Tag Archives: open cut strip mining

Lack of environmental safeguards highlighted in Cooks legislation

Radio New Zealand | 17 November 2017 

The Pacific Network on Globalisation says claims environmental costs would stop seabed mining in the Cook Islands would be thwarted by a lack of safeguards in the country’s laws.

PANG co-ordinator Maureen Penjueli says the Cooks’ Seabed Minerals Act dates back to 2009 when deep-sea mining was believed to be low risk, high return.

She said in 2017 the risks to the environment were still little understood.

The country’s Seabed Minerals Authority Commissioner Paul Lynch said earlier this week that mineral extraction will likely not go ahead if the environmental cost is too high.

Ms Penjueli said there was nothing in the legislation to stop prospecting or mining on environmental grounds.

“When you consider that our economies are heavily dependent on the ocean – our people are heavily dependent on the ocean for livelihoods, food security – that’s quite problematic in terms of the current legislation.”


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Whanganui doctor’s beach trek against seabed mining on final stretch

Doctor Athol Steward is walking from Raglan to Whanganui to protest against seabed mining. Photo/ Supplied

Emma Russell | Wanganui Chronicle | 11 November, 2017

Nearly two weeks ago Athol Steward started his beach trek from Raglan to Whanganui, averaging 30km a day.The Whanganui doctor walking 400km in a bid to stop seabed mining is in his final stretch and is expected to arrive on Castlecliff Beach on Sunday afternoon.

The environmental advocate was outraged when Trans-Tasman Resources’ application to extract 50 million tonnes of the South Taranaki Bight seabed every year for 35 years was approved in August.

His self-funded mission aimed to support anti-mining group Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) which filed an appeal against the Environmental Protection Authority decision in the High Court on August 31.

Dr Steward said he decided that the time for talking was over and a sausage sizzle and cake sale wasn’t going to do it anymore.

“It needed to be something that would catch some interest and hopefully put the word out there that experimental seabed mining is not ok.”

And he was right, already he has raised $3695 through his Givealittle page and all proceeds will go towards KASM’s appeal.

Dr Steward said he had lots of pleasure fishing and diving out there and it was one of the best fisheries around New Zealand.

“The TTA have called it a desert but we’ve dinned out on that one. The reef is full of life, plenty of crayfish but also rare soft sponges and masses of marine life.”

Walking the first 200km with his eldest son, Lloyd, Dr Steward is now tackling the final 100km with his youngest son, Jonathan.

On Friday they will walk Patea to Waipipi then on Saturday they will continue to Waiinu Beach.

Gathering as many walkers as they can from Ototoko Beach, Dr Steward plans to end the walk at Castlecliff Beach around 3pm on Sunday.

To donate to Athol Steward’s Givealittle fund visit: http://www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/walkthewalkfor ourocean

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Alarm at seabed destruction from SA phosphate mining

Don Pinnock | First Thing | 7 November 2017

If you imagine fish as birds of the ocean, they fly through forests and over fields which grow in the rich soil of the continental shelf. Just as on land, it’s Earth teeming with roots and creatures that form the base of the sea’s food web and upon which its health depends. Around South Africa’s coasts, that could soon change writes DON PINNOCK.

The Department of Mineral Resources has granted three prospecting rights over vast areas of the sea floor that could signal the start of a mining process to grind up the seabed to extract phosphate. The resulting sediment would be dumped back into the water column as liquid “dust”, posing a threat to ocean ecosystems, fish and fisheries. What it would do to the seabed is almost unimaginable.

The licences cover 150,000km2 within South Africa’s western and southern Exclusive Economic Zone and were awarded to Green Flash Trading 251, Green Flash Trading 257 and Diamond Fields International.

A map shows the three marine prospecting rights on the sea floor..

Studies commissioned by the Safeguard our Seabed Coalition (SOSC), an alliance of non-governmental organisations, has warned that marine phosphate mining “would have severe and irreversible impacts on marine ecosystems and fishery resources and associated jobs, livelihood and food security benefits sustained by our fishing industry”.

The proposed fishing and mining areas

Bulk marine sediment mining uses a suction hopper dredge which gouges the sediment to a depth of three metres. It’s dredge head, which is about 11 metres wide with cutting teeth and high-pressure water jets, is dragged across the sea floor, crushing hard sediment and sucking it – and everything else in the way – up a tube. Once the phosphate has been filtered out, all excess water and fine particulate is flushed back into the sea, creating a sediment plume.

