Tag Archives: Lihir gold mine

Citigroup limits financing for mines that dump tailings at sea

Jim Tan | Mongabay | 12 June 2018

  • Following pressure from advocates, Citigroup said last month that it will not fund any future mining projects over $50 million that dispose of mine waste in the oceans.
  • Tailings, a fine-grained, often toxic slurry left over after the processing of mined ore, are still disposed of in oceans, lakes and rivers in several countries.
  • Mines in Papua New Guinea, Norway and Chile are proposing to dispose of tailings in the ocean.
  • Local communities are often most affected by pollution from mines and have vocally opposed tailings disposal in the ocean in Norway and Papua New Guinea.

Several mines around the world dispose of potentially toxic mine waste directly into the ocean. Environmentalists have criticized the practice, arguing that the waste smothers ocean habitat and leaches harmful chemicals and heavy metals that can poison marine life. Last month Citigroup, a major shareholder in four mining companies that either actively dispose of mine waste into the ocean or propose to do so, agreed not to finance any new operations that pipe mine waste into the sea.

Citigroup’s move comes after pressure from an international coalition of NGOs that launched a campaign this year to end the disposal of mine waste in natural water bodies. The coalition, led by the Washington, D.C.-based environmental NGO Earthworks, is calling for a global ban on the practice and pressuring financial institutions to stop funding mining operations that engage in it. Earthworks announced Citigroup’s move in a May 2 press release.

“Citi’s decision says loud and clear: ocean dumping is dirty, unnecessary and wrong,” Ellen Moore, who coordinates the Ditch Ocean Dumping campaign for Earthworks, told Mongabay.

There are few signs of life on the bottom of Jøssingfjord in southern Norway 35 years after dumping ceased at the Tellnes titanium mine. Scientists believe it may never recover. Image by Erling Svensen.

Toxic tailings

One of the key problems miners face is how to safely dispose of the huge quantities of waste rock and tailings produced in the mining process. The tailings, a fine-particle slurry left over after the target metal has been extracted from the mined ore, are particularly tricky to handle. Tailings often contain potentially harmful chemicals used to process the ore, like cyanide and petroleum, as well as by-products like sulphuric acid and heavy metals like lead.

Nowadays, the vast majority of the world’s 2,500 industrial-scale mines dispose of their waste on land. But several mines still dump into water bodies, including at least seven into the ocean, in Papua New Guinea (PNG), Indonesia, Turkey and Norway; at least three into rivers, in PNG and Indonesia; and at least five into lakes in the U.S. and Canada, according to a non-exhaustive list from Earthworks. The group calculated that mines dispose of more than 220 million metric tons of waste in water bodies every year — enough, the group says, to fill 55 sports stadiums.

“Although mine waste dumping in water has been phased out in many parts of the world, mining companies still use it, governments still allow it, and the world’s largest banks and investment firms still profit from it,” Moore told Mongabay.

This is partly the result of geography. In Norway, suitable and stable terrestrial locations to store mine tailings are hard to find because of the mountainous terrain. In PNG, mines face a similar problem and must also contend with frequent earthquakes and flooding during the rainy season that can destabilize tailings dams.

Tailings pipes from the Marcopper mine in Marinduque, the Philippines, enter the sea at Calancan Bay. Image by Catherine Coumans/MiningWatch Canada

It is now widely accepted that tailings disposal can have a catastrophic impact on rivers and the creatures that live there. But the effect of tailings disposal in the ocean is somewhat more contentious.

Companies including Oslo-based Nordic Mining, which proposes to pump tailings from a rutile mine into Førdefjord, a fjord in southwestern Norway, suggest that deep-sea tailings disposal can be safe. They argue that, due to the layered nature of the ocean, so long as tailings are piped deep enough, ocean currents will not spread them, and their impact on marine life will be minimal and localized.

Charles Roche, executive director of the Mineral Policy Institute, an Australian NGO that assists communities affected by mining and is a signatory to the campaign, is less convinced. He points to the very limited peer-reviewed literature as evidence of the impact of submarine tailings. Two studies conducted around the Lihir gold mine in PNG found fewer deep-water fish and reduced marine life on the sea floor compared to the surrounding areas.

Part of the problem is that there is very little independent research into the effect of submarine tailings disposal, Roche told Mongabay.

“Research into submarine tailings is generally done by or for proponents [of submarine tailings disposal],” he said.

Many of the studies are environmental impact assessments conducted on behalf of mining corporations applying for a licence to operate and are rarely publicly available, according to a 2015 article in Oceanography magazine.

The lack of peer-reviewed research on the topic is a problem for Lisa Levin, an oceanographer with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California. A 2015 review she co-authored in Marine Pollution Bulletin suggests that a major reason is the high cost of conducting research in the deep sea.

Despite the limited research, Levin is also convinced tailings disposal has a negative impact on the ocean. “It will never be good for marine ecosystems,” she told Mongabay.

Citigroup acts

Citigroup, a multinational investment bank and financial services corporation based in New York, is among the top 20 largest financial institutions in the world, with total assets of $1.84 trillion in 2017.

Citigroup’s business is split into two divisions: consumer banking under the Citibank brand, and investment banking. It was Citigroup’s investments that attracted Earthworks’ attention. Citigroup is the third-largest shareholder in the Australian mining companies Highlands Pacific and St. Barbara Limited, which Earthworks says have together disposed of 54 million tons of toxic tailings in the ocean around PNG. Citigroup also holds shares in Norway-based Nussir ASA and Nordic Mining, which have both proposed disposing of tailings at sea in Norway.

Fishing boat on Repparfjord, Norway, where Norwegian mining company Nussir ASA proposes to dispose of tailings from a copper mine. Image by Kjerstin Uhre.

The campaign wrote an open letter to Michael Corbat, Citigroup’s CEO, in January 2018 asking the bank to sever ties with companies that dispose of waste at sea.

“Citi was immediately responsive after we launched the public campaign,” Moore told Mongabay. “It was clear that the bank did not want to be associated with the harmful and outdated practice.”

Following negotiations, Citigroup revised its Environmental and Social Policy Framework to state:

“Citi will not directly finance new mining projects … that utilize submarine waste disposal.”

The policy will only apply to future projects requiring corporate loans over $50 million, and does not apply to the bank’s brokerage business, which holds shares on behalf of clients.

When asked about the company’s new policy, Citigroup spokesperson Laura London responded:

“Citi has a comprehensive Environmental and Social Risk Management Policy that covers our business with a range of sectors, including the mining sector, and we carefully review any sensitive environmental and social impacts of activities we finance, in line with our global standards and good industry practice.”

London declined to respond to detailed questions, and the bank has not publicly announced the move itself.

Roche welcomed Citigroup’s policy change, but he recommended the bank “extend the policy and prohibit any involvement, including company or nominee shareholdings, of riverine and [marine tailing disposal projects].”

Nevertheless, Moore believes this quick win for her campaign is the first step in the right direction. She said Citigroup also agreed to add companies that dispose of mine waste in lakes, rivers or the ocean to the bank’s internal watchlist and subject them to tighter scrutiny.

Levin agrees that Citigroup’s move is significant.

”[Citigroup’s] policy certainly helps to raise awareness of the negative effects of submarine tailings disposal,” she said. “Because the economic sector drives so much of human behavior I believe it is an important first step to engender change.”

The campaign is also targeting the multinational financial institutions Bank of America, Credit Suisse and J.P. Morgan, contending that they also “have ties” to mines that dispose of waste into water bodies.

Local communities pay the price

View of the Ramu Nickel mine refinery where mine waste is disposed of into the ocean in Papua New Guinea. Image by Christopher McLeod/Sacred Land Film Project.

When mine tailings cause environmental damage, it is often local communities and indigenous groups that pay the highest price. Moore is critical of brokerage businesses, such as Citigroup’s, that hold so-called nominee shares for clients, which can be used to shield the clients’ identities. She said that if affected community groups could identify shareholders and then communicate their concerns directly to them, it would make a difference.

In PNG, tailings from the Tolukuma gold mine resulted in elevated levels of arsenic, lead and mercury in the drinking water and flooded croplands for communities downstream, according to a 2013 report prepared for the International Maritime Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme. The report also notes anecdotal reports from local communities of increased illness and deaths after drinking and bathing in the river where the mine disposed of its tailings.

In both PNG and Norway, local community groups have been vocal in their opposition to the disposal of tailings at sea. Landowners in PNG attempted to prevent the Ramu Nickel mine, majority owned by the Metallurgical Corporation of China, from dumping its tailings in the sea through a class action lawsuit, but were unsuccessful. In Norway, Saami indigenous people have frequently voiced their opposition to proposals by Nordic Mining and Nussir ASA to dispose of tailings in Førdefjord and in Repparfjord, in the northern part of the country.

“It is illogical and immoral to sacrifice our traditional, sustainable and profitable fisheries for an uncertain mine project that relies on outdated practices to turn a profit,” said Silje Karine Muotka, a member of the Saami parliament, in Earthworks’ press release.

Nevertheless, both projects appear to be moving forward.

Citations

Brewer, D.T., Milton, D.A., Fry, G.C., Dennis, D.M., Heales, D.S., & Venables, W.N. (2007). Impacts of gold mine waste disposal on deepwater fish in a pristine tropical marine systemMarine Pollution Bulletin 54(3): 309-321.

Hughes, D.J., Shimmield, T.M., Black, K.D., & Howe, J.A. (2015). Ecological impacts of large-scale disposal of mining waste in the deep seaScientific Reports 5:9985.

Ramirez-Llodra, E., et al. (2015). Submarine and deep-sea mine tailing placements: a review of current practices, environmental issues, natural analogs and knowledge gaps in Norway and internationallyMarine Pollution Bulletin 97(1-2):13-35.

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Aussie taxpayers chipping in for mining giant

Millions of dollars from Australian taxpayers are being spent to seal the Boluminski Highway in New Ireland, in the shadow of the giant Lihir gold mine run by Newcreat Mining.

In total the Australian government is spending $400 million on Phase 2 of its Transport Sector Support Program in PNG.

Australian taxpayers are footing the bill for infrastructure PNG’s huge foreign-owned mines were supposed to pay for.

Boluminski Highway sealing underway

PNG Loop | April 27, 2018

Works are well underway in New Ireland on a major project to reconstruct 32.4 kilometres of the Boluminski Highway between Pinatgin and Loloba.

The K39.4 million project is being delivered through the Papua New Guinea – Australia Partnership, with the support of the New Ireland Provincial Government.

Australia is committed to supporting a prosperous Papua New Guinea. Works along the Boluminski Highway will help business and local communities access markets and services and boost the tourism industry in New Ireland Province.

Department of Works Secretary, David Wereh, is pleased to see the project progressing well.

“This is an important project on an essential economic corridor for Papua New Guinea. The project will nally link the centres of Namatanai and Kavieng with 265km of sealed maintainable road.

“This will be a signi cant achievement made possible through a long term commitment by the Papua New Guinean and Australian governments,” he said.

More than 140 local residents are employed on the project and works are expected to be completed by the end of December 2018.

The project is being delivered through the Papua New Guinea – Australia Transport Sector Support Program.

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K5M Projects For Nimamar As Sir Julius Fires Broadside At Lihir Gold Mine

Chan: “We will light up the islands and shame the mining giant with the glow of our solar street lights” 

Post Courier | April 26, 2018

Traditional dance groups added colour to the launching of nearly K.5 million worth of projects for five wards in the Nimamar LLG on Malie Island in the Lihir group last Saturday.

The projects include 60 solar street lights to light up village communities in the four island wards from Malie, Masahet and Mahur.

But three boats and one sawmill marked the biggest village impact projects rollout that came under two project initiatives of the New Ireland Government – the Ward Level Project Policy and the Lighting Up New Ireland Policy’

Governor Sir Julius Chan, deputy governor and president of the Nimamar LLG, Ambrose Silul, PEC and provincial assembly members, shipping operator Michael Chan from Vanmak Shipping and staff from the governor’s office and Nimamar LLG gathered with the people to witness the occasion.

Sir Julius had the chance to meet with his people in the electorate. He was at Lambom to launch seven sawmill projects for the Konoagil wards last Thursday with the president James Pandi and then joined president Silul on Saturday to wind up the week.

He told the Lihir people that the Lihir gold mine is the third largest in the world and yet after 20 years in operation Lihir still was without a sealed ring road up until only three years ago, and no power to the inhabitants, even to the islands.

“We recognise that a lot of money for the province comes from Lihir so today I am happy to join with Ambrose so we can put something back to the place of origin. So we will light up the islands and shame the mining giant with the glow of our solar street lights and show that even though the the mine is not forthcoming, this government cares and does what we can to better the lives of our people”

Sir Julius said he’s optimistic of a better deal for the people in the negotiations under the MOA revision that will increase the mining royalty from the current 2% to 10%.

“We fight to put wealth in the hands of the people. Development won’t come if people have no money. If the people are rich the country is rich.”

He encouraged the people to rally behind their president who has been part of the major policies that have impact the province and elect good leader in the coming LLG elections.

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Transparency Initiative report calls for improved systems in extractive sector in Papua New Guinea

Sources of revenue from extractive sector to government. Source: EITI

Business Advantage | EMTV | 4 April 2018

The 2016 Papua New Guinea Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative report has found that improvements are being made to registry and payment systems in Papua New Guinea, but more needs to be done. It notes that budgeting for government revenues remains difficult because of the resources industry’s volatility, and the relatively small number of companies paying full tax.

The EITI report, which is produced by Ernst & Young, says that ‘in some cases, the absence of a robust system for managing government revenue payments in PNG leaves the system vulnerable to fraud, corruption, and human error.’

It found that the problem of transparency is amplified when payments to sub-national [provincial and district] governments are taken into consideration, noting that the Asian Development Bank has called for greater transparency in sub-national government resource revenue flows.

Budgeting

Budgeting for government revenues, the report says, from the extractive sector is ‘complex due to the revenue being subject to fluctuations in quantities produced and global commodity prices’.

A further issue is the high number of extractive companies that have some form of tax exemption.

‘Medium-term projections anticipate that corporate income tax (mining and petroleum tax) will come mainly from Ok Tedi, Porgera and the oil fields.

‘The Ramu Nico mine has a 10-year exemption from corporate income tax. The Lihir mine continues to undertake high capital expenditures which reduce its taxable income.

‘Low LNG prices, together with an accelerated depreciation allowance, means there may not be corporate income tax from the PNG LNG project.

‘In addition, key mines are claiming Infrastructure Tax Credits (ITCs).’

PNG oil and gas production. Source: EITI

Recommendations

The EITI report makes a number of recommendations. One was the implementation of a reliable electronic registry system to supersede the current paper ledger system.

The report noted that scanning of all documents has begun, but it will require additional resources to adhere to the EITI Standard.

‘The Department of Petroleum and Energy will need to provide information regarding licences awarded and transferred in previous reporting periods.’

Another recommendation has been that the Mineral Resources Development Company (MRDC) reports on the equity distribution and all other funds it holds in trust and invests for the landowners and for future generations.

It notes that there has been better information on payments and receipts, especially from the MRDC.

Making electronic payments, rather than using cash or cheques, is identified as a priority. The lack of a ‘robust system for managing resource payments leaves the system vulnerable to fraud, corruption and human error,’ the report says.

‘There were specific financial instructions from the Finance Minister for government agencies to heed this change and transition into electronic payments system where possible.’

Two other areas of focus are improving reporting on sub-national payments and ensuring that Memorandums of Understanding (MOAs) are made public.

Positive prospects

The EITI report says the medium-term economic outlook for PNG ‘remains positive, with foreign investments in the pipeline’.

It anticipates 2.8 per cent GDP growth in 2018, pointing to:

  • A gradual pick-up in the global economy, which is expected to boost commodity prices and stimulate activity in sectors outside resource extraction.
  • Increased output in mining.
  • Forecast growth in agriculture, forestry and fishery output of 3 per cent, with increases in both price and production.
  • PNG’s hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting in 2018.
  • Legislative changes introduced on 1 January 2017 on taxation of the extractive sector.

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Lihir Royalties on hold

Sally Pokiton | PNG Loop | November 15, 2017

temporary hold on royalty payments from Newcrest Mining Limited, has been ordered by the Waigani National Court today.

The people of Namatanai district, claim they have not received their share of royalties in the last 10 years, an amount that equates to K7 billion.

With the restraining order in place, only the Nimamar LLG and Lihir Landowners will receive their royalties this month.

Kavieng and Namatanai districts and the New Ireland Provincial governments will not receive any payments until parties present their case, on how much they should be paid, and get a clarity on the gures in court next month.

Member for Namatanai, Walter Schnaubelt and member for Kavieng Ian Ling Stucky led a case in the National court, against Sir Julius Chan as Governor for New Ireland Province Government, and Lamiller Pawut as Acting Provincial Administrator of New Island Province.

The sitting MPs are seeking clarity on all the past payments, and how much should have been paid between the New Ireland Provincial Government and the two districts as per the Lihir MOA.

They want an account of all those monies and how much should have been paid to them through the Provincial Treasury accounts.

Schnaubelt said the Provincial Government received K168 million under the governorship of Sir Julius Chan, from 2007 till now.

“I’m fighting for my people’s share. As a district, we never received our portion for the last 10 years. Hopefully the National Government can give us what we deserve initially, in accordance to the Lihir MOA, where Namanatani district is supposed to receive 20% of the Lihir royalties,” he said.

The Lihir Landowners and Nimamar LLG gets 50% payment. From the other 50%, Kavieng and Namatanai districts are to receive K20% each while the 10% is retained by the provincial government.

“The Lihir MOA was very clear, outlining the recipients but unfortunately, Namatanai district has not been receiving its share for 10 years, and that equates for K7 billion years, hence why Namatanai district is in the state its in, a total neglect.

“Hopefully all these corrective measures will now be put in place, and the challenge is now on me as member to deliver the services I promised during the election,” Schnaubelt said.

The two members believe the Lihir MOA is unfair, as royalties have been unfairly administered among the two districts, and they want an account to be given on the payments that should to be received on behalf of the two districts.

In the meantime, their royalty payments will be made to the National court trust accounts. Whether the orders will continue, that will be determined on December 4.

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Namatanai MP Schnaubelt queries Lihir Royalties

NBC News/PNG Today 

Namatanai MP Walter Schnaubelt has tasked the New Ireland Provincial Government to explain the whereabouts of his district’s share of mine royalties, as per an Agreement with the Lihir Gold Mine.

He says since the start of the mine’s operations in 2007, his District has not received its 20 per cent share of the funds.

Mr Schnaubelt told NBC Radio the New Ireland Government must furnish expenditure reports of the payments.

“The concern now is the 50% portion blong New Ireland Provincial Government which is responsible to dispatch 20% to Namatanai district and 20% to Kavieng district na 10 percent is retained by the provincial government blo administration purposes.

“Orait, the provincial government component paid to date is K264m and you know since 2007 i kam nao, Namatanai district and Kavieng district have missed out on their 20% share.”

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Large-scale Mines and Local Politics: Between New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea

Download the chapters in PDF format

  1. Large-Scale Mines and Local‑Level Politics (PDF, 0.2MB) – Colin Filer and Pierre-Yves Le Meur 
  2. From Anticipation to Practice: Social and Economic Management of a Nickel Plant’s Establishment in New Caledonia’s North Province (PDF, 0.8MB) – Jean-Michel Sourisseau, Sonia Grochain and David Poithily 
  3. Social and Environmental Transformations in the Neighbourhood of a Nickel Mining Project: A Case Study from Northern New Caledonia (PDF, 1.7MB) – Matthias Kowasch 
  4. The Boakaine Mine in New Caledonia: A Local Development Issue? (PDF, 0.1MB) – Christine Demmer 
  5. Conflict and Agreement: The Politics of Nickel in Thio, New Caledonia (PDF, 0.1MB) – Pierre-Yves Le Meur 
  6. Contesting the Goro Nickel Mining Project, New Caledonia: Indigenous Rights, Sustainable Development and the Land Issue (PDF, 0.2MB) – Claire Levacher 
  7. Dissecting Corporate Community Development in the Large-Scale Melanesian Mining Sector (PDF, 0.4MB) – Glenn Banks, Dora Kuir-Ayius, David Kombako and Bill F. Sagir 
  8. Negotiating Community Support for Closure or Continuation of the Ok Tedi Mine in Papua New Guinea (PDF, 0.3MB) – Colin Filer and Phillipa Jenkins 
  9. Disconnected Development Worlds: Responsibility towards Local Communities in Papua New Guinea (PDF, 0.3MB) – John Burton and Joyce Onguglo 
  10. Gender Mainstreaming and Local Politics: Women, Women’s Associations and Mining in Lihir (PDF, 0.1MB) – Susan R. Hemer 
  11. Migrants, Labourers and Landowners at the Lihir Gold Mine, Papua New Guinea (PDF, 1.4MB) – Nicholas A. Bainton 
  12. Bougainville: Origins of the Conflict, and Debating the Future of Large-Scale Mining (PDF, 0.2MB) – Anthony J. Regan 
  13. Between New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea (PDF, 0.1MB) – Colin Filer and Pierre-Yves Le Meur 

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