Tag Archives: Human rights

Logging, mining and fisheries at centre of increasing slave trade in Pacific

The delegates that were in Apia for a people smuggling/human trafficking transnational crime workshop. Photo: Supplied

Concerns over increasing slave trade in Pacific

Radio New Zealand | 21 February 2019 

The Pacific Immigration Development Community says human trafficking to the point of slavery is increasingly common in industries like logging, mining and fishing.

The immigration watchdog says island countries are now both a source and destination for human trafficking and people smuggling.

The watchdog’s head Ioane Alama said people smuggling occurs when migrants cross borders illegally but human trafficking is more sinister.

“There is always an essence of exploitation. The person being trafficked, there is a form of exploitation, either be labour, forced labour, in some cases servitude, we’ve heard of sexual exploitation, in terms of prostitution.

“And also more recently we’re hearing references to slavery, of slavery, or practices similar to slavery.”

Ioane Alama said Pacific governments are improving how they detect and prevent human trafficking through better information sharing and increased vigilance.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Human rights, Pacific region

Bougainville Landowners Call On Momis For Protection

People on Bougainville want protection from Jeff McGlinn and his ‘draconian changes’ to resource ownership laws

Post Courier | February 22, 2019

Landowners throughout Bougainville are today calling on President John Momis for protection from a “callous opportunist.”

The landowners said that the customary laws of Bougainville and the basic human rights of landowners cannot be ignored.

A secret presentation, by an Australian, Jeff McGlinn, which was marked “strictly confidential, not for distribution” has just become public.

It evidences the unconscionable demand to strip landowners of all their rights under the Bougainville Mining Act.

McGlinn’s demand for these wholesale and draconian changes, is so that he can secure a complete monopoly over all large scale mines on Bougainville, including Panguna, without following the due processes of law, including the mandated Free Prior and Informed Consent of Landowners.

Panguna landowner Philip Miriori said: “The McGlinn draft Bills, which would strip landowners of all their rights, were actually drafted by McGlinn’s lawyers. It is completely unacceptable.

“We cannot allow foreigners to draft our laws, tearing up our entire Bougainville Mining Act, and all its safeguards, just so that he and his small group of insiders, including ex PNG Defence personnel can profit personally from our lands and our struggle.”

Mr Daveona said: “The Landowners of Bougainville call on President Momis to protect them, by immediately withdrawing these deeply offensive McGlinn drafted Bills.

There has been no prior opportunity for consultation. Anyone who has bothered to even read a little of the history of Bougainville, would understand that the Bougainville Conflict was a plea for better mining practices and the recognition of the rights of Customary Landowners.”

Mr Miriori said it would be difficult to think of something more deeply disrespectful and insensitive to landowners and the community generally than the demands of McGlinn.

“This comes at the very time the community is focused on continuing to build peace and reconciliation in the lead up to the referendum on independence. “Unreasonable, unconscionable and unconstitutional. If passed they will be challenged and Panguna is delayed indefinitely. Nobody wins – in fact we all lose. The general feeling about the amendment, from the 500 people who attended, was that no one agreed with it and those present were asking the ABG members to do away with the amendment immediately.

Leave a comment

Filed under Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Barrick must be accountable for environment destruction

We pray that Barrick is held to account for the misery, pain and loss our people suffered

David Mandi | Post Courier | 21 February 2019

The Porgera River Alluvial Miners Association is responding to an article in Tuesday’s edition of the Post-Courier titled ‘Barrick confirms continuing commitment to PNG Government and Porgera community, which was reportedly released by the new president and chief executive officer of Barrick, Mark Bristow.

First, we confirm our support and commend the Prime Minister, Hon Peter O’Neill’s bold announcement recently that there will be no automatic renewal of the Porgera special mining lease (SML) once it expires in August this year. The Prime Minister’s announcement is surely the best news in decades (30 years) for the poor and illiterate indigenous alluvial miners living along the Porgera river, who had been suppressed and marginalised by the world’s mining powers including Barrick.

Secondly, our response to Barrick’s press release follows.

Barrick has deliberately failed to maintain a positive relationship with us (affected people) in the past, while being fully aware that their operations were physically and economically displacing more than 10,000 people of the Porgera river through their continuous discharge of mine waste (more than 1.5 billion cubic meters per year) directly into the Porgera River system.

