Ok Tedi Mine Landowners Get Share Certificates

Post Courier | April 17, 2018

The people of Western Province finally own 33 percent of the giant Ok Tedi Copper Mine following the handover of equity share certificates by Ok Tedi Mining Limited Board Chairman Sir Moi Avei to Governor Taboi Awi Yoto yesterday in Kiunga.

“OTML is now a third owned by the people of Western Province,” Sir Moi told a large gathering of locals and invited guests in front of the grand Cassowary hotel.

“We have heard so much about this 33 percent. Is it every going to happen? The board in its wisdom made a decision that the only way to move this share transfer is loan MRDC K30million to pay for the stamp duty. Governor the stamp duty has been paid. OTML is now one third owned by the people of Western Province,” Sir Moi Avei told the excited crowds.

He also said this ensures that politics cannot interfere now because they own more than thirty percent of the mine.
Western Governor Taboi Yoto said in the past we were told that we own 63 percent but we do not have direct control of the funds.

“We have direct control of the 33 percent and that’s the difference,” Mr Taboi Yoto said.

According to the Governor out of the 33 percent, 12 percent is owned by CMCA communities through their board, the mine villages own 8.4 percent and the Fly River Provincial Government owns 12.6 percent.

“For the government with the four MPs, the PEC members and the LLG presidents, we will decide how we will use the money for development purposes.

“I thank the government of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill for this.”

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Harvard Environmental Law Review Calls For Precautionary Approach to Seabed Mining

Harvard Environmental Law Review Calls For Precautionary New Legal Standards

Post Courier | April 17, 2018

Today, the Harvard Environmental Law Review published an article entitled, “Broadening Common Heritage: Addressing Gaps in the Deep Sea Mining Regulatory Regime.” The article provides a new perspective on the incipient global industry of seabed mining, heralded as the next extractive frontier despite growing concerns and opposition from civil society, scientific experts, and indigenous groups worldwide.

“Deep sea mining has been framed by proponents as a lucrative mineral windfall with minimal impacts,” says author Julie Hunter, attorney and Clinic Fellow at the University of British Columbia. “This narrative entirely disregards recent scientific information linking the deep seabed with major climate regulation and biodiversity functions. Destroying these ecosystems before more can be learned about them not only risks major health and fisheries impacts – it could completely upend global climate change efforts.”

The article provides a brief overview of the so-called ‘gold-rush’ for seabed minerals, in which countries and companies have scrambled to buy up licenses for seabed exploration covering millions of square kilometers of ocean, before environmental and regulatory standards have even been drafted. With Japan becoming the first country to successfully mine its deep seabed in 2017, and Canadian company Nautilus Minerals scheduled to begin the world’s first commercial operation in Papua New Guinea’s waters in 2019, deep sea mining is rapidly becoming a reality.

However, the risks of operating in an unknown environment less documented than Mars are starting to become apparent. In 2016, a consortium of scientists and oceanographers released a study detailing the critical carbon sequestration functions of deep sea hydrothermal vents and methane seeps. Combined with other studies establishing irreversible impacts from seabed mining, these findings trigger a body of protective environmental and human rights law, including the precautionary principle and the need to obtain free, prior, and informed consent from indigenous and other affected peoples.

“Pacific Islanders have already suffered negative consequences as a result of mere exploratory mining in the region,” says author Julian Aguon, attorney and founder of Blue Ocean Law—a law firm that works throughout the Pacific region to defend and advance the rights of colonized and indigenous peoples. “Our work has documented impacts to fisheries and traditional customs in coastal communities in Papua New Guinea, Tonga and elsewhere, and the disconcerting absence of true and meaningful consultation with affected groups.”

Other acknowledged impacts of deep sea mining include contamination of the water column and fisheries by tailings and heavy metals, species extinction, coral reef acidification, carbon emissions from onshore mineral processing, and increased risk of oil spills and surface accidents, among others.

Given the unique biodiversity, genetic, and biomedical properties of deep sea ecosystems, not to mention their potentially critical role in climate regulation, the so-called “common heritage” of the seabed extends far beyond the value of its minerals. “It would be tragically ironic if, in our rush to obtain minerals for use in green tech and renewable energies, we end up bulldozing the most important climate regulator of our planet,” says Hunter. “That possibility alone merits a cautious approach.”

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Taranaki iron sand seabed mining consent reduced Māori interest to lip service, court told

Ngati Ruanui iwi went to Parliament to voice its protest against the Trans-Tasman Resources’ plans to mine iron sand off the Taranaki coast. (File photo: Monique Ford)

Stuff | April 16 2018

Māori interests were not properly considered in the decision to allow iron sand seabed mining off Taranaki, a court has been told.

They went to the High Court at Wellington on Monday seeking to overturn environmental permission for the project.

