Tag Archives: Environmental damage

Nautilus Minerals says it doesn’t know very much at all

According to Nautilus Minerals, although it has successfully tested its mining machines in a giant puddle, there is an awful lot it does NOT know about its proposed Solwara 1, experimental seabed mine in Papua New Guinea.

Indeed, it is hard to find anything the company does know with any certainty.

Nautilus Minerals admits it does not know:

1. If its mining machines will work on the seafloor

Nautilus says there are “risks relating to the performance of the Seafloor Production Tools include the risk of equipment failing to perform to design specifications when operated at the Solwara 1 Project, as the machines have not yet been tested at depths similar to depths present at the Solwara 1 Project”.

2. If it can raise the money it needs to even start mining

The risks related to continuing the Company’s operations and advancing the development of the Solwara 1 Project include “the risk that the Company will be unable to obtain at all or on acceptable terms, and within the timeframes required, the remaining financings necessary [$300 million] to fund completion of the build, testing and deployment of the Company’s seafloor production system

3. If it can fix the failed funding for its mining support ship

The Company may “be unable to rectify or arrange for the rectification of the default under the shipbuilding contract for the construction of the Production Support Vehicle (as announced on 11 December 2017)

4. Whether its other contractors can do their part on time

Nautilus says that “agreements with third party contractors for building slots within certain timeframes are not secured as required”.

5. Whether the mine is economically viable

Nautilus does not even know if the mine is economically viable:

“As the Company has not completed an economic study in respect of the Solwara 1 Project, there can be no assurance that the Company’s production plans will, if fully funded and implemented, successfully demonstrate that seafloor resource production is commercially viable”

6. What the environmental impacts will be

Nautilus Minerals doesn’t even know what the environmental impacts of any mining will be: “the actual impact of any SMS mining operations on the environment has yet to be determined” says the company.

On top of all this, yesterday we revealed that Nautilus apparently doesn’t know that the company it thought was its partner in the Solwara 1 mine, holding a 15% stake, actually doesn’t exist any more… oops!

Maybe all these unknowns explain why Nautilus Minerals can’t find anyone dumb enough to finance its plans – except, of course, the PNG government!

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Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Papua New Guinea

Chinese looking to cut costs for Frieda river mine

What will be the costs for the environment and the mighty Sepik river as PanAust looks to “decrease capital expenditure”?

Frieda River upside options explored

PNG Industry News | 16 February 2018 

THE Frieda River copper-gold project in Papua New Guinea’s Sandaun Province represents PanAust’s long-term strategic growth opportunity.

This was said by PanAust managing director Fred Hess when he presented the company’s quarterly report for December 2017 this week.

[PanAust is wholly owned by Chinese State company, Guangdong Rising Assets Management Co. Ltd (GRAM)]

“In 2017, we made strides towards making the project a reality through identifying opportunities to increase the value of the project, decrease capital expenditure, and reduce its overall risk profile. 

“We will continue to evaluate these opportunities in 2018,” Hess said. 

The company says it continues to liaise with PNG authorities on Frieda River following lodgement of a special mining lease (SML) application and environmental impact statement (EIS) with the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) of Papua New Guinea and Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) of PNG, respectively in 2016.

“The overall approval and permitting process for the SML application and other permits and approvals is now being coordinated by a government appointed state negotiating team, chaired by the Department of Mineral Policy and Geohazards Management.

PanAust says it is investigating opportunities to increase the value of the project and access alternative development pathways to decrease capital expenditure and reduce the overall Project risk profile. Study work to investigate these opportunities continued throughout the quarter, and indicate several potential pathways for value enhancement. The outcomes of this work will inform a decision as to whether an update to the project’s SML application will be made.

Hess added: “Looking to the year ahead, PanAust will look to further strengthen the relationships that have become integral to the company’s success, and are synonymous with how it conducts itself where ever it operates.

