Second Phase Of Ramu Investigation To Be Done, Says Environment Minister

Melisha Yafoi | Post Courier | January 15, 2020

Minister for Environment and Conservation Wera Mori says they will leave no stone unturned with regards to the Basamuk slurry spillage last year.

He said they will be conducting more studies along the coastline in Madang to ensure that there is no environmental damage done following this slurry spill from the Ramu nickle and cobalt project.

He said they will be looking into all the drainage system into the Astrolabe Bay as far as Matukar on the North Coast all the way to Saidor in Rai Coast district of Madang province.

“We will also do strategic fishing right across the island up to Karkar and back and we will do a thematic mapping to show the distribution of the fish so we can contrast back to the permits,” he said.

“For the second phase, as soon as we get the funding for from Treasury we will roll it out but we want to do it this month.”

Mr Mori said CEPA is done with the reconnaissance stage.

“Now that we know what we want to arrive at, the next program will be designed to achieve that outcome and that’s what’s going to happen in the second phase.”

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Barrick Gold forges ahead on Papua New Guinea mine in face of local backlash

Jeff Lewis and Melanie Burton | Reuters | January 15, 2020

Barrick Gold Corp is set to elevate its troubled Papua New Guinea mine to its top-tier assets, despite landowner and government demands to cede a larger stake and deteriorating security at the joint venture with China’s Zijin Mining

With a 20-year lease renewal application in the balance, Barrick has faced backlash from Papua New Guinea (PNG) landowners and residents. Critics say the Porgera mine has polluted the water supply and created other environmental and social problems, with minimal economic returns for locals.

Seven people have died at the Porgera mine since September, including three so-called illegal miners last month in clashes that prompted Barrick’s local entity to appeal for government intervention.

Barrick hopes to boost the mine’s production by 18% or more. This previously unreported outlook raises the stakes for Prime Minister James Marape’s government, which has been seeking richer terms from miners and oil and gas producers.

The head of the country’s mining regulator said Barrick, the world’s No. 2 gold miner, is waiting to begin serious negotiations for permit renewal terms with the country’s executive council, led by Marape.

“If we can renew the permit on a reasonable basis, it stands up as a tier one asset,” Barrick Chief Executive Officer Mark Bristow told Reuters, referring to a large scale, long-life, high margin deposit.

PNG’s next steps with Barrick could influence billions of dollars of planned investment by global miners including Australia’s Newcrest Mining and St Barbara, who are eyeing new mines or mine extensions, but are wary of rising sovereign risk.

Miners, facing a dearth of new deposits and rising resource nationalism, may now have to cede greater rewards to other stakeholders.

“There will have to be equitable sharing of the spoils or these things won’t be developed or will be discontinued, ultimately,” said portfolio manager Simon Mawhinney, at Allan Gray in Sydney who is among Newcrest’s biggest investors.

Barrick’s tier-one designation, used describe a mine capable of producing 500,000 ounces of gold annually for at least 10 years at low cost, would place Porgera in league with Barrick’s crown jewel assets at a time major gold miners are desperate to replace shrinking reserves.

Barrick and Zijin’s combined 2018 production at Porgera was around 421,500 ounces.

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

An exposed pipe that Barrick uses to dump its tailing into the environment at Porgera in Papua New Guinea and people desperate for an income pan for residual gold in the waste, seen in a photograph from 2017. Photo by Catherine Coumans

Barrick has broadened the role of its top China executive and former U.S. diplomat Woo Lee to handle day-to-day talks with the PNG government. It has pledged to relocate villagers whose land the mine has swallowed and study ways to improve management of mine waste currently dumped in rivers, Bristow said.

The moves, aimed at mollifying concerns over access to arable land and pollution of local waterways, may not be enough to satisfy landowners and the PNG government who want a larger equity stake.

Barrick and Zijin each own 47.5% of the mine, with the remaining 5% held by landowner group, Mineral Resources Enga.

Analysts have said Barrick could opt to put its stake on the block with other assets it has shed to meet a $1.5 billion divestment target. But Bristow played down a potential sale, saying Porgera fits Barrick’s investment criteria.

“It makes real returns, it creates value, it can survive the cyclicality of the gold industry and will make a significant contribution to our other stakeholders,” he said.

Barrick’s top executive has shown he is willing to make concessions to settle disputes. In October, Barrick agreed to sell Tanzania a 16% stake in each of its Bulyanhulu, North Mara and Buzwagi mines to resolve a long-running fight over taxes.

The Canadian miner may face added pressure to confront issues in PNG that run afoul of investor benchmarks on environmental, social and governance issues.

Citi, for example, has pledged not to support mining companies who use riverine tailings disposal which an NGO said in a 2019 report had polluted the rivers and denied locals reliable drinking sources.

