Tag Archives: open cut strip mining

Outrage: deep-sea mining poses an existential threat

Seabed mining machines

Stephanie Hessler | The Architectural Review | 11 April, 2019

The greed for ever more and ever cheaper minerals drives seabed mining – but at what cost?

At the height of the Cold War, in a top-secret mission titled Project Azorian, the CIA tried to retrieve Soviet submarine K-129, which had sunk in 1968. Under the auspices of the billionaire Howard Hughes, in 1974 a US ship was sent to recover the vessel with the hope of gathering valuable intelligence. The Agency needed a cover-up story to deflect from its actual target, so the public was told that Hughes’ ship was a commercial deep-sea mining vessel. After a series of mishaps, however, journalists broke the story in 1975, and the CIA aborted the mission.

It is no surprise that a cover-up story was used to distract the public from the actual aims of the mission. Misinformation is often paired with greed. The greed for ever more and ever cheaper minerals, used in devices such as the computer I am typing on, but also in ‘green’ technologies, drives seabed mining. Today, the minerals ostensibly targeted by the CIA mission have become subject to real prospecting. In oceanic resource grab, imperial and colonial asymmetric power relations of the past are reinforced. And so is the ecological and social havoc it will cause. –

The scientific and technocratic apparatus surrounding the world’s hydrosphere is largely governed by research institutes and companies of the Global North, which have at their command the know-how, technologies and financial means to engage in these highly complex and costly projects. The insights emerging from research at, for example, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, are employed by businesses such as the Canada-registered international company Nautilus Minerals. ‘The first company to commercially explore the seafloor for massive sulfide systems, a potential source of high grade copper, gold, zinc and silver’, as its website reads, Nautilus struck a deal with the Papua New Guinea government to mine minerals in the country’s national waters.

Mining in international waters, beyond a country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles or up to the margin of the continental shelf, is unlikely to begin in the near future. However, the International Seabed Authority (ISA), a UN body to administrate resource extractions in international waters, has started distributing claims to prospecting countries such as France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Russia and the UK, as well as the Pacific Island states of Kiribati, Nauru and Tonga. The claimed areas are in the Clarion- Clipperton Zone spanning 4.5 million km2 in the North Pacific Ocean, an area deemed to hold vast and unmatched potential for minerals. As of today, the holders are entitled to explore, not yet exploit. Yet this is the first move towards extraction in the so-called ‘Area’ beyond national jurisdiction defined by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as the ‘common heritage of humankind’.

Long-term effects of deep-sea mining are devastating. Extractivist enterprises are likely to cause unprecedented damage to marine environments in directly affected zones as well as in neighbouring areas. In Papua New Guinea, where extraction in national waters is about to commence, land-based mining is already threatening ecosystems, lifestyles and health as well as economic and political self-determination. The deal with Nautilus Minerals bears the promise of short-term profit, but neglects the long-term ecological, social and economic consequences. It demonstrates the foreign dependency of economically deprived regions such as Papua New Guinea, pointing to the distributed complex of infrastructural and legal systems that the architect and researcher Keller Easterling has called ‘extrastatecraft’.

Not only resource extraction, but also tensions caused by territorial claims today gain further urgency. As sea levels rise, the baselines of island states such as Kiribati face dramatic change. International bodies discuss whether baselines should be frozen and, if so, when to set the starting date. This not only affects future access to essential foods such as fish, but also raises questions of nationhood and land rights. Does a country with no surface area above water cease to exist? What happens to the spiritual legacy, the graves and sacred sites, if they are submerged in water and disappear?

Deep-sea exploration and exploitation prospects utilise tropes reminiscent of the ‘new frontier’ rhetoric in previous imperialist endeavours. Using concepts of distance – often employed in colonial projects and environmental extraction alike – seabed mining will supposedly take place ‘far away’: deep below the ocean surface and in geographically remote areas. Clearly, the oceans are an intricately connected complex ecological system, and impacts in the seabed will not remain isolated and contained. And, importantly, such viewpoints are blatantly Eurocentric, begging the question: remote for whom? Technologies such as underwater cameras and scuba diving equipment have made what lies below the ocean surface visualisable, revealing the diversity of subaquatic life. This could contribute to the protection of the oceans.

