Tag Archives: Solwara 1

Group questions Namatanai MP’s stance on seabed mining

Carmella Gware | Loop PNG | May 19, 2018

recent response by the Namatanai MP on Radio New Zealand over the experimental seabed mining has not gone down well with some locals.

In the May 16th article, Walter Schnaubelt was reported to have said though  too much remained unknown about the environmental impacts of seabed mining, ‘that doesn’t mean that we just shut the door’.

Schnaubelt further said he was keeping an open mind on potential seabed mining, and he would maintain a neutral stand until adequate information on the benefits of the Solwara 1 project are made available to him.

Following his statement, the Alliance of Solwara Warriors said as an educated elite, Schnaubelt has to come out clear on his stance, as being neutral only indicates two reasons:

  • The benefits of seabed mining to support his election promises
  • And to swing when people react as it will have a political implication

Furthermore, they said the shark calling culture is also under threat, hence why preach tourism when our action is contradictory.

“We lose our culture and we lose our identity.”

“The Morgado Square, which is the breeding ground for tuna, is also under threat. Fisheries is a sustainable and renewable resource, the local and national economy will be affected,” said the Alliance.

Topaio Landowners Association Public Relations Officer, Towaira Manget, challenges the MP to look into sustainable development project rather than focus on the benefits of experimental seabed mining.

He commended the Alliance of Solwara Warriors for taking the fight and speaking for the silent local majority.

Apart from the vocal Alliance of Solwara Warriors, environmental experts, churches and NGOs have also protested against the first-of-its-kind seabed mining.

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Call for clarity on PNG seabed mining project

Seabed mining machinery Photo: Mike Smith

Radio New Zealand | 16 March 2018

The MP for Namatanai in Papua New Guinea says more information is needed about the impacts and benefits of seabed mining.

The Solwara 1 Project, in which Canadian company Nautilus Minerals plans to extract gold and copper from under the Bismarck Sea, is facing a growing chorus of opposition from local community groups over environmental concerns.

Nautilus has yet to complete equipment requirements for beginning mining, and has seen investors recently withdraw from the project.

The MP, Walter Schnaubelt, said too much remained unknown about the environmental impacts of seabed mining.

“I’m of the view that of course it’s going to be something new, yes, maybe some unknowns are going to happen,” he said.

“But that doesn’t mean that we just shut the door. I would like to delve into it a bit more and know exactly what it is.”

Mr Schnaubelt said there was also a lack of clarity on what benefits the project could bring.

However he said he was keeping an open mind on potential seabed mining.

Mr Schnaubelt said his constituents voted him in to help pave the way for economic development and he was not ruling out that the project could have benefits.

“Provided that those economic benefits do have tangible developments attached to them in the long run, then it’s not so bad,” he said.

“What I’m a little unclear about is what the exact benefits are. I’ve heard some figures, some percentages, but nothing concrete at this point in time.”

Walter Schnaubelt said he could understand the fear local communities had, given that it was the first seabed mining project in the world, and the extent of environmental impacts remain unknown.

However he said he would maintain a neutral stand until more adequate information about the project and clarity on its benefits were made available to him.

The MP conceded “a group opposing the project seems to be gaining momentum”.

But he said some landowners on Namatanai’s west coast were supportive of the project if it brought economic benefits.

“The economic benefits are not really that clear cut,” he explained. “We don’t know exactly what it is and what our (new Ireland’s) shares are, with the East New Britain government.”

He said if the project went ahead, he would want to see a better monitoring system in place to monitor the environment closely and carefully.

Additional measure had to be taken, he suggested, to ensure that an environmental disaster was not left for future generations to struggle with.

However the MP said the company appeared to be struggling for finance, with investors pulling out, and that the project may not proceed.

Mr Schnaubelt said it was another aspect of the project over which he and his constituency had not been given up to date, clear information about.

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PNG govt urged to follow Anglo American’s lead

Loop PNG | May 13, 2018

The PNG Government is urged to follow Anglo American’s lead and withdraw its share in Nautilus Minerals Inc.

