Tag Archives: China

The High-Stakes Race For Bougainville’s Copper And Gold

Satellite imagery of the Panguna Mine located in the autonomous region of Bougainville in Papua New Gunea. GETTY IMAGES

Tim Treadgold | Forbes | November 27 2019

Fat profits are being made by speculators confident they can beat a Chinese takeover of one of the world’s great copper and gold deposits on the Pacific island of Bougainville even though it hasn’t produced a pound of metal in 30 years.

The once fabulous Panguna mine was closed in 1989 during a civil war which pitted locals, fighting as the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, against troops of the government of Papua New Guinea which claimed control of the island.

An estimated 20,000 people died from the fighting and disease in what ranks as the worst conflict in the South Pacific since World War Two.

An uneasy truce in 2001 formally ended the conflict but Bougainvilleans have continued to push for independence which is being tested in a two-question referendum which started this week and will end on December 7 with voters being asked whether they want complete independence or just greater autonomy from Papua New Guinea.

Strategic Location In The Pacific

Strategically placed to the north-east of Australia, Bougainville commands a large area of the South Pacific Ocean and is seen as a perfect location for China to extend its influence in the region.

The island’s population has closer demographic connections with the Solomon Islands than Papua New Guinea with a culture clash one of the civil war causes.

Another contentious point which help trigger the war was the Panguna mine operated by a subsidiary company of the Anglo-Australian mining giant, Rio Tinto.

In its peak years between 1972 and 1989, Panguna was producing an average of 175,000 tons of copper a year and 18 tons of gold, but the mining and ore-processing methods at the time where not environmentally friendly with heavily-polluted water running off the mine site.

Unfortunately for local residents Panguna was a critically important asset for the Papua New Guinea government accounting for an estimated 44% of national income, which is one reason why the government fought hard to keep the mine operating, a task which proved to be impossible in a war zone.

The promise of independence has sparked interest in the abandoned mine which is estimated to still contain one billion tonnes of ore, an attractive target but one which will be hard to mine, and even harder to process.

High Cost Of Restarting

The first challenge will be the need to mine a large amount of ore annually to compensate for the low grade of the raw material. A second challenge will be spending an estimated $5 billion on a new processing plant because the original has rusted away in Bougainville’s tropical weather.

But the cost of restarting Panguna might be worth it because a “gold equivalent” calculation, which is the combination of the value of copper and gold in the ore, produces a world-class estimate of 45.3 million ounces of gold equivalent (a mix of copper and gold).

Papua New Guinea soldiers guard the Panguna mine. January 26, 1990. (Photo by Miller/Fairfax Media)

It’s the large amount of unmined copper and gold which explains the race which has developed among rival companies seeking permission to redevelop Panguna with companies from Australia and China leading the way.

Interest in the mothballed mine reached a high point yesterday when two were asked by regulators from the Australian Stock Exchange why their share prices had risen rapidly over the past two weeks.

Shares On Fire

Bougainville Copper, a company in which the local government (known as the Autonomous Bougainville Government) has a 36.4% stake is up 200% over the past three weeks with a rise from 6.5 cents to 20c — though at one stage on Tuesday the stock hit a 10-year high of 33c, triggering an exchange “speeding” inquiry.

RTG Mining, another Australian-listed hopeful in the race for Panguna, also received a speeding inquiry when its shares rose by 37.5% to 7.5c. RTG has secured a development agreement over the mine with a local land owners association.

There is a long way to go before Panguna can be redeveloped, if at all, given the history of conflict and fractious nature of the local politics.

The result of the referendum will be a first step in the mine re-start process. Choosing a company acceptable to all Bougainvilleans to do the job will be next, followed by funding and then proving that the mine can operate profitably and in an environmentally acceptable way.

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Mining Hopes for Independence

An aerial view of the Panguna mine located in the autonomous region of Bougainville on July 20, 2015, in Papua New Guinea.(USGS/NASA LANDSAT/GETTY IMAGES)

A copper quarry helps fuel Bougainville’s hopes for separation from Papua New Guinea, a move that would resonate across the Pacific.