Yet as depictions of the sea have moved from the impenetrable surface of a monstrous Leviathan to a space that can be seen, studied and conquered, techno-scientific advancements have also contributed to its exploitation. As anthropogenic actions affect ecosystems above and below water, often with the aim to extract resources and ameliorate human livelihoods, these projects deplete rather than augment, and close in rather than expand life worlds.


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Nautilus Minerals keeps PNG deep sea mining licence despite delisting

Nick Fogarty | ABC Pacific Beat | 3 April 2019

The government of Papua New Guinea says it has no plans to revoke the licence of Nautilus Minerals after it was announced the company will be delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The embattled Canadian mining company was due to be removed from the TSX at the close of trading on Wednesday 3rd April (local time) after failing to meet the Exchange’s listing requirements.

The delisting follows a sustained period of financial trouble for Nautilus, which had plans for what would have been the world’s first sea bed mining project, the Solwara 1 in PNG’s waters between the islands of New Ireland and New Britain.

Papua New Guinea has a 15 per cent equity stake in the Solwara 1 project.

PNG’s Minister for Mining, Johnson Tuke, said the government and the Mineral Resources Authority won’t be revoking Nautilus’ mining licence, as they haven’t breached its conditions.

“The government has a certain percentage in the mine and the operation at New Ireland,” he told Pacific Beat. “But they’ve complied with the conditions of the licence.

“If they look for alternatives to come and revive the company, the operation, then they will do so at their own expense.”

Mr Tuke said the government would potentially be seeking financial compensation at a later date, but they’re not currently exploring that option.

Landowners and local and international anti-mining groups have been vocal in their opposition to the Solwara 1 project.

Jonathan Mesulam from the Alliance of Solwara Warriors said the delisting showed that shareholders and investors didn’t have confidence in Nautilus.

He urged PNG’s political leaders to sit up and take notice.

“We are calling on … the national government to remove the licence from Nautilus Minerals and not to give any more licences to any other companies that are trying to come and do mining around the ocean, around the Bismarck, in PNG, and also the Pacific as well,” he told Pacific Beat.

Nautilus Minerals told Pacific Beat they’re unable to comment due to its ongoing Sale and Investment Solicitation Plan (SISP).

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Nautilus CEO and Directors Abandon Ship

Can things get any worse for Nautilus Minerals?

It has lost its mining ship; filed for creditor protection; been thrown off the stock exchange; and now its CEO and 4 out of 5 Directors have resigned…

Globe Newswire | April 03, 2019

Nautilus Minerals Inc.announces that, effective March 29, 2019, four of Nautilus’ five directors have resigned. Mr. John McCoach has also resigned as the Company’s Chief Executive Officer.

Mr. Tariq Al Barwani remains a director of Nautilus and has appointed the Company’s CFO, Mr. Glenn Withers, as Managing Director of Nautilus.

As previously disclosed on March 28, 2019, the Company will be delisted from the TSX effective April 3, 2019.

As previously disclosed, Nautilus filed for, and was granted, creditor protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act by the Supreme Court of British Columbia. The Court approved a sale and investment solicitation plan (“SISP”). The SISP had been prepared with input from PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc., the Court appointed Monitor of the Company.

Mr. Al Barwani said, “Nautilus is focused on maximizing the benefit for all of its stakeholders through the SISP. PWC is very capably overseeing the implementation of the SISP.” Mr. Al Barwani added, “On behalf of the Company I would like to thank John McCoach and the other departing board members for their enormous contributions.”

The Company will report on the outcome of the SSIP in late June or early July, 2019. The Monitor will file periodic reports with the Court; they can be viewed at www.pwc.com/ca/nautilus-minerals

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Nautilus Minerals to be booted off Toronto Stock Exchange

The Toronto Stock Exchange is expelling failed seabed mining company Nautilus Minerals

See Also: Seabed mining project in PNG appears dead in the water

TSX delists marine miner Nautilus

Creamer’s Mining Weekly | 29th March 2019

Marine mining hopeful Nautilus Minerals will be delisted from the TSX on April 3, a decision from the Canadian bourse that the company has unsuccessfully appealed.