The call has been made by the Alliance of Solwara Warriors following the May 4th announcement of the diversified miner in the Financial Times.

In a statement the Alliance of Solwara Warriors said the Government should “take heed of Anglo-American’s action as a professional example and withdraw its 15 percent share while there is still some value (K0.51 May 10th 2018)”.

“This is a clear indication of loss in investor confidence in the Solwara 1 Project and experimental seabed mining in PNG.

“Therefore we the Alliance of Solwara Warriors call on the Government to revoke the Solwara 1 Project and put a total ban on further seabed mining projects in our customary waters.

“We the maritime communities from the Bismarck and Solomon Seas have been resisting Nautilus Minerals experimental projects since 2009.

“Our seas are recognised and protected by our cultural and custom knowledge and as custodians and gatekeepers of this heritage, we recognise that Solwara 1 Project is a dangerous and bad investment.”

Meantime, the Anglo had said they were exiting their small minority shareholding in Nautilus “as part of the prioritization of our portfolio on our largest and greatest potential resource assets”.

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Anglo American divests from Nautilus over risks of deep sea mining

Major mining company withdraws from high risk Solwara 1 deep sea mining project – will Nautilus Minerals go under before reaching the ocean floor?

Deep Sea Mining Campaign | Monday 7 May 2018

In advance of their London AGM on 8th May, Anglo American has exclusively confirmed to the Deep Sea Mining Campaign that they have exited their investment in the Nautilus Minerals Solwara 1 deep sea mining project.

Dr. Helen Rosenbaum, of the Deep Sea Mining Campaign said:

“We are pleased that Anglo American engaged with us and listened to the concerns of coastal and islands communities in Papua New Guinea, whose environment and way of life would be devastated by Nautilus’s proposed Solwara 1 mine.”

Dr. Rosenbaum continued:

“Anglo’s decision to dump their minority stake in this controversial and floundering company was the only option consistent with their international commitments to sustainability, human rights, and environmental stewardship.  Deep sea mining is financially and environmentally risky. The legitimacy of the Solwara 1 project has been questionable right from the outset with independent reviews highlighting significant flaws in the Solwara 1 Environmental Impact Statement.” 

Legal action launched by Papua New Guinean communities will also answer questions about whether the Solwara 1 project was lawfully approved. In the meantime local communities have turned out in force at formal hearings held in PNG’s New Ireland Province to object to the extension of Nautilus exploration licences. 

Anglo’s decision reinforces the growing opposition to deep sea mining. Sir David Attenborough is the latest to add his voice against this hazardous and unnecessary emerging industry, describing the Solwara 1 project as “deeply tragic.”

Andy Whitmore of the Deep Sea Mining Campaign, who will attend the Anglo American AGM noted that:

“In terms of financial and reputational risk, Anglo American have chosen a good time to be exiting. But for Nautilus it looks like it could not have come at a worse time, and may well be the final nail in the coffin for this dangerous experiment.”

“The company continues to limp along with bridging loans from its two long term major shareholders – MB Holdings and Metalloinvest – while continuing to accumulate significant debt with interest payable at 8% per annum.  One wonders how long this can continue and when these shareholders will be forced to pull the plug.”

Nautilus’ recent investor updates reveals it is even unable to raise the finance to complete the Production Support Vessel essential to its operational model.  The investor update notes “there can be no assurances that the Company will be successful in securing the necessary additional financing transactions within the required time or at all.”

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Anglo American to exit stake in deep sea mining company

“For Nautilus it looks like it could not have come at a worse time, and may well be the final nail in the coffin for this dangerous experiment”

Neil Hume | Financial Times | 4 May 2018

Anglo American is set to end its investment in a controversial deep sea mining company that is trying to develop a gold and copper deposit off the coast of Papua New Guinea.

“We are in the process of exiting our small minority shareholding in Nautilus Mining, as part of the prioritisation of our portfolio on our largest and greatest potential resource assets,” an Anglo American spokesman told the Financial Times.

Interested by the company’s technology — it was never involved with work on the deposit — Anglo took a 10 per cent stake in Nautilus back in 2006, which it later increased to 11 per cent.

