Tag Archives: fisheries

Opposition will ‘not let up’ to planned seabed mining in Philippines

Opposition to seabed mining in the archipelagic Philippine province of Romblon … led by local anti-groups such as REFAM … Image: Rachel Llorca/UST

Rachel E. Llorca | Asia Pacific Report | June 7, 2017  

Fishermen from the archipelagic province of Romblon in the Philippines are opposed to planned’ experimental’ sea mining ventures in the area amid fears it will destroy their livelihoods.

One of these fishermen is 55-year-old Agosto Rivera. Fishing is his livelihood, with the fish nets and blue sea of Odiongan Bay –- part of Tablas Island –- his constant companion for 43 years.

With a PHP300 (NZD$8) daily bounty from fishing, and sometimes a PHP5000 (NZD$140) commission when doing deep sea fishing, the sea has been the lifeblood of Rivera’s wife and 10 children.

But Rivera’s livelihood, and that of the estimated 1390 fisher folk in Odiongan Bay, is said to be in danger. Rivera’s fears are echoed by local government leaders and cause-oriented citizens (known locally as Romblomanons) who are wary of prospective deep sea mining operations that the firm Asian Palladium Mineral Resources, Inc. wants to conduct in Romblon’s Tablas Strait.

The lure is palladium, a rare, malleable and ductile metal that can be used as petroleum or as a material for specialized alloys or pieces of jewelry. “Very few countries have deposits of palladium,” the company’s geologist, Louie Santos, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in June 2016.

To get to Tablas Strait’s palladium, however, Asian Palladium must conduct deep sea mining across a 10.6ha area. This comes after Asian Palladium secured a 25-year Financial and/or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTTA) from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

But as Asian Palladium is waiting for the Mines and Geosciences Bureau’s approval to its FTTA application, Romblomanons continue to reject the company’s plans for deep sea mining in the area, which began more than a year ago.

No mining allowed

Romblomanons’ opposition came towards the end of the term of former Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III in May 2016 when Asian Palladium applied for the FTTA. Upon the assumption of Rodrigo Duterte as president on June 30, 2016, then environment secretary Regina Paz Lopez promised the local government of Odiongan that no mining, including that of Asian Palladium, “will be allowed.”

Lopez ordered the closure and suspension of identified mining companies across the country after assessment teams reportedly found hazards in these firms mining operations. But the Philippine legislature’s Commission on Appointments bypassed Lopez’s appointment thrice, and she was replaced by former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Roy Cimatu.

It is such moves which have invigorated local anti-mining groups, such as the Romblon Ecumenical Forum Against Mining (REFAM), as closed or suspended companies remain poised for a reversal of Lopez’s orders.

“We will not let up in our advocacy,” says REFAM’s Sherryll Fetalvero.

Fetalvero, who is also a professor with Romblon State University, says the group has been “guarding” the province from mining projects.

“The strength of Romblon is the vigilance of the people.”

Some 127,853 signatures –- three-fourths of the province’s voting population –- have been collected from residents of Romblon province during anti-mining signature campaigns in the past. REFAM has also pushed for 125 anti-mining resolutions by local government officials, in the face of no province-wide environment act.

Mining opposition in Romblon is strong … 127,853 signatures. Image: Rachel Llorca/UST

Long-standing opposition

Current protest in Romblon is not the first time the province has opposed mining operations.

Eight years ago, Altai Philippines Mining Corporation was given a cease-and-desist order by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau for its planned metallic mining operations in Romblon’s Sibuyan Island, said to be rich in gold. This came after rising levels of atmospheric mercury were discovered by residents on the island.

In 2011, residents also protested against Ivanhoe Philippines, Inc., which applied for government permission to explore minerals in Tablas Island. Residents’ protest against Ivanhoe spanned nine months from January to September and was regarded as the shortest anti-mining campaign in the Philippines by civil society groups. Ivanhoe subsequently withdrew its exploration permit application on September 30, 2011.

Long-standing opposition in Romblon is not the first anti-mining advocates have asserted doubts on the safety of deep sea mining.

Deep sea mining in Papua New Guinea from 2011 to 2014 by Canadian firm Nautilus Minerals was halted following large protest by Papuans led by advocacy groups Bismarck Ramu and the Ocean Foundation’s deep sea mining campaign. The company subsequently removed its ships as its former seabed mining project – Solwara 1 – was referred to as an “experiment” by critics.

As to the mining firms trying to seek permission and operate in Romblon, however, Fetalvero says REFAM has a “tried-and-tested formula” to beat the firms as anti-mining messages continue to be promoted across the province.

