Tag Archives: Solwara 1

MRA is the real enemy within – it has no duty

James Wanjik  | Post Courier | 2 July 2019

THE Marape government wants to take back PNG. It is a very noble goal.

The issue is, where is PNG for it to be taken back?

Since May 30, when James Marape was voted in as prime minister of PNG we are yet to see what message PM Marape uttered that shows where PNG is.

Our leaders were too emotional to see the truth about a statutory body called Mineral Resources Authority (MRA).

In 2006 it was illegally set up. In 2007 it assumed all assets of former Department of Mining without any handover brief.

MRA’s first project was Solwara No 1 at Pacmanus basin within New Ireland. It had a peculiar condition for a mining lease. It’s first task was to develop technology and not mining. In one lease the MRA corrupted the purpose of mining lease and got the State of PNG to commit funds as a stakeholder.

Lies and deceit of MRA caused the Somare government in 2011. It was warned to remove MRA but it chose to keep it and got removed itself.

It was the same for the O’Neill government. When it tried to tame PNG Sustainable Development Program Ltd it was warned to remove MRA as soon as it could. It’s advisers did not listen. They caused O’Neill’s removal as PM though through resignation.

In 2009 the government was warned that PNG was on the MRA vehicle down the Zambian mining way.

If James Marape wants to take back PNG he must remove MRA to provide clear path to see way to taking back PNG. If he does not then he must be prepared to be embarrassed by MRA in any major forum.

MRA has no duty to the nation or her prime minister. It is answerable to the managing director who is above the MRA board. Also MRA has veto power over any new policy.

Prime Minister Marape has been warned in this letter to the editor. He will have no excuse if he does not act and MRA causes damage to, his leadership, the government, and the mining industry.

The prime minister is free to contact this writer on jameswanjik@gmail.com if he thinks he could be further enlightened.

We pray God may light and salt MRA darkness and bitterness for truth to set PNG free. In God we trust.

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Cancel all seabed mining licences

PNG Council of Churches | Voice of Milne Bay | Alliance of Solwara Warriors | Bismarck Ramu Group | Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights | 28 June 2019 

Dear Hon. Prime Minister,

Congratulations on your recent election as the new leader of Papua New Guinea and for the establishment of your new cabinet! This fills our hearts with hope for a better future. 

We, the PNG Council of Churches, Voice of Milne Bay, Alliance of Solwara Warriors, Bismarck Ramu Group and the Center for Environmental Law and Community Rights, would like to draw your attention to the issue of deep sea mining in our Bismarck and Solomon Seas.

We stand with the communities of the West Coast of New Ireland Province, Duke of York Islands, East New Britain, Madang, Manus and Milne Bay Provinces who oppose sea bed mining under the Alliance of Solwara Warriors. 

Together we call on the Papua New Guinean Government to cancel all Nautilus Minerals’ deep sea exploration licences, mining leases, and environment permits.

Our communities already face many unsustainable developments impacting our lands, oceans, lives, and livelihoods. This includes mining, logging, and oil palm operations. The risks and uncertainties of experimental seabed mining are too great to allow this industry to ever proceed in Papua New Guinea.

We have our own economies and natural resources to sustain and support our daily survival. We ask our government to invest in these.

Our coastal communities have always been connected with our seas. The sea is central to identity, livelihoods and culture practices. It cannot be separated. 

We simply do not want Seabed Mining in PNG’s Waters.

The former government made a bad investment decision by buying into Nautilus Minerals. Our country and ordinary citizens are paying the price. The $US120m equity, a loan from BSP, that the Government invested in the Solwara 1 project could have been used for medical supplies, education, and much-needed infrastructure. 

Nautilus Minerals is currently seeking protection for alleged bankruptcy and is re-arranging its affairs to protect the interests of its officers and two major shareholders. It seems like the company is not considering the impact on its shareholders which includes the PNG government.

We look to your leadership to ban seabed mining in our country and to use our nation’s funds wisely.