Mining would take place on the continental shelf in what is known as the benthic zone, the area just above and below the seabed. Apart from anchoring aquatic plants, it’s home to sea stars, barnacles, mussels, anemones, urchins, snails, crustaceans, molluscs, worms, ground fish and other organisms that make their home on or in the sea floor, at depths where light still penetrates.

Much of the food supply is in the form of “marine snow”, small particles of decaying organic matter that slowly descend through the water column and accumulate on the ocean bed.

According to Saul Roux, a legal campaigner at the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), the impact of mining will include:

  • Destruction of seabed ecosystems which are the building blocks of marine ecosystems;
  • The release of hazardous substances such as radioactive materials, methane, hydrogen sulphide and heavy metals locked in the seabed;
  • Destruction of spawning, breeding and feeding habitats for fish species, many of which are commercially important;
  • Reduced light penetration and therefore photosynthesis of marine plants;
  • Burial and smothering of marine organisms in the mining block and surrounding areas; and
  • Habitat destruction and ecosystem changes in mined areas which could be permanent, as recovery would take centuries.The CER has flagged serious gaps in South Africa’s legal, governance and institutional frameworks able to manage such bulk marine sediment mining. This would mean, says Roux, that the phosphate mining operations would be “unregulated and not subject to state monitoring or enforcement of its compliance with licences and environmental laws”. This would facilitate severe and irreversible damage to marine environments and fisheries.Only 0.4% of South Africa’s Exclusive Economic Zone lies within marine protected areas (MPAs). The government, through Operation Phakisa, has committed to safeguard at least 5% of this zone in a network of 22 offshore MPAs. These have not yet been established and, says Roux, would not be big enough to protect biodiversity from resource exploitation, especially along the West Coast. Even if MPAs are declared, there is considerable doubt about the government’s ability to police them. The Tsitsikamma MPAwas rezoned for fishing in 2016 and in Table Bay fishing has been taking place in the Paulsberg MPA.Marine mining technologiesworldwide have caused massive environmental disasters, both through human error or equipment failure. The Deepwater Horizonspill in the Gulf of Mexico and the Exon Valdez spill off Canada are among many many examples. Although a prospecting right doesn’t grant a legal entitlement to mine, it provides an expectation that mining will be allowed. The phosphate licensing follows a number of other indications that the government plans to develop a bulk seabed mining industry.

Photo: The bigger picture – offshore oil and gas activities as at 2016. Source: Petroleum Agency SA

In 2015 the Departments of International Relations & Co-operation as well as Mineral Resources announced the development of a Seabed Mining Roadmap aimed at developing this industry. Its media releases allude to the latter’s intentions to develop seabed mining in South Africa’s EEZ.

CER has pointed out that South Africa’s EEZ is already under considerable threat from marine petroleum extraction, with 98% already granted for exploration and production. It has called for appropriate governance frameworks for offshore oil/gas exploration and production as well as for seismic activities.

In response to the Seabed Mining Roadmap, The Safeguard our Seabed coalition has called for a moratorium on bulk marine sediment mining until a strategic environmental assessment has been done and a network of marine protected areas declared.

A report commissioned by the SOSC highlights the fact that there is no need to undertake marine phosphate mining as there are more socio-economically and environmentally friendly ways to obtain it sustainably. These include the recovery of phosphates from human and animal waste and a more efficient application of phosphate fertiliser to soils.

Despite the environmental and economic risks and after almost three years of advocacy, government has not responded to calls by the SOSC for an environmental assessment of marine phosphate mining. Neither has it taken any steps towards establishing a moratorium pending a strategic inquiry into this highly destructive process. This seems to an indicate determination to forge ahead at all costs. 

Illustrative photo: Maddie Dimaggio/(Unsplash).

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Locals to join in man’s 400km walk against seabed mining

Athol Steward and other KASM members protest seabed mining.

Tara Shaskey | Taranaki Daily News | November 3, 2017

A hīkoi along the New Plymouth coastline to raise awareness of seabed mining will go ahead whatever the weather on Saturday.

The walk will begin in Bell Block and finish at the Wind Wand, Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) member Chris Wilkes said.

The event aimed to continue the organisation’s momentum with raising public awareness of KASM’s high court appeal on the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) decision to allow Trans Tasman Resources to mine iron sand off the Taranaki coast.

In total, seven groups are appealing the decision which included South Taranaki iwi Ngāti Ruanui, Fisheries Inshore New Zealand Ltd Conservation, Forest and Bird, iwi Ngāa Rauru, Greenpeace and Te Ōhu Kaimoana, the Māori Fisheries Trust.

