Massive blue whale population found in NZ proposed seabed mining area

A baby blue whale filmed nursing off the Taranaki coast observed by Leigh Torres and her crew last year was likely a world-first.

A baby blue whale filmed nursing off the Taranaki coast observed by Leigh Torres and her crew last year was likely a world-first.

Jeremy Wilkinson | Stuff NZ | February 22 2017

Blue whales – the world’s largest animal – have been found in abundant numbers in a proposed seabed mining area in Taranaki. 

Marine mammal expert Leigh Torres made a presentation to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in Wellington on Wednesday on the results of a recent survey in the South Taranaki Bight, which found a blue whale population of at least 68. 

The EPA is meeting to hear arguments for and against an application from miner Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) to mine millions of tonnes of iron sands off the coast of Patea. TTRs first application was rejected in 2014.

Torres, a professor from Oregon State University professor who has carried out research in Taranaki waters in collaboration with the Department of Conservation, said seabed mining will have a severe impact on the whale population in the area.  

“The likely impacts of seabed mining are increased noise in the area, which could seriously affect the whales and their primary prey which is krill,” she said. 

“The mining will be noisy and whales’ hearing is crucial to them, they rely more on it than they do eyesight.

“But it’s the sediment created from uplifting the sand that could affect the krill which would in turn affect the whales feeding.”

Torres and her team observed 68 individual whales over 32 sightings during nine days this year, more than twice the number of whales they observed last year when they captured world-first footage of a calf feeding from its mother. 

Torres said that whales are generally seen by the scientific community as being migratory animals, but her study so far indicates that the population they’ve been following have made South Taranaki their home.

“All we really know for certain at this stage is that the South Taranaki Bight is very important to this population,” she said. 

“We’ve observed them surface-feeding but we also hear them through hydrophones calling to each other almost daily. So we know they’re there a lot of the time.”

Torres said the team had identified mating calls from males which indicated the whales were staying around to breed.

Although TTR has offered certain mitigation strategies to protect the whales, such as deploying its own hydrophones to monitor the population, Torres said it wasn’t enough.

“The evidence I’ve presented at the hearing supports the argument of the opposition to the mining,” she said. 

“But my own personal opinion is that the mining is not worth the risk to the whales.”

Oil and gas activities have operated with the Taranaki region for decades as New Zealand’s only oil-producing basin, but Torres feared the effects of adding mining to the mix could do cumulative damage. 

This is Trans Tasman Resource’s second application to the EPA to mine more than 50 million tonnes of iron-laden sand per year from a 66 square kilometre area off the coast of Patea. 

The company’s application was rejected in 2014 amid concerns of a lack of knowledge as to the environmental effects of their proposal. 

When they applied last year the EPA saw a record number of submissions flood in against the proposal – more than 17,000 – in an effort spearheaded by New Zealand anti-mining group Kiwis Against Seabed Mining. 

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Exxon Mobil to continue operations at LNG site

Aerial view of the LNG processing site

Jacklyn Sirias | The National aka The Loggers Times | February 21, 2017

EXXONMOBIL PNG will continue operations despite the protest by landowners against the Government over royalty payments, according to a spokesperson.

Landowners from the four impacted villages – Papa, Lealea, Boera and Porebada – gathered in front of the LNG site yesterday, blocked the gate and main road.

They want the Government to pay the royalties due to them.

Spokesperson Chief Nao Nao claimed that they had not been paid royalties since May 2014.

A spokesperson for ExxonMobil said their primary concern was the safety of their staff and the community.

“We are monitoring the peaceful protest outside the LNG plant in Central and continue to engage with the relevant landowner groups,” the spokesperson said.

“We are continuing to do everything we can to facilitate communication between all parties.

“We respect the right of individuals to peacefully protest. But we also encourage continued dialogue between landowners and the government to resolve their outstanding issues.

“We hope the landowners and the Government can resolve this situation promptly and in an amicable manner.”

Meanwhile, Central police were monitoring the protest yesterday.

Central Police Commander Chief Inspector Laimo Asi said he had already warned the chiefs and leaders of the villages to control their people.

He said they would be held responsible if anything went wrong.

“If anything goes wrong, the leaders will be held responsible. I’ve already warned them,” Asi said.

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Police say LNG protests illegal

PNG police have no respect for people's right to protest

Exxon-Mobil says it respects people’s right to protest – unlike PNG police who love to label any attempt at free speech as “illegal”

Freddy Mou | Loop PNG | February 20, 2017

Provincial Police Commander for Central Province, Superintendent, Laimo Asi has condemned the protest by landowners of portion 152 at the PNG LNG plant site today.

Asi said there is no approval given by authorities to stage the protest.

The PPC, who was at the site this morning told Loop PNG that he had warned landowners not to cause any damage to the plant site but to allow the operation to continue as normal.

He had advised them that the protest was illegal and while the landowners have been reluctant to back off, they promised to do it peacefully.

Asi said his men are on the ground to protect facilities and to ensure the protest does not turn rowdy.

As of the writing of this report, landowners have not taken any action except the sit in protest with placards under the heat of the sun.

The villagers are from Boera, Porebada, Rearea and Papa.