“We stop mining companies by making sure they will not be able to get a certificate of publication from the towns of Romblon. That way, we will be able to question the technicalities of an approval by the DENR.”

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NZ seafood companies, iwi slam EPA over seabed mining application

Undercurrent News | May 16, 2017

Seafood companies have slammed the New Zealand Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) handling of the application to mine for 35 years 50 million metric tons of iron sand from the ocean floor off the coast of Taranaki.

The application by Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) is opposed by Fisheries Inshore New Zealand, the New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishermen, Talley’s Group, Southern Inshore Fisheries Management, and Cloudy Bay Clams.

A range of environmental groups have also submitted opposition to the bid.

TTR’s first application was refused in June 2014 after a decision-making committee appointed by the EPA found the application was premature and more time should have been taken to understand the proposed operation, its effects on the receiving environment and existing interests.

“TTR’s latest application is almost identical to the first, and does not address the EPA’s key reasons for refusing TTR consent in 2014,” Fisheries Inshore New Zealand’s chief executive, Jeremy Helson, said.

“TTR‘s 2014 application was refused due to inadequate information, and adverse effects on the environment and existing economic activity. It is hard to understand why the EPA allowed TTR to resubmit a largely unchanged application,” Helson added.

TTR’s latest application, lodged with the EPA in August 2016, has been dogged with controversy from the start, as the TTR sought to withhold information on the effects of the sediment plume from the public for reasons of commercial sensitivity, said the release.

The EPA’s decision to approve this withholding of information was overturned by the Environment Court, on the application of the seafood industry, iwi and environmental groups.

TTR has a responsibility to provide robust information to support its application. Its  failure to do so has seen the EPA directing those opposing the application to fill in the gaps, said the complainants.

“The extension of the process and continued re-submission of evidence has resulted in submitters incurring unreasonable costs to address the deficiencies in TTR’s application.”

The hearing began in February and was initially to have ended on April 12. Instead the EPA extended the hearing to May 31 to address further questions concerning the information provided by TTR in support of its application.

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Fiji villagers claim mine spill destroying fishing grounds

Shalend Prasad points at a water outlet from the bauxite mine alleged by members of the public to be waste water from sediment ponds within the mine. Picture: LUKE RAWALAI

Luke Rawalai | Fiji Times | March 20, 2017

PEOPLE in Nasarawaqa, Bua and those living along the Dreketi River claim the decline in marine resources around the area is due to spillage of waste water from the bauxite mining in Naibulu, Dreketi.

Sasake villager Apisalome Tumuri claimed that the spill off from the mine during heavy rain forced marine life out from the area to the deep sea.

The 52-year-old fisherman claims there had been a lot of changes in their fishing ground since mining began in nearby Naibulu, Dreketi.

Mr Tumuri said fish, crabs and bech-de-mer had begun disappearing from their fishing grounds during the past three years. He said in the past, villagers could pick shellfish and fetch mud crabs from nearby mangroves.

He said they now had to go out into the open sea to get these.

Dreketi resident Losana Lomani said the Dreketi River had turned red last week after heavy rain was experienced in the area.

Ms Lomani said they learnt that the muddy water originated from the mining site and that women in the area found it hard to find freshwater mussels in the river.

XINFA Aurum Exploration Fiji Ltd’s senior officer Sang Lei said the muddy water witnessed by villagers was normal rain run-off from land.

Mr Lei said all waste water from the mine was contained in the sediment pond at the mine and that none had seeped into the waterways as claimed.

Responding to queries, permanent secretary for Lands and Mineral Resources Ministry Malakai Finau said it was normal for the sea to turn muddy during heavy rain.

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Concern over experimental seabed mining and fisheries in Pacific

Fish caught just outside the Marine Protected Area (MPA) area in Tikina Wai, Fiji. Photograph: Brent Stirton/1521

Rosalyn Albaniel | Post Courier | December 9, 2016

THE Pacific’s two largest fisheries blocs – the Pacific Islands Fisheries Forum Agency and Parties the Nauru Agreement – are treating the issue of experimental seabed mining cautiously.

Pacific waters are home to the world’s largest fishery currently accounting for around 56 per cent of the global supply of tuna.

The dilemma the region faces is that those same waters will also be hosting the world’s first ever copper-gold project.

Papua New Guinea heavily relies on its extractive industry and the progress of the Solwara 1 project, now under development in its territorial waters, will mean added revenue to its national coffers while also much needed foreign exchange [will it? where is the evidence for this?].