By Geoff Hiscock | U.S. News | July 1, 2019

THE Pacific island of Bougainville is moving a step closer to potential independence from Papua New Guinea as preparations begin for a long-promised referendum later this year.

Whether it can survive as a stand-alone nation is a key question for its 250,000 inhabitants, and for other separatist movements in the Pacific. The future course of the island could ripple across the region, as the question of Bougainville’s independence will touch on a complicated mixture of business concerns, environmental worries and geopolitical interests stretching from Australia and New Zealand to ChinaJapan and the United States.

It’s an outsized international role for Bougainville, which lies 900 kilometers (560 miles) east of the Papua New Guinea mainland. The roots of the referendum stem from a bitter inter-clan and separatist conflict that ran from 1988 to 1997, fighting that claimed between 10,000 and 20,000 lives through a combination of violence, disease, poverty and dislocation.

A truce brokered and maintained by regional neighbors that included Australia, New Zealand and Fiji helped restore order, and a comprehensive peace agreement was signed between Papua New Guinea and Bougainville in 2001. The island has had its own autonomous government since 2005.

Bougainville’s people are expected to vote decisively for independence in the Oct. 17 referendum, according to Jonathan Pryke, Pacific Islands program director at the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based policy think tank. The vote is not binding and any move toward independence will require agreement from the central government of Papua New Guinea, commonly referred to as PNG.

Most people hope the two sides can find a “Melanesian solution” that will deliver a workable form of autonomy for Bougainville, says Pryke, using the term that describes the region of the South Pacific that includes PNG, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and other island nations and territories.

James Marape, who took over as Papua New Guinea’s prime minister in late May, said on June 14 he would prefer Bougainville to remain part of a unified nation, but would listen to the people’s voice and then consult over future options.

Papua New Guinea’s new prime minister, James Marape, arrives at the house of Governor-General Bob Dadae to be sworn in as the new leader in Port Moresby on May 30, 2019.(GORETHY KENNETH/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Sydney, says the desire for independence in Bougainville remains strong, but from a regional perspective it will be best if the Bougainville people decided to stay in Papua New Guinea. “We don’t need another microstate emerging in the Pacific.”

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, who visited Bougainville on June 19 with PNG’s new minister for Bougainville Affairs, Sir Puka Temu, said Australia will work to ensure the integrity of the referendum and will not pass judgment on the result. Australia is by far the biggest aid donor in the Pacific region, giving $6.5 billion between 2011 and 2017, according to research last year by the Lowy Institute. Most of Australia’s aid goes to Papua New Guinea.

Scars Remain From a Civil War

The Bougainville conflict, in which rival clans on the island fought among themselves and with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, evolved from multiple issues, including land rights, customary ownership, “outsider” interference and migration, mineral resource exploitation, and perceived inequities and environmental damage associated with the rich Panguna copper mine.

Under the terms of the 2001 peace agreement, a vote on independence within 20 years was promised.

A reconciliation ceremony will be held on July 2 between the central PNG government, the national defence force, the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

Deep scars remain from the conflict, both physical and emotional. Much of the island’s public infrastructure remains in poor shape, educational opportunities are limited, and corruption is pervasive. Clan rivalry and suspicion persists, particularly in regard to land rights and resource development.

Since Panguna closed in May 1989, Bougainville’s people have led a life built around agriculture and fishing. The cocoa and copra industries ravaged by the war have been re-established, there is small-scale gold mining, and potential for hydroelectric power and a revived forestry industry. For now, a lack of accommodation inhibits tourism.

Copper Mine Underscores Doubts over Bougainville’s Economic Viability

Almost 40 years ago, Bougainville’s Panguna mine was the biggest contributor to Papua New Guinea’s export income and the largest open-cut in the world. But the mine, operated by BCL, a subsidiary of Conzinc Riotinto Australia (now Rio Tinto Ltd.), became a focal point for conflict over pollution, migrant workers, resource ownership and revenue sharing, and has been dormant since 1989.