Therefore, we call on the new Papua New Guinea Government to:

1. Terminate the Solwara 1 mining lease and environmental permit, and all of Nautilus Minerals’ exploration licences

2. Demonstrate that it has learnt from the very costly mistakes of the former Government of purchasing a 15% stake in Nautilus Minerals and commit to:

a. Never taking up a stake in any deep sea mining venture in the future;

b. Not issuing any more exploration licences or mining leases for deep sea mining; and

c. Providing real and lasting support to communities right across Papua New Guinea by assisting thriving artisanal fisheries, growing the fledgling ocean based eco-tourism sector, and funding communications and transport infrastructure, education and health services. 

We anticipate your favourable response, and we thank you and wish all God’s blessings on your efforts as our new leader.

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DeepGreen closer to ocean mining battery metals after Swiss cash injection

[A highly misleading] computer rendition of a seabed mining operation. (Image by Phil Pauley | Twitter.) In reality the mining will be done in almost complete darkness thousands of metres below the surface!

Cecilia Jamasmie | Mining News | June 10, 2019

Canada’s DeepGreen Metals, a start-up planning to extract cobalt and other battery metals from small rocks covering the seafloor, has secured the bulk of the $150 million it needs to carry out its first feasibility studies.

The financing, provided by Switzerland-based offshore pipeline company Allseas Group, is a welcome sign of progress for the deep sea mining sector, which has been stalled due regulatory uncertainty and environmental concerns.

Unlike other seafloor mining companies, including pioneer Nautilus Minerals, the Vancouver-based explorer doesn’t want to drill, blast or dig the bottom of the ocean. DeepGreen’s main goal is to scoop up small metallic rocks located thousands of metres below the surface in the North Pacific Ocean.

Its exploration focus is the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), a mineral-rich, 4,000-kilometre swath of the Pacific that stretches from Hawaii to Mexico, where billions of potato-sized metals-rich rocks lie in a shallow layer of mud on the seafloor.

The deep sea, more than half the world’s surface, contains more cobalt, nickel, copper, manganese and rare earth metals than all land reserves combined, according to the US Geological Survey.

Companies exploring or already developing projects to mine the seafloor argue the extraction of those deep-buried riches could help diversify the sources currently supplying metals needed for electronics and evolving green technologies, such as electric vehicles (EVs) and solar panels.

Academics and scientist, however, are concerned by the lack of research on the possible impacts of high seas mining. They fear the activity could devastate fragile ecosystems that are slow to recover in the highly pressurized darkness of the deep sea, as well as having knock-on effects on the wider ocean environment.

Not enough studies

Last year, the European Parliament called for a ban on seabed mining until the environmental impacts and risks of disturbing unique deep-sea ecosystems are understood. In the resolution, it also urged the European Commission to persuade member states to stop sponsoring and subsidizing licenses to explore and exploit the seabed in international waters as well as within their own territories.

Shortly after, an international team of researchers published a set of criteria to help the International Seabed Authority (ISA), a UN body made up of 168 countries, protect biodiversity from deep-sea mining activities.

So far, it has granted 29 licences to governments and companies, authorizing them to explore in international waters.

Nautilus, however, is the only company that has gone beyond the exploration stage and has gotten close to open the first polymetallic seabed mine off the coast of Papua New Guinea. Its Solwara 1 project, however, has been slowed by funding issues and local opposition.

Anglo American (LON:AAL) sold its 4% stake in Nautilus a year ago, as part of efforts to retain only its most profitable assets. And, in March, it had to delist from the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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NOC: Environmental Impact of Deep-Sea Mining can Last Decades

Unique deep-sea hydrothermal vent ecosystems that harbour chemosynthetic life forms such as giant tubeworms. Active mining of vents would destroy these rare ecosystems (Image: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program)

Maritime Executive | 30 May 2019

A new study shows that the impacts of seabed mining on deep-sea ecosystems can persist for decades. 

Scientists at the U.K.’s National Oceanography Centre (NOC) revisited a site exposed to deep-sea mining activity nearly 30 years previously to assess seabed and ecosystem recovery. They used a robot submarine to map and photograph much of the seafloor in the disturbed area in unprecedented detail. The images were combined into a seafloor photo-mosaic completely covering 11 hectares of seabed, the largest ever photo-mosaic obtained in the abyssal ocean. Tracks on the seafloor caused by the simulated mining were still clearly visible, and the impacts on marine life initially observed in 1989 persist.  

