Second major New Caledonia nickel mine closed by protesters

Protesters shut down SLN’s Tiebaghi mine in New Caledonia’s far north Photo: FB MGRK Ouémaolep Nouvelle-Caledonie

Radio New Zealand | 3 October 2018 

A second large nickel mine in New Caledonia has been blockaded, stopping about 200 people from going to work.

Activists of the Movement of Revolutionary Kanak Groups took the action at Tiebaghi which is a key nickel mine of the SLN company.

The group said it wanted next month’s independence referendum called off, land returned and indigenous rights recognised.

It also said it wanted to negotiate only with the French state, accusing it of pillaging the area’s wealth.

One of its leaders said the group was against the referendum because it wouldn’t guarantee independence, adding that no referendum was held to seize New Caledonia.

The shutdown of the Tiebaghi site in the far north of the main island follows the closure two months ago of the Kouaoua mining centre by a local group opposed to expanded mining.

Security forces have not intervened.

Protestors in New Caledonia’s north demanding independence from France Photo: FB MGRK Ouémaolep Nouvelle-Caledonie

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Nickel mining set to start on Solomons’ San Jorge island

Axiom drilling activity on Isabel Nickel Project.

Radio New Zealand | 6 October 2018 

Nickel mining is finally set to commence on San Jorge Island in Solomon Islands’ Isabel Province.

An Australian company, Axiom, this week announced that mining will begin in December.

It said the mine’s first nickel ore shipment was expected to be made in the first quarter of next year.

Axiom, which was granted a lease by the Solomons government last month, said it was close to finalising finance for its project.

According to the company, it is in “advanced stages of negotiations with a number of parties” who are potential partners in the mine.

On the back of Wednesday’s announcement, shares in Axiom Mining rose sharply on the Australian stock exchange.

Isabel is considered to possess one of the largest clusters of nickel laterite deposits in the Pacific.

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MP dispels claims for opposing miner in PNG’s Enga

A protest against Barrick Gold. Photo: Facebook/ Kelly Taila

Radio New Zealand | 5 October 2018

A Papua New Guinea MP says a group opposing a mining company’s presence in his district does not represent local landowners.

The Canadian company Barrick Gold is seeking to renew its licence at the Porgera mine in Enga, which it and Chinese miner ZiJin each own a 47.5 percent stake in.

The Justice Foundation for Porgera group, which claims to represent landowners, is urging the government to reject the licence application.

It said Barrick’s operations have caused great environmental damage and extensive human rights abuses.

However, Lagaip Porgera MP, Tomait Kapili said he believes the license will be renewed, but on improved equity terms.

“I’m ready to negotiate with Barrick and ZiJin on those funds, not to accuse them of this and that, and then tell them you’ve done enough damage, we take over the mine and all that.

“They have big investment in there, they are not going to move out. None of the allegations have been tested, except for the security guards’ harassment of ladies.”

Justice Foundation for Porgera’s chairman Jonathan Paraia said the mine had caused irreparable environmental damage and failed to deliver promised benefits for the community.

He said repeated rapes of local girls by Barrick’s security guards have also left a legacy.

“Over the years there are a lot of issues affecting landowners, caused by the company, and there is no remedy. It’s now thirty years. They want Barrick out of Porgera, or Papua New Guinea. They want the mine to operate but they want to change the ownership rights.”

But Mr Kapili said the Justice Foundation for Porgera group was falsely purporting to represent landowners, and had little grounds on which to oppose Barrick’s operaions.

Mr Kapili, who said the Porgera Landowners Association remained the legitimate local landowner representative body, predicted that Barrick’s license would be approved, but on improved terms.

“Improved terms to the landowners, the district Development Authority, the provincial government and the national government,” the MP said, adding that an increase in equity participation was the aim.

“We’ll need to amend the Mining Act to increase the 2 percent royalty up to about 10 percent.”

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Enga landowners want Canadian miner out of PNG

A protest against Barrick Gold. Photo: Facebook/ Kelly Taila

Radio New Zealand | 4 October 2018

Landowners are calling on Papua New Guinea’s government to reject an application for a renewed exploration permit for a Canadian miner.

Barrick Gold is seeking a renewal of its license at the Porgera gold mine in Enga province which it and Chinese miner ZiJin each own a 47.5 percent stake in.

The Justice Foundation for Porgera group represents most of the local landowner groups.

Its chairman Jonathan Paraia said the mine had caused irreparable environmental damage and failed to deliver promised benefits for the community.

He said repeated rapes of local girls by Barrick’s security guards have also left a legacy.

“Over the years there are a lot of issues affecting landowners, caused by the company, and there is no remedy. It’s now thirty years [that the mine has almost been in operation]. They want Barrick out of Porgera, or Papua New Guinea. They want the mine to operate but they want to change the ownership rights.”

The Mining Warden, Kopi Wapa, has been conducting hearings in Porgera as part of public consultations over the license application, before submitting his report to the Mining Advisory Council. The Council will subsequently make recommendations to the minister of mining on a final decision on this matter.