They claimed that the government hasn’t paid their royalties since the first shipment of the LNG in May 2014.

They are demanding the government to look into this and provide answers to their demands.

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Tikina Namosi Landowners respond to NJV mining claims

A drill pad site. Photo: Namosi Joint Venture

Namosi Joint Venture exploration drill site

Tikina Namosi Landowners respond to the Chairman of the Fijian Parliamentary Select Committee on Natural Resource in relation to Namosi Joint Venture Director Mr Greg Morris’ claims on his presentation to the Standing Committee…

“Warm Greetings Mr Cawaki,

“At the outset, I wish to congratulate you on the tremendous work you are doing in assisting the Fijian People in these times.

“Vinaka saka vakalevu.

“I read with dismay the presentation given by Mr. Greg Morris yesterday as part of their presentation to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Natural Resources

“I write as Chairman of the Tikina Namosi Landowners Committee TNLC, wishing to highlight some of the issues needed also to be raised by Namosi Joint Venture NJV on but failed to do so. These are most important to us Fijian as we live in a very small island state called Fiji and wishing to commence with a massive open cut copper and Gold Mine very similar to OK Tedi in PNG. NJV has been smiling when it is explaining the economic benefit to the Country and not the Shareholders who will get more and the employing of 2000 people as part of its workforce, although I wish to highlight some of the issues from the Landowners perspectives and these are:

  1. Has NJV highlighted the environmental damages it has caused to our land the last 10 years of exploration in Namosi?
  2. Has NJV mentioned the vast area covered which if you look at the mine plan, anyone would be quick to establish that to have the first pit with a size of 180 rugby field and with 2 pits you will know that there will be migration of people;
  3. Has NJV mentioned of a third pit which is not mentioned in the Mine plan although we understand its where its gold deposit are concentrated,
  4. Has NJV mentioned that to show the third Pit, Government will automatically disallow the Mine License,
  5. Has NJV mentioned of a cost benefit analysis after mining has finished.
  6. Who pays for these costs?
  7. Is it sustainable to have a massive copper/gold mine in the smallest province in Fiji;
  8. In terms of migration, where will our people settled,,,,,,, Serua?
  9. What happen to the Heritage Act, the Museum Act, the Archeological and Paleontologist Act.- How can they identify with us?
  10. What’s the use of the Baseline Studies and where is the report now?
  11. What happens to provinces such as Serua, Naitasiri, Rewa and Tailevu if spillages does occur?
  12. Who will pay for the social implication after mining?
  13. What is the use of taking the lead in Climate Change stance as part of the COP 21, 22 and our taking Chairmanship in COP 23?
  14. When our ecosystem is damaged, who will feed us when all living organism are dead through chemical use,
  15. Has NJV mentioned that the Suva/Nausori populations are drinking from the Waimanu River that flows from Wainivalelevu from Namosi?
  16. How does the LOU benefit from this mine?
  17. How sustainable is the waste storage DAM or Tailing Dam. Who pays for the spillage downstream if an Earthquake or any disastrous weather phenomenon does occur?

“Sir the list goes on and on. The money is good for the Country on a short term benefit but the damage caused cannot be put the pristine environment back again. It will whisper to your ear and say…..moce qi sa la.

“As members of the Fiji First Party and government, we understand that we are following government road map to sustainable development and to have a project that is unsustainable will be against your road map.

“We need fresh air, fresh water, fresh crops and vegetation for our survival, so to mine Namosi is taking away what the almighty has given us to enjoy.

“I hope the TNLC’s humble plea will be taken on board and that serious and honest consideration in that Namosi should not be mined as it will cause more to the people and government after mining has taken place.

“What we do in our lives will determined our destiny to the next life whether it be good or bad, we will answer to the almighty or how justifiable we are.

“Vinaka saka vakalevu.

Josefa Rauto Waqavatu Tauleka

Chairman TNLC

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Filed under Environmental impact, Fiji, Financial returns, Human rights, Mine construction

Protesters angry about unpaid royalties picket LNG plant near Port Moresby

lng-protest-2

‘Pay our royalties!!!’ is the call from protesters picketing PNG LNG.

Eric Tlozek | ABC News | 20 February 2017

Villagers in Papua New Guinea are blockading the country’s biggest resources project because the government has not paid them long overdue royalties.

Hundreds of people who live near the PNG liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant outside Port Moresby have gathered around the main gate in an attempt to block access.

The PNG Government is yet to pay royalties from the $25 billion project, because of disputes about the identification of landowners from the gas fields and pipeline in the country’s highlands.

An attempt at alternative dispute resolution has stalled and the matter remains in court.

But a spokesman for the Port Moresby landowners, Chief Nao Nao, said that should not stop the government paying people from other areas.

PHOTO: Police were nearby but the action is being described as a "peaceful protest". (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

PHOTO: Police were nearby but the action is being described as a “peaceful protest”. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

“The people are very frustrated today,” he said.

“They are unhappy with when they haven’t been receiving this royalty until today. So they are all here to show their pleas to the government: can you make an effort to pay us?”