The study, recently published in Scientific Reports, was able to pinpoint individual animals over a wide area and relate their abundance and distribution to the tracks. While mobile species, such as sea cucumbers and sea stars, were able to recolonize impacted areas, many animals, such as sponges and sea anemones, live attached to the seafloor and remained virtually absent from directly disturbed seabed. Given the important role of these animals in abyssal ecosystems, the results of the study suggest that impacts of large-scale commercial mining could potentially lead to an irreversible loss of key ecosystem functions, says the NOC.

The target of this type of deep-sea mining is polymetallic nodules, potato-shaped rocks rich in copper and manganese. These nodules provide a stable anchoring point for the development of anemones, soft corals and sponges, and promote the development of diverse communities on otherwise muddy seabed. The nodules take millions of years to form. Removal or burial of nodules from mining activities will remove the home of many of these filter-feeding animals, constraining their capacity to recolonize impacted zones and further delaying ecosystem recovery processes. 

The site investigated lies in the deep Pacific Ocean off Peru at around 4,000 meters water depth. It was disturbed as an experiment in 1989 by a team of German researchers. This is still to date the largest disturbance experiment carried out in an abyssal environment. 

The study is the result of a collaboration between the NOC and the GEOMAR institute in Kiel (Germany) funded by the European Union Joint Programming Initiative (JPI-Oceans), an international project aiming to assess the ecological aspects of deep-sea mining. The NOC is working with the U.K. Government and the International Seabed Authority to inform developing regulations regarding deep-sea mining.

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Academic Urges Govt To Revisit Tax Regime

Post Courier | May 28, 2019

The recent political tussle in PNG has emerged due to inconsistent resource development policies, mainly the disagreements on local fiscal contents associated with the extractive sector, explains an academic.

Senior Lecturer Dr Ken Ail Kaepai of PNG University of Technology said from Lae that PNG needs to critically revise the minerals taxation regimes to develop sound policies and innovative ways of capturing a significant share of the mineral wealth without placing tax burdens on the industry.

“The political tussle between the government and opposition is not new. During the mineral boom periods, Australia had its share of high political turnovers due to arguments over resource rent tax and royalty policies.”

“The idea of national ownership of resources has been People Progress Party’s (PPP) policy platform for maximizing the mineral wealth for PNG.

However, PPP has not pursued it for a policy shift. Currently, the political mindset thinks that equity participation is one way to accommodate national interests com- pared to allowing 100 per cent foreign ownership of PNG’s mineral resources,” he said.

He said that the lack of capital for exploration and project developments restrict the national ownership of mining, oil and gas. The State and landowners do not have the equity capital for procuring equity interests in resource projects.

Dr Kaepai explained that given the limitation, the State has agreed to acquire 22.25 per cent interests in the Papua LNG through a deferred payment of the equity capital, which includes the landowner’s 2 per cent interest.

“The State will bear landowner’s financial burden of their equity interest through KPHL. It means that the landowners will be free-riders at the expense of the State and the society at large.”

“Under this arrangement, the dividends will be delayed over more extended periods required for allowing the State to repay the equity capital sourced from external lending institutions or will enable the investor to recoup its equivalent equity capital cost internally using future positive cash flows from the project.”

Dr Keapai said that the deferred payment of the equity capital shifts the financial burden of providing the upfront capital cost of equity to the investor.

The State’s market capitalization of equity participation in minerals, petroleum and LNG is not clear, and landowner equity participation has been problematic,” he stressed.

Dr Kaepai said that the Panguna was the only mine that consistently paid equity dividends until its premature closure in 1988.

“Local equity participation in Porgera and Lihir gold mines have been problematic and unsustainable, while free-carried interest was offered to OK Tedi landowners under exceptional circumstances associated with the riverine tailings disposal system.”

Dr Kaepai said that a former mining minister, the DMPGM and the MRA misled the GoPNG to take the 30 per cent equity in the failed Nautilus Minerals’ under-sea mining development.

