Tag Archives: Papua New Guinea

Group wants deep-sea mine permit, licence cancelled

The National aka The Loggers Times | March 16, 2020

A GROUP of people concerned about the implications of deep-sea mining wants the Government to cancel the environment permit and mining licence granted to Nautilus Minerals Niugini Ltd.

The group is led by Jonathan Mesulam of the Alliance of Solwara Warriors, Peter Bosip, the director for the Centre of Environmental Law and Community Rights, Marie Mondu, the development secretary of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of PNG and the Solomon Islands, and Cardinal Sir John Ribat, the Archbishop of Port Moresby, in association with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Coffee Industry support project, Caritas and the Social Communication of CBC PNGSI.

Mesulam said there was a lot of debate and opposition to the project since 2011 and with the project being declared “a failed project” the goal was achieved and asked the Government to go further and cancel its mining and exploration licence.

“The Solwara 1 Project has been declared a failed project in a public statement by the managing director of Mineral Resources Authority Jerry Garry in The National of Jan 24, 2020,” he said.

“The mining licence was given in 2011 and there is no mining, why is the company still holding onto the licence?

“The Government has to cancel the licence before the end of this year,” Mesulam said.

“As stewards of the sea and future, we are now giving notice to the responsible ministers to cancel the seabed mining licence ML154.”

Bosip said the deep-sea mining in PNG was the first of its kind in the world and “we do not know the negative impacts of it”.

“We do not know the best method of mitigating its negative impacts that will arise, we are not prepared to face the negative impact of deep-sea mining.”

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Wafi-Golpu Negotiations Have Not Recommenced – Newcrest

Matthew Vari| Post Courier | March 16, 2020

NEGOTIATIONS into Morobe’s Wafi-Golpu project is still pending according to project joint venture partner Newcrest Mining Limited.

Newcrest Mining PNG country manager Mr Stanley Komunt said this in response this paper queries in relation to comments made by Mining Minister Johnson Tuke last month on government’s intention to resumes negotiation following the dismissal of the memorandum of understanding in court case relating to the project.

Mr Komunt said the main reason for uncertainty was the relays [sic] in the proposed revised mining act, which is still yet to be passed by government and  how concerns raised may be factored into the amended act.

“We from the JV’s point of view have not made a commitment as yet to progress any discussions.

“There is a couple of reasons why and number one is more to do with the current discussions on the revised mining bill.

“We really don’t know where that is going to end. Whilst the Prime Minister has given us, the industry and SNT (State Negotiating Team) team to go and back and since our meeting in January 17 in Brisbane.

“He has given us two months and we have been meeting last month now and we are slowly getting there but there is still some major, not so much disagreement, but misalignment I would say,” Mr Komunt pointed out.

Komunt pointed out other particulars also in the air such as benefit sharing, royalty and contracts have all been relayed to the minister responsible for mining.

“Whilst we appreciate, the company, not only us but the industry appreciates that country needs to get a better share and we want to make sure that is realized through the negotiations that we will have.

“We are not quite there yet to start the negotiations for Wafi. We have relayed that to the minister.

“Because if the revised mining act changes it will have an impact on the project economics and how we have done our planning and that is a major concern and we can’t do anything.

Prime Minister Marape has indicated his government is set on delivering the project, a point Komunt added the PM is well aware and supportive of an understanding going forward.

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PNG transfers remaining BCL shares

Carmella Gware | Loop PNG | March 13, 2020

The PNG Government has fully transferred its entire 36.4 percent share in the Bougainville Copper Ltd to the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

This was one of the resolutions reached during the first, and possibly the final, post-referendum Joint Supervisory Body meeting held on Thursday, the 12th of March, at Port Moresby’s APEC Haus.

It was the first Joint Supervisory Body, or JSB, meeting to be held since the referendum last year. It is also the last JSB as its name has been changed to Joint Consultative Body, and this body will continue to provide oversight to the post referendum consultation processes.

During the JSB, teams from the PNG and Autonomous Bougainville governments, including President John Momis and Prime Minister James Marape, sat together to decide a future for Bougainville.

The sixth out of the 13 agendas discussed and passed included the transfer of Bougainville Copper Ltd shares.

The JSB noted that in 2017, the National Executive Council made a decision for the National Government to transfer 17.4 percent from its 36.4 percent shares to the landowners of Panguna. Following that, on the 13th of December, 2019, at the joint announcement of the Bougainville Referendum results, Prime Minister Marape further announced that the National Government will transfer to ABG its remaining 19 percent of the BCL shares.

