Tag Archives: Nautilus

Churches want to ban seabed mining

Benny Geteng | Post Courier | 4 September 2018

THE PNG Council of Churches has called for a total ban on seabed mining in the country.

The Council of Churches representatives from the United, Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Salvation Army, Seventh Day Adventist, Evangelical Alliance Church of Manus, Baptist and Body of Christ made their stance known after considering the seriousness of the activity on the seabed.

The representatives said in a joint statement that the seabed mining will only bring destruction to the ocean life; and people are being forced by developed industrialised countries to go along.

“The world is watching PNG and it will be a joke to the world if PNG says yes to this destructive monster in the absence of a relevant national policy and legislative framework on off-shore seabed mining.

“Following the Madang Guidelines concluded in 1999, we call on the National Government to ensure a separate policy and legislation is developed before off-shore mining including deep seabed mining activities is commenced in the country,” they said.

The representatives said the government should also clarify to the churches and the people of PNG as to what consultation processes have been undertaken to develop relevant policy and legislation governing off-shore mining.

Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative reports have highlighted that PNG is not getting its fair share of resource revenue and as such the churches have expressed concern that the States equity participation in the Solwara 1 project will be a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“We call on the government to be more focused on people development rather than profit development when making crucial decisions.

“The government must consult the people, ensuring citizens and the public are aware of the benefits and the negative impacts of these developments and allow them to make informed decisions on what the people think is best for them,” they said.

Nautilus Minerals Company is the developer of the Solwara 1 project located in the Bismarck Sea which will cover provinces such as New Ireland and East New Britain.

The National Government had obtained a loan of K400 million in 2014 from Bank South Pacific to acquire 15 per cent equity in the project.

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Nautilus Minerals Dives to New 12-Month Low at $0.11

Michael Baxter | X News Press | August 26, 2018

Nautilus Minerals Inc. share price hit a new 52-week low during trading on Friday . The stock traded as low as C$0.11 and last traded at C$0.11, with a volume of 14100 shares changing hands. The stock had previously closed at C$0.12.

See also:
Nautilus’ stock plummets as deep sea mining litigation proceeds
Nautilus Minerals tanks on shipbuilding contract cancellation
Anglo American divests from Nautilus over risks of deep sea mining

Nautilus Minerals Inc, a seafloor resource exploration company, explores and develops the ocean floor for copper, gold, silver, and zinc seafloor massive sulphide deposits. It also explores for manganese, nickel, and cobalt nodule deposits. The company’s principal project is the Solwara 1 project located in the Bismarck Sea, Papua New Guinea.

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Nautilus’ stock plummets as deep sea mining litigation proceeds

Deep Sea Mining Campaign | 17 July 2018

Today Nautilus Minerals Solwara 1 deep sea mine project will be at the centre of a court hearing in Papua New Guinea as local communities seek to enforce their legal rights to full information about the project.

Andy Whitmore, Finance campaigner from the Deep Sea Mining campaign said, “We were informed that Nautilus told its shareholders at their AGM that the legal case bought by local communities in PNG to stop the Solwara 1 project had been dismissed on June 18.”

“It is also alleged that Nautilus stated to shareholders they believed the government of PNG was going after community for cost recovery because it was a spurious lawsuit.” 

“This is misinformation from Nautilus!” claimed Jonathan Mesulam from the Alliance of Solwara Warriorsa local community leader whose village is located 25km from the Solwara 1 project.

“There is still a legal case registered at Waigani National Court House. The case, which was adjourned on June 18, will be heard today.”

“The real question is this: why is the government trying to dismiss this case? Why would government resources be invested in blocking this case over the constitutional right of all PNG citizens to Freedom of Information?”

Nautilus stock fell by 19% this month after a string of bad news stories. These include the contract with their shipbuilding supplier had been canceled, major mining company Anglo American divesting its’ shares from the company and that the majority of the local community in New Ireland province oppose the renewal of Nautilus’ exploration license.

“Local community around the Community Beneficiary Area (CBA) have all objected to the renewal of Exploration License 1196 through written objection which was lodged at the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) in March this year. There was also strong objection during the Warden hearing in April” continued Mr. Mesulam.

“New Irelanders are now well informed of the potential impact of Nautilus Minerals and their experimental seabed mining project. They are giving their undivided support to ensure the project is stopped at all cost.” 

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Nautilus Minerals tanks on shipbuilding contract cancellation

Nautilus’ floating base.