Nautilus last month filed for creditor protection while it restructures.

The company’s two major shareholders have agreed to advance up to $4-million to fund ongoing expenses and restructuring activities. To date about $1.1-million has been advanced and Nautilus said on Thursday that it would draw down further amounts as needed.

Nautilus is the first company to explore the ocean floor for polymetallic seafloor massive sulphide deposits, with a mining lease over a prospect known as Solwara 1, in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea, where it is aiming to produce copper, gold and silver. 

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Seabed mining project in PNG appears dead in the water

Herdon Gazette | March 26, 2019

Environmentalists are celebrating signs that a deep sea mining project in Papua New Guinea appears to be dead in the water.

Canadian company Nautilus was given approval by PNG‘s government to mine the seafloor of the Bismarck Sea between the islands of New Ireland and New Britain.

Its Solwara 1 project faced deep opposition among local community groups because of the potential environmental impacts from what would be the world‘s first seabed mining project.

But before starting mining, Nautilus‘ project support vessel has been sold to Indian company MDL Energy for repurposing.

Helen Rosenbaum of the Deep Sea Mining Campaign said that without the vessel it was difficult to see Nautilus ever developing Solwara 1.

Dr Rosenbaum said that given Nautilus‘ dire financial circumstances it was fair to say the game was over for the project.

“There seems little chance of them re-paying their bridging loans when these become due in less than a month.

“The people of the Bismarck Sea of Papua New Guinea have hopefully been spared an environmental disaster.”

Catherine Coumans of Mining Watch Canada stated that “if Nautilus sinks, the amazing hydrothermal vents targeted for mining with their unique and diverse life forms will be given a reprieve.

“As will the marine ecosystems and fisheries of the Bismarck Sea,” Dr Coumans said.

The news was also welcomed by Jonathan Mesulam from the Alliance of Solwara Warriors, whose New Ireland village is located 25 kilometres from the proposed mining area.

“It will be good news for my people if Nautilus goes bankrupt, instead of bankrupting our sea,” he said , adding that the community would “fight this project to the very end”.

The Alliance of Solwara launched a legal case against the project in PNG‘s courts last year.

“We are concerned that the Papua New Guinean Government has attempted to have our legal case dismissed,” Mr Mesulam said.

“We are now talking to our legal team about filing substantive court proceedings against Nautilus and the State to stop the project.

Supportive of the project from the outset, having granted Nautilus its licence in 2011, the PNG government purchased 15 percent of Nautilus.

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Doctor protesting proposed seabed mining with ocean swim

The Stewards plan to swim 26kms in total – the mine’s distance off shore – by swimming along the coast from Pātea to Whanganui too.

Jane Matthews | Stuff NZ | March 15 2019

Despite the risk of falling victim to the sea he’s trying to save, a 61-year-old doctor is preparing to swim across a proposed-seabed mining site more than 20 kilometres off shore.

Athol Steward is campaigning against the planned seabed mine off the coast of South Taranaki by swimming 15 kilometres in the shape of an X across the area.

“The depiction of a cross is a ‘no-go zone’ or ‘no entry’ – that is the graphic or symbolic message,” Steward said.

Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) has been trying to get consent to mine 50 million tonnes of ironsand from a 66-square kilometre area off the South Taranaki Bight for years.

Its consent has been denied, accepted, and then overturned in the Court or Appeal late last year and is currently sitting before the High Court. TTR has appealed the Court of Appeal’s decision against it. 

Steward said he has been against seabed mining from the start. 

“My concern is that it will disturb the marine environment in the way that there will be long term and permanent damage to the environment.”

In September, Steward and his Christchurch-based son Lloyd, 30, came up with the campaign ‘Making Waves’.

“We were very keen on a swim at the mine site, just because of that symbolism it carries.

“I expect it’s going to be done in fairly rough conditions, I don’t think you get the bahamas out there.”

Steward plans to swim 26km all up – the mine’s distance off shore – by swimming along the coast from Pātea to Whanganui too.