“This JSB affirmed that the entire shares of Bougainville Copper be passed to Bougainville Mining Ltd – the Bougainville Government and Bougainville people’s subsidiary company,” the PM, flanked by the ABG President and members of their technical teams, told media after a full day of meeting.

Rio Tinto and the ABG both own 36.4 percent each while public shareholders hold the remaining portion of the share capital.

Apart from BCL shares, the PNG Government has made it clear that the constitutional Restoration and Development Grant (RDG) will be given to support the budget on Bougainville while the National Planning Ministry has been directed to clearly define the K100 million commitment and report back in the next Joint Consultative Body meeting this year.

The JSB has also acknowledged and accepted the democratic choice of the Bougainville people for Independence.

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David Attenborough calls for ban on ‘devastating’ deep sea mining

 Deep sea corals provide habitat to a variety of organisms that could be destroyed by deep sea mining. Photograph: NOAA

Proposed mining of seabed could destroy unstudied ecosystems and disrupt vital carbon-storing functions, says naturalist

Karen McVeigh | The Guardian | 12 March 2020 

Sir David Attenborough has urged governments to ban deep sea mining, following a study warning of “potentially disastrous” risks to the ocean’s life-support systems if it goes ahead.

The study, by Fauna and Flora International (FFI), warns proposed plans to mine the seabed could cause significant loss of biodiversity, disruption of the ocean’s “biological pump”, and the loss of microbes important for storing carbon. The process, requiring machines operating thousands of metres under the sea, could also create plumes of sediment that smother areas far from the mining sites and kill wildlife.

Dozens of exploratory licences, two of which are sponsored by the UK, have already been granted for huge tracts of the sea bed, ahead of a race to mine commercially for ores and minerals such as copper, used in mobile phones and batteries. But the rules to govern the responsible exploitation of this global resource are not finalised – they are expected to be completed at a meeting in July at the UN International Seabed Authority.

Attenborough, the vice president of FFI, said deep sea mining could create a “devastating series of impacts” threatening processes critical to the health and function of the oceans, and called on governments to be guided by scientists.

“Fauna & Flora International is calling on global governments to put in place a moratorium on all deep sea mining – a call I wholeheartedly support,” Attenborough said.

In a foreword to the report, Attenborough said it was “beyond reason” for countries to consider the destruction of deep sea places before they have understood them or the role they play in the health of the planet.

Attenborough said: “The rush to mine this pristine and unexplored environment risks creating terrible impacts that cannot be reversed. We need to be guided by science when faced with decisions of such great environmental consequence.”

FFI warned that human activity was already putting a huge strain on the oceans, which have absorbed a third of our carbon emissions and 93% of the extra heat trapped by the rising concentration of greenhouse gases.

Oceans are becoming more acidic because of the carbon dioxide dissolving into them, fisheries are under pressure as a result of over-exploitation and there are hundreds of huge “dead zones”, it said.

Pippa Howard, director at FFI and lead author of the report, called for a moratorium on deep sea mining. She said: “The conclusions we have come to after extensive study could hardly be more troubling.

“From methane release to disruption of the ocean’s life-support systems and the destruction of unstudied ecosystems, the risks of deep sea mining are numerous and potentially disastrous.”

Louise Casson, of Greenpeace’s Protect the Oceans campaign, said the UK government’s holding of exploration contracts for deep sea mining was at odds with its position as a “global ocean champion”.

Casson said: “The UK government now has a choice to make: listen to industry and press ahead with this dangerous new practice, or listen to scientific warnings, public concern and the creator of Blue Planet himself and ban deep sea mining.”

A government spokesman said: “The UK continues to press for the highest international environmental standards, including on deep sea mineral extraction.

“While we have sponsored two exploration licences, these allow only for marine research to understand the effects of deep sea mining.

“We will not issue a single exploitation licence without a full assessment of the environmental impact.”

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PNG PM urges multi-nationals to allow gas project to proceed

Papua New Guinea’s prime minister James Marape. Photo: PNG PM Media Unit

Radio New Zealand | 8 February 2020

Papua New Guinea’s prime minister has urged two energy companies not to hold a major LNG gas project in his country to ransom.

James Marape’s appeal to ExxonMobil and Oil Search follows the failure of negotiations with the former over the fledgling $US13 billion P’nyang gas project

Oil Search said PNG was demanding terms of Exxon that meant the project developers would not gain a sufficient return on their investment.

But Mr Marape accused Exxon of a “lack of interest” to meet PNG halfway by offering concessions for a better state take from the deal.