As Nautilus has raised money to develop the Solwara project, 1.6km below the surface of the Bismarck Sea, Anglo’s shareholding was diluted down to 4 per cent. It is that interest it is now looking to exit.

“In terms of financial and reputational risk, Anglo American have chosen a good time to be exiting,” said Andy Whitmore of the Deep Sea Mining Campaign. “But for Nautilus it looks like it could not have come at a worse time, and may well be the final nail in the coffin for this dangerous experiment”.

Environmental campaigners have slammed the project, which is proposing to use three robotic machines weighing up to 310 tonnes to mine copper and gold from extinct hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. Nautilus then wants to mix the ore with seawater to create a slurry, which can be drawn to the surface, stored and then put on other ships for transport. The extracted seawater is then pumped back to the seabed.

The Deep Sea Mining Campaign came says the project has been “questionable” from the start with independent reviews highlighting flaws in Nautilus’s environmental impact statement.

The underwater vehicles it wants to use were assembled in the north-east of England and have huge spikes like medieval cudgels that can tear through rock.

Nautilus, which counts Metalloinvest, Alisher Usmanov’s metals group, as its second biggest shareholder, warned last month that production from Solwara, originally scheduled for the third quarter of 2019, had been pushed back.

It cited delays securing the remaining project financing and a production vessel for the setback.

Nautilus claims Solwara offers the prospect of extracting high grade minerals without the large overheads and long timescales of land-based mining.

The company’s share price has slumped 94 per cent over the past seven years and it is now valued at just over $100m. Nautilus could not be reached for comment.

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Deep-sea mining possibly as damaging as land mining, lawyers say

Deep-sea mining off Papua New Guinea’s coast. Legal and environmental groups warn of danger to the environment and Indigenous groups who live nearby

Environmental and legal groups warn of potential huge effects on Indigenous people and the environment

Ben Doherty | The Guardian | 18 April 2018 

The “new global gold rush” over deep-sea mining holds the same potential pitfalls as previous resource scrambles, with environmental and social impacts ignored and the rights of Indigenous people marginalised, a paper in the Harvard Environmental Law Review has warned.

A framework for deep-sea mining – where polymetallic nodules or hydrothermal vents are mined by machine – was first articulated in the 1960s, on an idea that the seabed floor beyond national jurisdiction was a “common heritage of mankind”.

But exploration has gathered momentum in the past three years, with licences granted off Papua New Guinea’s coastlines, and successful mining off Japan late last year. The International Seabed Authority, which is drawing up a draft mining code, has issued 29 exploration contracts for undersea mining in international waters beyond any national jurisdiction.

Proponents argue deep-sea mining could yield far superior ore to land mining – in silver, gold, copper, manganese, cobalt and zinc – with little, if any, waste product. Different methods exist, but most involve using some form of converted machinery previously used in terrestrial mining to excavate materials from the sea floor, at depths of up to 6,000 metres, then drawing a seawater slurry to ships on the surface. The slurry is then “de-watered” and transferred to another vessel for shipping. Extracted seawater is pumped back down and discharged close to the sea floor.

But environmental and legal groups have urged caution, arguing there are potentially massive – and unknown – ramifications for the environment and for nearby communities, and that the global regulatory framework is not yet drafted, and currently deficient.

“Despite arising in the last half century, the ‘new global gold rush’ of deep-sea mining shares many features with past resource scrambles – including a general disregard for environmental and social impacts, and the marginalisation of Indigenous peoples and their rights,” the paper, written by Julie Hunter and Julian Aguon, from Blue Ocean Law, and Pradeep Singh, from the Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, Bremen, argues.

The authors say that knowledge of the deep seabed remains extremely limited.

“The surface of the moon, Mars and even Venus have all been mapped and studied in much greater detail, leading marine scientists to commonly remark that, with respect to the deep sea, ‘We don’t yet know what we need to know.’ ”

Scientific research – including a recent paper in Marine Policy journal – has suggested the deep seabed, and hydrothermal vents in particular, have crucial impacts upon biodiversity and global climate regulations.