Further, to date, Barrick has intentionally failed to pay us compensation award made in our favour through the 1996 Ministerial Determination (“1996 MOil) to settle the six year (1990-1995) compensation dispute.

Thus, Barrick has been illegally discharging waste using a flawed Environment Permit number WD-L3 (121).

We pray that Barrick is held to account for the misery, pain and loss our people suffered.

Thus, Barrick’s continuous presence in Porgera is detrimental to the health, welfare and safety of the Porgera river alluvial miners.

And we will continue to vigorously oppose and protest to Barrick’s application to renew the Porgera SML and Exploration Licences 454 and 858.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Brazil bans upstream mining dams after deadly Vale disaster

FILE PHOTO: A member of a rescue team walks next to a collapsed tailings dam owned by Brazilian mining company Vale SA, in Brumadinho, Brazil February 13, 2019. Picture taken February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Washington Alves/File Photo

Marta Nogueira | Reuters | 20 February 2019

Brazil’s government on Monday banned new upstream mining dams and ordered the decommissioning of all such dams by 2021, targeting the type of structure that burst last month in the town of Brumadinho, killing hundreds of people.

Those dams, which hold mining byproducts, are cheaper to build but present higher security risks because their walls are constructed over a base of muddy mining waste rather than on solid ground.

In January, one such dam operated by miner Vale SA, the world’s largest iron ore miner, collapsed, unleashing a wave of mud that bulldozed nearby structures and has likely killed more than 300 people.

The move by Brazil’s mining regulator, which would impact some 50 upstream mining dams in Brazil’s mining heartland of Minas Gerais state alone, is the strongest governmental response yet to the disaster.

The new regulation orders mining companies to present independently-produced decommission plans by August and ensure that those plans are executed by 2021.

The death toll rose to 169 people as of Sunday night, with 141 people yet to be located.

Several mid-level company executives have been arrested in the wake of the disaster, which comes less than four years after a similar deadly collapse at another upstream dam co-owned by Vale and BHP Group.

While Vale has said it considered the Brumadinho dam to be safe, an October 2018 report showed that the company classified the dam as being two times more likely to fail than the maximum level of risk tolerated under internal guidelines.

Around 200 residents were evacuated from an area near another dam operated by Vale late on Saturday, amid fears that it was structurally weak and could also collapse.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights

Deep sea mining threatens indigenous culture in Papua New Guinea

Seabed Mining (Graphic: Greenpeace)

John Childs | The Conversation | February 19, 2019

When they start mining the seabed, they’ll start mining part of me.

These are the words of a clan chief of the Duke of York Islands – a small archipelago in the Bismarck Sea of Papua New Guinea which lies 30km from the world’s first commercial deep sea mine site, known as “Solwara 1”. The project, which has been delayed due to funding difficulties, is operated by Canadian company Nautilus Minerals and is poised to extract copper from the seabed, 1600m below the surface.

Valuable minerals are created as rapidly cooling gases emerge from volcanic vents on the seafloor. Mining the seabed for these minerals could supply the metals and rare earth elements essential to building electric vehicles, solar panels and other green energy infrastructure. But deep sea mining could also damage and contaminate these unique environments, where researchers have only begun to explore.

The industry’s environmental impact isn’t the only concern. It’s been assumed by the corporate sector that there is limited human impact from mining in the deep sea. It is a notion that is persuasive especially when compared with the socio-ecological impacts of land-based mining.

But such thinking is a fallacy – insights from my research with communities in Papua New Guinea over the past three years highlight that the deep sea and its seabed should be thought of as intimately connected to humanity, despite the geographical distances involved. For the people of the Duke of York Islands, deep sea mining disturbs a sense of who they are, including the spirits that inhabit their culture and beliefs.

Young people on Duke of York Islands. Paul Hearne, Author provided

Out of sight, out of mined

In Western thought, the sea has not only been considered to be marginal to politics, but also as entirely distinct from the land. Separating nature from humanity has proved useful in enabling exploitation of the natural world for human means. Deep sea mining, with all its material connections between a dynamic seabed and sites of consumption on land, provokes new questions.

If humanity can’t physically encounter the deep seabed, then how are we to treat it ethically?. By conceptually “distancing” the deep ocean, who is being marginalised?

