Tag Archives: Environmental damage

Samoa cautioned about experimental seabed mining

S.U.N.G.O. PRESIDENT: Roina Vavatau.

Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu  | Samoa Observer | 20 August 2017

Experimental deep-sea mining is on the agenda for a five-day National Focus Group Dialogue hosted by the Samoa Umbrella for Non-Governmental Organizations (S.U.N.G.O.) which starts today.

But S.U.N.G.O. President, Roina Vavatau, believes Samoa needs to proceed with caution.

During an interview with the Samoa Observer, the President of S.U.N.G.O said Samoa should not be easily enticed by the millions promised if they opt to support deep-sea mining activities. 

“The money is very attractive however we have to consider the social impact of deep sea mining on us,” she said. “This is our livelihood, everyone depends on the ocean and if this deal comes to pass, what is going to happen to us.” 

Mrs. Vavatau urges the public to come as one and voice the rejection of Samoa to be a part of deep-sea mining activities. 

“Although the P.A.C.E.R Plus has been signed… however unless a total of eight Pacific countries do not sign on, there is no deep sea mining in our oceans.”

To be held at Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi conventional centre, the meeting will focus on disability; climate change; Sustainable Development Goals; Land Act and Laws and Deep Sea Mining. 

“These topics will form the basis of dialogue throughout the week,” she said.

 “Experts in these identified areas have been invited to provide information and guidance throughout the week to ensure participants are well informed in the approach to formulate Position Papers and Action Plans that S.U.N.G.O. will advocate on behalf of Samoa’s Civil Societies.”

The President invited members of the public so they can be informed about the conversations around the topics.

 “There will be representatives from government agencies whose mandates deal with the issues discussed as stated earlier.” 

According to Mrs. Vavatau, their main goal is to afford the public the opportunity to gain knowledge of the said topics. 

“That way they can make informed decisions when they come across these issues.” 

Last year, a World Bank report recommended that Pacific Island countries supporting or considering deep-sea mining activities proceed with a high degree of caution to avoid irreversible damage to the ecosystem, and ensure that appropriate social and environmental safeguards are in place as part of strong governance arrangements for this emerging industry.

The report says that Deep sea exploration of minerals and resources is increasing across the globe, but its short and long-term impacts on the environment, economy and society in general remain largely unknown, according to the report, Pacific Possible: Precautionary Management of Deep Sea Mining Potential in Pacific Island Countries.

“Given the immense uncertainty, deep sea mining in Pacific Island countries should be approached with the highest degree of caution and transparency,” said Tijen Arin, Senior Environmental Economist and co-author of the paper. 

“Work in this space is already progressing in many countries, and progress has been made in legislation, but strengthening and increasing institutional capacity still remains a significant challenge and therefore we recommend stronger regional cooperation in this area.”

Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu have granted permits for deep-sea mining exploration, and the Cook Islands undertook a minerals exploration tender process. 

So far, Papua New Guinea is the only country in the Pacific region to have granted a license for ocean floor mining. 

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B’ville ex-combatants threaten violence against Panguna family

Photo: Leonard (far left) and other family members under threat

Leonard Fong Roka | PNG Attitude | 17 August, 2017

IT was reminiscent of the event in which our father was killed by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army on 18 March 1993 during the peak of the Bougainville conflict.

On that day, armed men located themselves at the assassination scene and lied to someone they met and told him to call our father to the scene of his death.

On this occasion, Panguna New Generation Leaders tricked someone to call us to a place for something good but when we reached it, dozens of men appeared and began intimidating us. A number were under the influence of liquor.

Panguna New Generation Leaders consists of former BRA men who are aggressively campaigning for the re-opening of the Panguna mine with funding from the Panguna Negotiations Office of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).

The threats have been continuing for almost three weeks.

The crisis sprouted from a belief that “where the population is illiterate, the literate cannot move an inch”. The Roka family was acting in a capacity that we should do something for the government instead of waiting for the government to do something for us.

One of my sisters is a member of Melanesian Indigenous Land Defense Alliance (MILDA), formed in 1997 at Madang to advocate for the freedom of the West Papuans and on other critical issues affecting Melanesia.

MILDA had its last conference in Solomon Islands. My sister attended and saw the need for MILDA input to the Bougainville referendum.