Apart from any foreign aid it may receive, Bougainville’s future prosperity may well depend on whether it can restart the mine, which contains copper and gold worth an estimated $50 billion. But customary ownership claims – land used for generations by local communities without the need for legal title – remain unresolved and at least three mining groups are in contention, which means an early restart is unlikely. Jennings cautions against investing too much hope in Panguna, with remediation costs after 30 years of disuse likely to be high.

Likewise, Luke Fletcher, executive director of the Sydney-based Jubilee Australia Research Centre, which studies the social and environmental impacts of resources projects on Pacific communities, says reopening Panguna would be a long, expensive and difficult proposition. He says the challenge for any mine operator would be developing a project that is environmentally safe, yet still deliver an acceptable return to shareholders and to the government.

Bougainville’s leader, President John Momis, believes that large-scale mining offers the best chance for income generation and is keen both to revive Panguna and encourage other projects. That would require outside investment, which was a factor contributing to the outbreak of violence in the late 1980s. The local community perceived that it was not getting its fair share of Panguna’s wealth.

Rio Tinto gave up its share in BCL in 2016, and ownership now rests with the government of PNG and the Bougainville government, each with 36.4%. Independent shareholders own the remaining 27.2%.

At least two other groups are vying to operate Panguna. Sir Mel Togolo, the BCL chairman, told the company’s annual general meeting on May 2 that continued uncertainty about Panguna’s tenure remains a big challenge. “We will need to work cooperatively with all stakeholders to achieve our objective of bringing the Panguna mine back into production,” he said.

Regional, International Eyes on October Referendum

With doubts persisting about Bougainville’s economic viability if it cuts ties with the central government, the referendum outcome will be closely watched by other PNG provinces pushing for greater autonomy, such as East New Britain, New Ireland and Enga.

Across the region, some parts of neighboring Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands are agitating for their own separate identities. In the nearby French overseas territory of New Caledonia, voters rejected independence from France by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin in November 2018. European settlers were heavily in favor of staying part of France, while indigenous Kanak people overwhelmingly voted for independence.

At the international level, Australia will be keen to ensure that whatever the outcome of the Bougainville referendum, stability is maintained in Papua New Guinea, if only to counter China’s growing interest in offering aid and economic benefits as it builds a Pacific presence.

Along with Japan, New Zealand and the U.S., Australia has committed to a 10-year $1.7 billion electrification project in Papua New Guinea. Australia and the U.S. have agreed to help Papua New Guinea redevelop its Manus Island naval base, which sits 350 kilometers north of the mainland and commands key trade routes into the Pacific.

Jennings says Australia would be likely to give aid to an independent Bougainville to try to keep China at bay. “China is everywhere. Its destructive connections co-opt leaderships in a way that doesn’t work out well for people.”

From a strategic perspective, Jennings says it would be best if Melanesia looked to Australia as its main partner on matters of security.

While China gives most of its aid to PNG and Fiji, the region’s two biggest economies, Jubilee’s Fletcher says China giving aid to an independent Bougainville was “feasible.”

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Bougainville gets caught in China’s Pacific power game with West

Bougainville’s huge copper reserves and independence vote draw global interest

Fumi Matsumoto, Nikkei Asian Review | December 11, 2018

A small island has found itself caught in the escalating battle for influence in the South Pacific.

On both economic and diplomatic fronts, Papua New Guinea’s autonomous region of Bougainville has become a key piece in the game between Beijing, on one side, and the U.S. and its allies on the other.

With Bougainville holding one of the world’s largest untapped deposits of copper, Chinese and Western companies are weighing the prospects for reopening its Panguna copper mine — closed since a vicious civil war broke out in 1989. The island is also set to hold an independence referendum on June 15, potentially creating a new country that could vote in international forums such as the United Nations.

John Momis, president of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, told the Nikkei Asian Review that Chinese businesspeople raised the matter of investing in the mine on a visit to PNG ahead of last month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in the capital, Port Moresby.

Momis said he told them that, “Panguna is not an easy issue, and as far as ABG’s concerned we have decided to put it on the back burner until the referendum.”

The peace agreement signed by the PNG government and island leaders in 2001 created the ABG and set the stage for the referendum. Chinese involvement with the mine would give Beijing a direct role in the economic future of a newly independent nation as it seeks to secure resources and expand its strategic network. It would also boost China’s sway in its power game against the U.S. and regional rivals such as Australia.