“It is a significant loss of public funds that could have been used to develop the deteriorating health and education infrastructures in rural PNG.”

“It appears that the GoPNG provides tax holidays as compensation for equity participation, and at the pretence of attracting foreign direct investment. “This strategy causes a fiscal dissipation where both tax concession and equity participation could lead to wasteful resource extraction.

“The State and landowners need to critically assess the financial viability of equity participation in Papua LNG, Wafi-Golpu and Frieda projects.

This includes the renegotiation of the Porgera gold mine on a case by case basis.

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Scientists fear impact of deep-sea mining on search for new medicines

Microbes from deep-sea sponges could be a breakthrough in the fight against superbugs. Photograph: Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Bacteria from the ocean floor can beat superbugs and cancer. But habitats are at risk from the hunger for marine minerals.

“On deep sea vents, scientists are clear – we don’t want mining on them. There are thousands of species of deep-sea animals living there and new species are being discovered all the time.”

Karen McVeigh | The Guardian | 20 May 2019 

When Prof Mat Upton discovered a microbe from a deep-sea sponge was killing pathogenic bugs in his laboratory, he realised it could be a breakthrough in the fight against antibiotic resistant superbugs, which are responsible for thousands of deaths a year in the UK alone.

Further tests last year confirmed that an antibiotic from the sponge bacteria, found living more than 700 metres under the sea at the Rockall trough in the north-east Atlantic, was previously unknown to science, boosting its potential as a life-saving medicine.

But Upton, and other scientists who view the deep ocean and its wealth of unique and undocumented species as a prospecting ground for new medicines, fear such potential will be lost in the rush to exploit the deep sea’s equally rich metal and mineral resources.

“We’re looking at the bioactive potential of marine resources, to see if there are any more medicines or drugs down there before we destroy it for ever,” says Upton, a medical microbiologist at the University of Plymouth. He is among many scientists urging a halt to deep-sea mining, asking for time to weigh up the pros and cons.

“We know sponges are a very good source of bioactive bacteria so I would say they would be a good source of antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs too. In sustainability terms, this could be a better way of exploiting the economic potential of the deep sea.”

Oceanographers using remotely operated vehicles have spotted many new species. Among them have been sea cucumbers with tails allowing them to sail along the ocean floor, and a rare “Dumbo” octopus, found 3,000 metres under the Pacific, off the coast of California.

Upton estimates it could take up to a decade for a newly discovered antibiotic to become a medicine – but the race towards commercial mining in the ocean abyss has already begun.

The deep sea, more than half the world’s surface, contains more nickel, cobalt and rare earth metals than all land reserves combined, according to the US Geological Survey. Mining corporations argue that deep-sea exploration could help diversify the supply of metals, including cobalt for electric car batteries, presently mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where child labour is common. Demand for copper, aluminium, cobalt and other metals, to power technology and smartphones, is soaring.

So far, 29 licences for exploration activities have been granted by the International Seabed Authority (ISA), a UN body made up of 168 countries, to promote and regulate deep-sea mining. No commercial exploitation licences have been granted yet, but one firm, Global Sea Mineral Resources, has said it needs regulations in place by next year to start mining in 2026.

Last week the ISA’s legal and technical commission gathered in Pretoria, South Africa, for a workshop to develop environmental standards for a draft mining code, which will create the framework for exploitation. Michael Lodge, the organisation’s secretary general, has promised regulations will be finalised by 2020.

But many fear this is moving too fast. Mining could devastate fragile ecosystems that are slow to recover in the highly pressurised darkness of the deep sea, as well as having knock-on effects on the wider ocean environment. Critics have called for a 10-year ban on commercial mining.

Kristina Gjerde, a high seas policy specialist at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, is deeply concerned over the lack of environmental protections in the draft code. “We’re just blindly going into the dark, adjusting any impacts on the way,” says Gjerde. “We have no assurances, no evidence that they can avoid serious harm.”

A cross-party group of MPs wrote in January that deep-sea mining would have “catastrophic impacts” on habitats and species and concluded that the case for such activity had not yet been made.