“The common currency of PanAust’s success is the strength of its relationships; relationships with our employees, communities, host governments, suppliers, peers, and partners. These relationships depend on trust and consistent transparent communication. This is what pushes PanAust way ahead and will continue to do so throughout 2018,” Hess said.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Mine construction, Papua New Guinea

Court reinstates case of Tolukuma mine spill

Christopher Yowat | The National aka The Loggers Times | February 13, 2018

THE Supreme Court has reinstated a case filed against the Tolukuma Gold Mine Limited over the alleged spillage of sodium cyanide into rivers in Golilala district, Central, 18 years ago.

The case was filed by James Gabe and others in 2006. it claims that more than K1 million in damages from the mining company was dismissed by the National Court in April, 2014. Gabe then applied to the Supreme Court to review the decision by Justice Sir Bernard Sakora.

The three-man Supreme Court bench of judges David Cannings, Ere Kariko and Jeffery Shepherd, granted the orders sought by Gabe – that the dismissal of the case by the National Court on April 9, 2014, be quashed and that the matter be reinstated.

Justice Sir Bernard had dismissed the proceedings after he had been satisfied that Gabe and the other plaintiffs were guilty of an inordinate delay in prosecuting the case and that there had been no proper explanation for it.

Gabe argued that the decision to dismiss the case was made on an “erroneous factual basis”.

Justice Cannings, on behalf of the Supreme Court panel, said:

“We consider, with respect, that if his honour had closely analysed the events that took place in the six-month period between the failed mediation (in April 2013) and the filing of the respondent’s motion for dismissal (in October 2013), his honour would have formed a different view as to the satisfactoriness of the applicant’s explanation for the delay.”

See also: Disgraced judge Bernard Sakora resigns in latest move to avoid justice

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Filed under Corruption, Environmental impact, Papua New Guinea

Landowners and companies in new battle for Panguna mine, which triggered Bougainville Crisis

PHOTO: Panguna landowners are arguing about which company should restart mining. (ABC News: Bethanie Harriman)

 Eric Tlozek | ABC News | 10 February 2018

The race to reopen one of the world’s biggest copper mines, Panguna, is dividing landowners and the wider community in Bougainville.

Key points:

  • Local leader Philip Miriori says activity at the Panguna mine would bring “prosperity” and “better infrastructure” to the community
  • Bougainville’s President says the Government is keen to restart the mine to boost its case for independence
  • Not all landowners around the mine are happy with the stalemate, or with RTG’s push to leapfrog former operator BCL

Panguna was abandoned in 1989, after landowner dissatisfaction with the mine led to the Bougainville Crisis, an armed uprising against the Papua New Guinea Government in which 20,000 people died.

Now mining companies are trying to come back, right as Bougainville prepares to vote on whether it should become an independent nation.

Philip Miriori is a local leader who wants mining to resume.

“The Panguna mine must reopen,” he said.

“That is going to bring prosperity. We need to see our kids go to school. We need better hospitals, better infrastructure.”

Mr Miriori leads a group called the Me’ekamui and has been battling through the courts and mediation to become chairman of the landowner association of the mine pit, the SMLOLA (Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association).

“I think unity for the resource owners is important, before anything else,” he said.

“Without the unity, I don’t think we can achieve anything.”

Mr Miriori’s Me’ekamui group has entered into a joint venture with Perth company RTG Mining, which is making a bold bid to reopen Panguna.

PHOTO: Philip Miriori’s Me’ekamui group has entered into a joint venture with RTG mining. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

“What I was interested in with RTG is a social licence [to mine],” Mr Miriori said.

“I don’t want to get anything for myself, I want to see my people benefit.”

But Mr Miriori and other supporters are being paid by RTG, an arrangement the Bougainville Government has criticised.

Mr Miriori said the payments were legitimate salaries, not inducements for people’s support.

“That is always a normal part of anything, nothing is free,” he said.

“The world has changed. People are educated. So there’s no bribery there.”

RTG’s bid and Philip Miriori’s push for leadership of the landowner association has disrupted a sustained effort by the mine’s former operator, Bougainville Copper Limited, or BCL, to return to Panguna.

BCL is part-owned by the Bougainville Government and had an exploration licence and first right of refusal over the site.