Canadian miner Nautilus Minerals has already been granted the environment permit and mining lease required for resource development at this site. It has indicated plans to grow its tenement holdings in the exclusive economic zones and territorial waters also in the Solomon Islands, Tonga and other locations in the Western Pacific.

PNA chief executive officer Ludwig Kumoru, who trained and worked as a fisheries scientist, said he considered deep sea safer for tuna than land based mines.

This is because the proposed seafloor mining operations would be done at 1600 metres beneath the surface, well away from the 200 metre water level where the tuna live and breed.

However, he said the eight-member group recognised that being the first of its kind there were questions and different circumstances in different locations. However, land mines still posed more risk

“Worse is the tailings that come through the rivers from land based mines and into the sea, that to me will affect the fish to head the PNA.

“But it depends on the sites, in other places it may be different, there may be a lot of strong under-current which could move the cloud (plumes) up (to the 200m mark) or the way they move the minerals up, then there is going to be problem,” Mr Kumoru said.

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Phosphate Mining Firms Set Sights on Southern Africa’s Sea Floor

Most attempts at seabed phosphate mining have sputtered in the face of moratoriums and other roadblocks. Graphic courtesy of Centre for Environmental Rights

Most attempts at seabed phosphate mining have sputtered in the face of moratoriums and other roadblocks. Graphic courtesy of Centre for Environmental Rights

Mark Olalde | Inter Press Service | November 17 2016

A persistent fear of diminishing phosphorus reserves has pushed mining companies to search far and wide for new sources. Companies identified phosphate deposits on the ocean floor and are fighting for mining rights around the world.

Countries in southern Africa have the potential to set an international precedent by allowing the first offshore mining operations. South Africa specifically is one of the first countries on the continent to begin legislating its marine economy to promote sustainable development, and questions surround mining’s place in this new economy.

From April 2007 to August 2008, the price of phosphate, a necessary ingredient in fertilizer, increased nearly 950 percent, in part due to the idea that phosphate production had peaked and would begin diminishing. Before prices came back down, prospectors had already begun looking for deep sea phosphate reserves around the world.

Since then, the fledgling seabed phosphate industry has found minimal success. While several operations are proposed in the Pacific islands, New Zealand and Mexico rejected attempts at offshore phosphate mining in their territory.

This means southern African reserves – created in part by currents carrying phosphate-rich water from Antarctica – are the new center of debate.

Namibia owns identified seabed phosphate deposits, and the country has recently flip-flopped about whether to allow mining. A moratorium was in place since 2013, but in September the environmental minister made the controversial decision to grant the necessary licenses. Since then, public outcry forced him to set those aside.

The former general project manager of Namibian Marine Phosphate (Pty) Ltd, a company that applied to mine in Namibia, told IPS that environmental groups and fisheries proved to be a loud and organised opposition. He predicted the debate in South Africa would be just as difficult for mining companies to win with no precedent for such mining.

Adnan Awad, director of the non-profit International Ocean Institute’s African region, said,

“There is generally this anticipation that South African processes for mining and for the policy around some of these activities are setting a bit of a precedent and a bit of a model for how it can be pursued in other areas.”

Three companies, Green Flash Trading 251 (Pty) Ltd, Green Flash 257 (Pty) Ltd and Diamond Fields International Ltd., hold prospecting rights covering about 150,000 square kilometers, roughly 10 percent, of the country’s marine exclusive economic zone.

Diamond Fields International’s prospecting right along 47,468 square kilometres of the Indian Ocean shares space with areas of oil exploration and production. Source: Diamond Fields International Ltd. background information document.

Diamond Fields International’s prospecting right along 47,468 square kilometres of the Indian Ocean shares space with areas of oil exploration and production. Source: Diamond Fields International Ltd. background information document.

The law firm Steyn Kinnear Inc. represents both Green Flash 251 and Green Flash 257. “Currently it does not seem as if there is going to be any progress, and there is definitely not going to be any mining right application,” Wynand Venter, an attorney at the firm, said, calling the project “uneconomical.”

Venter said the Green Flash companies received drill samples, which showed current prices could not sustain seabed phosphate mining.

This leaves Diamond Fields as the only remaining player in South African waters. The company announced in a January 2014 press release that it received a 47,468 square kilometer prospecting right to search for phosphate.

According to information the company published summarising its environmental management plan, prospecting would use seismic testing to determine the benthic, or seafloor, geology. If mining commenced, it would take place on the seafloor between 180 and 500 meters below the surface.