The failure of the negotiations has raised doubt over the future of the separate Papua LNG gas project signed with French major Total.

Mr Marape said he called upon the two multi-nationals, as beneficiaries of concessions previous governments have given, to work with Total to deliver Papua LNG.

However, he appeared to leave the door open for an agreement with Exxon over the P’nyang gas project proceeding.

He said in the interests of fairness, a Ministerial Gas Committee would request both the state negotiating team and ExxonMobil to present their positions for the State – through a committee of leaders – to decide what is the best outcome for PNG.

The prime minister said he had indicated on all levels of discussions that fundamental policy principles that influenced his government’s mindset would not change.

“These include no fiscal concessions in P’nyang, treating P’nyang as separate from both PNG and Papua LNG projects, increase in Domestic Market Obligations and local content participation,” he said.

“These will be fundamental in progressing P’nyang.

“In the meantime, I call upon ExxonMobil and Oil Search not to hold the Total project in Gulf to ransom.

“If you model the project to be uneconomical, then don’t push it: let’s leave the gas in my land and you develop Papua plus further work in PNG LNG.

“After SNT and ExxonMobil present to the MGC, Cabinet will decide on P’nyang.”

Mr Marape said his government would shift focus to Wafi-Golpu and Porgera mines, and other resource sectors so life in PNG was not only dependent on P’nyang and other LNG gas projects.

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Bougainville voted yes to becoming the world’s newest nation. Now begins the gold rush

PHOTO: The people of Bougainville voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence. (ABC)

Natalie Whiting | ABC News | December 14 2019

A ceremony to announce the results of Bougainville’s historic referendum opened with a chorus of the Bougainville anthem. When the overwhelming result for independence was handed down, people spontaneously started singing it again.

It was a clear sign of the separate identity that Bougainvilleans have long maintained. The thumping result for splitting from PNG was an even clearer sign.

But the path to potential nationhood remains complex and far from guaranteed, despite the mandate from an almost 98 per cent vote of support offers.

The end of the referendum not only starts another political process, but it will also turn eyes back to a massive open-cut mine that has been sitting, waiting in the mountains since the 1980s.

PHOTO: The Panguna mine hasn’t produced a pound of metal in 30 years.

As Bougainville looks for a way forward politically, it also needs to look at economic options.

That’s something Papua New Guinea is keen for it to focus on as it grapples with how to respond to the vote.

PNG is known as the land of a thousand tribes and many in the Government are worried about keeping the rest of the country united if Bougainville leaves.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape has offered economic control but stopped well short of committing to independence for Bougainville.

Economically, the most obvious income stream for the resource-rich area is mining, but that would involve revisiting the issues that started the bloody conflict in the region.

Landowners at the site of the Panguna gold and copper mine, where the violence first broke out, say they are ready to see it reopen in the wake of the referendum.

Up to 20,000 people died in the secessionist conflict that followed, before the peace agreement which guaranteed the vote brought it to an end.

PHOTO: A small settlement has been built at the bottom of the Panguna mine. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

Several companies are already circling, keen to make a move now that the vote is over.

Whether they have the capital and the ability to reopen it peacefully remains to be seen.

PNG Prime Minister offers Bougainville economic control

PHOTO: PNG’s Prime Minister James Marape was welcomed at the airport with a guard of honour from police and a traditional sing sing group. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

As the referendum ballots were being counted in Bougainville’s capital Buka, speculation about the movements of Mr Marape were swirling.

Initial indications that Mr Marape would be coming to Buka for the announcement were replaced by rumours of him instead going to Panguna in the days after the result.

In the end his visit was moved to the town of Arawa, near the mine. But Panguna and building Bougainville’s economy featured throughout his speech.

Thousands of people gathered in the middle of town to hear him speak. The people even wanted to carry him to the stage on a specially built chair, an offer he graciously refused.

PHOTO: Thousands turned out to hear Mr Marape speak in Arawa during his first visit after the referendum. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

Mr Marape has been seen as being more supportive of the referendum than previous leaders, but PNG has nevertheless made no secret of the fact it wants Bougainville to remain a part of the country.

The independence vote is non-binding, and amid the celebrations of the result, PNG has been quick to remind people that years of discussions between the two parties will follow and a negotiated outcome will then be presented to PNG’s parliament.

In the lead-up to the referendum, Mr Marape had been discussing a “third option” beyond independence and greater autonomy which the people were asked to choose between — what he called “economic independence”.

His speech was in a similar vein, focussing on economic development and self-determination, but avoiding mention of independence.