But the Bougainville Government has now rejected BCL’s application to extend that licence, and put an indefinite moratorium on any mining at Panguna.

PHOTO: The Panguna mine is one of the world’s biggest copper mines. (AAP Image: Ilya Gridneff)

Bougainville’s President, John Momis, said the issue of mining had become too sensitive.

“A lot of people are against mining, any mining at all, and mostly against BCL, because of its past,” he said.

Landowners at loggerheads as referendum looms

Mr Momis said the Government does not want conflict at the mine to distract from a scheduled referendum next year on whether Bougainville should secede from Papua New Guinea.

He said the Government may have been overly keen to restart the mine, because it wanted the revenue to boost its case for independence.

“Panguna is a very, very difficult issue for all the things that happened in the past,” Mr Momis said.

“So maybe we were pushing things too hard because of our desire to meet our fiscal self-reliance target.”

Not all the landowners around the mine are happy with the stalemate, or with RTG’s push to leapfrog BCL.

Jeffrey Clason’s mother is one of the mine landowners, and he said many people want BCL to resume mining.

“I think the majority of the landowners are still with BCL and I think as the Mining Act says, they’re the last people to say yes or no, it’s their land,” he said.

“So, for the landowners, BCL is still welcome.”

PHOTO: Bougainvillean Bernadine Kama says she does not want mining to restart at Panguna at all. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

Some Bougainvilleans, like Bernadine Kama — who comes from a village near the mine, don’t want mining to restart at Panguna at all.

“We’ve already seen the damage and destruction done to our land,” she said.

The Bougainville Government said it will come up with a new strategy for Panguna, and will continue consultation with landowners about whether it should be mined, and who should mine it.

But in the meantime, Bougainville Copper Limited is pursuing court action against the Government, which is not only a major shareholder, but also the mining regulator.

So the battle for Panguna is getting more complicated, right as the region prepares for a contentious referendum on its political future.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights, Mine construction, Papua New Guinea

This Deep-Sea Creature Lays Its Eggs on Hydrothermal Vents—A First

The Pacific white skate lay its eggs on superheated hydrothermal vents, and then may wait more than four years for the eggs to hatch. PHOTOGRAPH BY JULYE NEWLIN, OCEAN EXPLORATION TRUST

Yet another scientific discovery lays bare the myth that ‘nothing lives down there’ and further reinforces that we just don’t know what could be lost if Nautilus Minerals is allowed to carry out its proposed open cut strip mining operation on the sea floor

Jason Bittel | National Geographic | February 8, 2018

The world’s most patient mom may be a deep-sea octopus that tends her eggs for nearly 4.5 years. But now, there may be a new contender for her throne.

Scientists have caught a rare glimpse of another deep-sea dweller that may also spend four or more years nursing its eggs, and it does it in an even more unusual place: on hydrothermal vents, where hot water spews from the ocean floor.

It’s called the Pacific white skate (Bathyraja spinosissima), a bone-white, bug-eyed relative of sharks that can live almost two miles (2,900 meters) underwater.

Deep-sea skates, which are shark relatives that resemble rays, lay large eggs that can take years to hatch in cold water. 

In June of 2015, scientists piloting a remotely operated vehicle through the depths of the Galapagos Marine Reserve discovered mounds upon mounds of Pacific white skate egg-casings littered atop a hydrothermal vent. Using the submarine’s robotic arm, the scientists plucked four of the yellow-green egg-cases—each about the size of a deflated football—and brought them back to the surface for DNA analysis.

This the first time skates have been found to use hydrothermal vents as nurseries, and the scientists suspect the animals are laying their eggs here for a reason.

It takes longer for eggs to incubate in cold water, so the skates may be warming them up on the vents, says Dr. Pelayo Salinas-de-León, a National Geographic Society Explorer who led the study, described in the journal Scientific Reports.

The team estimates that, like the deep-sea octopus, Pacific white ray egg cases may require more than four years to hatch, judging by the incubation time of a closely related skate in the Berendt Sea and the depth and temperature of the water surrounding the vent.

And that’s a “very conservative” estimate, adds Salinas-de-León, who is also a marine scientist with the Charles Darwin Foundation and National Geographic’s Pristine Seasinitiative.

A Whole New World

Since hydrothermal vents were first discovered in 1977, scientists have found crabs, anemones, mollusks, and shrimp inhabiting these seemingly inhospitable environments.

But until now, no one would have included skates on that list, says Dr. Lisa Levin, a professor of biological oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.

The Pacific white skate is the first animal found to be laying its eggs on a hydrothermal vent. PHOTOGRAPH BY JULYE NEWLIN, OCEAN EXPLORATION TRUST

“We know so little about the functions of these systems that finding a new function, like being a nursery habitat, is very important,” says Levin.

Interestingly, Levin says there have been a handful of sightings of skate eggs near cold seeps, which are similar to hydrothermal vents but lack heat and emit methane.

The water shooting out of a hydrothermal vent can exceed 750 degrees Fahrenheit (400°C), Salinas-de-León says, but as soon as it hits the near-freezing water of the deep sea, that plummets to just 36°F.

But even just a few degrees of warmth around the mouth of the vents could be enough to reduce the skate eggs’ incubation time by months or even years, says Salinas-de-León.

The only other animals known to use Earth’s warmth for egg incubation are the mound-building megapode birds of Southeast Asia and Australia and a group of nest-building neosauropod dinosaurs from the Cretaceous Period, he says.

Plumes In Peril

You might think that a bubbling cauldron at the bottom of the ocean would be relatively safe from humans and our impacts, but even these remote areas are threatened.

Hydrothermal vents are being targeted for deep seabed mining, and the oil and gas industry drills on the margins of methane cold seeps.

The water shooting out of a hydrothermal vent can exceed 750 degrees Fahrenheit, or 400°C. PHOTOGRAPH BY JULYE NEWLIN, OCEAN EXPLORATION TRUST

The new findings suggest that skates may be more at risk for overfishing than previously thought, since exceptionally long incubation times mean the animals’ populations can’t bounce back quickly.

“The idea of skates using heat to incubate their young, much like some dinosaurs, is likely to invoke fascination and maybe even a little sympathy,” says Sonja Fordham, president and founder of the conservation organization Shark Advocates International.

“We hope that exciting new findings like those in this paper can help to spark greater interest in skates and, in turn, a greater constituency for conserving them,” says Fordham.

Salinas-de-León, too, sees the discovery as a mandate to protect these unique and relatively unexplored ecosystems.

“We hardly know anything about the deep sea, and we are fishing, and mining, before we even get a chance to even document what species live down there and what unique behaviors [they] could reveal [to] us,” he says.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Pacific region, Papua New Guinea

PNG Mining Minista imas harim tu wari blong pipol long Bismarck solwara

Image: Alliance of Solwara Warriors

Caroline Tiriman |  ABC Radio | 8 February 2018

Wanpla communiti lida na papa graon long New Ireland Province long Papua New Guinea itok em na ol narapla papa graon ino wanbel stret long toktok blong minista blong mining ibin mekim aste olsem ol wok minining aninit long ol solwara long Bismarck Sea bai go het iet maski sopos igat planti wari iwok long kamap.

Jonathan Mesulam i mekim despla toktok bihaen long Minister for Mining Johnson Tuke ibin tokaut ken olsem National gavman igat laik long larim Nautilus Minerals long mekim ol wok mining long ol solwara namel long New Ireland na East New Britain provinces.

Ol ripot ikam long PNG itok Mr Tuke ibin tokim wanpla miting wantem bosman blong Nautilus kampani long Mande olsem emi no wanbel wantem ol laen oa grup blong ol narapla kantri na PNG iet husat iwok long kempein agensim despla project. 

Tasol Mr Mesulam itokim Radio Australia olsem gavman imas save long bikpla wari long graon long Bougainville, na despla inap kamap ken long hap blong ol.