Another spokesman for the protesters, Solo Damena, said the Port Moresby group believed they were being taken for granted because they had not threatened violence, unlike other aggrieved landowners.

The fact is, they’re really, really upset,” he said.

“We’re not going to move until we get paid.”

This is the second major protest affecting the LNG project.

Landowners from the gas fields in Hela Province blockaded the entrance to the conditioning plant at Hides in August 2016 over the non-payment of royalties and fears they would miss out on promised equity in the project.

PHOTO: The protesters want no ifs, ands or buts about their royalties. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

PHOTO: The protesters want no ifs, ands or buts about their royalties. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

Papua New Guinea’s LNG’s operator ExxonMobil issued a statement saying the protest had not affected operations at the plant.

“ExxonMobil PNG is monitoring the peaceful protest outside the LNG plant in Central Province and continuing to engage with the relevant landowner groups,” the statement said.

“Our primary concern is the safety of our staff and the community. While this is a matter between the landowners and the government, we are continuing to do everything we can to facilitate communication between all parties.

“We respect the right of individuals to peacefully protest, but we also encourage continued dialogue between landowners and the government to resolve their outstanding issues.

“We hope that landowners and the government can resolve this situation promptly and in an amicable manner.”

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Large-scale mining not PNG culture driving the spread of HIV/Aids

A recent mining boom has financially advantaged local and travelling men, who are driving an increase of sexual concurrency, transactional sex and inflation of bride price payments.

A recent mining boom has financially advantaged local and travelling men, who are driving an increase of sexual concurrency, transactional sex and inflation of bride price payments.

‘Good culture, bad culture’: polygyny, cultural change and structural drivers of HIV in Papua New Guinea

Patti Shih, Heather Worth, Joanne Travaglia & Angela Kelly-Hanku | 16 February 2017

Culture is often problematised as a key structural driver of HIV transmission in Papua New Guinea. Official HIV programmes, as well as church teachings, tend to focus on customary marital practices of polygyny and bride price payments as ‘harmful traditions’. This focus can oversimplify the effects of current and historical nuances of cultural, political and economic change on sexual concurrency and gender inequality.

Community-based healthcare workers in Southern Highlands Province explain that customary marital practices are now highly reconfigured from their traditional forms. A recent mining boom has financially advantaged local and travelling men, who are driving an increase of sexual concurrency, transactional sex and inflation of bride price payments.

Healthcare workers suggest that the erosion of important social relationships and kinship obligations by the expanding cash economy has caused an intensification of individual male power while enhancing the vulnerability of women. Yet without the means to challenge the effects of uneven economic development, healthcare workers are left to target ‘culture’ as the central influence on individual behaviours.

A commitment to address structural inequality by political leadership and in HIV prevention programmes and a careful contextualisation of cultural change is needed.

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Frieda river mining companies involved in internal war

The Chinese are fighting to get three Highlands Pacific directors off the PanAust board

The Chinese are fighting to get three Highlands Pacific directors, including Chairman Ken MacDonald off the PanAust board

Australian mining company Highlands Pacific is involved in a war with Chinese state-owned Guangdong Rising Assets Management (GRAM), over the future of the Frieda River mine. Highlands Pacific owns 20% of the proposed Frieda River mine through the joint venture company, PanAust. The Chinese own 80%.

Highlands Pacific has accused the Chinese of failing to complete the Frieda River mine feasibility study to the required standard. GRAM has responded by trying to throw three Highlands Pacific executives off the PanAust board… none of which bodes well for the future of the mine or the people of the Sepik…

HPL members asked to resign

Post Courier | February 17, 2017

REQUESTS by PanAust to Highlands Pacific Limited(HPL) for the resignation of three of its board directors have not gone down well. PanAust made the demand, in a notice it issued to HPL also seeking a special meeting be convened. PanAust, is a subsidiary of Chinese state-owned-enterprise, Guangdong Rising Assets Management Co Ltd (GRAM). PanAust holds 13.9 percent of HPL, and is a joint venture partner in the proposed Frieda River project.

The appointees PanAust is seeking to remove are Highlands Pacific’s Ken MacDonald (chairman), Ron Douglas (director), Mike Carroll and Dan Wood (independent director) and they be replaced with three nominees from GRAM. However, HPL on Tuesday had urged its shareholders, no action, stating it to be the strong view of the company that the replacement of four of the existing five non-executive board members with the PanAust nominees would not be in the interests of the other shareholders, who number over 7,500.

HPL said the PanAust proposal effectively would amount to a takeover of HPL without offering to acquire any shares, let alone with an appropriate premium.

“It is clear that a PanAust-dominated board would be at risk of operating in the interests of GRAM, rather than in the interests of all of our shareholders,” Mr MacDonald said.

“It is important for shareholders to be aware that HPL is currently in dispute with PanAust regarding the funding and methods of progressing the Frieda River project.

“HPL remains of the view that the PanAust approach to the project is suboptimal, and we have been urging it to adopt a different course of development that would generate better returns and reduced risks for our 7,500 shareholders.

“It also is our view that PanAust has failed to complete the Frieda River feasibility study to the standard required under the joint venture agreement,” Mr MacDonald said.

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