Tag Archives: Environmental damage

PNG puts Barrick, Zijin on notice over Porgera gold mine negotiations

Communities living around Papua New Guinea’s Porgera gold mine lack enough access to clean water to meet their basic needs. Photo: Columbia University

Government stake in Porgera mine won’t solve the appalling human rights and environmental abuses.

Jonathan Barrett and Mell Chun | Reuters | August 19, 2019

Papua New Guinea plans to take a larger share of the Porgera gold mine as part of lease-renewal talks, diluting the ownership of joint venture partners Barrick Gold Corp and Zijin Mining Group, the country’s commerce minister told Reuters on Monday.

The planned changes are part of a push by the South Pacific archipelago to transform its economy under new government leadership amid a perceived lack of benefits flowing from resources projects back to communities.

Porgera, located in PNG’s northern highlands region, is expected to produce 240,000 to 260,000 ounces of gold this year. Barrick and Zijin each own 47.5% of the mine, with the remaining 5% held by landowner group, Mineral Resources Enga.

PNG’s Minister for Commerce and Industry, Wera Mori, said a portion of Barrick and Zijin’s stakes would be given to the national and provincial governments and to landowners.

“We would like to see the mine to continue, but this time to be structured in such a way with a lot more national interest in it,” Mori told Reuters in an interview in Sydney.

The final figure to be held by Barrick and Zijin would be determined during on-going negotiations over a requested 20-year extension to the lease, he said.

“It will decrease correspondingly, like if the state picks up say 30% or 40%,” said Mori.

Barrick and Zijin were not immediately available for comment. In early August, Barrick Chief Executive Mark Bristow said in a statement that there needed to be a “partnership approach” over the future of the mine.

The Porgera lease recently expired, although the operators are allowed to keep producing during lease-renewal negotiations.

Papua New Guinea land-owners have raised concerns over what they say are negative social, environmental and economic impacts from the mine. Negotiations with the project operators have been complicated by a split among the landowners.

GOLD RUSH

PNG was the world’s 14th largest gold producer in 2018, according to the World Gold Council.

Mori, who was standing in for PNG’s new prime minister, James Marape, at an investor forum in Sydney, said the resources-rich nation was developing policies to keep more of the commodities it produces to improve its economy.

“We are in the process of developing the framework to retain at least 30% of our gold that we export every year,” Mori told the forum early on Monday.

Proposed changes to the country’s mining laws are expected to be presented to PNG’s parliament in the coming weeks, capturing all new projects.

Mori said that PNG would also consider pegging its currency, the kina, to gold, rather than the U.S. dollar.

PNG’s central bank currently fixes its currency to a narrow U.S. dollar band, propping up the kina’s value while creating a shortage of dollars available in the Pacific nation.

Marape, the former finance minister who became PNG’s new leader in May after winning a vote in parliament, has put some of the world’s biggest resources companies on notice over how profits are shared from the country’s resource riches.

He said he wanted to turn PNG into the “richest black nation” on earth over the next decade.

This includes sending a team to renegotiate its Papua LNG agreement with French oil major Total SA.

Gerea Aopi, PNG country director at Papua LNG partner Oil Search, told the forum that the sector required certainty.

“I think the industries both in oil and gas and mining have indicated that we don’t object to the changes that are going to take place as long as there’s proper consultation,” Aopi said.

The Total-led Papua LNG, which also includes Exxon Mobil Corp, is part of a $13 billion project set to double the country’s exports of LNG.

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Marape Backs Moratorium, Leans Towards Ban On Experimental Seabed Mining

Matthew Vari | Post Courier | August 15, 2019

Prime Minister James Marape has indicated he will support a proposed regional moratorium on seabed mining, however, could not go as far as to say a ban outright would be needed.

In an interview with the Post-Courier at the opening ceremony of the Pacific Islands Forum on Tuesday, Mr Marape responded when asked in relation to Fiji’s stance on the matter, that he would support the move, making specific reference to what he described the Nautilus Solwara 1 project as “a total failure”.

During Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama’s opening remarks at the Sautalaga climate update meet on Monday, he informed leaders present of Fiji introducing its own climate change act, of which the country will push an ambitious proposal for both its national and a regional moratorium on seabed mining.

“I ask you all to join in this ambitious venture and also support a 10 year moratorium on seabed mining from 2020 to 2030 which would allow for a decade of proper scientific research of our economic zone and territorial waters,” Mr Bainimarama said.

Sentiments supported by James Marape regarding the proven viability of deep sea mining, which he said is not yet a proven concept. “As a nation we have lost over K300 million in a concept of deep sea mining.

“Until that deep sea mining technology is environmentally sound and takes care of our environment at the same time we mine it, then at this point in time, I support the call made by the Fijian Prime Minister, we just need to have the best technology available,” Mr Marape sternly said.

When asked if it could go as far as supporting a ban, the Prime Minister left this option out adding just as the moratorium aims to prove the viability- that process will prove “on a case by case basis going into the future”.

“If there is an opportunity for deep sea mining, so long as environmentally it is friendly and the harvest of resource is done in a sustainable manner then we can give considerations to this, but right now it is a show.

“We don’t have the luxury of that informed decisional research.

“This is because that technology is not proven anywhere and PNG we burnt almost K300 million in that Nautilus (Solwara) 1 project on a concept that someone told us it can work, but it is a concept that is a total failure as I speak,” the PM said.

Apart from 15 per cent state investment in the project, Kumul Mineral Holdings is also seeking redress for the unearned revenue to the tune of US$51 million (K173m).

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Fiji calls for sea-bed mining moratorium as Nautilus restructures

Nic Maclellan | Islands Business | August 13, 2019

Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has again called for a 10-year moratorium on sea-bed mining, at a time that many Pacific island nations are preparing for new frontiers of resource exploitation in the marine environment.

Speaking in Tuvalu this week before the 50th Pacific Islands Forum, Prime Minister Bainimarama called on fellow Forum island states to “support a 10-year moratorium on seabed mining from 2020 to 2030, which would allow for a decade of proper scientific research of our economic zones and territorial waters.”

There is growing pressure from French, Canadian and US corporations to advance the deep-sea mining (DSM) agenda, as well as interest from the China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association. Just as energy corporations are looking towards deep-sea oil and gas reserves, companies are developing technology to exploit mineral ore deposits found on the ocean floor, including cobalt crusts, seafloor massive sulphides and ferromanganese nodules.

Fiji’s call for a moratorium comes as community groups across the region are campaigning against potential environmental hazards of deep-sea mining, especially to ecologically sensitive hydrothermal vents. A report from the Guam-based Blue Ocean Law argues:

“There is a general failure to incorporate sufficient environmental protections, as well as the norm of free, prior, and informed consent for indigenous peoples, who are most likely to be impacted by DSM. In the 21st century, and under well-established norms of international law, these omissions represent serious violations of international legal obligations.”

Bainimarama’s call comes the same week as major restructuring of the Nautilus Minerals corporation, which has been planning to commence mining off the coast of Papua New Guinea, under a world-first licence issued by the PNG government.

Fiji and oceans policy

In recent years, Fiji has taken a leading role in ocean policy at the United Nations, working with other Forum island countries through the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) group.

In June 2017, Fiji and Sweden co-hosted the high-level UN Conference on the Oceans and Seas in New York. This conference issued a call for action, highlighting action on ocean acidification, plastics, and overfishing. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appointed former Fiji UN Ambassador Peter Thomson as the UN Special Envoy on the Ocean.

This global campaigning is also translating into domestic legislation. Speaking in Tuvalu this week, Prime Minister Bainimarama said: “In addition to playing a leadership role in the global Ocean Pathway, we are also developing a National Oceans Policy, under which Fiji plans to move to a 100 per cent sustainable managed Exclusive Economic Zone, with 30 per cent of this being earmarked as a marine protected area by no later than 2030.”

