Tag Archives: Nautilus

The Sinking Titanic: German Government facilitating Deep Sea Mining

NGOs and civil society from Papua New Guinea, Australia, Germany and around the world are calling for a ban on seabed mining. They challenge the development of regulations[1] by the International Sea Bed Authority (ISA) and the German Government’s push to strengthen these regulations this week at a meeting in Berlin[2].

“Enough is enough!” stated Pastor Matei from the Alliance of Solwara Warriors, Papua New Guinea (PNG). The Solwara 1 Project is risky business as it is an experiment and people do not want to be used as guinea pigs. The Bismarck Sea is not a science laboratory for Nautilus Minerals Inc.

“People from the Pacific are custodians of the world’s largest oceans and it is these oceans that connect everyone in the Pacific. The oceans are as important as land. They are sources of food and livelihoods and they are of strong cultural and spiritual importance. Experimental seabed mining threatens this.”

“The demand for a ban on deep sea mining reflects the views of communities in PNG and across the Pacific. Our opposition is strong and growing[3].”

Natalie Lowrey, Deep Sea Mining campaign stated,

“The demand by Pacific communities for a ban on this frontier industry is joined by the Deep Sea Mining campaign and leading NGOs in Germany. The development of regulations for deep sea mining is akin to loading more passengers onto a sinking Titanic. Report after report[4] demonstrate that the world’s oceans are already on the brink of peril.”

“Recent research from the MIDAS consortium indicates a concrete risk that deep sea mining would lead to serious irreversible harm. The ISA and the German Government are paving the way for yet another assault upon our oceans – an unprecedented and unnecessary assault.”

“The demand for a ban highlights the need to debate whether we should open up our oceans seabed to mining when alternatives are available. Germany and the EU should promote sustainable sources of minerals. such as urban mining.

Christina Tony, from the Bismarck Ramu Group in PNG said,

“In Papua New Guinea and across the Pacific we do not see experimental seabed mining as meeting any of our communities’ needs, nor does it provide a benefit for humankind as a whole. In PNG, and across the world, we already have plenty of land-based mines and they have plenty of problems.”

“Imposing this industry on us is another form of colonisation. By promoting experimental seabed mining, Germany and the EU are complicit in continuing the ‘empire’ tradition in which it believes it should be free to rape and pillage the Pacific for its own profit.”

 


NOTES

[1] See submissions by the Deep Sea Mining Campaign: http://www.deepseaminingoutofourdepth.org/wp-content/uploads/Deep-Sea-Mining-Campaign-submission-to-the-ISA-Nov-2016.pdf  and Seas At Risk: https://www.isa.org.jm/files/documents/EN/Regs/DraftExpl/Comments/SAR.pdf

[2] Organised by the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources the ‘Towards an ISA Environmental Management Strategy’ workshop is being held in Berlin this week 19-14 March. The meeting aims to progress an ISA Environmental Management Strategy for deep sea mining.

[3] Lutherans Walk 9 days Across Highlands Region Campaigning Against Deep Sea Mining in Papua New Guinea, EMTV; VIDEO: Lutherans Campaign Against Deep Sea Mining in PNG, EMTV online and Caritas PNG Forum call for ban on Sea bed mining

[4] Reports include: World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Reviving the Ocean Economy (2015) and The Living Planet (2016);  International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) State of the Ocean (2013) and Explaining Ocean Warming (2016); and the United Nation’s World Ocean Assessment 2016 which is a global inventory of the state of the marine environment and problems threatening to degrade the oceans.

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We must protect our seas

These giant seabed mining machines will do enormous damage

 Editorial | The National aka The Loggers Times | March 20, 2017

PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill has conveyed another powerful message about the imminent threats of pollution, illegal fishing and climate change to Pacific Island nations, including Papua New Guinea.

And he has called on island nations around the world to come together for global action to protect their communities from marine damage.

O’Neill told leaders attending the Pacific Regional Preparatory High-Level Meeting for the United Nations Conference on Oceans in Suva, Fiji, that they had valid marine resources concerns that must be taken up by the global community.

“Pollution, illegal fishing and climate change destroys ecosystems in island nation maritime areas. We did not cause these problems but these problems cause damage to our communities today and into the future.”

The meeting in Suva on Thursday and Friday focused on building consensus and establishing a way forward to seek the global community’s support and assistance in preventing the destruction of marine resources in the island nations.

This is the third occasion that O’Neill has raised concern about the imminent dangers that the Pacific Island community faces.

In 2015, he warned to global leaders attending the COP21 UN climate change conference in Paris to find a workable solution to save lives and protect island communities.