A lawyer for Māori and fishing interests, Francis Cooke, QC, said as far as they were aware this was a world first for deep sea iron sand mining to be allowed to be undertaken.

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 Ford)

The permission, though, had split the Environmental Protection Authority decision making committee, and the outcome depended on the chairman’s vote.

Cooke said the majority decision of the committee had reduced to an “interpretive gloss” the strongly-worded direction to take into account the interests of Māori, and give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Instead the interests of Māori could be said to be reduced to lip service, he said.

The highest concentration of suspended sediment would occur in coastal marine area offshore from the Ngāti Ruanui district, and fish were expected to avoid the area, with severe effect on seabed life within 2km of the operation, and moderate effects up to 15km of the mining area.

Cooke said an earlier decision for the same activity, the same parties, in the same area had been declined, on different evidence. One of the later committee’s alleged errors was not taking into account the first decision to decline the application.

Even the committee that gave consent described some of the effects as perhaps being catastrophic from Trans-Tasman Resources’ mining, Cooke said.

The company has allegedly spent about $80 million preparing for the mining.

The decision making committee said that when extraction finally ended the effects would be long term, but not permanent.

Cooke said the committee appeared to have applied a standard that allowed the environment to be harmed provided it ultimately recovered.

It had misunderstood, and misapplied the law, he said. The committee never identified the standard against which it judged the environmental effect.

At the start of Monday’s hearing some members of the public could not find seats in the crowded courtroom and had to listen to proceedings via a link to a court foyer.

In August, the authority’s committee granted Trans-Tasman Resources 35-year marine and discharge consents to annually mine up to 50 million tonnes of iron sand in the South Taranaki Bight.

A remote-controlled dredge will vacuum sand from the sea bed between depths of 20 metres and 42m, at a rate of 8000 tonnes an hour, to a processing ship. The dredging is earmarked in an area 22 kilometres to 36km off the coastline from Patea.

The decision committee said the company proposed extracting seabed material and processing it on a vessel. Approximately 10 per cent of the material would be processed into iron ore concentrate and the rest would be discharged to the seabed. It was expected much of the concentrate would be sent to China for steel making.

Taranaki iwi, Greenpeace, Kiwis Against Seabed Mining, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, the Taranaki-Whanganui Conservation Board, Cloudy Bay Clams, the Federation of Commercial Fishermen, Southern Inshore Fisheries Management Company, Talleys Group, Te Ohu Kai Moana Trustee Ltd, and Trustees of Te Kaahui o Rauru, have appealed against the authority’s approval.

Trans-Tasman Resources is supporting the committee’s decision.

The hearing is expected to take about a week.

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Mining interests ‘stalling’ SA plans to protect more of the ocean

Ocean scientists say Marine Protected Areas not only protect fish from over-exploitation, but can also help to slow the effects of climate change. Photo: Steve Benjamin

A global ocean protection group has expressed concern that plans to fast-track the expansion of Marine Protected Areas off the South African coast appear to have stalled. 

Tony Carnie |  Daily Maverick | 16 April 2018

Plans to enlarge South Africa’s protected ocean reserve network have come to a halt, allegedly due to pressure from the oil, gas and extractive mining sector.

This is the claim from Ocean Unite, a Washington DC based global ocean protection group headed by former University of Cape Town international environmental law graduate Karen Sack.

Sack, co-author of a 2013 scientific report which urged the United Nations to establish a new Department for Oceans and a new Interpol-style navy to police the high seas, has voiced disappointment that plans to fast-track the expansion of Marine Protected Areas(MPAs) off the South African coast appear to have stalled.

Sack said only 0.4% of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) currently enjoyed legal protection. In 2014 the government had announced plans to expand this area of protected seas to 5% by 2016, increasing to a total of 10% by 2020.

Unfortunately, this process has stalled with stakeholders raising concerns that this hiatus is owing to undue influence from the extractive mining sector which is seen as one of the main drivers for unlocking South Africa’s Ocean Economy”.

Sack did not identify any mining companies by name, but said it was significant that the Department of Energy had placed 98% of South Africa’s EEZ under acreage lease for oil and gas exploration or production rights, and there was also talk of new mining opportunities for phosphate extraction and other seabed minerals.

Encouragingly, the drive to achieve a 10% (and more) MPA target appears well supported at the most senior levels in Department of Environmental Affairs and aligns with South Africa’s National Development Plan outcomes and international commitments at the United Nations. South Africa has recently assumed the role of Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and there is a timely opportunity for South Africa to lead the way to establishing MPA expansion as a key blue economy ocean governance goal within the African region.