For the people who live close to Solwara 1, the answer is pointed. These communities have long understood the world as a connection between “nature”, “spirits” and “beings”. Central within this cosmology are the spirits – masalai – some of which are understood as guardians of the seabed and its resources.

The people of Duke of York Islands are tied spiritually to events in the deep sea. John Childs, Author provided

Masalai are a fundamental part of the islanders’ world. Thus, the prospect of deep sea mining means not just social and economic disruption, but spiritual turmoil. The digging up of the seabed and the extraction of its resources cuts through the very fabric of their spiritual world and its sacred links to the sea and land.

As the historian Neil Macgregor put it in the Radio 4 series “Living with the Gods”, masalai are not

out there… [like] tourists in the human realm, from somewhere else … but in a world in which we co-inhabit.

The political implication for island communities here is clear. The copper which might be mined from the seabed is effectively constituted by these spirits. Thus, as copper “resurfaces” in the objects and technologies of the future – in batteries and wiring – it also carries a spirituality from the region where it originated.

Spirits infuse the traditions and everyday practises of the people on the Duke of York Islands. “Shark calling” is one such example which is practised along parts of the west coast of New Ireland Province – the closest point on land to Solwara 1.

Every few weeks, when the sea conditions allow, “shark callers” attempt to attract sharks to their hand-carved wooden canoes by rattling a mesh of coconut shells in the water, before capturing them by hand. Shark meat is a key part of local diets that generally lack protein.

Shark callers communicate with spirits which are “resident” in stones found on local beaches prior to their expeditions. It’s no surprise then, that these communities fear noise pollution generated by deep sea mining and the physical disturbance of the seabed which could sever the cultural connections they have with the ocean.

Deep sea mining companies should consider the spirituality of the people their work affects and other kinds of environmental knowledge as important in their own right. As this new industry collides with cultural belief systems in different parts of the world, it will be essential to understand the complex ways in which deep sea mining does have “human” impacts after all. Culture is a key part of any understanding of environmental politics, no matter how extreme the environment in question.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Norway to allow new mine waste dumping in national salmon fjord

2,500 Norwegians have signed up for civil disobedience against the mine waste dumping

“ONE OF THE MOST ENVIRONMENTALLY DAMAGING INDUSTRIAL PROJECTS IN NORWEGIAN HISTORY”

Aled Dilwyn Fisher | Naturvernforbundet | 14 February 2019

• Norway one of five countries still dumping mine waste in the oceans. • Strong opposition from indigenous communities. • Civil disobedience planned.

The Norwegian government has granted a permit for a new copper mine at Repparfjord, Finnmark, that will dump its waste into a protected national salmon fjord.

“This is one of the most environmentally damaging industrial projects in Norwegian history,” commented Silje Ask Lundberg, leader of Friends of the Earth Norway.

Two million tonnes of heavy metal waste will be dumped every year by the company Nussir – the equivalent of 17 lorry loads every hour – into a fjord given special protection to conserve the salmon population. Populations of cod, pollock, Atlantic herring, haddock, halibut, and flatfish will also be affected.

“Dumping of mining waste will kill every living thing on the ocean floor in the immediate area and disturb spawning grounds over a much greater distance. Scientists have repeatedly warned against dumping. This decision shows conclusively that the government does not take the fight to conserve ocean life seriously, and would rather prioritise short-term profit over conservation and sustainability,” added Ask Lundberg.

Earlier mine waste dumping in the same fjord, at a lower level than planned in the project approved today, led to a large drop in the salmon populations that took 13 years to recover. Cod populations have still not returned to their former spawning grounds.

2,500 Norwegians have signed up for civil disobedience against the project should it go ahead, including members of Nature and Youth (Young Friends of the Earth Norway). The Sami Parliament, representing the indigenous Sami people, has also opposed the plans. The Norwegian government itself has agreed a four-year moratorium on new projects planning to dump mine waste in other fjords. Norway is one of only five countries in the world that still allows mine waste dumping in its seas.