And last year, he warned leaders attending the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) meeting in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, that the threat posed by illegal fishing on their economic survival was growing.

As chairman of the PIF, O’Neill is spearheading the Pacific Island community’s cause for greater attention by the global community on these pertinent issues.

This is part of his address to leaders at the Suva meeting:

“Our ocean and its vast resources, not only provide nourishment for us, it also provides 20 per cent of the world’s protein and economic returns for our countries from fisheries.

Our ocean is a highway for significant shipping and trade generating significant economic value but with minimal returns to us.

But, we are seeing alarming statistics about the health of our ocean; of the poor state of our coral reefs caused by coral bleaching and pollution, of the negative consequences for our marine biodiversity and of the levels of Illegal Unreported and Unregulated fisheries.

So we need to not only make declarations but to accelerate and step up our actions and demand the same of others to restore our ocean’s health, through embracing integrated ocean management approaches and sustainably managing and conserving our coastal, inshore and ocean resources.”

Insofar as Papua New Guinea is concerned, the effects of climate change are already evident in the Carterets Islands, islands in Manus and the outer atolls in coastal provinces that have experienced the rise in the sea level.

While climate change needs a global approach and solution, illegal fishing remains a sticky point for individual island nations.

The PIF meeting last September resolved for greater action in dealing with illegal fishing and related activities.

The increase in illegal fishing and human trafficking, especially by fishermen and companies of Asian origin, in our region is a growing concern.

These illegal activities seriously affect the economic survival of the small island nations, especially when large importers like the European Union and the United States raise questions and threaten to impose trade restrictions.

Efforts by the fisheries authorities of the various, mostly ill-equipped island countries and their collective voice, the Forum Fisheries Agency, have been largely unsuccessful in effectively curbing illegal fishing.

In a way, the PNG National Fisheries Authority (NFA) is far better placed to monitor and report on illegal fishing.

The NFA has, over the years, drawn on the assistance of the maritime element of the PNG Defence Force and the Australian Navy to patrol our waters.

For the smaller island nations, a lot is left to goodwill and hope that sovereign territorial rights will be respected by our neighbours.

Still, we may never get to know the full extent of what is happening on the high seas.

Ongoing incursions into territorial waters are indicative of blatant disrespect for sovereignty. And such a practice does nothing to help mutual relations between countries.

Repercussions of illegal fishing are not only about economic losses for small island nations but there are also greater environmental concerns involving the maintenance of marine species.

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PNG PM O’Neill calls on the Island Nations around the World to Work Together to Protect Marine Resources

Has O’Neill forgotten his government is forging ahead with experimental seabed mining? 

Open cut strip mining of the sea floor doesn’t sound like a good way of ‘preventing marine resources being destroyed’!

PNG Today | March 17, 2017

The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea,  Peter O’Neill has called on Island Nations around the world to  come together for global action to protect their communities from marine damage.

Prime Minister O’Neill made the comments in Suva, Fiji, where he attended the Pacific Regional Preparatory High-Level Meeting for the United Nations Conference on Oceans on March 16-17.

PM O’Neill said island nations have valid marine resources concerns that must be taken up by the global community.

“Island Nations might be small in terms of geography, but we are many in number, and together we can bring about global change on issues harming our communities,” the Prime Minister said.

“We are not only the Pacific Island nations, but island nations and communities from oceans and seas right around the world.

“Pollution, illegal fishing and climate change destroys ecosystems in island nation maritime areas.

“We did not cause these problems, but these problems cause damage to our communities today and into the future.

“This meeting in Suva is all about building consensus and establishing a way forward to bring the global community with us to prevent our marine resources being destroyed.”

Following earlier meetings with United Nations representatives and partner Pacific Island nations, Leaders attended the High-Level meeting today to finalise the actions to move forward ahead of the UN Conference of Oceans in June.

“All countries, including our own, have a role to play in managing our own waterways, as well as the pollutants that flow to the world’s oceans.

“Papua New Guinea’s Vision 2050 is a National Development Roadmap further underscores environmental protection as an important pillar.

“Selected areas are being considered as Marine Protected Areas so that nature can replenish marine resources.

“Papua New Guinea already has in place the Strategy for Responsible Sustainable Development, STARs, which addresses the integration of the global 2030 Agenda.

“This includes the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 incorporated into the national planning process.

“SDG 14 is intended to conserve and manage the sustainability of the world’s oceans, seas and marine resources so as to ensure sustainable development.

“This is in its early phase and will ensure marine life sustainability and bio-diversity for decades to come.

“But ultimately, there is only so much individual countries can do. We have to come together as a global community to have workable solutions for our future generations.