But given its potential resources, the government in Port Moresby would be loath to lose the island, especially the Panguna mine. And while the referendum is not binding, blocking a secession backed by most of the local population might be a recipe for renewed unrest in the volatile country.

Diplomatic sources said 99% of residents will support independence; Ted Wolfers, a professor at Australia’s University of Wollongong, said the consensus is an “overwhelming majority” will vote that way. But he also suggested PNG would not let the island go easily.

“PNG’s government might talk the autonomous government into settling for greater autonomy that falls short of independence,” Takehiro Kurosaki, a junior associate professor at Japan’s Tokai University said.

The island, and particularly the mine, have a tangled present shadowed by a brutal past. The decade-long civil war that killed more than 20,000 people — about 10% of Bougainville’s population — was triggered by resentment over pollution and revenue distribution from mining. Bougainville was also a battlefield when Japan invaded the island during World War II in an attempt to cut off a sea-lane between the U.S. and Australia.

PNG desperately needs foreign currency. In September, the government issued its first dollar bonds and managed to raise $500 million — crucial funds as the country attempts to manage $2.5 billion in foreign debt, almost $590 million of which is owed to China, according to Reuters.

“Beijing’s trade and investment in the region is focused mostly on Papua New Guinea, the region’s largest economy and home to rich gold and nickel mines, liquefied natural gas, and timber forests,” the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission said in a report in June.

The report notes that state-owned China Metallurgical Group manages development of a $1.4 billion nickel and cobalt mine in PNG, with funding from the Export-Import Bank of China. This, the report says, is “China’s largest single investment in the region and its biggest foreign greenfield mining project.” About 40 Chinese companies operate in PNG, according to China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency.

Indeed, Beijing offered PNG about $60 million worth of aid to host the recent APEC forum, according to a diplomatic source. This included road repairs and a supply of bulletproof vehicles.

China currently has eight South Pacific countries in its corner, including PNG, while Taiwan has the recognition of six, such as the Solomon Islands. Chinese President Xi Jinping has made little secret of his desire to deepen Taiwan’s isolation; there is talk of the Solomons, where China has also opened up its checkbook, switching allegiances.

China’s outreach to the South Pacific has spurred Western allies to, belatedly, push back.

In the run-up to the APEC meeting, Australia and New Zealand — long the main benefactors for South Pacific nations — joined the U.S. and Japan in announcing a plan to build up PNG’s electricity infrastructure.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, in his speech at the APEC summit, announced a plan for U.S. cooperation in bolstering a naval base on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. In remarks clearly directed at China, Pence referred to recent naval exercises with India and Japan, and said: “We will work with these nations to protect sovereignty and maritime rights of the Pacific islands as well.”

For now, the island states find themselves in the enviable position of being courted by China, the U.S. and its allies all at once.

PNG has accepted a Chinese proposal to build an internet network using loans from the Chinese Ex-Im Bank and technological support from Huawei Technologies. PNG picked the Chinese proposal over one from the U.S. and Australia.

A similar story is being told across the South Pacific.

Vanuatu signed an agreement with China to take part in Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. In return, China agreed to a moratorium on nearly $3 million worth of debt, according to a local newspaper. In April, reports surfaced that China was planning to build a military base in Vanuatu. Alarmed by this, the U.S. and Australia swiftly moved to start talks with the island state on a bilateral security treaty.

The increased attention from partners, both old and new, means that Pacific nations “now have more leverage,” said Jonathan Pryke from the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank.

The issues of the mine and referendum puts Bougainville firmly in the spotlight. While the situation on the island is replete with risks, Panguna’s reserves are very attractive to China, the world’s largest copper consumer.

The deserted mine contains more than 1 billion tons of ore, according to a study from 2009 — more than the 675 million tons extracted over the 18 years it was open. These deposits look even more valuable given global concerns over copper supplies, due to emerging market demand, depletion of known resources, rising mining costs and limited new discoveries.

A number of companies are circling. A Lowy report said there has also been corporate interest in the mine from Australia, the U.S., Canada and Brazil.

Whoever wins out will be able to cement a foothold in the region, but it will come at a financial cost.

Professor Wolfers said interested parties would have to consider the startup costs of reopening the mine, which he sees reaching as much as $8 billion.

Bougainville’s President Momis said the island’s government was taking a cautious stance on the investment interest.

“We don’t believe anybody who comes and talks about these issues until we see things in concrete and on paper,” he said.

Nikkei staff writer Sarah Hilton in Tokyo and researcher Jennifer Walpole in Sydney contributed to this report.

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China takes baby steps in the bottom of the Mariana Trench

The chubby, fish-like Qianlong-2 submersible is lowered from its mother vessel prior to a dive in the Indian Ocean. Photo- Xinhua.jpg

According to China’s oceanic authority, the next step for the country’s deep-sea technology is developing and testing a drilling facility named Shenlong, plus a mining platform named Kunlong and an information-sharing system called Yunlong.

Asia Times | October 22, 2018

China is getting closer to exploring the bottom of the ocean after a research mission deep in the Mariana Trench, the largest crack in the Earth’s surface that is more than 10 kilometers deep in the Pacific Ocean.

China’s oceanic research vessel Tansuo-1 returned to its home port of Sanya in southern China’s Hainan province last week, wrapping up a 54-day, 7,292-nautical-mile deep-sea research mission.

During the mission a team of 59 researchers remotely piloted and grabbed some close-up looks into the Mariana Trench.

Researchers from the Institute of Deep-sea Science and Engineering at the Chinese Academy of Sciences tested deep-sea equipment for geophysics, marine geology, geochemistry and marine biology.

Deep sea exploration vessel the Tansuo-1. Photo: Xinhua

During the expedition, two 7,000-meter-class deep-sea gliders operated continuously for 46 days, making it the only abyss-class glider in the world proven to be able to work continuously for an extended period of time under the sea.

A magnesium seawater fuel cell carried out two tests as the world’s first new metal seawater fuel cell tested in the 10,000-meter abyss. In addition, researchers also used a remote-controlled robot to complete high-definition live-streaming 10,000 meters down near the bottom of the trench.

Earlier this year, Chinese media reported the development of underwater platforms to be launched after 2020 to take samples on the bottom of the South China Sea, as well as plans to probe the Mariana Trench.

The People’s Daily has reported that China’s most advanced manned submersible, the Jiaolong, or “flood dragon” in Mandarin, was undergoing a retrofit at the National Deep Sea Center in the eastern coastal city of Qingdao.

Its next dive will be in the deepest part of the South China Sea, a central basin with an average depth of five kilometers. The Jiaolong can dive up to seven kilometers deep.

The launch of the Jiaolong is a landmark in China’s deep-sea exploration as scientists will be able to reach the sea floor for a closer look and complete refined sampling missions.

China is also developing a manned submersible that can dive to 11km and withstand the immense pressure with its sea trial scheduled in 2021, to “scour the bottom of the 11,034-meter-deep Mariana Trench,” according to the People’s Daily.

In April last year, the Jiaolong finished three dives in the South China Sea. It normally carries three people, a pilot and two scientists.

A dive usually starts around 7am and takes 10 hours. The three people inside can only move in a round, cramped space that has a diameter of 1.4 meters, said Gao Xiang, a senior engineer at the center.

According to China’s oceanic authority, the next step for the country’s deep-sea technology is developing and testing a drilling facility named Shenlong, plus a mining platform named Kunlong and an information-sharing system called Yunlong.

This equipment is expected to be finalized in 2020 and put into the South China Sea sometime after that.

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As Gas Boom Falters in Papua New Guinea, China Steps In

A plant at the Exxon Mobil-led natural-gas project in Papua New Guinea. Government revenues from the $19 billion project, which began production in 2014, have fallen far short of estimates.

Faced with revenue crunch, country is relying on Chinese loans to develop ports, airports, roads and power stations; Beijing expands influence in Pacific

 Rob Taylor and Rachel Pannett | Wall Street Journal | August 11, 2018

When Papua New Guinea joined the ranks of the world’s significant energy exporters four years ago, the government was betting on a revenue windfall it hoped would transform the impoverished South Pacific nation better-known for jungles, violence and corruption.