Under the Forum’s “Blue Pacific” agenda, island nations are seeking to draw the links between oceans and climate policy. Bainimarama noted that Fiji was working with the Republic of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Blue Shipping Partnership to develop “a blended and innovative finance structure to support the decarbonisation of domestic marine transportation fleets and facilities in Fiji and across the region. This means replacing inter-island ships with more efficient hybrid ships, thereby reducing fuel costs and emissions.”

Pacific DSM initiatives

Under the provisions of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), many Forum island countries with large EEZs have been in discussions with transnational corporations to partner in deep sea exploration for maritime resources. Under UNCLOS and the authority of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), developing countries can also partner with overseas corporations to licence exploration in “The Area”, international waters that include vast arrays of minerals in Pacific Ocean areas such as the Clarion-Clipperton zone.

Nauru has long been a champion of DSM – at last year’s Forum leaders’ meeting, Nauru President Baron Waqa hosted a side even with ISA Secretary General Michael Lodge and Samantha Smith, the former Head of Environment and Social Responsibility with the deep-sea mining corporation DeepGreen.

This new frontier has drawn in regional organisations, to address legal, technical and regulatory issues around DSM. Boundary limitation is a vital concern as Pacific nations seek to increase potential revenues from fisheries and seabed mining in their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). From 2010-16, the European Union funded the Pacific Community (SPC) to develop model DSM legislation for Forum member states, with many civil society groups concerned this work was promoting rather than regulating DSM.

The SPC Maritime Boundaries Division has also been engaged in technical work to clarify borders between independent island states as well as with colonial powers like France and the United States (for example, Vanuatu and France have been involved in a decades-long dispute over Matthew and Hunter islands).

There are tensions between the administering powers and territorial governments over the control of seabed minerals in the remaining colonies in the region. With an EEZ of nearly 5 million square kilometres, ocean-floor resources could be vitally important for the newest Forum member, French Polynesia. However, as the French government moved to amend French Polynesia’s autonomy statue earlier this year, France’s constitutional court ruled that rare earths can be classified as “strategic metals”, which come under the control of the French State rather than the Government of French Polynesia.  

Independence leaders have long argued against the French State’s control of strategic metals, with former Senator for French Polynesia Richard Ariihau Tuheiava telling the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation in 2017: “We have continually emphasised the critical nature of the resource question as a core issue for our future development. Whether or not these resources are considered in Paris to be ‘strategic’ is irrelevant to the applicability of international legal decisions which place the ownership of natural resources with the people of the non-self-governing territories.”

Collapse of PNG initiative

Early initiatives to begin sea-bed mining in the Pacific have not come to fruition. This week’s set-back to a major project in Papua New Guinea provides a salutary warning about the complexity and potential costs of DSM.

Under a licence issued by the PNG government, Nautilus Minerals has long planned to mine seabed minerals beneath PNG’s Bismarck Sea. However, with widespread community resistance, falling share prices and the loss of a specialised support vessel, Nautilus constantly pushed out the date for commencement of mining.

In February this year, Nautilus filed for court protection from its creditors under the Canadian Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), and the Canadian-based company was later delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange. This week, major shareholders MB Holding and Metalloinvest have moved to take control of company assets at the expense of major creditors and smaller shareholders (The PNG Government holds 15 per cent equity in Nautilus’ PNG subsidiary and the Solwara 1 project through the company Eda Kopa).

The looming collapse of the Solwara seabed mining initiative has been welcomed by civil society groups in Papua New Guinea, which have been campaigning against potential adverse impacts on ocean ecology.

Jonathan Mesulam of PNG’s Alliance of Solwara Warriors stated:

“We rejoiced when the company filed for protection from creditors in Canada. Our opposition and our court action have helped push it to that point. Communities across Papua New Guinea want to see the nightmare of deep-sea mining removed from PNG waters. We will re-double our efforts to ensure that the new Nautilus will never operate at Solwara 1.”

Fiji’s call for a moratorium on DSM will be debated in the corridors at this week’s Pacific Islands Forum, but there’s a way to go before all Forum member countries are willing to delay action on the supposed ocean El Dorado.