Marine parks are about more than just a haven for the species that live in them. These national parks at sea are critical climate change fighting tools and help support food security. The ocean is a massive carbon sink and science is now demonstrating that marine reserves slow the effects of climate change, rebuild biodiversity, and help build resilience. Governments can affirm their international commitments to combating climate change, securing jobs and food through the creation of marine reserves,” Sack said in a statement.

The Department of Energy has not responded to requests for comment on Sack’s claims about “undue influence” from mining interests.

However, former Ezemvelo KZN Wldlife senior marine scientist Dr Jean Harris said South African marine protection strategy currently ranked poorly compared to other nations.

When South Africa’s current Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) were surveyed alongside 39 developed countries they ranked 34th out of 40, with 0.4% current marine protection, compared to an average of 11.2% for the other countries. When South Africa was surveyed together with 129 developing countries it ranked 90th out of 130 – an average of 5.8% compared to South Africa’s measly 0.4%,” said Dr Harris, who now heads the WildOceans programme of the Wildlands Conservation Trust.

She added that “0.4% is hopelessly inadequate to maintain sustainable benefits in a growing ocean economy. A minimum target agreed to as a global standard is 10% marine protection, with South Africa committing to achieving this by 2020.

As an interim step, the Department of Environmental Affairs published intention to gazette 22 new/expanded MPAs to achieve a 5% target. This will also see benefits to fisheries, including protection of nursery and spawning areas, resource recovery and the management of essential fish habitat.”

By contrast, several other developing nations had announced much more ambitious MPA targets over the past year.

For example, she said, Brazil announced plans in March to create four new MPAs covering an area of more than 900,000 km2 – larger than France, England, Belgium, Netherlands and Switzerland combined.

In 2017, Mexico announced it would protect nearly 92,000 km2 of the ocean from fishing and resource extraction, while Chile had announced plans to protect over 1 million km2 of Chilean waters – more than 40% of its seas.

This Latin American ocean protection leadership follows clear science that shows the importance of these national parks at sea to build resilience as well as revitalise the abundance and diversity of marine fish stocks.”

Closer to home, Harris said the Seychelles had also announced plans to protect 210,000 km2 of ocean and set a further goal of setting aside 16% of its waters for marine protection.

South Africa currently has a network of 24 coastal MPAs, covering only 0.4% of the continental EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), and one sub-Antarctic MPA (Marion/Prince Edward Islands).

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Kiwis Against Seabed Mining promises to take case to Supreme Court if necessary

KASM chairwoman Cindy Baxter says the previous government’s support for the iron sands project was “very clear’ to the Environmental Protection Agency. Photo: Pullar-Strecker

Tom Pullar-Strecker | Stuff | April 16 2018

One of the lobby groups fighting a decision to approve iron sands mining off the Taranaki coast says it is prepared to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in August approved an application by miner Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) to dredge a billion tonnes of iron sands from the South Taranaki Bight, in a split decision that swung on committee chairman Alick Shaw’s casting vote.

A total of 11 groups with environmental, fishing and Maori interests are appealing the decision at the High Court in Wellington. They are concerned about issues such as the plume from waste material that will be returned to the seabed.

Some have also warned the project would set a precedent for seabed mining elsewhere in New Zealand waters and beyond. 

Cindy Baxter, chairwoman of Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) – speaking outside the High Court before proceedings began –  said it was very clear the former National government supported the mining venture. 

She believed that had not been lost on the EPA, which is an independent body.

“The Government changed the legislation to make it easier for it to get through and Callaghan Innovation suddenly gave TTR a big grant when it wasn’t even a New Zealand company,” she said.

The 66 square kilometres off the South Taranaki coast (shown in dark green) where Trans Tasman Resources has applied to mine iron ore.

“This is a company that brought 35 per cent of its shares across from Holland three weeks before its application so it could claim it was a Kiwi company.”

Baxter said she couldn’t say whether the EPA was influenced by the former government’s support for the venture. But “it certainly got that message” and the process it had gone through to approve the mining application was flawed, she said.

Even so, two of the commissioners still voted to reject the mining application, issuing a “strongly dissenting opinion”, she noted.

Baxter said she believed the new government was trying to be “hands off” and was waiting for the outcome of the court challenge.

“I think they are letting the legal process go through. They don’t really want to talk to us about it at the moment – although certainly the Green Party does.”   

Baxter said KASM was prepared to take the court challenge as far as it needed to.

“If we have to, we will take it to the Supreme Court. This is a precedent-setting case. 

“It is the first seabed mining application that has been approved in New Zealand and it would open the flood gates for others around the country.” 

Opponents of the Taranaki iron sands project gather outside the High Court. Photo: Pullar-Strecker

TTR has been contacted for comment. It has previously said the Taranaki Iron Sands project would be “a sustainable and world leading development” that would have little environmental effect and directly employ 463 people, generating about $7 million of royalties for the Crown.