But the payday from a $19 billion Exxon Mobil Corp. -led natural-gas project has so far been a trickle, crimped by a downturn in gas prices that allowed Exxon and its partners to claim losses against royalty payments.

To bridge the revenue gap and revive its slowing economy, Papua New Guinea has increasingly turned to China. The government now owes the state-owned Export-Import Bank of China close to $1.9 billion in low-cost loans for infrastructure and other construction projects, almost a quarter of its total debt. That has raised concerns the country’s growing indebtedness is allowing Beijing to further expand its influence in the Pacific.

China’s stamp on Papua New Guinea will be on show in November when Pacific Rim leaders, including President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping, gather in the capital, Port Moresby.

Delegates attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum will meet in a convention center built by Chinese workers and paid for with a Chinese grant. Official motorcades will travel on a six-lane boulevard constructed and financed by Chinese loans.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping in Beijing on June 21. Almost a quarter of the country’s debt is owed to the state-owned Export-Import Bank of China. PHOTO: POOL/GETTY IMAGES

“We took on APEC knowing it would be a massive challenge for such a small country,” said Charles Abel, Papua New Guinea’s treasurer and deputy prime minister. “It is a bold undertaking by our small country to introduce ourselves to the world.”

A former Australian colony of eight million, Papua New Guinea has long relied on foreign aid. The country has minimal infrastructure outside Port Moresby and companies typically negotiate terms with local landowners to gain access to resources—a knotty problem in a country with hundreds of ethnic groups.

The government has historically looked to Australia for assistance. The country, along with other APEC members, is also chipping in for the summit, covering about a third of the cost. Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said the country wants to be the “natural partner of choice” for Papua New Guinea and other Pacific countries.

But China’s presence is becoming much more visible. Chinese loans have helped redevelop a port and airport in the second largest city, Lae. In November, China promised to build $3.5 billion of roads, a commitment that if realized would make it the country’s biggest aid donor, according to the Sydney-based Lowy Institute’s Pacific program. It also imports natural gas from Papua New Guinea and has invested in nickel mines, power stations and other projects.

During a visit by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to Beijing in June, Papua New Guinea became the first Pacific country to sign up to China’s One Belt One Road, an initiative to build a global network of ports, railways, roads and pipelines. For Beijing, the program is a way to expand business and trade and extend strategic influence, in part by distributing loans.

Mr. Xi said during the visit that relations between the two countries had “entered a fast track, and political mutual trust and mutually beneficial cooperation have both reached a new level in history.” In July, Mr. O’Neill invited Pacific leaders to a meeting with Mr. Xi in Papua New Guinea ahead of APEC.

But China’s infrastructure push in the region has raised some alarms. A Chinese-financed building spree in Pakistan has been dogged by concerns about the country’s growing debt burden to Beijing. Sri Lanka’s government, unable to repay a Chinese loan for a port, last year granted a Chinese state company a 99-year lease on the facility.

The International Monetary Fund said Pacific nations including Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu have significant debts to China and face repayment pressures. Papua New Guinea is no exception.

“The speed and scale with which China is acquiring natural resources and amassing debt raise long-term concerns,” foreign-policy scholars Gabrielle Chefitz and Sam Parker wrote in a May paper for Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Standard & Poor’s in April lowered Papua New Guinea’s credit rating to B from B-plus, citing slower economic growth and expanding government deficits. It expects the ratio of government debt to gross domestic product to reach 40% by 2021 from 30% now.

Papua New Guinea’s Treasurer, Mr. Abel, said he has been closely following the loans offered by China to small Pacific nations. “There remains some concerns about the way that they do conduct business,” he said. “But in PNG’s case, we quite strictly manage our debt.”

A road damaged by a February earthquake near Mendi in Papua New Guinea’s highlands region. The earthquake killed more than 100 people. PHOTO: MELVIN LEVONGO/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said its assistance to Papua New Guinea and other Pacific Island nations has been welcomed by their governments. “China has provided assistance, especially assistance without any political conditions, to the Pacific Island nations, including Papua New Guinea,” the ministry said. “It is not targeting on any third party.”