A study published in January found that soft sediment in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the mid-Pacific, where most exploration licences have been granted, could take up to 10 times longer to resettle than previously thought, meaning sediment is likely to travel farther in the water column before it resettles, affecting marine life over a much larger area.

Dr Kerry Howell, a colleague of Upton’s at the University of Plymouth, is working on a model to try to predict where on the sea bed important species such as Upton’s sponge lie. “We don’t have all the information we need” says Howell, a deep-sea ecologist. “Our project will look at which species might be important and which may be impacted by mining. If the models work, we will know where they are and we will know what they can do, and we can make decisions about whether mining can go ahead.”

Her work is part of a £20m five-year programme, funded by the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund. “We are writing regulations in a severe absence of knowledge of the ecosystem,” she warns.

Howell also receives funding, for separate research, from a deep-sea mining company, UK Seabed Resources, which is a subsidiary of the UK branch of the US aerospace and defence company Lockheed Martin. This is also important work, she acknowledges, but scientists simply do not know enough yet.

“Most deep-sea scientists are concerned at the speed at which the development of regulations is happening,” says Howell.

Britain’s partnership with UK Seabed Resources holds licences to explore a total of 133,000 sq km of the Pacific sea floor, more than any government apart from China, according to analysis by Unearthed, Greenpeace’s investigative arm. The licences are in the CCZ, the site of one of the world’s largest untapped collections of high-value metal ores. The area contains trillions of potato-sized black lumps called polymetallic nodules, containing cobalt, nickel, copper and manganese.

Dr Jon Copley, associate professor at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton and a contributor to the BBC’s Blue Planet II series on marine life, is studying hydrothermal vents. Formed when seawater meets magma, and the sites of massive sulphide deposits, these vents are one of three different resources of the deep sea being administered by the ISA.

“On deep sea vents, scientists are clear – we don’t want mining on them,” he says. “There are thousands of species of deep-sea animals living there and new species are being discovered all the time.”

Roughly 400 new species have been found at active hydrothermal vents since 1977.

Copley believes science has moved on since the ISA, whose members are parties to the 1982 UN convention on the law of the sea, began its work in 1994. He questions whether the agency is fit for purpose, when part of its mandate is to promote seabed resources “for the benefit of mankind”.

“The ISA was set up on a false premise – that there is a vast wealth down there that could be used to address social injustice. But it is quite possible the enterprise will increase the gap between rich and poor. At what point do we say: ‘Hang on, is this a good idea?’

“I can understand why the ISA doesn’t want to scare off investors by being heavy-handed on environmental protections. They have to deliver the benefits to the developing world. They have to be very careful.”

Environmentalists point to last year’s designation of the “Lost City”, an area under the Atlantic and one of the world’s most important sites of scientific interest, as part of a mining exploration zone, and are sceptical of the ISA’s environmental credentials.

Louisa Casson, an oceans campaigner for Greenpeace, says that the deep sea is comparable to rainforests in terms of carbon sinks, which are vital in combating climate breakdown. Casson says: “We haven’t heard any reassurances from mining companies or the ISA about how they might handle this potential risk. Last year, the ISA granted Poland an exploration licence in an area highlighted by Unesco. Right now, it seems to be serving the interests of the companies.”

The ISA has said there was no suggestion Poland was going to mine in this area and that part of the exploration licence was to conduct environmental studies.

In a statement to the Guardian, Lodge says that, where mining activities are concerned, the ISA is taking “all necessary measures” under the UN convention on the law of the sea “to ensure the effective protection of the marine environment, including marine biodiversity, from harmful effects”.

“An extremely important part of ISA’s mandate is ensuring appropriate environmental assessments and safeguards in the activities it regulates,” he says. “No seabed mining will take place until such elements have been agreed by all 168 member states.”

Lodge says the money the ISA receives from proposed royalties or other finances will be shared for the benefit of member states, particularly taking into account the needs of those that are “least developed and landlocked”.

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Magnitude 7.5 quake alongside proposed Solwara 1 mining site

The epicentre of the magnitude 7.5 earthquake was south of Namatanai

The centre of the quake was just a few kilometres from the proposed mine location

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