Category Archives: Pacific region

Environmental and eco risk unknown in Cooks’ deep sea mining

Seabed mining machine

Dateline Pacific | Radio New Zealand | 29 November 2017 

The Cook Islands is exploring the benefits and potential of its deep sea resource.

Beneath the sunlit zones, where the country’s tourism and fishing industries lie, is a largely unexplored and untapped expanse of promise.

Also unexplored is the environmental risk and potential threat to other parts of the economy.

Dominic Godfrey reports.

Five kilometres below the surface of the Cook Islands exclusive economic zone lie manganese deposits which could provide a pathway to prosperity for the country.

The problem is not just getting them to the surface but the environmental impact this may have, as New Zealand’s principal ocean scientist Malcolm Clark explains.

MALCOLM CLARK: “The deep sea is a very poorly understood system. There are no boundaries in the oceans and so – coastal, continental shelf, deep sea, inshore, offshore – it’s all linked. And that’s especially important in the Pacific Island countries where we’re fairly small land-masses in the middle of a large ocean. So the connectivity across potentially quite large areas of ocean space is very important to understand.”

Dr Clark says while the actual area of mining may be small, the impact could encompass large areas.

MALCOLM CLARK: “In digging up these resources, there’s going to be disturbance of the sea bed and the sediment that’s been sitting idle is going to be demobilised and it will form a cloud. And that’s going to start to move with the currents, away from the area of direct physical impact. That’s an aspect that we don’t yet well understand but what the effect on the sea-floor communities, the sea-life, we’re not too sure at the moment. We’re working on that in a number of research programmes around the world.”

The co-ordinator for the Pacific Network on Globalisation, Maureen Penjueli, says the lack of understanding is a major concern as Cooks’ seabed legislation contains no reference to avoiding international harm.

She says the 2009 Seabed Minerals Act also has no provision for ‘precautionary principle’, where human activities could plausibly result in unacceptable harm.

MAUREEN PENJUELI: T”here was very little understanding about the potential impacts. There was an over emphasis on the potential economic benefits. So the legislations were set up under the broad narrative that seabed mining was considered small risk, very high return.”

Maureen Penjueli says it was drafted with no provision for the possible impact on tourism, fishing and black pearl farming.

MAUREEN PENJUELI: “When you consider that our economies are heavily dependent on the ocean – our people are heavily dependent on the ocean for livelihoods, food security – that’s quite problematic in terms of the current legislation.”

However, the country’s Seabed Minerals Authority commissioner Paul Lynch says ‘precautionary principle’ and environmental issues were front and centre to the original Act.

He says it was amended in 2015 and is under continual review with input from Ms Penjueli and PANG welcome.

PAUL LYNCH: “We’re very open to that but currently we’ve got the act out for review and we’re expecting that out to the community next year and into Parliament should there be any changes needed.”

But Mr Lynch says this year the Marae Moana Act was passed to provide an holistic umbrella to all aspects of the Cooks’ marine management.

He says it’s ground-breaking national legislation that has conservation as its main plank.

PAUL LYNCH: “With zoning for different users, like zoning for fishing, zoning for tourism, zoning for mining. Mining if it takes place in the future, it’s going to be quite contained and controlled based on a zoned management marine spatial plan.”

In zones beyond the Cook Islands in the north-east Pacific, mining projects are underway managed by the International Seabed Authority under the UN’s Law of the Sea.

The environmental organisation Te Ipukarea Society’s Kelvin Passfield says the Cooks should learn from these.

KELVIN PASSFIELD: ” I’d be inclined to wait and see what the environmental impacts outside of our EEZ were before allowing any mining within our EEZ. The Cooks can wait and see what happens in other jurisdictions or in the high-seas like the Clarion Clipperton Zone and determine what impacts there may be from them.”

PANG’S Maureen Penjueli agrees but points to Nautilus Minerals’ plans to mine Papua New Guinea’s Bismarck seabed.

MAUREEN PENJUELI: “If you simply take PNG as the case study, the Solwara 1 project, it is clear that impacts have already been felt. You don’t have to go into it to look at the impact, you can look at PNG.”