He presented a cheque worth 50 million kina ($21 million), promised another 100 million kina ($42 million) next year and control over income generated in Bougainville, including tax powers.

“The only thing I will ask you, is that I will look after the border and both of our flags must fly until we reach the conclusion of this process,” he told the crowd.

Certainly, Bougainville is currently in no position to support itself and the call to focus on building the economy is warranted. But Mr Marape wouldn’t be drawn on whether he could envisage independence for Bougainville.

“That’s something for the future. I can’t pre-empt the outcome of the consultations that will take place,” he told the ABC.

PHOTO: Bougainville President John Momis heads to the polls on referendum day. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

After such a comprehensive vote, there may be little appetite in Bougainville to accept something less than full independence.

But for the moment his speech was well received by the crowd, and Bougainville’s President is confident of productive discussions going forward.

The greatest expectation from Bougainvilleans after the referendum is for change — people want improved services and infrastructure. Both governments will need to make that a priority and it will require funding.

Landowners split over who should reopen mine

PHOTO: The disused mine has divided locals, some of whom have blocked access to the site over the years. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

In the base of the massive open pit of the Panguna gold and copper mine, a small settlement has been built and people work digging up gold that remains buried there.

It’s thought there is still $84 billion worth of copper and gold in the site, but re-establishing operations would likely take a decade and billions of dollars.

Keeping the mine closed has been seen as part of maintaining peace ahead of the referendum.

PHOTO: People dig for gold at the base of the Panguna gold and copper mine. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

The local landowners now largely want to see it open, however, a split is already forming over which company should be brought in.

The most prominent landowner group is backing Australian company RTG, but there is another group of landowners who want to see the original company, Bougainville Copper Limited, brought back. The Bougainville Government has supported a third company, Caballus, which is also Australian.

That, combined with the ongoing political discussions, could create an uncertain investment landscape.

Mr Marape has said the PNG Government’s 39 per cent stake in Bougainville Copper Limited will be given to Bougainville, but he urged people to look at other industries as well, like agriculture.

It’s not just Panguna that has been attracting attention — landowners say they’ve received visits from other companies, some from Australia and some from China, interested in looking at other greenfield sites in the region.

Australia could face difficult diplomatic waters

The current geopolitical climate in the pacific — where China and the west are seen to be in a battle for influence — has thrown another filter on the vote.

Much has been made of possible offers from China to help Bougainville develop if it is a fledgling country.

However, Bougainville President John Momis has said there have been no offers from the Chinese Government and it was unclear if money being offered by companies, including some said to be interested in Panguna, would actually materialise.

PHOTO: The Panguna gold and copper mine sparked a war that killed 20,000 people. (Reuters: Trevor Hammond)

He said: “These are complex issues, which we’re not going to deal with right away.”

The geopolitical and diplomatic complexities of either a new nation in the region, or of a disagreement between PNG and Bougainville during the upcoming negotiations, is undeniable.

Nowhere will that be felt more keenly than in Australia, which is a key financial and development supporter of both.

Already a key former combatant from the crisis is calling for the international community to “ask PNG to accept the reality and let Bougainville go”.

PNG’s Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Puka Temu has urged the international community “not to interfere in the consultation phase”.

“What we want is to achieve an outcome like what we did 18 years ago, that is a joint creation — the Bougainville Peace Agreement was a joint creation,” he said.

In a statement, Australia’s Foreign Minister has passed on congratulations for the vote and says Australia “looks forward to continued productive engagement” between the two governments.

PHOTO: Flags were proudly flown around the region when the people of Bougainville overwhelmingly voted yes to independence. (Reuters: Melvin Levongo)

But as the cobalt blue of Bougainville’s flags flickers from buildings and cars across the region in the wake of the vote, credit must be given to both it and PNG for almost 20 years of peace and an incredibly well-run referendum.

Hopefully, the next phase will be as successful.

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Bougainville’s Faustian Bargain

Over 2,000 residents, including chiefs, elders, and politicians attended the historic ceasefire signing ceremony on the island of Bougainville, April 30, 1998. Credit: AP Photo/Australian Defence PR

An ongoing independence referendum does not address the key question at the root of the conflict: the future of the Panguna mine.

Paul R. Williams* and Carly Fabian* | The Diplomat | November 27, 2019

On the small island of Bougainville, a region of Papua New Guinea, voters are currently taking part in a long-awaited referendum on independence that started this Saturday. Twenty years after the end of the deadly Bougainville conflict, this referendum gives voters the chance to decide between substantial political autonomy or complete independence. While the voting period lasts until December 7, early estimates predict that Bougainvilleans will vote overwhelmingly for independence.  