“A vital and indisputable link exists between phosphate rock and world food supply,” the company stated, citing dwindling phosphate reserves.

Diamond Fields did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Environmentalists argue that not only would phosphate mining destroy marine ecosystems, but it would also lead to continued overuse of fertilizers and associated pollution. They call for increased research into phosphate recapture technology instead of mining.

“We could actually be solving the problem of too much phosphates in our water and recapturing it. Instead we’re going to destroy our ocean ecosystems,” John Duncan of WWF-SA said.

The act of offshore mining requires a vessel called a trailing suction hopper dredger, which takes up seafloor sediment and sends waste back into the water column.

A southern right whale swims off the coast of the Western Cape province near Hermanus, a town renowned for its whale watching. South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources granted three prospecting rights covering about 150,000 square kilometers, or 10 percent, of the country’s exclusive economic zone. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

A southern right whale swims off the coast of the Western Cape province near Hermanus, a town renowned for its whale watching. South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources granted three prospecting rights covering about 150,000 square kilometers, or 10 percent, of the country’s exclusive economic zone. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

“It amounts to a kind of bulldozer that operates on the seabed and excavates sediment down to a depth of two or three meters. Where it operates, it’s like opencast mining on land. It removes the entire substrate. That substrate become unavailable to fisheries for many years, if not forever,” Johann Augustyn, secretary of the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association, said.

In addition to direct habitat destruction, environmentalists argue the plume of sediment released into the ocean could spread out to smother additional areas and harm wildlife.

Mining opponents also worry offshore mining would negatively impact food production and economic growth.

Several thousand subsistence farmers live along South Africa’s coast, and the country’s large-scale fishing industry produces around 600,000 metric tonnes of catch per year.

“[Mining] may lead to large areas becoming deserts for the fish populations that were there. If they don’t die off, they won’t find food there, and they’ll probably migrate out of those areas,” Augustyn said.

While the fishing and coastal tourism industries account for slightly more than 1.4 billion dollars of GDP, the potential economic benefits from marine mining remain unclear. There are no published estimates for job creation, but Namibian Marine Phosphate’s proposal said it would lead to 176 new jobs, not all of them local.

“The benefits are not coming back to the greater South African community,” Awad said. “African countries generally have been quite poor at negotiating the benefits through multinational companies’ exploitation of coastal resources.”

South Africa is one of only three African nations – along with Namibia and Seychelles – implementing marine spatial planning. This growing movement toward organised marine economies balances competing uses such as oil exploration, marine protected areas and fisheries. Earlier this year, the Department of Environmental Affairs, DEA, published a draft Marine Spatial Planning Bill, the first step toward creating marine-specific legislation.

According to government predictions, a properly managed marine economy could add more than 12.5 billion dollars to South Africa’s GDP by 2033. What part mining will play in that remains to be seen.

“Internationally the off-shore exploration for hard minerals is on the increase and it is to be expected that the exploitation of South Africa’s non-living marine resources will also increase,” the DEA’s draft framework said.

Neither the Department of Mineral Resources nor the DEA responded to repeated requests for comment.

Mark Olalde’s mining investigations are financially supported by the Fund for Investigative Journalism, the Fund for Environmental Journalism and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Additional support for this story was provided by #MineAlert and Code for Africa.

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Namibian Chamber of Commerce against experimental seabed mining

Concept art of bulk cutter. Image: N.R.Fuller

Kenya Kambowe | Namibian Sun | 4 November 2016

The Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) northern branch has condemned the mining of phosphate off the Namibian coast, saying that the interest of Namibians should always come first.

The northern branch also slammed the issuing of the marine phosphate environmental clearance certificate to Namibian Phosphate Mining (NMP) by the environmental commissioner Teofilus Nghitila.

The certificate was subsequently withdrawn by environment minister Pohamba Shifeta who has since ordered Nghitila to inform the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, the fishing industry and all other interested parties to finalise their inputs within three months.

The cancellation comes in the wake of an urgent High Court application filed by several fishing associations citing irregularities in the issuance of the environmental clearance certificate. The NCCI is convinced that marine phosphate mining is a harmful process that poses a great risk to marine ecosystems.

“The extraction of marine phosphate is associated with a lot of possible irreversible destruction which can and will be detrimental to the sea ecosystem, with absolutely no possible mitigation factors,” the statement read.

“The negative destruction ranges from extraction to the end results and it gets worse with every stage of beneficiation.” The statement acknowledges the contribution of the fishing industry to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the economy and its significant role in reducing the high unemployment rate in the country.