Wilkes said the walk was also in support of fellow KASM member Athol Steward’s personal hīkoi, Walk the Walk Together for our Ocean.

The Whanganui doctor embarked on a 400-kilometre coastal walk on October 28 to raise funds and awareness for KASM’s appeal.

“We want to show a bit of solidarity there and allow him as much of a platform to say what he wants to say,” Wilkes said,

“He’s obviously passionate about ocean protection and we want to tautoko his efforts.”

Steward has averaged 30km a day and his walk, which began in Raglan, is scheduled to finish on November 12 in Whanganui.

“He’s been walking the beaches and farmland, it’s pretty amazing really,” Wilkes said.

“He’s very passionate and just sick of not being able to do anything. I think we all feel a bit helpless.”

A free bus will leave Puke Ariki’s bus stop in New Plymouth at 12.30pm and head to Bell Block beach ready for a 1pm start.

Wilkes expected anywhere between 50 and 100 people would take part in the event.

“Rain or shine it’s going to go ahead.”

A Givealittle page in support of Steward has raised more than $3000.

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Vanuatu civil groups against seabed mining, challenge govt

The National aka The Loggers Times | October 26, 2017

CIVIL society groups in Vanuatu have called for a ban on seabed mining activities in its waters.

They held a consultation on experimental seabed mining at Port Vila last week.

The civil society groups included the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, National Council of Women, Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs, Vanuatu Council of Churches, Vanuatu Association of Non-Governmental Organisations and Vanuatu National Council of Youth.

They passed a resolution last Thursday challenging the national government to impose a ban on seabed mining activities in Vanuatu waters.

The resolution was supported by the Media Association of Vanuatu, Vanuatu Environment Advocacy Network, Vanuatu Indigenous Land Defence Desk, Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu, Vanuatu Environmental Science Society, Vanuatu Provincial Tourism Council and Youth Challenge Vanuatu.

The resolution comes after revelation that over 145 seabed mining exploration licences were issued between 2009 and 2013 without proper procedural permission and consultation within the government of Vanuatu, let alone, the people.

A national consultation in 2014 later called for a wider consultation in Vanuatu, and non-renewal or new issue of seabed mining exploration licenses.

The coalition of CSOs through its resolution now challenges the Vanuatu government to impose a definite ban on all seabed mining activities in the country’s waters.

“We Ni-Vans, similar to other Melanesian and Pacific Islands nations have strong connection to our ocean. Rushing ahead with such an experimental project may destroy our ocean, which means destroying our home and our source of life,” Wendy Garai, vice-president of the Vanuatu National Council of Women, said.

Garai said it was important Vanuatu took a precautionary approach and impose a ban that will safeguard “our fishing industry, our local coastal communities who depend heavily on the ocean, our tourism sector and Vanuatu as a whole”.

Marie Joemermer of Youth Challenge Vanuatu said:

“There is so much talk about the potential economic benefits of seabed mining, but there is still a lot of unknown and uncertainties relating to science, economic and possible impacts, and we the young people of Vanuatu support this call for a ban as it has the potential to affect our future opportunities if we are not careful.”

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PNG envairaman grup bai kisim gavman igo long kot

Caroline Tiriman | Radio Australia | 23 October 2017

Wanpla laen em oli no laikim ol wok mining aninit long solwara long Bismark sea long Papua New Guinea itok bai oli kisim gavman igo long kot bihaenim ol wari long despla mine.

Odio: Peter Bosip Executive direkta blong centre for environmental law and community rights long PNG itoktok wantem Caroline Tiriman

Nautilus Minerals blong Canada i laik statim mining long ol solwara namel long East New Britain na New  Ireland province long 2019.

Sopos despla mine igo hed, em bai kamap olsem nambawan  mine em i kamap long wanpla kantri long wold, na planti pipal long PNG iet na ol narapla kantri i wari tru long wonem emi nap bringim bikpla heve tru long ol pipal blong despla tupla provins.

Despla grup, Solwara warriors alliance i laikim gavman long givim ol documents em gavman na kampani igat long environment  na ol wonem samting oli nap mekim long stretim heve emi nap kamap long solwara blong larim ol pipal i lukim.

Peter Bosip Executive direkta blong centre for environmental law and community rights long Port Moresby itokim Radio Australia olsem, ol pipal blong PNG imas save gut long wonem ol kaen heve em despla mine bai kamapim na tu wonem kaen ol gutpla samting em despla mine inap bringim long PNG.