Maso Mangape of the Porgera Land Owners Association said local residents had been squeezed out. “The mine site has now become a battlefield,” he said.

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Mori Reassures That Madang Waters Are Safe

Melisha Yafoi | Post Courier | January 15, 2020

Residents of Madang Province, especially those living along the coastline, can now eat fish and use the sea.

Minister for Environment and Conservation Wera Mori yesterday gave the clearance following an investigation done by the office of Conservation and Environment Protection Authority.

He said the waters are safe for use as elements tested were below detection limit. This was after the slurry spillage which has occurred in August last year.

Mr Mori said CEPA is contrasting and comparing the preliminary results of their investigation to the baseline studies that has been done in the past and will give what will be the allowable permits that was granted by environment and conservation for the operations of Ramu nickle project.

He said the reconnaissance has been done and the sampling has been taken especially on the quality of water, immediately around Basamuk as well as areas into the bay have shown that most of the results are below the detection limit.

“The elements that were tested included arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel, selenium, silver and zinc.

The results returned showed that all of them were below what was allowable in the permits,” he said.

“Being a nickel mine, you would expect a very high elevated reading of nickel. What was allowed under the permit was 1000 parts per million of nickel,” he said.

“However, the test in the water quality taken in December taken by the independent team showed that it returned a range of results ranging from 0.5 parts per million to 17.2 parts per million which is far less than the expected permits allowable under the operations of the nickel mine.”

Mr Mori said the fish in the waters of Madang are safe and urged the people of people of Madang to go back and live their normal lives.

He said another part of the investigation will be looking at fish tissues however for fish tissues people must be able to understand and appreciate that the environment of which those marine organisms especially fish caught around waters concerned are located around an area of high geo tectonic activities.

“We are expected to find elevated readings of some of the elements that we know and are being testing but we are going to contrast that back once again to the allowable limits which are specified in the permits that were done before the permitting of the mine,” Mr Mori said.

“These results when ready will come in place and we will inform the people through parliament for the next month.”

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Justice Cannings starts human rights proceedings on Madang fish ban

The ban on fish sales was imposed after a spill at the MCC owned Basamuk refinery

The National aka The Loggers Times | January 13, 2020

MADANG resident judge Justice David Cannings has started a human rights proceeding on his own initiative to inquire into the fish ban in the province.

He summoned the provincial administrator and the managing director of the National Fisheries Authority to appear in the National Court on Jan 31.

This is to determine who imposed the ban, under what law it was imposed, were there any proven scientific reasons for continuing the ban, and will any person’s human rights be infringed by the continuation of the ban.

He said the purpose of the inquiry was to determine the validity of the ban and whether to lift the ban to restore normalcy in the survival routine of the coastal people of Madang.

People living in the coastal areas of Madang who rely on the sea for income and food are being affected by the ban imposed by the provincial government last October.

The provincial government banned the harvesting, selling, purchasing and production of marine resources from the waters of Madang after a reported slurry spill on Aug 24 at the Ramu NiCo Basamuk Refinery.

The provincial fisheries authority on Oct 16 declared the waters around the province and the fish safe.

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Official: Minerals not yielding for PNG

 

The National aka The Loggers Times | January 13, 2020

A SENIOR official says Papua New Guinea has missed out on a lot of the potential benefits that should have flowed to the State from mineral revenue.

Secretary for Department of Mineral Policy and Geoharazd Management Harry Kore said this was unfair.

“Assessments and comparative analysis of other countries of similar standing as PNG has demonstrated that PNG has missed out on a lot of the potential benefits that should have flowed to the State,” he said.

“Our people need to understand these facts.

“The numbers don’t lie.”

Making reference to Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) 2017 Report, Kore said information on the EITI report was “very valid”.

“The diagram of the percentage of the benefit, a mere seven per cent is a major paradigm shift in PNG’s perception of the benefits we’ve been deriving from the extractive sector over the years,” he said.

“This just does not equate to a fair share.

“We have always thought the extractive sector was the major contributor to the economy, which is very true with the volume of export (86 per cent); but when you look at the EITI Report, only a mere seven per cent out of the total is Government revenue.

“The figures per se of the actual kina value may seem quite significant but it is the percentage contribution against these other measures that is our focus to ascertain whether we are getting value for the minerals exported.”

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MRA Updates On Porgera Mine Lease Application and Wafi-Golpu

Melisha Yafoi | Post Courier | January 7, 2020

Application for a Special Mining Lease for the Porgera gold mine is still in progress.

Mineral Resources Authority managing director Jerry Garry told the Post-Courier that the state is progressing the determination of the application which expired on August 16, 2019.

Mr Garry said during that process there will be two major streams of activities including the negotiations of the Mining development contract and recommendations from the Mining Advisory Council.

