Category Archives: Human rights

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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Pathway to remedy human rights abuses at Porgera mine identified

A new report commissioned by Barrick Gold has been published on the serious human rights situation at the Porgera mine.

Download In Search of Justice Porgera Gold Mine (6mb)

The report, by California based nonprofit BSR, reveals there is a backlog of more than 940 human rights cases registered, plus other victims who have not yet made their claims known.

The report recommends Barrick needs to make a number of immediate fixes, address longer-term issues, and take preventative action to avoid future harms.

BSR believes that addressing claims at these three levels is the only way to ensure a robust and sustainable approach to remedy.

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Wafi-Golpu plan to dump mine waste in sea queried

The National aka The Loggers Times | September 13, 2018

Salamaua LLG president Philemon Tomala has expressed concern about the plan to dump Wafi-Golpu mine tailings into Huon Gulf.

He said that both Wafi-Golpu Joint Venture and Morobe government should spell out the effects of the tailings on the gulf, where people fish for their livelihood. It is also one of few places in the world where the endangered giant leatherback turtle nests.

“The mining company and Morobe government say it is safe to get this waste into the sea,” Tomala said.

“From experiences we have seen, like Panguna mine and others, the people out there still have questions in their minds as to how safe the waste is, going onto the sea.

“This is because our people’s livelihood is in the sea.

“They go fishing to sustain their day-to-day living, but with this thing coming, we have a lot of questions Whether it is safe for marine life or not.”

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‘Reform PNG’s Resource Ownership Laws’

Henzy Yakham | Post Courier | September 12, 2018

The conversation on ownership of natural resources has intensified in recent times with the issue moved from the simmer-back to hot-and the front-burner.

In the forefront and pressing for revolutionary reforms in the resource ownership regime are two of PNG’s founding statesmen – Sir Julius Chan and Sir Mekere Morauta.

Both Sir Julius and Sir Mekere played very significant roles during pre-independence years as architects to craft the foundations of PNG’s currency, banking and financial institutions, which in succeeding years underwent further reforms to improve their service delivery.

Today, the two former prime ministers are calling for changes to the resource ownership laws so that the original inhabitants of land and sea where the natural resources are found have fair and equitable benefits. In November 2013, despite not attending a Madang meeting of governors from maritime provinces due to prior confirmed official engagements, Sir Julius provided a brief paper to his colleagues on the development of PNG’s extractive industries, ownership of natural resources and related issues. Included in the brief was Sir Julius’ stance that land/resource owners’ rights to own natural resources on and under their land and sea as his proposed remedies in the mining industry.

The brief highlighted a number of aspects in which PNG has failed to structure the mining industry for maximum value to PNG and its citizens. With the brief were comparisons of mineral royalty rates of PNG (which are among the lowest in the world), and other countries which include:

Poland: 10 per cent contained metal value
Ghana: 3 -12 per cent sliding with price
Canada: 15 per cent (British Columbia) taxable income; 18 per cent (Ontario) of taxable income 20 per cent; (Quebec) of taxable income
Mozambique: 10 -12 per cent diamond; 5-8 per cent precious metals
Mexico: 8 per cent gold
Botswana: 10 per cent diamonds; 5 per cent precious metals
United States: 12.5 – 16 per cent Oil; 8 – 20 per cent precious metals
Papua New Guinea: 2 per cent gold; 2 per cent copper

Sir Julius maintains that PNG’s mining regime is grossly distorted and unfair because billions of kina are earned, but the real land, and resources owners simply do not realise their fair share of the benefits.

In a nutshell, he has been pushing for among others:

– Royalties raised to 10 per cent f.o.b. annual revenues;
– SSG raised to 10 per cent f.o.b. annual revenues and SSG payments should be made directly from the company to the province;
– Tax Credit raised to 10 per cent of assessable income and funds should be placed in an account the year of eligibility with no time limit on the use of funds;
– The State receive at least 30 per cent equity in all mining projects free of charge, and should convey a significant portion of this equity to the province, the LLG and the landowners;
– Twenty per cent (20 per cent) of all royalties, special support grants, tax credit and dividends from equity holdings be placed in a separate account to be used for development projects in non-mining provinces; and
– The Mining Act 1992 be comprehensively reviewed and amended, specifically such that ownership of all minerals on and below the sea is vested in the province in whose waters minerals are located.

PNG’s Mining Act 1992, states that all minerals existing on, in, or below the surface of any land in PNG, water lying in any land in PNG, are the property of the State. During colonial rule, the mining and petroleum laws of PNG were adopted based on Australian precedents, giving the powers of ownership of resources in the Administrator. Under the common law of England, minerals belong to the owner of the land under which they are found.

The British Common Law, inherited by Australian colonies upon white settlement, included a presumption that the owner of the land is entitled to all that lies above and below the surface.