An annual report from the Canadian company shows both the environmental impacts and profits from the project are unknown.

In the Cooks, Texas based Ocean Minerals has 17 months left in its agreement to apply for manganese nodule prospecting and exploration licences but with weak global demand for rare earth minerals, the economics may not stack up.

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Pacific Islanders call for Australia not to fund Adani coalmine

The village of Eita in Kiribati in 2015. Residents of endangered Pacific islands want the Australian government to stop funding Adani’s Carmichael coalmine. Photograph: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

Caritas says thousands face threats to their wellbeing, livelihoods and ‘their very existence’ due to rising sea levels

Naaman Zhou | The Guardian | 31 October 2017 

Pacific Islanders whose homes face eradication by rising sea levels have called on Australia to not fund the Adani Carmichael coalmine, as a new report reveals the worsening impact of climate change across Oceania.

Residents of the endangered islands have described their forced displacement as like “having your heart ripped out of your chest” as they called on the Australian government to do more to combat climate change.

A report released by international aid group Caritas on Wednesday found that thousands of Pacific people across the region faced “threats to their wellbeing, livelihoods and, in some places, their very existence” due to rising sea levels, king tides and natural disasters brought about by climate change.

In Papua New Guinea, 2,000 households across 35 coastal communities were displaced by coastal erosion over the past year. In Samoa, 60% of the village of Solosolo was relocated to higher ground.

In the Torres Strait, 15 island communities were identified as at risk over the next 50 years.

The mayor of the Torres Straight Island regional council, Fred Gela, described the forcible removals as like having your heart ripped out “because you are told you’re not able to live on your land”.

Erietera Arama resident of Kiribati who works for the Department of Fisheries, said he decided to visit Australia to ask its government to take action.

“We talk about the Adani coalmine,” he said. “That’s a new one. I think it’s not a good idea – it makes the world worse for all of us. It is inconsiderate of other humans on this planet.

“We didn’t think of Australia as a country that would do that. We looked at it as our bigger brother. Proceeding with that new mine is a sad move. We live together in the environment but it’s like they are ignoring us.

“We’re two metres above sea level. With the sea level rise, most of our lands have been taken by coastal erosion. We love our country and we want our children to live there as well, hopefully forever. It’s hard to talk about leaving the place where you belong.”

According to the report’s authors, the impact of coastal erosion and flooding reached “severe” levels in 2016, upgraded from “high” the year before. Climate change also made it “increasingly difficult to maintain the health and integrity” of food and water sources. Water scarcity was deemed a “serious slow-onset problem throughout Oceania”.

In terms of natural disasters, a month’s worth of rain fell in 24 hours in New Caledonia in November 2016, killing nine people, while flash flooding in Fiji after Cyclone Winston forced 3,000 people into evacuation centres in December 2016.

In Fiji, the report found that certain types of fish were becoming poisonous, potentially as a result of farming contamination or seabed mining operations.

“Earlier this year four people died in the island of Gau from fish poisoning,” said Leo Nainoka from the country’s social empowerment education program.

Global sea levels are expected to rise 30cm by 2050 compared with a 20cm average rise over the 100 years before 2000. But in certain areas of the tropical western Pacific, sea level rise has been four times the global average due to El Nino and associated weather effects.

“Australia needs to make a stronger contribution to fight climate change and its impacts,” the report says. “To reach our emissions reductions targets, Australian policies need to rule out any major new fossil fuel projects or the expansion of existing ones, as this would be inherently incompatible with meeting our global climate commitments.”

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‘Indigenous peoples are the best guardians of world’s biodiversity’

UN Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a Kankanaey Igorot woman from the Philippines. Photograph: Pierre Suu/Getty Images for UNDP

Interview with UN Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz to mark the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

David Hill | The Guardian | 9 August 2017 

Today is the United Nations’ (UN) International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, numbering an estimated 370 million in 90 countries and speaking roughly 7,000 languages. To mark it, the Guardian interviews Kankanaey Igorot woman Victoria Tauli-Corpuz about the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which she calls “historic” and was adopted 10 years ago.