He said for the Mining development contract, the State Negotiation Team, (SNT) will recommence negotiations with the mine operators Barrick & Zinjin upon receiving directives from the NEC.

“This process will principally discuss fiscal regimes and other stability agreements in terms of taxes, royalties, equity, national content and other benefits teams,” he said.

While for the recommendations, he said this will be administered by the MRA whereby the technical and financial capabilities of the operator and compensation agreement pertaining to the extension application will be presented before special MAC for its deliberations and recommendations, either for refusal or grant to the Mining Minister & ultimately to NEC.

“We anticipate conclusion of the permitting, if, all goes well without any disruptions to the process, within first or second quarter of 2020,” he said.

Mr Garry said the permitting of Wafi-Golpu project after being halted due to a court injunction order was relieved preventing everyone from doing any work.

He said the injunction remains on foot and will SML application be dealt with only when the court injunction is resolved.

“Whenever the court injunction is relived, the MRA will formalise the remaining landowner associations along the pipeline and tailings outfall, and continue to hold development forum to develop the memorandum of agreements and compensation agreements with landowner associations, LLG and provincial government.

Concurrently, the SNT will re-open Mining Development Contract negotiations with the project development proponents, Harmony and Newcrest,” he said.

“It is anticipated that SML permitting may take 4-6 months from the date when the court injunction order is lifted.”

Mr Garry said as for the Revised Mining Act, whenever the Revised Mining Act is passed by the Parliament, the MRA will re-align itself to meet the new changes.

He said the Prime Minister has urged another consultation with the industry during the December 2019 PNG Mining Conference and the Department of Mineral Policy & Geohazard Management will be coordinating this process.

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Panguna Landowners Question Mining Law Changes

Post Courier | January 6, 2020

The Panguna landowners have called for consultation ahead of renewed push to amend Bougainville’s Mining Laws. In a recent interview with Reuters, Bougainville vice-president and Mining Minister Raymond Masono said, in reference to his determination to push through with highly controversial amendment of mining legislation at all costs, that “the revolution is ongoing”.

Philip Miriori, the chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (“SMLOLA”) said; “There has been no consultation by the Mining Department with landowners post the rejection of amending legislation by the Bougainville Parliamentary legislative committee – none.”

“This legislation is opposed by each and every Panguna Landowner Association, local government bodies and all sections of the community. It will be a disaster for the mining industry in Bougainville and will ensure Panguna is never reopened.”

“Both the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the national government want Panguna to be reopened, so that it can reduce the dependency of Bougainville on the PNG national budget and enable us to deliver fiscal self-reliance for all Bougainvilleans,”

Lawrence Daveona said, “The Panguna landowners have written to Prime Minister James Marape, drawing his attention to this offensive and destructive attack on all Bougainville landowner’s hard-won legal rights being removed with the stroke of the pen, to allow the illegal transfer of the Panguna mine together with a near monopoly over all future large scale mining on Bougainville, to an unknown shelf company in the British Virgin Islands, based on a plan which can never work. PNG knows better than we do that, we must attract high quality foreign investment to grow and that means bringing in reputable development partners and allowing them to work with us to make Panguna and Bougainville a success.”

“This is the time for us all to pull together on the back of a very successful and peaceful Referendum. The revolution is done – a proposal like this will only create disharmony again and pit customary landowners against the mining department which is not necessary – we are here to work together co-operatively, to find a fair and equitable solution for everyone.”

The SMLOLA was established by the Autonomous Bougainville Government September 7 2011 with its Constitution being drafted by the ABG Mining Department.

The SMLOLA was established uniquely for and on behalf of all the customary landowners who own land contained within the area covered by the special mining lease at Panguna and now the subject of the expired EL 01, including the land used for the Panguna gold and copper mine pit, industrial processing areas, Panguna township and the areas around the mine within the area contained in EL 01.

The stated purposes of the SMLOLA pursuant to its Constitution is set out in detail in clauses 1.2 (a) – (h), and includes amongst other things, the duty to maximise the commercial benefits of their members in the Panguna Mine and promote peace, unity and co-operation amongst landowners in a sustainable manner.

The customary landowners and their families are members of the SMLOLA by right of birth within the 7 named villages, in accordance with the Naisoi custom, and as set out in clause 2.1.1(a) of the SMLOLA constitution.

The SMLOLA has in excess of 3,500 members.

The governing body of the SMLOLA is democratically elected every three years as required by clause 4.3.3 of the constitution, by the members so that its structure and board is truly representative of the owners. The current board was elected on 21 December 2018.

Section 8 of the Bougainville Mining Act states that “all minerals existing on, in or below the surface of customary land in Bougainville are the property of the owners of the customary land.

This is exactly the same as our unwritten customary law on minerals ownership that has been in effect for millennia.

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