“For Pacific nations, we have to ensure that we lay the groundwork now to ensure real and tangible outcomes from the UN Conference of Oceans later this year.”

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‘No harm in Experimental Seabed mining’ says Minister

Vice Minister relying on mining company literature rather than independent science to justify seabed experiment

Merolyn Ten | Post Courier | March 10, 2017

THE world-first seabed mining project in Papua New Guinea due to start in 2019 will not be harmful to the environment, says Mining Vice-Minister Wera Mori.

But, no we don’t have any independent science to back this up – I just rely on what the mining company says!

Mr Mori is confident that the Solwara 1 project that will mine copper and gold deposits from the seafloor at a depth of 1600 metres in the Bismarck Sea, off New Ireland Province, does not pose a major environmental hazard.

“The seabed mining offers an alternative that could be less environmentally destructive than land-based mining. The copper deposit on the sea floor are about 10 times more concentrated than a typical land-based copper mine, so less material needs to be extracted to achieve a similar production rate,” he said.

“Could be less environmentally destructive” – sounds like someone is guessing!

Hard to think the noise and vibration of 100 tonne machines strip mining the sea floor is not going to have some impact on whales, dolphins, sharks and other marine life…

Mr Mori said the deposits were at the surface, so large amounts of material did not need to be removed. Unlike land-based mining, seabed mining occurs where people do not live and requires little production infrastructure, and increased worker safety with the operations being conducted remotely.

He said that the metals will be mined into the subsea slurry lift pump (SSLP) and transported through the riser and lifting system (RALS) pipe straight onto the mining ship or the production support vessel (PSV).

“The mined copper and gold deposits will be then taken straight to demanding countries including Japan, China, Korea and India.”

And all the unwanted waste rock and sand and silt will be pumped straight back into the ocean – please don’t leave that part out, Mr Minister…

Nautilus Minerals is the Canadian company in charge of the Solwara 1 Project, being developed in a joint venture with State entity Kumul Minerals Holdings.

However, according to the Deep Sea Mining Campaign, a project of the Ocean Foundation, Solwara 1 Project would represent “the first large scale, human-induced, site-specific disturbance to the deep ocean basin anywhere in the world, hence it must be considered with exceptional deliberation and caution”.

A call has been made to the Government to place a ban on the experimental seabed mining.

This call was made by the Caritas Co-ordinators of the 19 Catholic dioceses in solidarity with Alliance of Solwara Warriors, Bismarck Ramu Group, and concerned organisations that resolved to speak out on behalf of the silent majority affected by the proposed “experimental seabed mining” of Nautilus Minerals Limited.

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Study: Seabed mining causes long-lasting ecological damage

Metal-rich nodules can be found in abundance on large swaths of the ocean floor. Photo by National Oceanography Center/University of Southampton

Metal-rich nodules can be found in abundance on large swaths of the ocean floor. Photo by National Oceanography Center/University of Southampton

Brooks Hays | UPI | February 10, 2017

Analysis by scientists at the National Oceanography Center in England suggest deep-sea mining operations will have long-lasting ecological consequences.

Researchers reviewed the available scientific literature on small-scale sea-floor disturbances and found clear and measurable impacts to marine ecosystems lasting decades.

As metals become scarce on land, the mining industry has turned its attention to the deep sea floor, where vast expanses of nodules rest. Nodules are potato-sized rocks featuring significant amounts of high-quality metals like copper, manganese and nickel.

No commercial deep-sea mining operations are yet underway, but the International Seabed Authority has issued several exploratory mining licenses to companies from multiple countries.

Scientists have been conducting sea-floor disturbance experiments since the 1970s. The predictive value of a single experiment is limiting, but by surveying a variety of these experiments, scientists at NOC were able to identify broader patterns.

All of the experiments analyzed by NOC researchers were much smaller than an actual mining operation.

These studies will underestimate the impacts of mining,” researcher wrote in their paper, published in the journal PLOS ONE. “Many would not even represent one month’s work for a full-scale commercial operation, which might last for twenty years.”

The longest experiment included in the survey lasted 26 years. Though the disturbed site showed some evidence of recovery, biodiversity and abundance remained diminished.

Because the deep sea floor is still poorly understood by scientists, researchers say environmental officials must be extra vigilant in regulating deep-sea mining operations.

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Scientists Fear Experimental Seabed Mining

subsea mining equipment

subsea mining equipment

The Maritime Executive | 5 February 2017

Scientists fear that even before one of the last frontiers of exploration, the ocean deep, has been properly studied it will already have been exploited and damaged by commercial deepsea mining looking for rare metal and minerals on the ocean floor.