Tauli-Corpuz, from the Philippines, was Chair of the UN Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues when the Declaration was adopted, and is currently the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In this interview, conducted via email, she explains why the Declaration is so important, argues that governments are failing to implement it, and claims that the struggle for indigenous rights “surpasses” other great social movements of the past:

DH: Why is the UN Declaration so important?

VTC: [It’s] so important because it enshrines and affirms the inherent or pre-existing collective human rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the individual human rights of indigenous persons. It is a framework for justice and reconciliation between Indigenous Peoples and states, and applies international human rights standards to the specific historical, cultural, social and economic circumstances of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration is a standard-setting resolution of profound significance as it reflects a wide consensus at the global level on the minimum content of the rights of indigenous peoples. It is a remedial tool which addresses the need to overcome and repair the historical denial of the fundamental human rights of indigenous peoples, and affirms their equality to all other members of society.

DH: How significant an achievement was it?

VTC: In the 1970s Indigenous Peoples had brought to the UN’s attention the problems and issues they were facing, which led the UN to establish the Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1982. This was mandated to listen to the developments in indigenous territories and to draft a declaration on their rights. The drafting started in 1985 and Indigenous Peoples took an active part. When the Working Group finished its draft in 1995, it was brought to the Commission on Human Rights where the intergovernmental negotiations took place. On the first day, the Chair of the Intergovernmental Working Group told Indigenous Peoples that we weren’t allowed to speak at the negotiations – only to observe. We walked out, of course, because we could not accept and respect a declaration on our rights made without our participation. This led to a change in the UN rules and we were allowed to take part. It was during my term as Chair of the UN Permanent Forum that the Declaration was adopted. There was a real concern that [that would never happen], or that it would be watered down, but finally in September 2007 we were able to achieve this important victory.

DH: How has the Declaration helped indigenous peoples to date?

VTC: Its adoption has boosted the confidence and commitment of many Indigenous Peoples to sustain and strengthen their movements to assert and claim their rights, especially to their lands, territories, resources and self-determination, which includes the right to have their free, prior and informed consent obtained when projects are brought to their lands. I would daresay that Indigenous Peoples’ movements in many countries, regions and even the global movement gained more strength after the Declaration’s adoption. It has made Indigenous Peoples’ rights issues more visible and discussed during global processes, such as the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals. Unfortunately, even if the UN’s member states adopted the Declaration, most have not been able to implement it effectively. There has been limited progress. Many Indigenous Peoples are still being dispossessed of their lands by states and corporations, and are being criminalised and assassinated when they fight to protect their lands from being grabbed and polluted by mining and oil companies. The Declaration remains the main tool to fight these battles. In some cases, these battles are being won.

DH: When you talk about “implementation”, do you mean it being respected as a Declaration or made legally binding? Are there any countries where attempts to do the latter have made serious progress?

VTC: Implementation means that states will amend their constitutions and adopt a national law to protect and respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples which are consistent with the standards established in the Declaration. Effective implementation requires states to develop an ambitious program of reforms to remedy past and current injustices. It involves all branches of the state, executive, judiciary, and legislative, and implies a combination of political will, legal reform, technical capacity, and financial commitments. Several countries have taken the significant step of passing such laws or enshrining recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights in their constitutions, such as Bolivia, Brazil and Ecuador, among others. Brazil was an early leader in this regard and has titled over 100 million hectares of indigenous land, but we are now seeing this progress threatened by the current administration. Latin America has historically been the strongest with regard to recognising indigenous land rights – yet many countries now face potential roll-back. The Declaration doesn’t have to be made legally binding for it to be implemented effectively.

DH: Do you think the Declaration could be improved? Or is there anything in it you would be critical of?

VTC: No, I don’t think the Declaration has to be improved. It is not a perfect document, but it is the result of more than two decades of drafting and negotiating until Indigenous Peoples and states agreed that it was acceptable. Every article represents a response to some of the human rights violations and injustices suffered by Indigenous Peoples. . . We fought to be called “Indigenous Peoples”, a title that recognises us as distinct with our own identities and cultures. We fought for the inclusion of free, prior and informed consent. The biggest problem [with the Declaration] is a lack of implementation. Indigenous Peoples are still forced from their lands for development and conservation projects, and still face violence and criminalisation when they stand up for their rights.