MILDA saw that the PNG government had great influence on the Bougainville Peace Agreement, which is still a problem the ABG is dealing with. The PNG government does not respect the peace agreement by complying with its commitments.

The MILDA conference for Bougainville was to be held in the Panguna District from 14-18 August. The aim was for MILDA to listen to the locals express their needs for the coming referendum and to start supporting Bougainville in lobbying for support within the Melanesian states.

MILDA also sees that Bougainville should have a seat in the Melanesian Spearhead Group and alongside other Pacific organisations but has not reached this point yet.

But, according to Panguna New Generation Leaders, the Roka family with MILDA was interfering with the ongoing re-opening of Panguna mine.

Its leaders Henry Pipino, Junior Itamari and community government officer Francis Nasinui said at their first meeting with us that they had won the hearts of all ex-combatants in Bougainville and the Rokas were here to destroy that effort and the future of Bougainville.

They claimed the Rokas do not have respect for their authority despite us showing them the documents of approval from the ABG and other authorities. They said we are showing off with our university degrees and destroying the Panguna people.

Then they ordered the MILDA officials who were here from New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and PNG to depart Panguna.

They said they had prepared excavators to block MILDA and Roka family access to Arawa if they continued their conference in Panguna.

They also said they would smash the Rokas and any local community members and women’s groups supporting us.

They said former Panguna combatants are fighters and do not fear and will not hesitate to destroy anybody that sabotages the Panguna re-opening.

The MILDA conference for Bougainville was not terminated, however, people who wanted to listen to what our fellow islanders had to say about the Bougainville referendum moved it to Arawa where it progressed away from some of the most politically confused people of Bougainville.

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Legal battle looms over seabed mining

Simon Hartley | Otago Daily Times | 16 August 2017

The gloves are coming off as mining interest groups and environmentalists prepare for a legal battle over consenting issues.

Similar legal challenges to Bathurst Resources’ coal mining consents on the West Coast dragged on for two years and the global coal price collapsed, forcing Bathurst to mothball much of its proposed operations.

Mining industry lobby group Straterra has applauded the granting of marine consents for Trans Tasman Resources to move towards ironsand extraction from Taranaki’s seabed.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) granted the consents last week, but environmental groups vowed to lodge appeals within the 15-day appeal period.

Submitting group Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) had said it would appeal and yesterday said its lawyers were working on an appeal, spokeswoman Cindy Baxter said.

”Apart from the fact that we consider this decision very flawed, and that such a huge operation with potentially devastating consequences only got the go-ahead because the chair of the committee had two votes, we have to look at the precedent it sets,” she said in a statement.

Straterra chief executive Chris Baker said the EPA’s decision making committees’s decision sent a strong signal to extractive sector investors ”that New Zealand is open for business”.

”The [decision] committee had to satisfy itself, on best available information, that effects can be well managed,” Mr Baker said.

Ms Baxter said after Trans Tasman’s first application was refused in 2014, many of the companies with permits on North Island coasts subsequently dropped them.

She said Trans Tasman’s application failed on several fronts, saying there were no surveys or studies on any marine mammals, penguins, fairy prion petrels or bottom dwelling organisms, nor measurement of existing ambient noise; which was an issue for marine mammals.

”They made no effort to undertake any baseline monitoring of the seabed, despite the lack of it being one of the grounds the EPA refused their first application,” Ms Baxter said.

Mr Baker noted more than 100 conditions were imposed on Trans Tasman, including a two-year monitoring plan before mining could take place.

Trans Tasman’s two applications and ongoing research and development costs are now understood to have cost it a total about $86million.

Trans Tasman wants to suction dredge about 50million tonnes of sands from the seabed annually, to extract 5million tonnes of ironsands, for the next 35 years.

More than 13,000 people opposed the application. Much of the opposition centres on the effects from the ”plume” of sands when being returned to the seabed.

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Catholic bishops praise ‘systematic and coordinated opposition to seabed mining’

Catholic Bishops: “Members of Parliament and local Governors and other civic authorities have a particular duty to promote long term economic and social development and to be vigilant in guarding against any attempts by international businesses to exploit our common resource”

Catholic Bishops Urge Care for Sea & People of West Papua

Federation of Catholic Bishops | Scoop NZ | 14 August 2017

The Executive Committee of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania (Australia, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, New Zealand, CEPAC – the rest of the Pacific) is currently meeting in Auckland, New Zealand. We come from a multitude of island nation States spread throughout the Pacific Ocean.