Natural resources such as minerals were regarded as part of the land in which they naturally occurred and accordingly passed into private ownership upon Crown grant of the land. Despite these arguments, in the end the Australian Statutory Law in place during colonial times prevailed over both PNG law and British Common Law, this was formalised in the Mining Act 1992. However, it is very clear that State ownership violates both traditional PNG law and British Common Law.

In April 2013, Sir Julius told the Parliamentary Referral Committee on Minerals and Energy inquiry into the review of Mining Act 1992 that under current laws, PNG simply gives away all its wealth and then buys it back at an exorbitant price.

On August 19, 2013, Sir Julius was the Keynote Speaker at the Department of Mineral Policy and Geohazards Management (DMPGM) organised regional consultation meetings in Kokopo, East New Britain Province on the proposed changes to Mining Act 1992. There, he outlined the way in which the mining regime in PNG has failed the people and the way it should be changed for the greater benefit of the people and provinces.

On May 14, 2009, Sir Julius proposed reforms in natural resource ownership laws in a motion tabled in Parliament.
The underlying intention of the motion was for the transfer of the resource ownership to landowners of where the resources are found. As well, the motion proposes for increased benefits for landowners, provincial governments and the country in general.

Sir Julius argues that as a direct consequence of the arrogation of all mineral, oil and gas reserves on land and below the land and sea by the State have been a massive give-away of the national wealth of PNG.

On September 4, 2018, Sir Mekere asked Prime Minister Peter O’Neill a series of questions based on important national issues raised by Sir Julius in his reply to the inaugural address of the Governor General in opening this Parliament.

Sir Mekere prefaced his question to Mr O’Neill by quoting Sir Julius “to remember that in our democracy the final power is the power of the people. We are here for one reason only – to serve the people”.

“I want to take a wider view of the challenges we face. For though we have some short-term problems to tackle, I fear there are even more grave problems looming over us.

“I have never known a time when our country was in greater peril.”

After quoting Sir Julius, Sir Mekere asked Mr O’Neill what the government position on Sir Julius’ recommendations among others to:

– Increase the level of royalties from the current 2 per cent to 10 per cent;
– Increase the level of Special Support Grant and the Tax Credit Scheme;
– Establish a Trust Fund in which 20 per cent of revenues of mining provinces would be paid to distribute to non-mining provinces;
– Revise the Mining Act 1992 and the Oil and Gas Act 1998 to vest ownership of resources in the people;
– Introduce a Derivation Grant for mining and petroleum provinces of 5 per cent of the value of resources originating in that province;
– Increase Autonomy of Provinces, provinces “that demonstrate capacity to manage their own affairs. The autonomy was to cover administrative and financial autonomy and autonomy over non-renewable and renewable resources.

Answering Sir Mekere’s questions, Mr O’Neill said “the Mining Act is under review at present and I will not pre-empt the discussions and the outcomes of that review that is taking place.

“The Mining Minister and his team are already well advanced in those discussions. There will be an opportunity for this Parliament to look through that review and the new Mining Act, which will address all these issues, including royalties, the powers of the provinces with respect to the mining activities in those provinces and the management of the trust funds.

“There has been a gross abuse in the management of some of the trust funds and we are all aware and are trying to correct that as we move forward.

“I can assure you, that the people of Papua New Guinea, particularly the landowners will get a better share of the benefits of the resource development in this country.

“That is the priority of this government and we will continue to pursue it through the mining review which is now being conducted and is still continuing.”

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Group wants Wafi-Golpu mining town at home

The National aka The Loggers Times | September 12, 2018

The people of the Mumeng local- level government in Bulolo district, Morobe, do not want Wafi-Golpu’s mining town to be in the Huon Gulf district. They want it at home.

The group called Pikinini Mumeng made their stand known during a forum held on Saturday at Gurakor.

Spokespersons Max Giamati and Toksy Mon told The National the people of Mumeng were fighting for the rights of their children and they did not want their children to miss out on any benefit from the Wafi mine.

Giamati said the forum was for the developers, the Morobe government and the State to explain the benefits the Mumeng community would gain from the mine, the mining township, and the formation of Mumeng Landowners’ Association.

“Just because the pipeline will run through Huon Gulf they want to build the township there, but we are against the idea,” he said.

“We are not saying no to the pipeline but because of the future of our children we want the township and service to be in Bulolo District.

“A good example is the Hidden Valley Mine where the services and township should be in Bulolo District but has been moved down to Lae. We do not want to see this process repeated with Wafi-Golpu.”

The Pikinini Mumeng group said that further exploration on their land would not be carried out unless there was discussions with the people of Mumeng on what benefits Wafi-Golpu would provide.

The group will have another meeting on Saturday at Kumalu Dust Market and the Mumeng LLG president and Bulolo MP Sam Basil are being invited to attend.

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