DH: What did you think of the Pope’s comment earlier in the year saying indigenous peoples have the right to ‘prior and informed consent’? Were you surprised?

VTC: I was very glad to hear the Pope’s comments on the right to free, prior and informed consent and his recognition that our lands are vital to our identities, values and spirituality. His words inspire hope for Indigenous Peoples facing an uphill struggle. The Pope also recognised the importance of indigenous rights in the global struggle against climate change: when Indigenous Peoples’ rights to their lands are protected, they are the best guardians of the world’s forests and biodiversity. Studies show that where Indigenous Peoples have secure rights to their lands, carbon storage is higher and deforestation is lower.

DH: In your time as Rapporteur you’ve visited many countries and spoken to many indigenous peoples around the world. What has been the most distressing trip you’ve made so far?

VTC: Around the world, Indigenous Peoples face escalating attacks as well as arrests for refusing to give up the lands they have called home since time immemorial. Seeing evidence of this violence on my visits has been particularly distressing. When I visited indigenous communities in Brazil last year, they showed me the scars on their bodies from rubber bullets and the graves of their murdered leaders. I later found out that some of the communities I visited were attacked only hours after I left. I have seen evidence of this violence in many countries. In the last year alone I communicated my concerns to governments about these attacks in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Tanzania and the United States.

DH: And what has been your most inspiring trip?

VTC: What inspires me the most is the firm determination of indigenous peoples to fight for their rights. Also, their capacity to survive and their high levels of resilience in the face of great difficulties.

DH: You’ve mentioned some of the threats and challenges that indigenous peoples have to deal with. Very briefly, what do you think are the biggest threats?

VTC: I think the biggest threats are extractive industries, conservation projects and climate change. Many Indigenous Peoples live on resource-rich territory – in large part because they have protected and preserved that land for generations – making them prime targets for both extractive industries and protected areas. Despite the fact that the UN Declaration has been accepted as an international norm, international law still heavily privileges investors and companies. Also, as I found in my report to the [UN] General Assembly last year, protected areas are still being established on indigenous lands without their consent, even though Indigenous Peoples are the proven best guardians of the forest and forcing them from their lands does not improve environmental outcomes. Finally, Indigenous Peoples often live in areas at increased risk of climate change-related disasters. I have already heard from Indigenous Peoples in Kiribati whose homes have been lost to rising seas. Unfortunately, even the solutions to climate change, such as wind farms and geothermal energy, can sometimes threaten indigenous land rights. Where Indigenous Peoples’ rights are ignored, they face the loss of their lands, livelihoods, sacred sites and self-governance.

DH: What do you think of the mainstream media’s portrayal of indigenous peoples?

VTC: I think that there has been an increase in media coverage over the years. I’m glad to see less coverage that portrays us as primitive, but sometimes the media fails to capture the fact that we are not anti-development. We are also seeing more media coverage – but still not enough – on the contributions of Indigenous Peoples to global goals on climate, poverty and peace. If Indigenous Peoples’ rights are not secured and protected, it will be impossible for the world to deliver on the promises of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. Secure land rights for Indigenous Peoples is a proven climate change solution, and denying indigenous land rights and self-determination is a threat to the world’s remaining forests and biodiversity. It is also a primary cause of poverty. Many indigenous communities face intractable poverty despite living on resource-rich lands because their rights are not respected and their self-determined development is not supported. Protecting the rights of indigenous women, who are often responsible for both their communities’ food security and for managing their forests, is particularly important. Finally, undocumented land rights are a primary cause of conflict and a threat to investment in developing countries. Securing their rights can help mitigate these conflicts and create a more peaceful world.

DH: Finally, do you think the struggle for indigenous peoples’ rights and territories is comparable to any of the other great social movements in the past?