Mr. Abel, speaking of the Exxon-led gas project, conceded that for the hundreds of millions the government paid for its stake — through a state-owned oil company — “we have not had the corresponding revenue growth.”

Before production began in 2014, the country’s Treasury department estimated the project would boost government revenue by roughly $600 million, or two billion Kina, a year through 2021, rising to more than $1 billion, or 3.5 billion Kina, a year between 2022 and 2030. Instead, as of September 2017, roughly $45 million in royalties and development levies had been paid, according to the IMF.

“When commodity prices are depressed like they have been for the last few years, revenues to all joint venture participants, including government, are reduced,” Exxon said in a statement.

The shortfall has weighed on the commodity-dependent economy. The IMF in a December report estimated GDP grew 2.2% in 2017, down from 2.4% in 2016, far below the government’s predictions a few years ago that the country would grow 21%.

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Taga: Volatile nature of mining impacts bauxite

The number of bauxite export cannot be estimated for 2017 because of volatile nature of the mining business, says director Mineral Development Dr Raijeli Taga. Picture: Luke Rawalai

Serafina Silaitoga | The Fiji Times | May 17, 2017

Director Mineral Development Dr Raijeli Taga said this resulted in one shipment being sent so far this year to China.

This, she said, was sent in March.

Despite this situation, Dr Taga said XINFA Aurum Exploration Fiji Ltd would continue with its mining operation to stockpile for later export when the commodity price improved.

“The number of bauxite export cannot be estimated for 2017 due to volatile nature of the mining business,” she said.

“Further exports will be purely a business decision of the tenement holder which will depend on the market price in terms of profitability and sustainability of their operations.

“If the export price is not feasible then the tenement holder would continue with the mining activity and export when the price is right.”

For last year, Dr Taga said the export declined because of low commodity price in China who was the primary buyers of Fijian bauxite.

“Since the bauxite from Fiji is not of premium grade, it has to compete with bauxite from countries such as Australia, Mongolia and Indonesia which are of superior grade,” she said.

“According to the quarter one update of 2017 from the Bauxite Index, the Chinese domestic alumina prices have fallen from recent highs in January, as supply was ramped up to take advantage of the higher prices.

“Subsequently, it assumed that the bauxite export would be very similar to 2016 unless the price improves.”

However, announcements, she said indicated that bauxite import would remain weak as China had suspended spot import for three months because of ample cheaper DOM (Days on Market) supply.

She said Beijing also announced plans for winter cuts

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Indigenous women speak out against extractive industries in the Amazon

amazon indigenous women

Land is Life

Yesterday at United Nations Headquarters, Alicia Cahuiya (Vice President of NAWE, the Waorani Nation of Ecuador) and Gloria Ushigua (President of Ashiñwaka, the Sápara Women’s association) from the Ecuadorian Amazon spoke out against the threats to Indigenous rights due to extractive industries in their lands and territories.

With support from Land is Life and Acción Ecológica, the two leaders traveled to New York for the 15th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. They are here to request a meeting with the Permanent Mission of China to the UN following the signing of two new oil projects between the Ecuadorian government and Chinese oil companies to explore oil reserves in their ancestral territories without their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).

“We are here to defend our rights because they are contaminating our lands and rivers… and the Ecuadorian government is not defending the rights of the Indigenous Peoples living in voluntary isolation, the Taromenane”
– Alicia Cahuiya, Vice President of NAWE

The Amazonian women were also joined in solidarity by Indigenous leaders from North America and Asia. “Our strength is the unity of the communities affected by extractive actions,” declared Beverly Longid of Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation.

Ms. Cahuiya and Ms. Ushigua read the letter to the Chinese Mission to the UN and are hoping to arrange a meeting in the coming days. They expect that United Nations system will listen to their voices and fully respect their rights.

The Amazonian women launched an emergency appeal from within the UN to seek international solidarity of all Indigenous Peoples, citizens and governments around the world to defend their traditional cultures and territories.

The letter to the Chinese Mission

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