Around 70 percent of the world’s surface is covered by ocean and more than half of that is designated as international waters. Currently less than 0.05 percent of the ocean floor has been mapped at a level of detail where objects a few meters in size can be discerned. Marine biologists estimate that there are around 750,000 marine species yet to be identified, many of them likely to be found in the deep sea.

The mining industry has been developing technologies to extract metals and minerals at depths of over 500 meters, and it’s expected that commercial mining will start for the first time in 2018 off Papua New Guinea with the Solwara 1 project.

One mining method is to use a conveyor belt system of buckets to bring soil containing metal and mineral deposits from sites on the sea floor up to a mining ship for processing. A second method is to use pipes to hydraulically suck up soil from sites on the sea floor, also to a mining ship for processing.

But before that happens the MIDAS project, which is made up of scientists, industry figures, NGOs and legal experts from 32 organizations across Europe, gathered data to gain a good picture of what damage might be done by mining and so inform regulators of what needs to be put in place to protect the deep sea environment.

MIDAS scientists have released a summary of findings late last year and plan to release more technical papers in 2017. They found that new environmental issues need to be considered, such as the large surface areas affected by nodule mining, the potential risk of submarine landslides through sediment destabilization in gas hydrate extraction or the release of toxic elements through oxidation of minerals during mining.

There is a risk that the mining process will release metal ions into the water column, either in the benthic plume created by mining vehicles or, following dewatering on the surface vessel, in a mid-water plume. Such plumes can potentially travel hundreds of kilometers, carrying potential toxicants with them. Mid-water plumes may impact photosynthetic microalgae or animals within the water column.

Despite considerable sampling and study of the deep sea over the past century, knowledge of species distribution across most spatial and temporal scales is still very poor, say the scientists. Hence, current levels of biogeographic knowledge are not sufficient to make accurate predictions of the consequences of mining.

Currently the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) governs activity on the seabed. UNCLOS states that international waters are the “common heritage of mankind” and that the International Seabed Authority (ISA), based in Jamaica is the body responsible for administering it. The ISA has signed a number of mining deals and is in the process of drawing up a mining code to govern deep-sea mining before 2018.

The MIDAS summary report is available here [pdf]

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‘Urban mining’: Engineers say e-waste richer than ore pulled from the ground

Amit Kumar has been grinding up LEDs at UBC in Vancouver to recover valuable metals. Arlen Redekop

Amit Kumar has been grinding up LEDs at UBC in Vancouver to recover valuable metals. Arlen Redekop

Urban mining is a much better and cleaner alternative to experimental seabed mining. RIP Solwara 1! 

Randy Shore | Vancouver Sun | January 16, 2017

Electronic waste is proving to be a far richer source of valuable metals than any ore pulled from the ground, according to mining engineers at the University of British Columbia.

PhD student Amit Kumar and professor Maria Holuszko have succeeded in “mining” copper and silver from LED lights, and they are certain that rare earth metals such as europium, cerium and lutetium can also be recovered.

Light Emitting Diodes are gaining popularity as a highly efficient alternative to incandescent and fluorescent lights and represent an increasing proportion of e-waste and a potential source of metal pollution, said Holuszko.

“We believe that within three years there will be enough LEDs in the waste stream to make this viable,” said Kumar. “And if we don’t do it, they will all end up in the landfill.”

What makes the LED recycling process tricky is that lights are made of fused composite materials that blend plastics and metals with a variety of other compounds that cannot simply be pulled apart.

But if LEDs are ground up fine enough, the material isn’t much different from a high quality ore, though one with a variety of metals and industrial materials to be recovered.

“We are using techniques like the ones employed by the mining industry, mainly physical processes that exploit the weight, density and conductivity of the metals to separate them from other materials,” said Kumar. “So far we haven’t needed to use any chemicals, so it’s a very clean process.”

The researchers employ gravity, electrostatic separation, and other non-chemical methods to separate metals from each other and from binding materials. 

Processed samples contain up to 65 per cent recoverable copper — far higher than processed ore — along with 4.5 per cent zinc and 1,640 parts per million of silver.

“Eventually, we also hope to use this workflow to find a way to recover gold in significant amounts,” said Holuszko.

Recovering rare earth metals will likely be accomplished with a chemical process, but only the small amount of material that remains after the common metals are removed would need to be treated, said Kumar.

A successful test run of the process with Richmond’s Contact Environmental recovered copper, zinc, lead and silver, according to Holuszko. The next step is to find an industrial partner interested in investing in a real-world pilot program.

“We have a grant from (non-profit innovation funding agency) Mitacs, but it’s not enough without a private partner,” she said.

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