VTC: I think the Indigenous Peoples’ movement surpasses other social movements. They have struggled against colonisation for more than 500 years and continue against forms of colonisation and racism. At the same time, they continue to construct and reconstruct their communities and practice their cultural values of collectivity, solidarity with nature, and reciprocity even amidst serious challenges. Many still fight to protect their territories, which makes their movement different from others.

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Pacific Islands forum supports calls to phase out coal

Sikeli Qounadovu | The Fiji Times | October 19, 2017

THE Pacific Islands Development Forum fully supports the call by Canada and the UK to phase out coal.

PIDF secretary general Francois Martel urged other developed nations to unite and implement the transition from unabated coal fired electricity and support the Pacific call to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

“We congratulate Canada and the United Kingdom for championing a global alliance on coal-phase out and encourage other developed countries such as Australia to support this initiative,” he said.

“On one hand, we need to provide support to Pacific countries to ensure they can reach the targets set in the Paris Agreement, on the other hand, we need to pursue advocacy and engagement to ensure that what fell off the negotiations in Paris to achieve the main targets of 1.5 degree Celsius are now fully addressed.”

Mr Martel said much faster and decisive action was needed to phase out coal and prevent coal lock-in and the greater risk of stranded coal mining and coal power station assets and big amounts of already available stocks of coal.

“Urgency and high ambition for drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions need to remain the top priority on the agenda — financing adaptation by development partners should not be the fall-out position for paying lip-service to reducing emissions, nor does it follow the spirit and the letter of the Paris Agreement as ratified,” said the PIDF secretary general.

Canada strives to have 90 per cent of electricity from non-emitting sources by 2030.

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Samoa cautioned about experimental seabed mining

S.U.N.G.O. PRESIDENT: Roina Vavatau.

Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu  | Samoa Observer | 20 August 2017

Experimental deep-sea mining is on the agenda for a five-day National Focus Group Dialogue hosted by the Samoa Umbrella for Non-Governmental Organizations (S.U.N.G.O.) which starts today.

But S.U.N.G.O. President, Roina Vavatau, believes Samoa needs to proceed with caution.

During an interview with the Samoa Observer, the President of S.U.N.G.O said Samoa should not be easily enticed by the millions promised if they opt to support deep-sea mining activities. 

“The money is very attractive however we have to consider the social impact of deep sea mining on us,” she said. “This is our livelihood, everyone depends on the ocean and if this deal comes to pass, what is going to happen to us.” 

Mrs. Vavatau urges the public to come as one and voice the rejection of Samoa to be a part of deep-sea mining activities. 

“Although the P.A.C.E.R Plus has been signed… however unless a total of eight Pacific countries do not sign on, there is no deep sea mining in our oceans.”

To be held at Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi conventional centre, the meeting will focus on disability; climate change; Sustainable Development Goals; Land Act and Laws and Deep Sea Mining. 

“These topics will form the basis of dialogue throughout the week,” she said.

 “Experts in these identified areas have been invited to provide information and guidance throughout the week to ensure participants are well informed in the approach to formulate Position Papers and Action Plans that S.U.N.G.O. will advocate on behalf of Samoa’s Civil Societies.”

The President invited members of the public so they can be informed about the conversations around the topics.

 “There will be representatives from government agencies whose mandates deal with the issues discussed as stated earlier.” 

According to Mrs. Vavatau, their main goal is to afford the public the opportunity to gain knowledge of the said topics. 

“That way they can make informed decisions when they come across these issues.” 

Last year, a World Bank report recommended that Pacific Island countries supporting or considering deep-sea mining activities proceed with a high degree of caution to avoid irreversible damage to the ecosystem, and ensure that appropriate social and environmental safeguards are in place as part of strong governance arrangements for this emerging industry.

The report says that Deep sea exploration of minerals and resources is increasing across the globe, but its short and long-term impacts on the environment, economy and society in general remain largely unknown, according to the report, Pacific Possible: Precautionary Management of Deep Sea Mining Potential in Pacific Island Countries.

“Given the immense uncertainty, deep sea mining in Pacific Island countries should be approached with the highest degree of caution and transparency,” said Tijen Arin, Senior Environmental Economist and co-author of the paper. 

