Tag Archives: Solwara 1

Anglo American should divest from high risk deep sea mining

Deep Sea Mining Campaign | 24 April 2017

Multinational mining company Anglo American will be held accountable today at its annual shareholder meeting. The company’s investment in the experimental Nautilus Minerals Solwara 1 deep sea mining project, is deeply opposed by local communities, churches and wider civil society in Papua New Guinea. These stakeholders ask Anglo American to divest from Nautilus Inc.

Anglo American is proud of its international commitments to sustainability, human rights, and environmental stewardship, but will they inform shareholders that their investment in Nautilus does not respect people’s culture and heritage?

“Anglo American, we are not guinea pigs for your experimental project!” stated Jonathan Mesulam from the Alliance of Solwara Warriors. “We in the Pacific are custodians of the world’s largest ocean. These oceans are important to us as sources of food and livelihoods. They are vital for our culture and our very identity. Solwara 1 is in the middle of our traditional fishing grounds. You are threatening our home and our existence with experimental seabed mining.”

Christina Tony, from the Bismarck Ramu Group in PNG, said:

“Anglo American, Solwara 1 does not respect local communities’ livelihoods, health, food security and culture all of which are strongly linked to the sea. Our people have not provided their informed consent for this project. The Solwara 1 Environmental Impact Statement contains many gaps and errors – we can’t even obtain all the environmental research reports. By investing in this industry, Anglo American is complicit in trampling on our human rights.”

Dr. Helen Rosenbaum, Deep Sea Mining campaign stated:

“Deep Sea Mining is risky business as both the environmental impacts and the returns are complete unknowns. Nautilus’ Annual Information Form, lodged with Canadian securities, emphasises the experimental nature of the Solwara 1 project. In addition, report after report[1] demonstrates the world’s oceans are already on the brink of peril. Recent research from the MIDAS consortium indicates a concrete risk that deep sea mining would lead to serious irreversible harm. With our Pacific partners. we call for a complete ban on Deep Sea Mining and for Anglo American to dissociate itself and its shareholders from this unjust experiment.”

Andy Whitmore, London Mining Network says:

“We welcome Anglo American’s desire to look for more sustainable forms of mining to meet society’s needs[2][3]. However, deep sea mining is not the answer. Instead, the solution should prioritise environmental protection and resource conservation while maintaining economic benefits. We ask Anglo American to divest from sea bed mining and instead get behind alternatives to traditional mining developments and truly cutting edge approaches hold the promise of win-win solutions for society and the environment. 

NOTES

[1] Reports include: World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Reviving the Ocean Economy (2015) ; The Living Planet (2016);  International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) State of the Ocean (2013) ; Explaining Ocean Warming (2016); and the United Nation’s World Ocean Assessment 2016 which is a global inventory of the state of the marine environment and problems threatening to degrade the oceans.

[2] For example, California based Blue Oak Resources estimates that every year mining companies spend roughly $12 billion for virgin ore deposits. While tons of cell phones and other electronics are thrown out every year, each ton contains 70 times the amount of gold and silver found in virgin ore. For copper the number is even higher, with the equivalent of roughly one-third of global mining production thrown out in e-waste globally every year; ‘Urban mining’: UBC engineers say e-waste richer than ore pulled from the ground;  Can ‘urban mining’ solve the world’s e-waste problem?

[3] In Apple’s 2017 Environment Responsibility Report released last Wednesday 19th April, the company has announced a new, unprecedented goal for the tech industry to “stop mining the earth altogether”. Read more: No Mining Required; No more mining says Apple; and Apple will stop relying on mining for minerals ‘one day’.

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United Nations against experimental seabed mining in PNG

Merolyn Ten | Post Courier | April 20, 2017

THE United Nations is against the world’s first seabed mining operation which is set to start in two years time in the Bismarck Sea, off the coast of New Ireland Province.

Copper and gold deposits will be mined from the seafloor at a depth of 1600 metres. The UN says this will cause major environmental destruction not only to the communities in New Ireland but the entire Pacific Ocean, and is against the 14 Sustainable Development Goals of the UN.

“There is a high likelihood that mining will disrupt life under the sea and potentially cause mass devastation for biodiversity,” UN resident co-coordinator Ray Trivedy said. The 14 SDG states the importance of conservation and the sustainable use of the ocean, seas and marine resource.

Oceans, especially the Pacific Ocean which PNG is in, contain nearly 200,000 identified species, but actual numbers may lie in the millions. UN main targets were to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans as stated in the UN Convention Law of Sea.

“I am against sea bed mining because despite what some companies say, I am not convinced that it will lead to sustainable development,” Mr Trivedy said.

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Ban seabed mining, says Cardinal

Naomi Wise | The National aka The Loggers Times | April 11, 2017 

CARDINAL Sir John Ribat is calling on the governments of PNG and the Pacific to ban seabed mining in their countries.

Sir John, who has just returned from Suva, Fiji where he attended a workshop on seabed mining at the Pacific Theological College, said this in support of people living in coastal areas and islands in the Pacific.

“The ocean is home to people living around coastal areas and islands,” Sir John said.

He said they realised the impact the seabed mining will have on the ocean.