We are delighted to be here in Aotearoa New Zealand and have enjoyed greatly the beauty of its nature and the hospitality of the people. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to De La Salle College in South Auckland, the highlight of which was Mass for the entire school community. The boys’ enthusiastic participation in the liturgy uplifted our hearts. A further highlight was our presence at the City Mission on Friday evening where we served meals to the homeless, the mentally unwell and those suffering economic deprivation. This was a humbling experience during which we felt deeply Christ’s call to sit and walk alongside those who struggle or find themselves on the margins of society.

As Bishops of the Pacific, the place of the sea in the lives of the peoples we serve was a central focus of our meeting. Our common ocean is teeming with life and goodness. For many of our peoples the sea is their treasured source of nutrition, sustenance and livelihood. In solidarity with them, Psalm 107 resonates in our hearts: “those that do business in the great waters, they behold the world of the Lord and his wonders in the deep.”

We are acutely aware of the impact of climate change on island nations and some of our number have been visiting communities and recording the destruction of shorelines affecting them. On a happier note, we are heartened to learn of the systematic and coordinated opposition to seabed mining which turns the ocean floor into a stage of exploitative destruction of ocean habitats.

Our interest in the “Blue Economy” is to uphold a model of development that respects the fundamental importance of sustainability that looks way beyond any perceived short term economic windfall. Members of Parliament and local Governors and other civic authorities have a particular duty to promote long term economic and social development and to be vigilant in guarding against any attempts by international businesses to exploit our common resource. We applaud government, community and private initiatives to develop water ecotourism and sustainable sea fishing. We are not “anti-development”. We look to the common good and thus advocate for an integrated approach to development where local customary practices are respected and communities are assisted to grow employment opportunities.

A further focus has been the livelihood and cultural integrity of the people of West Papua. We do not promote a view in regard to independence. Indeed we believe that where this question becomes a single focus, care to uphold and strengthen local institutions of democracy may be overlooked. We echo the call for quality education in Papua, for fair and transparent access to jobs, training programmes and employment, for respect of land titles, and for clear boundaries between the role of defence and police forces and the role of commerce. The large majority of indigenous people of Papua seek peace and the various dialogue groups, advocating and witnessing to peaceful co-existence, are a source of hope for all.

Let us conclude with reference to Pope Francis’s inspiring encyclical Laudato Si which he opens with the beautiful canticle of Saint Francis of Assisi who also reminds our generation that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.

We look forward to our Plenary Assembly in Port Moresby in April next year to which is invited all the bishops of Oceania. Our theme will be – ‘Care of our Common Home of Oceania: A sea of possibilities’.

  • Archbishop Sir John Cardinal Ribat MSC (President), Archbishop of Port Moresby, PNG.
  • Bishop Robert McGuckin (Deputy President) Bishop of Toowoomba, Australia.
  • Archbishop Michel Calvet SM, Archbishop of Noumea, New Caledonia.
  • Bishop Colin Campbell, Bishop of Dunedin, New Zealand.
  • Bishop Charles Drennan, Bishop of Palmerston North, New Zealand.
  • Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, Australia.

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Judgement reserved on Namibian marine mining halt

Michael Gaweseb

Werner Menges | The Namibian | 14 August 2017

THE minister of environment and tourism’s decision to set aside an environmental clearance certificate that gave the go-ahead for the start of marine phosphate mining in Namibian waters has come under attack in the Windhoek High Court.

The attack on a decision by the minister of environment and tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, to set aside an environmental clearance certificate issued to a company planning to start a controversial marine phosphate mining project off the Namibian coast came on Thursday last week, in oral arguments heard by judge Shafimana Ueitele in an appeal to have Shifeta’s decision reversed.

A fundamental breach of the company Namibian Marine Phosphate’s right to a fair hearing had taken place before Shifeta decided on 2 November last year to set aside the environmental clearance certificate that the environmental commissioner had granted to the company two months earlier, senior counsel Reinhard Tötemeyer, representing Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP), argued.

Tötemeyer charged that an appeal process against the granting of the environmental clearance certificate to NMP took place behind the company’s back after NMP was not notified that an appeal hearing was to take place, with the result that NMP was not present at such a hearing at the end of October last year.