Furthermore, the chamber argues that the foreign shareholding of NMP will contribute insignificantly to the Namibian economy. NMP is owned by Mawarid Mining LLC (85%), an Omani company, and Havana Investments (Pty) Ltd (15%), a Namibian company, belonging to businessman Knowledge Katti.

“It is important to note that fisheries contribute immensely to our GDP. It brings in a lot of foreign currency through the export of our fish products, most of which are value-added products. Through the value addition, a lot of employment opportunities are created and a lot of Namibians are employed,” the statement further says.

“It is therefore important to understand that, in the first place, phosphate mining will not benefit our sustainable economic development in the long run; no matter how beautiful the picture might be painted. The biggest stake of the shareholding belongs to the foreigners.”

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Urgent application against Namibian seabed mining approval

namibia

LEGAL BATTLE: An urgent application has been filed in the High Court against phosphate mining in Namibia

See also: Nautilus Minerals linked to corruption allegations around Namibian seabed mining

Ellanie Smit | Namibian Sun | 02 November 2016

An urgent application has been filed in the High Court yesterday against the awarding of the environmental clearance for marine phosphate mining at the coast.

The application was filed by lawyer Sisa Namandje who is acting on behalf of the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations.

The urgent application follows after the environmental clearance certificate for Namibian Marine Phosphate’s Sandpiper Project was quietly issued on 5 September and it only came to light more than a month later.

At the time of going to print last night, it was not clear as to when the matter will be heard.

Affected parties had only 14 days to appeal the decision from the date of granting the certificate.

Namandje last week accused environmental commissioner Teofilus Nghitila of committing a number of irregularities and that he had not complied with the Environmental Management Act.

These accusations were contained in correspondence between Namandje and government attorney Mathias Kashindi, who is representing Nghitila after the fishing confederation, demanded through their lawyer, that Nghitila should provide detailed information on the processes followed with regard to granting the environmental clearance.

They wanted to know, among others, the date on which he had received the assessment report from the NMP, as indicated in Section 35 of the Environmental Management Act of 2007, the details and all particulars of the notifications made to the public and interested parties, as well as the closing date for submission contemplates, again in terms of Section 35 of the same Act.

However, after Nghitila provided the information to his lawyer, Kashindi in his correspondence with Namandje admitted that Nghitila had to a certain extent not complied with some of the requirements of the act.

Contradicting remarks

Nghitila has refuted claims of irregularities on his part and expressed concern over the fact that his lawyer had written to Namandje without his consent and provided contradicting information than what was discussed between them.

According to Nghitila, he answered all of the questions that Namandje asked on the process followed in the granting of the environmental clearance.

“I have dealt with questions posed by Namandje in my response as prepared for discussion with the government attorney. All evidence and documentation have been provided,” he said.

Nghitila has also expressed his concerns to the Attorney-General Sacky Shanghala and the Minister of Environment of Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta with regards to this misrepresentation by the government lawyer.

Some of the issues pointed out by Nghitila were that the issue of phosphate mining was discussed at a Special Cabinet Committee on Trade and Economic Development meeting of 15 February 2016.

He said that the environment ministry was given three months to pronounce itself on the matter with regard to the two mining licenses that have been issued for offshore phosphate mining.

According to him, at a meeting of 1 June, the environment ministry requested the deferment of the matter to allow technical consultation with the Ministry of Mines and Energy and the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.

At a meeting on 11 August Nghitila gave a presentation at which a notice was given of the decision as regard to ML 170 of Namibia Marine Phosphate.

He said that both ministers of mines and fisheries were part of this meeting.

The meeting agreed that Nghitila be granted the independence to decide on the matter as per the provisions of the Environmental Management Act.

“This served as notification to the competent authority, mines ministry and fisheries ministry,” said Nghitila.

He added that the notification of the application and requests for written comments were made through the company on 17 April 2012 and a number of notices were made inviting the public for public meetings.

With regards to the fact that Nghitila did not advise all interested parties, including fisheries associations of his decision to grant environmental clearance, he said Section 37 of the Act and Regulation 18 refer that only notifying the proponent and competent authority is required.

Nghitila also responded to claims about the review process that was not followed, saying that this already started in 2012 after the Environmental Impact Assessment report was submitted.

He said this review process included consultation with both the fisheries and mines ministries including ordering the company to do the verification study. After the submission of the verification studies, which forms part of the EIA Report, Nghitila satisfied himself with the report and consultation with the relevant ministries were undertaken which culminated in a workshop held on 27 April 2016 in Swakopmund.

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