Hydrothermal vents act as a sink, sequestering carbon and methane. The mineral-rich vents and their surrounds are also home to animals and organisms including crustaceans, tubeworms, clams, slugs, anemones and fish.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that deep-sea mining poses a grave threat to these vital seabed functions,” the paper says. “Extraction methods would involve the operation of large, remote vehicles on the seafloor to chemically leach or physically cut crust from substrate and/or use highly pressurised water to strip the crust.

“All of these methods would produce large sediment plumes and involve the discharge of waste and tailings back into the ocean, significantly disturbing seafloor environments.”

The Harvard Environmental Law Review article says the exploratory phase of deep-sea mining has already adversely affected Indigenous people in the Pacific. In Tonga, large mining prospecting vessels have disturbed traditional fishing grounds, and in PNG villagers bordering the exploration site in the Bismarck sea have reported high incidence of dead fish washed ashore.

The paper argues for governments globally to reform the international seabed regime to reflect modern developments in law and science, and to protect potentially vulnerable communities.

“They should recognise the risks of operating in an unknown environment, fully embrace the precautionary approach, and protect and conserve the ocean for the benefit of current and future generations,” it says.

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Harvard Environmental Law Review Calls For Precautionary Approach to Seabed Mining

Harvard Environmental Law Review Calls For Precautionary New Legal Standards

Post Courier | April 17, 2018

Today, the Harvard Environmental Law Review published an article entitled, “Broadening Common Heritage: Addressing Gaps in the Deep Sea Mining Regulatory Regime.” The article provides a new perspective on the incipient global industry of seabed mining, heralded as the next extractive frontier despite growing concerns and opposition from civil society, scientific experts, and indigenous groups worldwide.

“Deep sea mining has been framed by proponents as a lucrative mineral windfall with minimal impacts,” says author Julie Hunter, attorney and Clinic Fellow at the University of British Columbia. “This narrative entirely disregards recent scientific information linking the deep seabed with major climate regulation and biodiversity functions. Destroying these ecosystems before more can be learned about them not only risks major health and fisheries impacts – it could completely upend global climate change efforts.”

The article provides a brief overview of the so-called ‘gold-rush’ for seabed minerals, in which countries and companies have scrambled to buy up licenses for seabed exploration covering millions of square kilometers of ocean, before environmental and regulatory standards have even been drafted. With Japan becoming the first country to successfully mine its deep seabed in 2017, and Canadian company Nautilus Minerals scheduled to begin the world’s first commercial operation in Papua New Guinea’s waters in 2019, deep sea mining is rapidly becoming a reality.

However, the risks of operating in an unknown environment less documented than Mars are starting to become apparent. In 2016, a consortium of scientists and oceanographers released a study detailing the critical carbon sequestration functions of deep sea hydrothermal vents and methane seeps. Combined with other studies establishing irreversible impacts from seabed mining, these findings trigger a body of protective environmental and human rights law, including the precautionary principle and the need to obtain free, prior, and informed consent from indigenous and other affected peoples.

“Pacific Islanders have already suffered negative consequences as a result of mere exploratory mining in the region,” says author Julian Aguon, attorney and founder of Blue Ocean Law—a law firm that works throughout the Pacific region to defend and advance the rights of colonized and indigenous peoples. “Our work has documented impacts to fisheries and traditional customs in coastal communities in Papua New Guinea, Tonga and elsewhere, and the disconcerting absence of true and meaningful consultation with affected groups.”

Other acknowledged impacts of deep sea mining include contamination of the water column and fisheries by tailings and heavy metals, species extinction, coral reef acidification, carbon emissions from onshore mineral processing, and increased risk of oil spills and surface accidents, among others.

Given the unique biodiversity, genetic, and biomedical properties of deep sea ecosystems, not to mention their potentially critical role in climate regulation, the so-called “common heritage” of the seabed extends far beyond the value of its minerals. “It would be tragically ironic if, in our rush to obtain minerals for use in green tech and renewable energies, we end up bulldozing the most important climate regulator of our planet,” says Hunter. “That possibility alone merits a cautious approach.”

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