However, the Justice Foundation for Porgera group is concerned that Mr Wapa lacks impartiality in this matter, accusing him of being sponsored or compromised by Barrick.

“The Warden was on the podium surrounded by mining company employees, he gagged our legal counsel and tried to gag us,” Mr Paraia explained.

Mr Paraia said the landowners expected the warden to make a recommendation for Barrick to be refused approval for exploration, “because of overwhelming objection from the local community”.

“Because even if they issue the exploration license, physically the landowners will not allow them to explore in their areas.”

“This mine has turned us into mining refugees in our own land, we are subsistence people without land we cannot grow food to survive. People have died, women and girls have been gang raped, hundreds displaced on Barrick’s watch.”

Barrick has paid compensation for a number of the victims of its security guards’ abuses, however local groups have complained that there has been a lack of justice on many counts.

According to Mr Paraia, Enga’s provincial governor Sir Peter Ipatas had earlier indicated he supported the landowners in their opposition to Barrick.

The Special Mining Lease agreement which is the basis for any mining in Porgera is still valid until next year.

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Can a mega merger save Barrick Gold?

All is not glittering in the gold-mining industry where Barrick Gold has struggled, facing depleting reserves, opposition from environmentalists and human rights claims

Barrick Gold and Randgold join to form a mega-miner

 The Economist | September 27 2018

“THE gold sector is like a charade,” Mark Bristow proclaimed in 2016, deriding miners for having too much debt and too little discipline. Mr Bristow is nonetheless poised to become the industry’s most powerful man. On September 24th Barrick Gold, a giant miner, said it would pay $6bn for Randgold Resources, the firm Mr Bristow founded. If shareholders approve the deal, it would be the world’s biggest gold-mining company. Mr Bristow’s task, as chief executive of the combined entity, is to restore its gleam.

The industry as a whole is looking a bit grubby. As gold prices rose in the 2000s, many firms went on a spree, snapping up mediocre mines. When prices fell, they were left with debt and inferior projects. This year share prices for big miners have been stuck in the dirt even as the broader stockmarket has soared (see chart).

Barrick has struggled, too. Founded in Canada in 1983, it took on more debt as it mined for gold on five continents. John Thornton, its chairman, has in recent years worked to sell mines and strengthen the company’s balance-sheet. But Barrick still had $5.8bn in debt in July and a BBB credit rating from S&P, a ratings agency. It faces declining production, because reserves are being depleted and some far-flung investments are proving problematic. Work has halted on a large mine in the Andes, for example, in the face of opposition from environmentalists. Production has plunged in Tanzania, as the government demands a greater share of riches from mines in which Barrick has a majority stake.

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

Enter Mr Bristow, a geologist who likes to traverse Africa by motorbike. Investors widely admire Randgold. It is choosy about its mines, investing only in places with particularly rich deposits, and disciplined about costs, regardless of whether gold prices are high or low. Management is localised in the countries where Randgold operates—Mali, Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This has helped it succeed in an industry dogged by volatile prices and volatile governments, or “complex jurisdictions”, as the company calls them.

Barrick’s Mr Thornton, who will remain chairman, hopes Mr Bristow can apply his operational expertise to a global miner. For instance, Randgold excels at underground mining, which will be more important for Barrick but has not been its speciality to date—Barrick has mostly unearthed gold in vast open pits. Randgold also brings hard assets. The combined group would be a mega-miner, with five of the world’s ten biggest mines. Randgold’s cash flow would help service Barrick’s debt and support investments in America and the Dominican Republic.

Notwithstanding such benefits, shareholders may still oppose the deal. Barrick’s investors may balk at risks in Africa—the DRC, for instance, is changing its laws in order to take higher royalties from mining companies. Randgold’s investors may resent that Barrick is paying no premium for Randgold’s shares.

If the companies do combine, Mr Bristow must manage a much larger, more complex business than he has to date. He will have to show that the expertise he displayed in Africa is useful in developing Barrick’s mines in, say, Nevada. Time to test his Midas touch.

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Axiom says near supply agreement for Solomon Islands nickel mine

Axiom drilling activity on Isabel Nickel Project.

Melanie Burton | Reuters | October 3, 2018

Australia’s Axiom Mining on Wednesday said it was close to deciding on a partner to take nickel ore supplies from its mine in the Solomon Islands in exchange for finance.

Mining at the San Jorge project in the Pacific nation will start in December, with ore shipments expected to begin in the first quarter of next year, Axiom said in a statement.

The Solomon Islands approved a mining lease last month and ore loading facilities are currently being built, the firm said.

A previous mine finance arrangement with Gunvor Singapore, for A$5 million ($3.6 million) in funding and up to A$10 million towards mine construction, that was made in 2015 has now expired, Axiom said.

“With the recent grant of the mining lease there has been an increase of interest and demand from nickel ore consumers for Axiom’s San Jorge material,” it said.

The San Jorge mine is a nickel laterite ore deposit.

“Terms and conditions of proposed agreements continue to be refined and are in a final stage of negotiation,” Axiom said, without giving further detail. ($1 = 1.3953 Australian dollars)

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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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