Baxter said seabed mining was basically new internationally, though diamond giant De Beers has vacuumed diamonds from 6000 square kilometres of sea floor off the coast of Namibia.

There are proposals to mine a large area about 500 miles south-east of Hawaii called the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone which Japanese scientists are reported to estimate contains up to 100 billion metric tons of rare-earth deposits.

Southern Cross Cable, which has surveyed a route for a new internet cable between New Zealand, Australia and the United States, has been re-surveying its route to avoid that mining zone.

Greenpeace campaigner Michael Smith said the South Taranaki Bight was a “vital ecosystem” that was home to endangered blue whales and Maui dolphins.

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Bougainville president elaborates on ‘No’ to mining

Radio New Zealand | 17 April 2018

The President of the autonomous Papua New Guinea region of Bougainville has elaborated on why his government is saying no to mining at Panguna for the foreseable future.

Panguna was the site of the Bougainville Copper Ltd mine which was at the crux of the ten year long civil war.

In recent years there has been a push to have it re-opened to help drive the Bougainville economy forward.

Two companies, Bougainville Copper Ltd and RTG have been battling for the rights to mine Panguna but last week the government announced an indefinite moratorium on mining there.

Don Wiseman asked Bougainville President John Momis why they had taken such action.

JOHN MOMIS: Because landowners themselves are split. One faction supporting another company in developing the mine and another faction supports another company. So we don’t want to cause a split amongst the landowners because we have a referendum coming. We want to make sure we unite our people.

DON WISEMAN: Yes, although the landowners you say are supporting another company – that’s the Osikaiang group and they are right at the site of the current mine so as far, I think, as they are concerned, they are the landowners at that point, therefore they are ones that make that decision.

JM: Not really. Titleholders have rejected their claim. They have said they are not the legitimate titleholders, this Osikaiang group. Titleholders, according to law, are people who are supporting another company. So there is a definite divide and until the people are united we will not proceed with any mining.

DW: So in the meantime, in terms of trying to orchestrate some sort of unity, is the ABG going to do anything? Are you going to undertake anything, or leave it up to the landowner groups themselves?

JM: No, no we have taken steps to unite them. For us you know determining Bougainville’s future is more paramount right now. It is the priority we are focussing our attention to, to make sure that the people of Bougainville are united, so we don’t want any other issues to undermine this unity.

DW: Essentially it is off the radar until after the referendum?

JM: That’s probably it. I can’t see how the landowners can unite before the referendum. If they do then that will be good and we will look at other possibilities.

DW: The ABG of course is in an invidious position because you are a significant owner of Bougainville Copper Ltd, which is this other company you talk of. If the landowners agreed and they wanted to go with RTG, the second of those companies, would you, the ABG, accept that?

JM: We have some problems with RTG right now. In fact they are causing a lot of confusion and division in the community and we are not prepared to go ahead while this situation prevails.

DW: One of the reasons for this focus on Panguna had been to get the economy cranking ahead of the referendum, if that was possible. So if the effort is now going in a different direction is there going to be this focus that’s been talked about up to now but I am not sure how much has been done, in terms of agriculture and tourism and fishing.

JM: We cannot sacrifice unity for the sake of even generating revenue at this point in time. We have the referendum coming and it’s going to be very high on our priority list, so we have made it very clear to the landowners that unless they are totally united and they are prepared to subject themselves to the rule of law and so on and so forth, the ABG will leave the reserve [moratorium] in place.

DW: But in terms of these other industries is any effort going into those?

JM: We are looking at timber development and other industries, yes.  

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Amendments Made To Ok Tedi Agreement

Post Courier | April 16, 2018

PARLIAMENT has made amendments to the Ok Tedi Agreement to allow the company access to US$35 million (K116m) to sustain its operations and growth.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, who introduced the Ok Tedi Continuation, Ninth Supplemental Agreement Act in Parliament last week, said Ok Tedi Mine Limited is obliged to establish a reserve account to be kept in US dollars in an account approved by the company and the State.

He said to meet that purpose a fund (referred to as the financial assurance fund, or FAF, was established. The sole purpose of the FAF is to ensure funds are set aside to meet the mine closure obligations.

“On a regular basis (every four years from the time it was first done in 2009), Ok Tedi Mining Limited reviews the mine closure liability, with such review being independently audited, and submitted to the MRA and CEPA for approval,” Mr O’Neill said

He said the most recent review and audit was completed in 2017 with the approved mine closure estimate being $196 million.

He said the FAF currently has a balance of approximately US$231 million and is therefore over funded by approximately US$35 million.

“OTML, operating as a commercial entity, has high value opportunities to better use those funds for sustainment and growth investments in the business, and would like the ability to withdraw excess funds subject to approval by the State.”

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