The pair, who have very little ocean-swimming experience, and their crew are ready for action but have to wait for the right weather conditions – but have seen nothing but rough days so far.

“You would have ended up a victim of the sea you’re trying to protect.”

In 2017, Steward walked from Raglan to Pātea to raise money and awareness about the proposed seabed mine.

He raised $10,600 for the anti-mining parties’ court costs. He’s hoping to reach $100,000 with this Givealittle campaign to cover the costs to come.

South Taranaki Coastguard life member John Linn said the waters the Stewards were planning to swim were dangerous.

“The thing with the South Taranaki Bight is it can change quite quickly, like the conditions on the mountain,” Linn said.

“He should be looking at it as if he’s swimming Cook Strait.”

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Call for PNG seabed mining licences to be cancelled

Benjamin Robinson-Drawbridge | Radio New Zealand | 14 March 2019

Groups opposed to sea bed mining in Papua New Guinea want the government to cancel licences given to embattled miner Nautilus.

The company’s Canadian parent has been granted protection from its creditors while it restructures, which the groups say will lead it to selling its PNG licenses.

For more than a decade, New Ireland civil and community groups have opposed the Nautilus Solwara mining project in the Bismarck Sea over its potential to damage the environment.

Gold and copper deposits on the sea floor enticed Nautilus to form a PNG subsidiary of which the government acquired a 15 percent share.

But with Nautilus now selling its assets to pay debts, the groups want its licenses cancelled so other miners can’t continue the project.

With support from the Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights, the groups went to court to seek the disclosure of the licenses and other documents they say the government is constitutionally bound to produce.

But since the court case finished in September, the centre’s executive director Peter Bosip said the judge had not issued a decision.

“The reasons for withholding the decision is not known. It’s kind of holding people at ransom. So, we need to know whether we lost or we were successful in this instance,” he said.

“We don’t know and we are still waiting.”

The former chief justice Sir Arnold Amet also wants the licenses cancelled.

Sir Arnold said if the documents were released, they might show the government is liable for the company’s debts and was unable to sell its stake.

They should also reveal if the government could reacquire or cancel the licenses, he said.

“All of those are going to be packaged and put on the market for any potential bidders,” he said.

“So, our abilities to actually extricate ourselves from those binding licenses and agreements, and to free ourselves from ongoing liabilities may be limited considerably by the current legal entitlements of Nautilus in the region.”

The mining minister Johnson Tuke could not be reached for comment.

But given the company’s financial strife and the local opposition to deep sea mining, it would be futile for the government to continue to back Nautilus or any entity that tried to acquire the licenses, Mr Bosip said.

“The government has to think about cancelling this licenses because apart from economic loss, they also have to realize that the fight to reject deep sea mining in PNG is not over,” he said.

“The communities have mobilized.”

Jonathan Mesulam is from a village on the west coast of New Ireland Province is just 25km from the Solwara 1 project.

Speaking for the Alliance of Solwara Warriors, Mr Mesulam said New Irelanders had “given their undivided support for many years to stop experimental seabed mining”.

“The longer Nautilus is delayed and tied up in protecting itself from bankruptcy the longer they are in debt and not able to get Solwara 1 up and operating, and the closer we are to stopping the project and protecting our livelihoods and seas.”

Christina Tony, from the Bismarck Ramu Group agreed “local communities have consistently opposed Nautilus Minerals”.

“We strongly believe this unified voice is what is driving Nautilus Minerals out of our country and towards bankruptcy. Other companies thinking of mining the sea floor in PNG or the Pacific should pay attention.”

PNG is not equipped to regulate foreign mining companies, especially those experimenting with deep sea mining, Sir Arnold said.

“Regulations, governance, accountability mechanisms, in a developing country like Papa New Guinea, and if I might say so in the Pacific region, are considerably wanting.

“We don’t have the capacity of professional institutions to hold to account sufficiently, all the mining giants, multinationals of the world that are continuing to exploit our natural resources.”

Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu may have also given rights to Nautilus that could be sold, Sir Arnold said.

The people of Pacific needed to band together to stop the exploitation of the sea floor and the islanders who depend on the ocean, Mr Bosip said.

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