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Nautilus emerges, barely alive and impotent: just can’t get that deep sea mining project up

The PNG Government applied to the Canadian Court unsuccessfully to regain some of its failed investment

Deep Sea Mining Campaign | 13 August 2019

In a court appointed meeting today in Canada the creditors of Nautilus Minerals voted to effectively liquidate the company.  The two main shareholders – MB Holding and Metalloinvest – have taken control of a very much shrunken Nautilus at the expense of major creditors and hundreds of hopeful small shareholders.

Nautilus, which has been seeking to start the Solwara 1 mine off the coast of Papua New Guinea, filed for court protection from its creditors under the Canadian Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) in February 2019. With its court-appointed monitors, Price Waterhouse Cooper, Nautilus has given up trying to find possible buyers of its assets.

Andy Whitmore of the Deep Sea Mining Campaign said,

“This is effectively a ‘smash and grab’ raid by the two main shareholders. But the company is essentially worthless. Its equipment is tailored to the mining of deep sea hydrothermal vents which the world now agrees are too ecologically valuable to mine. Even other DSM companies such as DeepGreen suggest mining hydrothermal vents creates an unacceptably high level of environmental impact..

In addition to this, Nautilus still faces an ever-widening community opposition over its Solwara 1 mine.

Jonathan Mesulam of the Alliance of Solwara Warriors stated,

“We rejoiced when the company filed for protection from creditors in Canada. Our opposition and our court action have helped push it to that point. Communities across Papua New Guinean (PNG) want to see the nightmare of deep sea mining removed from PNG waters. We will re-double our efforts to ensure that the new Nautilus will never operate at Solwara 1.”

Andy Whitmore continued,

“Under the deal minor creditors will be fully repaid, while major ones will get 10% of what they are owed. The biggest loser is the PNG Government which held 15% equity in Nautilus PNG and the Solwara 1 project. It has been left stranded with a debt equivalent to one third of its annual health budget for country of 9 million people.” 

“The main shareholders through Deep Sea Mining Finance (DSMF) – the vehicle lending money to Nautilus – have swapped those debts for ownership of the company. While a cheap purchase, they end up owning very littleNautilus is a company with still no capital or support vessel to realise its deep sea mining ambitions. Also, because Nautilus was delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange as part of the insolvency proceedings, the new Nautilus will now be a private company, and not open to the same level of scrutiny.” 

The PNG Government through its company Eda Kopa applied to the Canadian Court unsuccessfully to regain some of its failed investment. Smaller shareholders are considering a class action against the new company.

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Nautilus Minerals’ plans to mine the seafloor sink deeper

NAUTILUS HAS LEFT THE PAPUA NEW GUINEA GOVERNMENT FACING A DEBT EQUIVALENT TO ONE-THIRD OF THE COUNTRY’S ANNUAL HEALTH BUDGET FOR ITS 9 MILLION PEOPLE

Cecilia Jamasmie | Mining .com | August 13, 2019 

Struggling Nautilus Minerals, one of the world’s first companies to plan on mining the seafloor, will soon join a long list of companies that have failed at attempts to extract minerals in remote places, as its creditors have voted this week in favour of liquidating the company.

The Canadian firm, which tried for years to fully develop its Solwara 1 gold, copper and silver project off the coast of Papua Guinea, faced relentless community opposition, culminating in legal action and public appeals to the government.

Those issues, together with environmental concerns and the fact that the company lost its only production support vessel last year, eroded investors’ support, forcing Nautilus to delist from the Toronto Stock Stock Exchange in March.

Since then, the Vancouver-based firm’s assets, including equipment, intellectual property and mining leases, have been put up for sale through PricewaterhouseCoopers.

In the process, Nautilus has left the Papua New Guinea government, which still owns a 15% stake in the Solwara I project as well as equipment, facing a debt equivalent to one-third of the country’s annual health budget for its nine million people. 

“The company is essentially worthless. Its equipment is tailored to the mining of deep sea hydrothermal vents which the world now agrees are too ecologically valuable to mine,” Deep Sea Mining Campaign’s (DSMC) Andy Whitmore, said in a statement.