2 Comments

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights

The human cost of globalization

Barzil’s latest mining tragedy should be a wake-up call for citizens at both ends of the supply chain. Photograph: Douglas Magno/AFP/Getty Images

Eric Silverman | Metro West | 17 February 2019

Last month, a massive dam holding back a lake of waste from an iron ore mine collapsed in rural Brazil. The exact toll from the tsunami of metallic sludge is still unknown. At least 130 are confirmed dead but, as one elderly woman said, “It’s easier to count the living.” Hundreds remain missing. Some bodies will likely never be exhumed from the muck. Surely you heard about the disaster, expressed momentary horror, then went about your daily life as if such matters did not concern you. They do.

Like it or not, your hand – all of our hands – helped breach that dam. Those who benefit most from the global economy have equally global moral responsibility.

If you’re reading this newspaper in Massachusetts, glance outside your window. See any mines? Count yourself lucky. The largest such chasm in Boston was the Big Hole formerly occupied by Filene’s Basement. Actually, we’re not lucky at all, just rich. Most of us in MetroWest don’t want mining. We prefer other, far safer jobs, never mind backyards unblighted by large-scale resource extraction. And we have the affluence and power to make corporate and government leaders take heed. Not so the poor souls recently entombed in the mud.

Most Americans look to nature for rest and relaxation. We sojourn in the forest, like Thoreau, to “learn what it had to teach.” Others sell their woods and hills to survive. It is far better to be on the buying end of consumerism than the giving end of iron ore and other raw materials. Just ask the people of Vila Ferteco, the community downstream from the shattered dam.

Or ask anybody at the fringes of the world system. I know some of them well, having lived and studied as an anthropologist in a community along the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea. They have little political voice, less money, and no position of privilege that would cause corporate directors or public officials to take notice. That’s why their society is at risk from one of the largest gold and copper deposits in the Asia-Pacific region, the Frieda River mine, now under development by an Australian company, PanAust, which is a subsidiary of a Chinese government entity. Many people along the Sepik River are speaking out against this mine. Few seem to care or listen, especially shareholders and consumers on the other side of the world who will someday reap the lion’s share of the mine’s benefits.

There are few opportunities for a paycheck in the developing world, never mind a job that would pass muster by the workplace safety regulations that protect your own labor. More than 750 million people, mostly in the Global South, have less than a $1.90 a day in their pockets. What they have, however, are the natural resources – minerals, timber, oil, and gas – that are fed to factories in Nigeria, India, and Guangzhou, then shipped as the myriad products that arrive by Amazon on our doorsteps. It’s not so far from Bangladesh or Brumadinho to the local mall.

Nobody gives up their land because they find pleasure in open-pit mining. They do so because they have as much choice in the matter as they do clout in the boardroom or parliament. Corporations know this well, and so do as they please in distant places beneath the palm trees, at least those that remain standing after clearcutting for palm oil plantations. The end result is what just happened in Brazil.

The Global South is the resource Wal-Mart for the industrialized world, only with worse wages and no health care benefits.

The poisonous sludge that murdered a town last week came from a mine owned by a Brazilian company, Vale SA. The same firm, together with the Anglo-Australian giant BHP Billiton, owned another Brazilian mine where a collapsed dam killed more than a dozen in 2015. BHP Billiton once operated the Ok Tedi Mine in Papua New Guinea that discharged 90 million tons of waste into the local river system – about 500 square miles – for more than a decade. Half the river, reported The Australian Conservation Foundation, was “almost biologically dead.” The cultural survival of its indigenous communities remains at risk. Across the border in the Indonesian province of Papua, the U.S.-based company Freeport-McMoRan runs the world’s most profitable gold mine. Some of those profits, reported by The New York Times, went into the pockets of military and police officials to ‘secure’ the site.

Needless to say, major Western banks and investment firms, such as Vanguard, Blackrock, State Street, Fidelity, Citicorp, Bank of America, and John Hancock, pour assets into these mines, maybe even some of your own retirement funds, just as the mines pour their toxic waste down nearby hills and waterways.

There is no shortage of blame. Corrupt politicians. Greedy Wall Street financiers. Multinational corporations and the glossy PR firms they hire to promote ‘global citizenship.’ But most of the blame rests with you and I – everyday people content with our own lives and things, and thus unwilling to consider the human cost of globalization and to demand a more ethical capitalism. It’s time we did. Before another town in a far-flung place most of us can’t find on a map is buried beneath indifference.

Eric Silverman, a former Research Professor of Anthropology, lives in Framingham. He is now affiliated with the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandies University.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights