Tag Archives: Solomon islands

Fears for marine protected area after bauxite mine ship grounds in Solomons

Radio New Zealand | 13 February 2019 

Environmentalists fear the grounding of a ship off Rennell Island in the Solomons could bring more damage to a marine protected area.

The MV Solomon Trader hit a reef in Kangava Bay off Rennell Island just over a week ago as it was loading bauxite from a nearby mine.

Chris Bone of OceansWatch Solomon Islands told Sally Round the reef is likely to be damaged and comes on top of bauxite spillage in the bay and coral bleaching.

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Oil spill feared after ship grounding on reef in Solomon Islands

A disastrous oil spill could occur in Solomon Islands area, after the Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier ‘Solomon Trader’ ran aground on a reef on the remote island of Rennell, south of the capital Honiara.

Safety4Sea | 14 February 2019

The 225 meter-long ship grounded last week after she attempted to collect bauxite from a nearby mine site. Now the ship’s engine room is already filling with water, according to local media.Authorities in Solomon Islands are working to prevent the oil spill, but heavy weather conditions impede the salvage operations.

The location of the grounding is a marine-protected area which creates further concerns for the impact on the reef.

Jonah Mitau, the acting Director of the Solomon Islands Maritime Administration, told ABC news the biggest worry is the threat of oil leaking from the vessel:

If the weather continues to deteriorate, then we will be having an oil spill situation. We do not have the equipment to contain such a situation. We are trying to get the ship owner and agent to organise themselves,

…he was quoted as saying.

Authorities say the owner of the ship will attempt to use tug boats to pull the ship off the reef, once the weather improves.

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Nickel mining set to start on Solomons’ San Jorge island

Axiom drilling activity on Isabel Nickel Project.

Radio New Zealand | 6 October 2018 

Nickel mining is finally set to commence on San Jorge Island in Solomon Islands’ Isabel Province.

An Australian company, Axiom, this week announced that mining will begin in December.

It said the mine’s first nickel ore shipment was expected to be made in the first quarter of next year.

Axiom, which was granted a lease by the Solomons government last month, said it was close to finalising finance for its project.

According to the company, it is in “advanced stages of negotiations with a number of parties” who are potential partners in the mine.

On the back of Wednesday’s announcement, shares in Axiom Mining rose sharply on the Australian stock exchange.

Isabel is considered to possess one of the largest clusters of nickel laterite deposits in the Pacific.

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Axiom says near supply agreement for Solomon Islands nickel mine

Axiom drilling activity on Isabel Nickel Project.

Melanie Burton | Reuters | October 3, 2018

Australia’s Axiom Mining on Wednesday said it was close to deciding on a partner to take nickel ore supplies from its mine in the Solomon Islands in exchange for finance.

Mining at the San Jorge project in the Pacific nation will start in December, with ore shipments expected to begin in the first quarter of next year, Axiom said in a statement.

The Solomon Islands approved a mining lease last month and ore loading facilities are currently being built, the firm said.

A previous mine finance arrangement with Gunvor Singapore, for A$5 million ($3.6 million) in funding and up to A$10 million towards mine construction, that was made in 2015 has now expired, Axiom said.

“With the recent grant of the mining lease there has been an increase of interest and demand from nickel ore consumers for Axiom’s San Jorge material,” it said.

The San Jorge mine is a nickel laterite ore deposit.

“Terms and conditions of proposed agreements continue to be refined and are in a final stage of negotiation,” Axiom said, without giving further detail. ($1 = 1.3953 Australian dollars)

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Axiom granted mining lease for Isabel nickel project in Solomon Islands

Imelda Cotton | Small Caps | September 20, 2018

Axiom is now fully permitted to commence mining of the Isabel nickel project (San Jorge), with first shipment of ore expected in Q1 of 2019.

Minerals explorer, via its 80%-owned subsidiary AxiomKB, has been formally granted a mining lease by the Solomon Islands government for the San Jorge nickel deposit, which sits within the company’s flagship Isabel nickel project.

The 25-year lease has been issued for the extraction, export and sale of nickel ore and associated commodities from San Jorge and allows Axiom to commence construction at Isabel, with a view to commercial production in early 2019.

In awarding the lease, Solomon Islands Minister for Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification Bradley Tovosia commented on Axiom’s contribition to the local region.

“The Isabel project is to be an important part of our economy, and it is exciting to see real production now moving forward for everyone’s benefit,” he said.

Upgrades of a temporary exploration camp to a long-term mining camp have commenced, in addition to the construction of supporting roads and loading facilities.

Community consultations are also underway in preparation for the first shipment of ore.

Financing for life of mine construction and development is in the advanced stages and due to be finalised over the coming weeks.

The Pacific’s largest nickel deposit

The Isabel nickel project is widely considered one of the largest nickel laterite deposits in the Pacific region, hosting a historical non-JORC deposit of 159 million tonnes at 1.1% nickel and 0.07% cobalt.

It comprises a number of deposits within the Solomon Islands’ Isabel province, including the key deposits of San Jorge and Kolosori, operated by AxiomKB (Axiom 80% ownership) in partnership with local landowners (20%).

Both are spread over 36 square kilometres each, with San Jorge accounting for approximately 50% of the known deposits within the Isabel acreage.

The deposits at San Jorge sit very close to the surface in uninhabited land along a shore which encompasses a natural deep water harbour – all qualities which will enable Axiom to bring a direct shipping of ore operation to the market in a timely and environmentally-acceptable way.

Project history

Axiom’s milestone signifies the first time in the Isabel nickel project’s history that an owner has been granted a mining lease.

Previous San Jorge tenement owner and former nickel major, Inco Ltd (now owned by Brazilian mining giant Vale) conducted feasibility studies during the 1970s based on results from over 7000 drill holes and pits and 10,000 samples.

In 1991, Kaiser Engineers completed its own study on Inco’s data, determining preliminary capital and operating expenditures and conducting economic analyses and financial modelling.

Development by either owner did not progress further due to a failure to win the support of customary landowners from the Kolosori and Bungusule tribes.

In December 2010, Axiom’s collaborative approach resulted in a partnership with the landowners and the Axiom KB joint venture was established. Then in September 2014, AxiomKB emerged successful after three years of litigation proceedings instigated by Sumitomo Mining Metals Solomon over the Isabel nickel deposit.

Last month, Axiom announced it would be recruiting key positions and growing its board of directors to enhance its operational expertise and strengthen its position during the project’s development.

At midday, shares in Axiom were trading 34.02% higher at $0.130.

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China looking under the sea for opportunities in the Pacific

Denghua Zhang* | East Asia Forum | 30 June 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Australian miner loses bauxite licence in Solomons

NASA picture of Nende in Solomon Islands’ Temotu province. Photo: NASA

Radio New Zealand | 30 May 2018 

An Australian company wanting to mine bauxite in Solomon Islands has had its exploration licence rescinded.

AU Capital Mining was exploring in Nende in the remote eastern province of Temotu, but it has been notified by the Mining Minister, Bradley Tovosia that their prospecting to date has been unsatisfactory.

The minister went on to say that the company had failed to establish amicable relations with the local communities in Nende – something that is required under the agreement.

AU Capital Mining obtained an initial provincial business licence a year ago but it has been confronted by significant opposition in Nende ever since.

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Tensions in Temotu as expiry of Aus miner’s licenses loom

NASA picture of Nende, known also as Santa Cruz, in Solomon Islands’ Temotu province. Photo: NASA

Radio New Zealand | 15 March 2018 

Tensions are rising in Temotu as an Australian miner’s licences to prospect and operate in the Solomon Islands’ province approach their expiry date.

Pacific Bauxite secured a prospecting license in 2016 with the support of some local landowners and obtained a provincial business license, after a change in the local government, to begin working on Nende Island.

But it has met with stiff opposition from other landowning groups who accuse the company of operating illegally and are trying to take it to court.

Koroi Hawkins has more – audio link 

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