“Work in this space is already progressing in many countries, and progress has been made in legislation, but strengthening and increasing institutional capacity still remains a significant challenge and therefore we recommend stronger regional cooperation in this area.”

Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu have granted permits for deep-sea mining exploration, and the Cook Islands undertook a minerals exploration tender process. 

So far, Papua New Guinea is the only country in the Pacific region to have granted a license for ocean floor mining. 

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Catholic bishops praise ‘systematic and coordinated opposition to seabed mining’

Catholic Bishops: “Members of Parliament and local Governors and other civic authorities have a particular duty to promote long term economic and social development and to be vigilant in guarding against any attempts by international businesses to exploit our common resource”

Catholic Bishops Urge Care for Sea & People of West Papua

Federation of Catholic Bishops | Scoop NZ | 14 August 2017

The Executive Committee of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania (Australia, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, New Zealand, CEPAC – the rest of the Pacific) is currently meeting in Auckland, New Zealand. We come from a multitude of island nation States spread throughout the Pacific Ocean.

We are delighted to be here in Aotearoa New Zealand and have enjoyed greatly the beauty of its nature and the hospitality of the people. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to De La Salle College in South Auckland, the highlight of which was Mass for the entire school community. The boys’ enthusiastic participation in the liturgy uplifted our hearts. A further highlight was our presence at the City Mission on Friday evening where we served meals to the homeless, the mentally unwell and those suffering economic deprivation. This was a humbling experience during which we felt deeply Christ’s call to sit and walk alongside those who struggle or find themselves on the margins of society.

As Bishops of the Pacific, the place of the sea in the lives of the peoples we serve was a central focus of our meeting. Our common ocean is teeming with life and goodness. For many of our peoples the sea is their treasured source of nutrition, sustenance and livelihood. In solidarity with them, Psalm 107 resonates in our hearts: “those that do business in the great waters, they behold the world of the Lord and his wonders in the deep.”

We are acutely aware of the impact of climate change on island nations and some of our number have been visiting communities and recording the destruction of shorelines affecting them. On a happier note, we are heartened to learn of the systematic and coordinated opposition to seabed mining which turns the ocean floor into a stage of exploitative destruction of ocean habitats.

Our interest in the “Blue Economy” is to uphold a model of development that respects the fundamental importance of sustainability that looks way beyond any perceived short term economic windfall. Members of Parliament and local Governors and other civic authorities have a particular duty to promote long term economic and social development and to be vigilant in guarding against any attempts by international businesses to exploit our common resource. We applaud government, community and private initiatives to develop water ecotourism and sustainable sea fishing. We are not “anti-development”. We look to the common good and thus advocate for an integrated approach to development where local customary practices are respected and communities are assisted to grow employment opportunities.

A further focus has been the livelihood and cultural integrity of the people of West Papua. We do not promote a view in regard to independence. Indeed we believe that where this question becomes a single focus, care to uphold and strengthen local institutions of democracy may be overlooked. We echo the call for quality education in Papua, for fair and transparent access to jobs, training programmes and employment, for respect of land titles, and for clear boundaries between the role of defence and police forces and the role of commerce. The large majority of indigenous people of Papua seek peace and the various dialogue groups, advocating and witnessing to peaceful co-existence, are a source of hope for all.

Let us conclude with reference to Pope Francis’s inspiring encyclical Laudato Si which he opens with the beautiful canticle of Saint Francis of Assisi who also reminds our generation that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.

We look forward to our Plenary Assembly in Port Moresby in April next year to which is invited all the bishops of Oceania. Our theme will be – ‘Care of our Common Home of Oceania: A sea of possibilities’.

  • Archbishop Sir John Cardinal Ribat MSC (President), Archbishop of Port Moresby, PNG.
  • Bishop Robert McGuckin (Deputy President) Bishop of Toowoomba, Australia.
  • Archbishop Michel Calvet SM, Archbishop of Noumea, New Caledonia.
  • Bishop Colin Campbell, Bishop of Dunedin, New Zealand.
  • Bishop Charles Drennan, Bishop of Palmerston North, New Zealand.
  • Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, Australia.

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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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