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PNG Blogs | October 19, 2017 


 “It is understandable that Nautilus shareholders want to protect their own financial interests but new investors should beware – the Solwara 1 project is very high risk” said Sir Amet.

“The muddy puddle at the so-called test site at Motukea Island is not fit for purpose. It will not provide any evidence that these machines won’t malfunction at the intended operating depth of 1.6 km. The hulks are already deteriorating in our tropical conditions.”

Canadian company Nautilus is still desperately seeking funds for its flagship Solwara 1 deep sea mining project. Commercial operation has been delayed year after year since it received its licence to mine the floor of the Bismarck sea in 2011.

In a last ditch bid to finance Solwara 1, Nautilus’s two largest shareholders have now formed a new company whose sole job is to secure funding for the Solwara 1 project [1].

 “Nautilus is not a professional outfit” stated Sir Amet.

“I am concerned that the Papua New Guinean Government has bought a 15% share in a dodgy project, any operating disasters by Nautilus Minerals will quickly translate into an environmental catastrophe for the Bismarck Sea and its communities. The associated financial liabilities will be huge.”

In recent statements the machine operators for the Solwara 1 project voiced their fears about the safety of operating the equipment 1.6 km under the surface and only 25 km off the coast of New Ireland Province [2].

In their Annual information forms lodged with Canadian Securities, Nautilus describes Solwara 1 as an experiment – both the environmental impacts and profits are complete unknown [3]. Nautilus has declined to conduct a preliminary economic assessment, pre-feasibility study or feasibility study – as per conventional industry practice.

 “With this high level of environmental and financial risk, The PNG Government should never have issued Nautilus with its licence. It was issued even though PNG has no legal framework to regulate such a mine and we have no capacity to monitor its impacts. The legal context for the licensing Solwara 1 is highly questionable” continued Sir Amet.

Coastal communities in Papua New Guinea are holding the PNG Government to account. Formal letters have been submitted to the Ministry of Mining and Ministry of Environment and Conservation requesting that key documents relating to the licensing of the Solwara 1 project be made public. They have given the PNG Government until October 18 to respond or face the prospect of legal proceedings [4].

For further information:

Sir Arnold Karibone Amet – ametarnol[at]gmail.com, + 675 72539353.

Peter Bosip, Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights (CELCoR) – pbosip[at]gmail.com, +675 3234509

Jonathan Mesulam, West Coast Central People of New Ireland – mesulamjonathan[at]gmail.com, +675 70038933

Lucielle Paru, Central Province Pressure Group, NCD and Central Province – lucielle[at]mediterraneanpng.com, +675 70858690


[1] Nautilus signs funding mandate with major shareholders, Nautilus Minerals press release, October 11 2017, http://www.nautilusminerals.com/irm/PDF/1929_0/Nautilussignsfundingmandatewithmajorshareholders

[2] PNGeans to pioneer new mining technology, Post Courier, 28 September 2017, http://postcourier.com.pg/pngeans-pioneer-new-mining-technology/

[3] See sections on Risk factors in Annual information forms for financial years 2015 and 2016. For example:

“Our operations are speculative due to the high-risk nature of business related to the exploration and acquisition of rights to potential mineable deposits of metals. These risk factors could materially affect the Company’s future results and could cause actual events to differ materially from those described in forward-looking statements relating to our Company.” (FY 2016, p 52)

“… Performance, availability, reliability, maintenance, wear and life of equipment are unknown. There can be no guarantee that sub-sea engineering and recovery systems can be developed or if developed, will be employable in a commercially-viable manner.” (FY 2015, p54)

“… while Company studies have indicated a low likelihood of risk to the aquatic environment from mining activities, the actual impact of any SMS [seafloor massive sulphide] mining operations on the environment has yet to be determined.” (FY 2015, p61)

“Nautilus has not completed and does not intend to complete a preliminary economic assessment, pre-feasibility study or feasibility study before completing the construction and first deployment of the Seafloor Production System at the Solwara 1 Project.”

“No independent Qualified Person has confirmed the amount of these costs or recommended that these costs be incurred. There is significant risk with this approach and no assurance can be given that the Seafloor Production System, if fully funded and completed for deployment at the Solwara 1 Project, will successfully demonstrate that seafloor resource development is commercially viable.” 

(FY 15, p52)

[4] Constitutional Right to Key Documents on Experimental Seabed Mining, Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights (CELCoR) and Alliance of Solwara Warriors media release, 3 October 2017, http://www.deepseaminingoutofourdepth.org/constitutional-right-to-key-documents-on-experimental-seabed-mining/

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