Cecilia Jamasmie | Mining.com | 5 July 2018

Shares in Canada’s Nautilus Minerals, one of the world’s first seafloor miners, were hit hard on Wednesday after the owner of the shipyard where the company’s support vessel is being made said it had cancelled the contract with the supplier chosen by Nautilus to build its ships.

The Toronto-based company, which is in the last stages of developing its Solwara 1 gold, copper and silver project, off the coast of Papua Guinea, said Fujian Mawei Shipbuilding’s decision was in response to the shipbuilder failing to pay the third instalment of the contract price — $18 million before interest.

The company’s stock fell almost 19% in Toronto on the news, hitting 15 Canadian cents at 12:21 PM local time, but between the average range it’s traded so far this year. In the last seven years, however, Nautilus’ shares have sunk around 90% and is now valued at just over Cdn $111 million.

The miner, which also is developing another underwater project, off the coast of Mexico, secured last month $34 million from lender Deep Sea Mining Finance, to finish its Solwara 1 project. However, it lost Anglo American’s support, as the mining giant said in May it was in the process of divesting its 4%-stake in the company.

Environmental groups have criticized the project, which will use three robotic machines weighing up to 310 tonnes to mine copper and gold from extinct hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. Nautilus plans to then mix the ore with seawater to create a slurry, which can be drawn to the surface, stored and then put on other ships for transport. The extracted seawater is then pumped back to the seabed.

The company’s seafloor production machines, each the size of a small house, are equipped with massive rock-crushing teeth.

The Canadian firm is not the only one hoping to start mining the bottom of the ocean.  It’s estimated that the United Nations’ International Seabed Authority (ISA), which is in charge of issuing exploration licences to both governments and companies has granted 26 such permits since it first opened up massive underwater regions to mining companies.

Countries including New Zealand, Namibia, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands have also granted permits for seabed mineral exploration. The Cook Islands has even undertaken a minerals exploration tender process, but PNG is the only country in the region to have granted a licence for ocean floor mining.

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New Ireland elders urged to clarify stance on experimental seabed mining

The Chief of Kono village is one of the few who are protesting against seabed mining – Picture: Alliance of Solwara Warriors

Loop PNG | 3 July 2018

A challenge has been issued to the New Ireland Council of Elders to clarify their stance on seabed mining.

During World Ocean Day last month, the Alliance of Solwara Warriors reiterated that the development of new ocean industries, such as deep seabed mining, is a shared concern and responsibility.

“It will be very interesting to see which side they support. Are they going to be concerned about our culture, customs and traditions?

“Their leadership as custodians of our natural resources is very important,” said the Alliance in a statement.

“Can they see beyond their noses and expose their true colour of leadership or are they politically bestowed the titles of chief?

“The people of New Ireland are watching.”

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A very deep trouble

Seabed mining

Ramaharitha Pusarla | The Hans India | 1 July 2018

Almost 44 years ago, on July 4, 1974, CIA launched a covert sea operation with an aim of stealing Russian submarine, K-129 a ballistic nuclear missile carrier, almost 2,500 km from north-west of Hawaii, six years ago. To divert the attention of Russian spies and give the operation a deliberate spin, CIA under the garb of harvesting rocks in the seabed launched an operation-Project Azorian.

Nature has been a source of incredible wealth. From times immemorial, mankind greedily plundered nature for material gains. Breaching yet another pristine frontier, countries are making plans to ransack deep blue seas. Termed as Deep-Sea Mining (DSM), employing advanced technology, at breath-taking pace nations are vying to harvest nodules and rocks that constitutes the seabed. DSM entails extraction of minerals located 400 to 6,000 metres below the sea level.

Outwardly, while the vessel was fitted with all the machinery needed for excavating the seabed, Hughes Glomar Explorer housed a monstrous capture vehicle with a giant set of claws to retrieve the submarine and keep it hidden. By July 30, away from the prying eyes of the world, Americans located the submarine. But the capture vehicle suffered a damage while lifting the submarine. The giant claw broke under immense strain midway and most of the submarine slipped back.

In the run-up to the operation, CIA sent scientists for conferences on ocean mining and roped in billionaire inventor, Howard Hughes, to build a vessel for scientific exploration. The great PR strategy of CIA stuck chord with the US universities, that mulled introducing specific courses on deep sea mining. Even UN jumped in and offered to provide a rules-based approach to determine rights to ocean minerals.

The team managed to recover only the front portion. Despite the difficulties and the huge costs involved in carrying out the project, American desperately wanted to steal the submarine for obvious military reasons. To get hold of Russian nuclear missiles and to penetrate their naval communications, unmindful of the consequences, CIA went ahead with this cost prohibitive exercise. 