The peace agreement that ended the conflict in 2001 has so far allowed the region to take incremental steps toward enhanced self-government while maintaining a delicate peace. Whether this peace process will result in a durable peace depends entirely on the outcome of the referendum, the final and most important step of the process.

The structure of the referendum, however, renders it an imperfect and perhaps even fatally flawed vehicle for resolving the conflict. Notably, the referendum is not binding on Papua New Guinea, meaning that the outcome will depend on whether Papua New Guinea accepts the outcome of the referendum, or whether it imposes conditions on Bougainville’s independence. Most importantly, the referendum does not address the key question at the root of the conflict: the future of the open-pit Panguna mine on the island.

The Bougainville conflict centered around the Panguna mine, a large-scale copper and gold mine that was built in 1972 amid significant local opposition. During its operation, the mine was responsible for over 40 percent of Papua New Guinea’s national export revenue. The mine dramatically reshaped local society as the mining company clear-cut forests, forcibly relocated villages, and introduced thousands of higher-paid foreign workers to operate the mine. The millions of tons of pollution created by the mine’s operations also quickly contaminated the surrounding bodies of water and agricultural lands.  Collectively, these changes presented what the indigenous Bougainville people viewed as an existential threat to their way of life.

In 1989, Bougainvilleans forcibly shut down the mine. This provoked a harsh armed response from Papua New Guinea.  In response, the rebels declared independence from Papua New Guinea.  Over the next decade, the two sides fought over the future of the mine and, by extension, Bougainville’s political, environmental, and economic independence.  The conflict, marked by atrocities, forced relocation, and a debilitating blockade by Papua New Guinea, resulted in 20,000 deaths, 10 percent of Bougainville’s population, as well as the displacement over another 30 percent of the population.

Somewhat surprisingly, the comprehensive and detailed peace agreement that ended the conflict did not address the future of the mine – the primary conflict driver.  The agreement instead focused on increased self-government and a path to potential independence. This framing has so far allowed Bougainville and Papua New Guinea to maintain a delicate peace as the Bougainville government assumed greater governing responsibility yet kept the mine closed.

At the same time, this framework also presented Papua New Guinea with an opportunity to separate the promise of political independence from Bougainville’s broader goal of protecting the environment and its indigenous way of life. With growing external pressure to reopen the mine, these issues have increasingly been framed as mutually exclusive options that Bougainville must inevitably choose between.

Since the creation of the Autonomous Bougainville Government in 2005, Papua New Guinea and other external funders have provided the Bougainville government with the majority of its funding.  Bougainvilleans have so far envisioned a future economy centered on sustainable agriculture and fishing industries.  It will take significant time, patience, and investment, however, for these industries to produce revenue that could replace the external aid Bougainville currently receives.

To prepare for independence, Papua New Guinea has pressured the Bougainville government to instead achieve fiscal self-reliance by reopening the Panguna mine.  A number of mining companies have expressed an interest in contracting and operating a reopened mine.  Notably, both the government of Papua New Guinea and the government of Bougainville each hold a substantial (36.4 percent) ownership interest in the mine, which was transferred to them in 2016 by the mine’s previous majority shareholder Rio Tinto.

The environmental scars from the mine continue to haunt the island. Cleaning up the pollution that remains would potentially cost billions of dollars, a price far out of reach of Bougainville’s current economy. After the transfer of shares, Rio Tinto rejected responsibility for the mine’s environmental damage.  Today, some parties argue that reopening the mine with greater environmental protections is the only feasible option for generating sufficient revenue to remediate the prior environmental damage.

Strong public resistance in Bougainville has so far kept attempts to reopen the mine at bay.  With the arrival of the referendum date, however, the forces coalescing around the reopening of the mine have redoubled their efforts to overcome this public resistance.  Amid this pressure, rather than resolving the conflict, the referendum’s narrow focus on political independence may instead reignite it.

If voters choose independence, Papua New Guinea may present Bougainville with a Faustian bargain: in exchange for independence, Bougainville will first have to achieve fiscal self-reliance by reopening the mine. If that happens, Bougainvilleans will have to choose between abandoning the promise of political independence, which has underpinned the last two decades of peace, and reopening the Panguna mine, which drove a decade conflict.

Dr. Paul R. Williams is the Founder of the Public International Law & Policy Group, and the Rebecca I. Grazier Professor of Law and International Relations at American University.

Carly Fabian is a Research Fellow on Justice, Peace, and Security at the Public International Law & Policy Group.

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