Since NMP was not given a chance to be heard before the minister took his decision on an appeal against the granting of the certificate to the company, the appeal process was fundamentally flawed, Tötemeyer argued.

He added that Shifeta’s decision to set aside the environmental clearance certificate was mainly based on a finding that sufficient public consultations did not take place before the certificate was granted. However, had NMP been given a chance to be heard, the company would have informed the minister that extensive public consultations, in fact, did take place before it received the certificate, Tötemeyer also argued.

The environmental clearance certificate would have allowed NMP to proceed with mining seabed phosphate in a part of the Atlantic Ocean about 120 kilometres south-west of Walvis Bay.

The company’s plan to start the world’s first marine phosphate mining project in Namibian waters has drawn fierce opposition from environmentalists and the Namibian fishing industry, who fear that mining activities could cause serious and long-term harm to the country’s marine resources and endanger fishing activities.

Shifeta’s decision to set aside the certificate was taken after a public outcry and an appeal that a community activist, Michael Gaweseb, lodged against the granting of the certificate.

Senior counsel Vincent Maleka, representing the minister, argued that regulations issued in terms of the Environmental Management Act do not prescribe a procedure that Shifeta had to follow with an appeal against the granting of a certificate, and did not require that an appeal hearing had to take place or that affected parties had to be present at a hearing.

NMP and Gaweseb were not treated differently during the appeal process, Maleka also argued.

Gaweseb’s lawyer, Uno Katjipuka-Sibolile, argued that NMP was not excluded from the appeal process. The company was notified of the appeal and made submissions that the minister took into account before he made his decision, she said.

Since NMP was complaining of alleged procedural shortcomings in the appeal decided by Shifeta, it should have asked the High Court to review the minister’s decision, rather than appealing against the decision regarding the Environmental Management Act, Katjipuka-Sibolile also argued.

Judge Ueitele reserved his judgement after hearing the oral arguments. He said he would try to have his judgement ready by 15 December, or earlier if possible.

NMP is also involved in another pending High Court case about its marine phosphate mining plans. In the other matter, three Namibian fishing industry associations and a fishing company are asking the court to declare the mining licence that was issued to NMP in July 2011 as invalid.

That case was last week postponed to 12 September for a further case management hearing to take place.

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How much is a ‘small’ impact?

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August 14, 2017 · 1:06 pm

Anger over NZ seabed mining decision

Ngaa Rauru’s Anne-Marie Broughton, Ora Hohaia, Mary Bennett, Renee Bradley, Ngaire Luke, Arareina Davis, Leaara Kauika-Stevens and Mahalia Tapa-Mosen are against seabed mining. Photo/ supplied

Wanganui Chronicle | 13 August, 2017

“We will be appealing the decision. It is just plain wrong, as evidenced by two of the four commissioners dissenting against the approval.”

The Environmental Protection Authority’s split decision to approve seabed mining by Trans-Tasman Resources is an outrage, Te Kaahui o Rauru kaiwhakahaere Anne-Marie Broughton says.

The Waverley-based iwi has been through a wide range of emotions in the last few days, she said, from anger, sadness and frustration to steely determination to overturn the decision.

“We know we are not alone – we’ve received a huge number of messages from our uri (dscendants) and the wider community who feel the same way.”

The decision is doubly frustrating with Government allocating funding to clean up freshwater earlier in the same week it approved work that will devastate the underwater environment, Ms Broughton said.

“While the decision paper is 368 pages long, the section with the dissenting commissioners’ opinions makes it incredibly clear what risk is being taken and what damage will be done by this approval.”

She wanted to mihi to (congratulate) the two commissioners; Gerry Te Kapa Coates and Sharon McGarry, who stood for the environment and common sense.

Ms Broughton said impacts from the approved mining would be huge.

“We are talking about excavating 50 million tonnes of seabed per year for 35 years over an area of 66 square kilometres, up to 11 metres deep – every scoop destroying the seabed and marine life and driving away the threatened blue whales who aren’t just passing through but live in the South Taranaki Bight.”

This was “dinosaur thinking”, she said.

“Environmental protection is the new economy. We already have sewage from Whanganui being dumped out at sea, plus the nutrient run-off from intensive farming.

“Enough is enough! We need to overturn this decision, put a moratorium on seabed mining and bring some sense to managing our environment.”

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