When CIA broke the details of the project after a year, mining companies who made extensive plans of mining seas were crestfallen and the stocks tumbled. However, CIA’s success proved that with sophisticated engineering techniques and lavish funds, DSM can be possible. Ever since companies invested heavily in research expeditions to probe the seabed for minerals.  

For the first time, scientists abroad, Royal Naval Ship, HMS Challenger found that deep seabed contains huge mineral deposits. First dredging exercise revealed the presence of nodules rich in manganese, nickel and iron in the ocean beds of Indian and Pacific Ocean.  Soon scientists confirmed that a tonne of the seabed is 10 times richer in mineral content than mines on land. Independent investigations by different teams confirmed this fact who declared sea beds as treasure houses of minerals and Rare Earth Elements (REE). 

By 1960s, scientists floated the idea that oceans should be used for peaceful purposes and their mineral wealth should be shared equally by the humanity. While the issue of ocean mining hardly evinced any interest in countries then, extensive use of mobile phones, solar panels, batteries, wind vanes, electric cars and other gadgets increased demand for indispensable REE. 

Nations are now competing for the scarce REE’s in the earth’s core. Owing to the rapid scale of sophistication appetite for Lithium, Cobalt, Copper has surged to phenomenal levels. Pitched battles are witnessed between nations for the limited supply of Cobalt. Republic of Congo, which currently has 60 per cent of global resources has now become a den for corruption, human rights abuse. 

Responding to Amnesty International’s report that sought a solution for exploitative mining and alleged dominance of smuggling mafia in Congo, Michael Lodge, Chairman of ISA, International Seabed Authority called for a relook at deep sea mining. 

To streamline various activities related to it. Intergovernmental body, ISA, came into existence in 1994 with headquarters at Kingston. It formulates rules and regulations for mineral-related activities in the international seabed region, the area beyond the limits of the jurisdiction of individual countries. 

ISA, which has observer status to UN has divided the ocean bed into blocks and 29 exploration areas. Companies from 19 countries have purchased mineral prospecting licences for 15 years as of now. ISA proposed three types of mining – Polymetallic manganese nodules, Cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts and polymetallic sulphide mining at hydrothermal vents. 

For the first time, a venture Nautilus Minerals commenced its exploration in Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Fiji after negotiations with respective governments of the Bismarck Sea. While the mining hasn’t started yet, all the preparations for rock breaking are going at frenetic pace. The stretch identified in the seabed is covered by hydrothermal vents, which are shelters for vast communities of extremely rare marine life like shrimps, snails and tubeworms. 

Use of gargantuan machinery during mining is bound to damage the marine habitat of the region, poverty-stricken countries lured by the attraction of money have accepted the deal. Though the mining company has undermined the fears of residents whose lives and livelihoods are irretrievably linked with sea waters. Disturbed by the impact of the exploratory phase that led to sharp decline in sharks, citizens of Tonga, Papua New Guinea have launched protests and campaigns against DSM.

After Japan’s successful attempt to mine ore deposits in 2017, which included – Zinc, Copper, Gold and Lead off the coast of Okinawa close to hydrothermal vents, there is a global rush for DSM. Elucidating the impacts of such mad rush, a paper published in Harvard Environmental Law Review warned nations of the adverse impacts of DSM on the environment, lives of indigenous people and the biodiversity of marine habitat. 

Hydrothermal vents act as environmental sinks with microorganisms in the vicinity sequestering huge amounts of carbon and methane (Greenhouse Gases). Recently, researchers discovered over 300 animal species endemic to vents making each vent unique. They now hypothesize that perhaps life must have evolved from hydrothermal vents, which can thrive even higher temperatures of up to 113C. Destruction of the vents might lead to the release of sequestered methane triggering a doomsday climatic event. 

Latest scientific breakthroughs revealed that deep seas absorb the excess heat generated by Greenhouse Gases. Oceans have been instrumental in mitigating the climatic change impacts.

DSM, which involves the use of heavy machinery that would chip, scrap and break the rocks. All these events invariably disturb the seabed, generate large sediment plumes and discharge wastes into seas. 

Till now, mankind irreversibly damaged the oceans and seas through deep-sea oil and gas extraction, discharge of wastes including nuclear wastes, dumping plastics, leakage of oils from vessels, etc. Scientists claim unlike surfaces of Moon, Mars or Venus, which were meticulously mapped, the invaluable diversity of marine life is largely unknown. 

Mariners are just beginning to understand the climatic role of hydrothermal vents. These geographical formations hold a key to unravel the secrets of evolution and adaptation of life on earth. At this juncture, dishevelling the deep seabed for commercial purposes may be counterproductive and tragic.