“Even other deep-sea mining companies such as DeepGreen suggest mining hydrothermal vents create an unacceptably high level of environmental impact,” Whitmore noted.

Unlike other seafloor mining companies, including Nautilus, DeepGreen doesn’t want to drill, blast or dig the bottom of the ocean. The explorer, also Canadian, plans instead to scoop up small metallic rocks located thousands of metres below the surface in the North Pacific Ocean.

The deep sea, more than half the world’s surface, contains more cobalt, nickel, copper, manganese and rare earth metals than all land reserves combined, according to the US Geological Survey.

Companies exploring or already developing projects to mine the seafloor argue the extraction of those deep-buried riches could help diversify the sources currently supplying metals needed for electronics and evolving green technologies, such as electric vehicles (EVs) and solar panels.

Not enough studies

Academics and scientists, including the DSMC  — a group of non-profit organizations and citizens from the Pacific Islands, Australia, Canada and the US — are concerned by the lack of research on the possible impacts of high seas mining. They fear the activity could devastate fragile ecosystems that are slow to recover in the highly pressurized darkness of the deep sea, as well as having effects on the wider ocean environment.

Last year, the European Parliament called for a ban on seabed mining until the environmental impacts and risks of disturbing unique deep-sea ecosystems are understood.

In the resolution, it also urged the European Commission to persuade member states to stop sponsoring and subsidizing licenses to explore and exploit the seabed in international waters, as well as within their own territories.

Shortly after, an international team of researchers published a set of criteria to help the International Seabed Authority (ISA), a UN body made up of 168 countries, protect biodiversity from deep-sea mining activities.

So far, it has granted 29 licences to governments and companies, authorizing them to explore in international waters.

Nautilus, however, has been the only company to go beyond the exploration stage for what was supposed to be the first polymetallic seabed mine.

More projects may be surfacing soon, as the ISA is expected to open up the high seas to mining.

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Landowners Want 100 Per Cent Ownership of Porgera Mine

Zombi Kep | Post Courier | August 5, 2019

Majority landowner representatives are calling on Prime Minister James Marape to extend his ‘Take Back PNG’ campaign by taking back the Porgera gold mine from operator Barrick Niugini Limited (BNL).

Acting through the Justice Foundation of Porgera, 18 out of 24 landowner agents who signed the MOA in 1969, are urging the PM to act on his word by taking back Porgera gold mine from Barrick.

In a recent press conference in Port Moresby, chairman of Justice Foundation for Porgera Mr Jonathan Paraia, claiming to speak for the 18 landowner agents, declared their intention to take 100 per cent ownership.

“Enga must own the land which was given to us by God and the 95 per cent that is leaving the country for Canada must stay back in the country,” said Mr Paraia.

“We own all the resources in the country, yet all the resources are leaving the country.”

He said if the profits were retained, a lot of people from Porgera, Enga and PNG as a whole will be employed and there will be surplus of money owing into the country.

“That’s why when the mining lease expires, we are putting our resolution up to government not to renew the agreement.”

He said according to the Mining Act, anything six foot underground belongs to the State and the State should have full ownership of the mine and its profits.

But he claims the ownership had somehow passed onto foreigners. “Over the last 30 years, 95 per cent is owned by Barrick and nothing is coming back to us, even the country is missing out on it,” said Paraia.

“But now as the mining lease is expiring, PNG must own this mine.”

He said that just like the government taking over OK Tedi, they want to take ownership of the Porgera mine to resettle the landowners affected, pay proper compensation, and deliver proper services.

“The government must allow us to take over the mine so that all the damages that were done to Porgera will be fixed by ourselves,” he said.

“The things that Barrick has failed to do today; we want to do ourselves.”

He stressed that the mine will continue to operate just as it is but the ownership needs to change. “All the workers will be intact and all contractors will remain but the ownership must change.”

Former Laigaip Porgera MP Nickson Mangape who is also one of the 18 landowner agents, brushed aside comments made on social media that they are incapable of owning the mine.

“You people kept asking who will take over Porgera gold mine and saying that it’s too complicated on Facebook,” explained Mr Mangape.

“You look at OK Tedi, the government of the day took over. This is the same thing that we want with Porgera.”

He said there is no difference.

“About 33 per cent went to landowners (Ok Tedi) and 67 per cent went to the government, the same will happen with Porgera.

Enough is enough,” he said.

Meantime the National Court in Waigani ruled last week Friday that BNL and Mineral Resources Enga (PJV) will continue mining after the August 16 expiry of the mine’s SML.

Following the ruling, BNL president and chief executive officer Mark Bristow said a total of K20 million in royalties for landowners are withheld as a result of ongoing legacy issues.

Mr Bristow also said the company has funded a lot of training initiatives and to date, the total value of K544 million including donations has provided schools, health services, water, power, bridges and roads in support with the local government to change the lives of the people for the better.

He said the company has also made a commitment following its recent meeting with Prime Minister James Marape that it would invest in the Paiam hospital to get it operational again.

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Australia to be sued over mining project’s ‘unmerciful’ destruction of Indigenous land

Galarrwuy Yunupingu, who is launching legal action against the commonwealth, says Nabalco and its successor, Rio Tinto, failed to ask the local people where they could and couldn’t go on the Gove peninsula. Photograph: Peter Eve/AAP

Galarrwuy Yunupingu taking legal action for loss of native title as well as destruction of dreaming sites

Helen Davidson | The Guardian | 4 August 2019

The federal government is facing a lawsuit over damage done to Indigenous land by the decades-old mining project that sparked the Yirrkala Bark Petitions.

Gumatj leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu revealed on Saturday that he and his people were taking legal action against the commonwealth, seeking compensation for the loss of native title over the minerals exploited by mine operator Nabalco and its successor, Rio Tinto, as well as the destruction of key dreaming sites.

The suit is expected to use the historic precedent set by the Timber Creek judgment by the high court in March, which ruled on monetary compensation for loss of native title.

“They’ve come to Gove peninsula without asking properly of the landowners of the place,” Yunupingu told the crowd at Garma festival, in north-east Arnhem Land.

“They have all come, getting the OK from the PM and the government of the country, to come all the way and start digging and insulting the country.”

He accused the two companies of having “ripped some land unmercifully”.

“They have damaged our country without seeking advice to us and they have damaged a lot of dreamings – dreamings that were important to Aboriginal people.”

He said the companies failed to ask the local people where they could and couldn’t go on the Gove peninsula in north-east Arnhem Land.

Traditional owners have received royalties from the mine, a fraction of the total revenue drawn from the site. They have recently opened their own mine and training centre, Gulkula Mining, of which Yunupingu is chair.

Prospecting for what would become the bauxite mine and refinery began in the 1950s, and Yolngu traditional owners were strongly opposed.

Leases were granted and excised without consultation of the people of Yirrkala, and the now historic Yirrkala bark petitions were delivered to the federal government in 1963. Yunupingu, whose father was then Gumatj clan leader, helped draft the petitions.

However, the mine went ahead, with the Gove agreement signed five years later between the commonwealth and Nabalco.

Traditional owners took the mine to court in 1971, the first ever native title litigation, but lost, with the judge citing the doctrine of terra nullius in his judgement.

The loss sparked the establishment of the Woodward royal commission, and NT land rights act.

The case flagged by Yunupingu on Saturday will rest on the precedent set by this year’s Timber Creek decision from the high court, which awarded more than $2.5m in compensation to native title holders over dozens of acts by the NT government between 1980 and 1996 which were later found to have “impaired or extinguished” native title rights and interests.

More than half the amount was to compensate for “cultural loss”.

The March judgment reduced the amount ordered by the federal court in 2016 but otherwise held up the new precedent of quantifying the monetary value of native title and associated compensation for the removal of land rights.

Native title experts responded to the ruling with predictions it would pave the way for potentially billions of dollars in liability payments by Australian governments.

The attorney general, Christian Porter, said on Sunday: “There is a well established process for native title claims and those processes would be followed for any such claim lodged regarding bauxite mining.

“I note that at this point what has been said is an intention to lodge a claim and that a claim has not yet been lodged.”

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