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Minister should listen to the people on Experimental Seabed Mining

Lester Seri | ACT NOW! | 8 February 2018

Our Minister for Mining has made known his support for experimental seabed mining, but he has not given any rational justification for his endorsement of Nautilus Minerals and Solwara 1, especially when there is so much uncertainty and questions being asked about Papua New Guinea being used as a guinea pig.

There are international scientists highlighting likely serious biological / ecological problems that could come about, as there has never been any such seabed mining done before anywhere in the world. Surely, anybody in a responsible position as an elected member of Parliament entrusted with the duty to represent the interest / concerns of his or her electorate and the country, is supposed to, in the midst of citizens concern, take time, assess and evaluate the issues / concerns before taking a decision. Minister Tuke has failed miserably in this regard!

Many people have already raised serious doubts and concerns, but neither the Minister nor the Government have come forward to give an honest and truthful answer to the people. Instead they have made a unilateral decision without taking time to answer or respond to the people’s queries. The Minister has taken a dictatorial stand defying the peoples concerns.

The Minister says he is only going by the Government’s decision to approve the mining permit but does not give any serious scientific or economic rational for why Solwara 1 has been granted the mining license.

The minister is concerned there have been no new mines been opened recently, and says that he is pursuing the Governments policy to get new mines on stream and operational. This is common government bullshit all over the world.

The question that needs answering (and as citizens we want to know) is, what is the economic rationale and benefits that will accrue to the people and the country now and into the future. I mean how much difference (benefit) in terms of actual money and human development will Solwara 1 effectively contribute to the the country?

We need some indication of the volume and quantity of minerals and value, and the likely benefits that we will be gaining from this mining project.  These benefits, whatever they may be, ought to be spelt out, clearly articulated, so we are not only clear but assured of what we are likely to gain.

Just because the Minister or Prime Minister and their members are elected MPs  does not necessary mean that they are always right in their judgment, and that we will surely gain as they claim. This uncertainty arises from the government failure in giving its citizens the actual benefits analysis and, breakdown of the financial benefits that will accrue.

As citizens, we also want to know, what likely costs (environmentally and economically) we will have to endure, and how much of this cost can be justified, considering the fact that the government has bought shares (using public funds) in Solwara 1.

We would like to know, in the event of the mine being unsuccessful / unprofitable and if we miss out on benefits, how are we going to recoup our investment? The Minister and the government have a duty and responsibility to explain to its citizens, how it will insure itself from any possible loss.

Our history has shown us over 40 years that despite active government engagement in extractive (mining) industries and despite seeing and witnessing billions of kina in revenue earned by foreign companies, there really is nothing to show in terms of real development and benefit to the citizens and the nation.

All our development indicators are well below the respectable levels enjoyed by much smaller countries in the Pacific with little or no natural resource base in the abundance that we have.

It is this very arrogant and reckless attitude of MPs who have been elected to Parliament as the people representatives, politicians, legislators, and decision makers that has cost this country so dearly and we are all experiencing the hardship today, and no doubt it will be experienced by the future generation.

I cannot fathom the reckless attitude of the Minister, especially in the light of the financial problems that Nautilus Minerals is facing and its executives resigning. Any sane and rational elected leader would not only be cognizant of the problems and doubts raised, but would be applying intelligence, and precautionary principles in evaluating and assessing the pros and cons before taking any decision.

PNG’s increasing financial debt, no medicines, roads falling apart which we are unable to maintain, owing millions of kina to oil and gas landowners, teachers, superannuation funds, schools, and increasing law and order problems are a testament to the recklessness of our politicians, and should warrant them to be conscious and rational and put the interest of our citizens and country first and above the profit interest of foreign companies!

I cannot believe the Minister has made time to meet with the Nautilus executives to hear their side of the story but is not able to meet with citizens to hear our concerns? One can easily draw conclusions of what might likely be happening, whether true or not? Politicians are supposed to allow time to hear the concerns of all parties affected by any of their decisions. This is not the case in the current situation.

Thus, one questions the Minister and whose interest was he was elected to represent?

Can someone drum some sense into the Minister, the Prime Minister and the Government?

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