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China looking under the sea for opportunities in the Pacific

Denghua Zhang* | East Asia Forum | 30 June 2018

China has hunted globally for land-based mineral deposits to fuel its economic development since the 1990s. Now, Beijing is devoting growing attention to seabed mining. As China’s Five-Year Plan on Mineral Resources (2016–2020) states, ‘China will actively participate in international surveys on deep sea mining and accelerate the exploration and development of ocean minerals’.

In the Pacific islands region, most countries are small in land area but have huge maritime exclusive economic zones (EEZs). Chinese enterprises have invested in seven land-based mining projects in Papua New Guinea (PNG), Fiji, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands and have been interested in mining the Pacific’s seabed minerals since 2001.

China’s engagement with the Pacific on seabed mining started with research activities that have mainly been carried out by the China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association (COMRA). COMRA is affiliated with the former State Oceanic Administration, which was absorbed into the new Ministry of Natural Resources in March 2018.

The Qingdao Institute of Marine Geology has conducted many of COMRA’s research projects in the Pacific. Between 2001 and 2010, the Institute completed two research projects on China’s bilateral cooperation in ocean resources exploration and on seabed mineral resources in the South Pacific. Their research categorised marine areas as prospective sources of polymetallic nodules, cobalt nodules and hydrothermal sulphide deposits, and also compiled a seabed mining resources map of the Pacific. The research team suggested that China should incorporate seabed mining into its aid plans for Pacific states and use concessional loans to support exploration projects.

Based on these research activities, Chinese government agencies have directly reached out to their Pacific counterparts. In April 2013, a joint delegation comprised of officials from COMRA and Chinese mining institutions visited the Cook Islands, Fiji and Samoa and expressed their strong interest in exploring seabed mining in the three countries. In August 2014, Chen Lianzeng, Deputy Director of the China State Oceanic Administration, visited Vanuatu and Fiji and proposed that China and the two countries should strengthen cooperation on maritime resources exploration and development. Vanuatu’s then-prime minister Joe Natuman and Naipote Katonitabua, the acting permanent secretary of Fiji’s Office of the Prime Minister, responded positively to China’s suggestions.

China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are also involved in seabed mining. Mawei Shipbuilding Limited, a Chinese SOE located in Fujian Province, is building a US$18 million seafloor production support vessel for Toronto-based Nautilus Minerals. The vessel was launched in March 2018, with approximately 75 per cent of it completed. It will be used for the Solwara 1 project — the world’s first seabed mining project, located in the Bismarck Sea off PNG.

The three seafloor production tools to be used in the Solwara 1 project were designed and built by the UK-based Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd. In April 2015, Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd was sold to Zhuzhou CRRC Times Electric Co, Ltd, which is an SOE ultimately owned by the State Council of China. The products from Solwara 1 will be processed by Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group — another Chinese SOE. In May 2017, China Minmetals Corporation and the International Seabed Authority (ISA) signed a 15-year contract that allows China to search for polymetallic nodules in the 72,745 square kilometres of the Clarion–Clipperton Fracture Zone in the Pacific Ocean.

Seabed mining in the Pacific is attracting interest from other foreign players. For example, Japan and Russia have brokered ISA contracts to explore cobalt-rich crust resources in sites close to the EEZs of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Seabed mining is both an emerging field and one that is in a considerable state of flux. As shown by the proposed Solwara 1 Project, this new industry faces unprecedented financialenvironmental and social challenges. There are also notable gaps in the international and national laws that govern seabed mining. The International Seabed Authority is still in the process of developing a ‘Mining Code’ to regulate the prospecting, exploration and exploitation of seabed minerals. As of late 2015, only four of the 14 Pacific states (Palau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Nauru) have legislation that covers seabed mining issues. The PNG government is still developing a draft offshore mining policy.

Greater China–Pacific engagement on seabed mining has upsides and downsides. Pacific states have flagged seabed mining as a new potential driving force of economic growth. PNG, Fiji, Tonga and the Solomon Islands are among the first countries in the world to issue exploration licenses for seabed mining in their EEZs, and Pacific states might be able to seek more financial and technical assistance from China to develop this new industry. But any such project needs to consider the environmental and social impacts of seabed mining and must fully comply with international and national laws.

Looking into the future, China is expected to engage actively with Pacific states on seabed mining and focus on exploration and establishing official contacts. But China is unlikely to commit substantial resources to seabed mining projects before the industry becomes more commercially and environmentally viable.

*Denghua Zhang is a Research Fellow at the Department of Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University.

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