruth and Elizabeth focused their advocacy on Australia’s failure to meet its extraterritorial obligations (ETOs) in relation to its financing of, and development cooperation with, risky and socially and environmentally destructive Australian extractive companies in Papua New Guinea. In recent years, activists have increasingly called upon states to fulfill such obligations. Relying on the Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, they argue that states are obligated to ensure that non-state actors which they are in a position to regulate, including private individuals and transnational corporations, do not violate human rights. The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, for example, submitted shadow reports on the extraterritorial obligations of SpainSweden, and France with regards to arms transfers for the 61st, 63rd, and 64th CEDAW Sessions, respectively. FIAN International similarly submitted a shadow report on the extraterritorial obligations of Germany with regards to coffee plantations owned by German transnational corporations that were illegally evicting peasant communities in Uganda (66th CEDAW Session).

In Australia’s case, the state has provided critical financial support to extractive industries that have been assessed as high-risk for social and environmental impacts. In Bougainville, for example, Rio Tinto of Australia operated the Bougainville Copper Limited mine between 1969 and 1989 – until tensions over the dumping of tailings in the Jaba River, grossly unequal benefit sharing arrangements, and an influx of migrants from other provinces eventually erupted into a decade-long civil war with the Papua New Guinea government, with military support from Australia. When a military response failed, Papua New Guinea imposed a total blockade on goods, services and supplies, resulting in the loss of an estimated 20,000 lives, and countless war crimes of sexual violence. Ruth’s research has revealed that local women lost their traditional matrilineal authority, especially in relation to land rights and decision making. They witnessed huge social and cultural upheaval, bore the brunt of a long armed conflict and barely received USD20 in cash benefits annually.

The Australian government’s secretive Export Credit Agency – the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) – provides critical loans to ‘close the deal’ on new projects operated by Australian extractive companies when risk-averse banks will not. In 2009 EFIC provided a AUD500 million loan to enable Exxon Mobil and joint venture partners Oil Search and Santos to proceed with a liquefied natural gas project in the remote Hela region, despite warnings that support for the project could exacerbate already-existing armed conflict and violence against women. The lessons from Bougainville and from a succession of mining disasters have not been learned, and the gas fields in remote Hela Province have created a nightmare situation for women. The gas project start-up ignored the land-based armed conflicts among men and the extreme forms of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls. Worsening armed conflicts have undermined Hela’s rudimentary governance, service delivery and justice systems and rising impunity for daily murders, assaults and rapes.

Ruth and Elizabeth advocated four priority obligations of the Australian government:

  1. guarantees of women’s security and access to justice in areas impacted by Australian extractive industries, including establishing a complaints mechanism to provide reparations for past harms;
  2. Australian companies to undertake substantive gender analysis and to ensure women give free, prior and informed consent prior to extractive project start-up;
  3. institution of gender-equal benefit sharing in land-owning and impacted communities; and
  4. gender-equal access to jobs and training in Australian-owned extractive industry companies.

Throughout the process, women leaders from the remote Hela province in Papua New Guinea communicated daily with Ruth and Elizabeth, expressing their great hopes that their voices would be heard. They have since expressed their appreciation to the CEDAW Committee and the process.

During Australia’s constructive dialogue, Committee member Nahla Haidar directed incisive questions to the Australian state delegation regarding state loan financing of Australian extractive companies in Papua New Guinea and development grants to company-led corporate social responsibility projects for women. She noted, “There seems to be a failure to learn from the conflict in Bougainville … To what extent will the [Australian] government engage with the UN Principles on Business and Human Rights?” She reminded the delegation that its 2016 Universal Periodic Review had recommended that Australia adopt a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, and Australia had responded that it would consider further measures for implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This has not yet resulted in an adequate response.

The concerns highlighted in the shadow report on Australia’s ETOs are well reflected in Australia’s Concluding Observations. The Committee recommends that Australia develop a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, incorporating a gender perspective, ensuring that all large-scale extractive projects have obtained free prior informed consent from locally affected women, and establishing a specialised mechanism to investigate violations of women’s human rights by corporations based or registered in Australia or receiving subsidies from it.

Despite the lack of a clear commitment from the Australian delegation to address this issue, Ruth remains hopeful that highlighting the nature of Australia’s extractive industries in the international arena will eventually have a positive impact. As she said in our interview, “Unfortunately I was a little disappointed, but at least [the Australian delegation] heard it … And to me, it is a plus that [the issue] is at least registered at this level.” She also believes that continuing to strengthen the relationship between academic research and advocacy-oriented spaces like CEDAW will help bring to light the depth and complexity of the human rights violations taking place in Papua New Guinea.

Elizabeth added, “It’s given me hope that we can do more back in Papua New Guinea, and because the autonomous region of Bougainville is preparing for independence, [this] can be a new starting point for them to hold their independent government accountable to address the rights of women in the new state.”

Bougainville is slated to hold an independence referendum on 15 June 2019.

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Wallis and Futuna rejection of seabed mining welcomed by Pacific NGOs

Photo: AFP

Radio New Zealand | 24 September 2018

A decision by traditional leaders in Wallis and Futuna to reject work related to seabed mining has been welcomed by a regional body of non-government groups.

Earlier this month the kingdoms on the French Pacific island of Futuna ruled out allowing any further exploration of the seabed in their waters, saying their stance is final.

The Pacific Islands Association of NGOs ,or PIANGO, said it stands with community and church groups around the region who call for a ban on seabed mining.

PIANGO director Emele Duituturaga said there were environmental concerns and also a lack of clarity around the financial benefits that resource owners will directly receive.

She said in the current geo-political environment and age of cheque-diplomacy it is important for the voices of the people to be heard.

“Now is the time for traditional leaders and our indigenous peoples, who are the main owners of our resources, to stand up and be counted.”

Emele Duituturagasaid the lessons and experiences of mining in the Pacific should be heeded when contemplating exploration of the seabed.

She said there should be a ban on seabed mining around the region, and that the same environmental and benefit issues surrounding terrestrial mining, exist around seabed exploration.

“We’ve not really seen any income from terrestrial mining. We’ve also seen the environmental degradation so we doubt very much that seabed mining will be any different.”

French scientists have visited the territory and said the question of underwater mining will remain.

Five years ago, the French Economic, Social and Environmental Council urged the government to secure resources in the seabed off France’s overseas territories.

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NZ Seabed mining battle continues

Ngati Ruanui protested against Trans-Tasman Resources’ bid for marine consent to mine the seabed for iron sand. More than 6000 people signed the petition calling for a moratorium on seabed mining. (File photo: Monique)

TTR plans to appeal seabed mining decision

Jane Matthews | Stuff NZ | September 21 2018

Trans Tasman Rescorses have decided to appeal the High Court decision that quashed their consent to mine up to 50 million tonnes of ironsand from a 66 square kilometre area off the South Taranaki Bight for 35 years. (File photo)

A mining company who has had their controversial consent to mine the seabed off South Taranaki denied for the second time has decided to appeal the High Court decision to stop them.

Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) has been trying to gain access to mine the South Taranaki seabed for years and was granted it in August 2017 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, about three weeks ago the High Court quashed their consent on the grounds that the company’s method of environmental management was illegal.

TTR executive chairman Alan Eggers announced on Friday the company intended to lodge an appeal against the High Court’s decision, but first had to gain the permission of the court to do so. 

“Today TTR has lodged a notice to the Court of Appeal to seek leave to appeal the High Court judgment of August 28, 2018 regarding our marine consents for the South Taranaki Bright iron sands project,” Eggers said.

“It’s before the court and we’ll respect that and we’ll now have to see if the court will accept an appeal.”

Eggers would not answer any of Stuff‘s questions but said the basis of TTR’s appeal would be that they believe the EPA did follow a “legally correct approach in granting a marine discharge consent”.

The High Court decision to quash TTR’s contract, which granted consent from the EPA to mine up to 50 million tonnes of ironsand from a 66 square kilometre area off the South Taranaki Bight for 35 years, was because they’d planned to use an “adaptive management approach”.

Adaptive management is allowing an activity with uncertain effects and continually assessing it – essentially trying it out, seeing what happens and adapting the conditions accordingly, which was argued to be illegal under New Zealand law applying to the Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining chairperson Cindy Baxter wished TTR would just ‘go away’ after years of battling. TOM PULLAR-STRECKER/STUFF

Cindy Baxter is the chairperson of Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (Kasm), who were one of the parties who appealed the granting of consent, and said she was “unsurprised” with TTR’s desire to appeal the decision.

This is TTR’s second application to mine. It first applied and was denied in 2014, and Baxter was sick of them continuing to push despite denial and vocal opposition.

“I really wish that they would just go away – there’s a huge opposition,” she said.

“We’re standing on the shoulders of tens of thousands of people.”

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Save the Sepik from mining: learning from the past

Visiting the Sepik River and its people. Photo supplied.

Ken Golding | Echo Net | 21 September 2018

The people of the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea understand the threat to their lives and culture from the Chinese-owned copper and gold mine that is currently being proposed to be built on the Frieda River, a tributary of the headwaters of the Sepik River.

My partner Raine Sharpe, myself and Keith O’Neill have just returned from the remote Sepik River in Papua New Guinea. We were part of the Northern Rivers Folk Choir that responded to invitations from the people of The Sepik to live with them, share their culture and help alert the world to the threat to their lives from the copper and gold mine being proposed.

Rich culture

We were welcomed into their homes, their daily life and their rich and colourful culture. Sepik people are warm, generous, and intelligent with a great sense of humour. They are renowned for the quality of their artistic cultural expression and live an ecologically aware life described by PNG ABC journalist Sean Dorney as ‘affluent subsistence’.

The Sepik River is 1,200 kilometres long and is the largest uncontaminated freshwater system in the Asia Pacific region. Rising in the Central Highlands it winds its serpentine way through mountains, rainforest and wetlands to the ocean. People have lived on the Sepik for many thousands of years.

Poisoned river

The second-largest river in PNG is the Fly River. In the 1970s Australian mining companies built Ok Tedi, a huge copper and gold mine on the river’s headwaters. This mine became the scene of what is now recognised as the biggest ecological disaster in the world.

Discharging 80 million tonnes of contaminated tailings and mining erosion into the river system each year has caused 1,300 square kilometres of the river to be irrevocably damaged. People of the Fly River now suffer serious health problems with their main sources of food and water subjected to heavy-metal poisoning.

No social licence

I’m drawing the comparison between these two magnificent river systems because the mine proposed by the Chinese-owned Australian mining company PanAust that is preparing to build a gold and copper mine on the Sepik river system is as big, if not bigger than, Ok Tedi mine.

The people of the Sepik fear for their future and their way of life. They know about the damage to the Fly River and its people and are deeply fearful that the Freida mine is another Ok Tedi in the making. So far there has been minimal community consultation and the Sepik people consider the mine does not have a social licence to go ahead.

We have a deep sense of shame that an Australian company recklessly inflicted damage on the Fly River and its people.

The Sepik River is the lifeblood of its people. The children of the village we stayed with are healthy and vibrant. Their delight and laughter melted our hearts.

Professor Tim Flannery says he cannot think of a worse place for a copper mine. Surely we cannot allow an ecological disaster to happen again.

Raise awareness

To raise awareness and funds in support of the people of the Sepik we are holding an evening event Tales of the Sepik River in Mullumbimby on Saturday September 29 at 6.30pm.

If you want to know more about this event email raines@australis.net.

If you want to know more about the people of the Sepik, and the Frieda mine, go to Save the Sepik River and its people on Facebook.

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