“And that is why it is vital we highlight the importance of our lives in association with the sea,” Ribat said.

“My fear is, if this happens, our people will go into the deep ocean to fish.

“We also don’t know how long it will take for the ocean to heal itself after the destruction the seabed mining will cause,” he said.

“Do you want to see our people suffer?”

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Pacific churches against experimental seabed mining

Pacific churches call for a ban on experimental seabed mining in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific

Lice Movono | The Fiji Times | April 9, 2017

CHURCH leaders from the Pacific have called on governments and people of the Pacific to unite to preserve the region with regards to seabed mining.

In an acknowledgement of industry action in sea bed mining the churches acknowledges that developments were taking place in some governments but they singled out the government of Papua New Guinea for having issued mining licenses.

“We also acknowledge the campaigns against Seabed Mining by local communities in PNG. We are aware of the destruction by Seabed Mining,” the church statement said.

“Therefore, we call on the PNG Government and other Pacific countries to put a stop to testing of Seabed technology on PNG Land or Seas.”

The churches who were joined at the workshop by representatives of civil society organisations called on the rest of the non government community to unite stand with the churches and the Alliance of Solwara Warriors “to say NO” to any development regarding Seabed Mining in their area.”

“We call on the Governments and the people of the Pacific to stand together to preserve our common home for the unborn and the future generations.”

“We call on all the people and the governments of the Pacific to stand together in solidarity to Ban Seabed Mining in PNG and the Pacific.”

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Nautilus aborts trials in Oman and opts for testing in PNG

Twelve months ago Nautilus sent its machines to Oman for wet testing – so why are the machines now in Port Moresby for exactly the same set of tests with no mention of what happened in Oman?

Nautilus submersible trials will start soon

Rosalyn Albaniel | Post Courier | April 04, 2017

THE Seafloor Production Tools (SPTs) developed by Canadian Miner Nautilus Minerals for the World’s first ever deep sea mining have arrived in the country and will shortly commence submerged trials.

Nautilus vice president Adam Wright, who flew in from Brisbane where he is based said the equipment was shipped mid-March from a ship yard where they had been stored, arriving in Port Moresby on Monday.

Mr Wright told the Post-Courier the equipment would undergo a series of trials over a four to five month period at Motukea island.

He said the four things that the Canadian miner will be testing are the stability of the machine, how efficiently they can cut rock, how efficiently they can collect rock and how well the operator can control and monitor submergible using visualization technology.

“This really puts the spot light on PNG in taking the lead role in developing deep sea mining and this is a joint initiative between Nautilus and PNG through Kumul Mineral Holdings Limited.

Nautilus chief executive officer Mike Johnston in commenting on the arrival of the machine said

“We are delighted to be given the opportunity to complete these trials in PNG rather than overseas.

Not only will it result in the addition of over K6million into the PNG economy and employing of thousands of Papua New Guineans. [THOUSANDS OF JOBS – REALLY!]

“It will also ensure that our partner Kumul Mineral Holdings, government officials from the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA), Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) as well as from New Ireland and East New Britain provincial governments can fully participate in the trials.

“The machines will not be deployed into the ocean so there will be no impact on the seafloor around Motukea Island Instead the machines will operate in an existing fully enclosed excavation on the island,” the CEO said.

Meanwhile, Mr Wright said after the trials have been concluded the equipment will be shipped back to China to be integrated onto Nautilus’ production support vessel which he added is currently being built in a shipyard in there.

“Once the ship completed and completed its sea trials then that vessel will come back to PNG,” Mr Wright said.

He said the firm remains confident that the commissioning of the mining operation will fall in the early part of 2019.

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Nautilus to test seafloor production tools in PNG submerged trials


Henry Lazenby | M
ining Weekly | 4 April 2017 

Marine mining hopeful Nautilus Minerals will shortly start submerged testing of its fleet of seafloor production tools, following the equipment’s arrival in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

“We are delighted to be undertaking submerged trials in PNG. The trials will result in money and investment going into the PNG economy, and the employment of Papua New Guineans in ‘state of the art’ technology, which are some of the key benefits of seafloor production. The trials also allow us to work closely with our partner Petromin, government officers from the various government agencies, as well as representatives from Provincial Governments of New Ireland and East New Britain,” CEO Mike Johnston stated Monday.

The submerged trials will happen in an existing facility on Motukea Island, near Port Moresby in PNG.

The company last month stated that it remains on track to achieve production from the Solwara 1 project, offshore PNG in the Bismark Sea, in the first quarter of 2019. The company’s objective is to develop the world’s first commercial high-grade seafloor copper/gold mine and launch the seafloor resource production industry.

Nautilus formed a joint venture company with PNG’s nominee, Eda Kopa (Solwara), in December 2014 to mine high-grade polymetallic seafloor massive sulphide deposits. Nautilus has an 85% shareholding and Eda Kopa 15%.

Nautilus announced in September a revised work programme, pending the company successfully raising the required capital by June. It entails a more staged approach, moving the Nautilus equipment integration phase of vessel construction out until after the vessel has been delivered by Fujian Mawei Shipyard and Marine Assets Corporate in the fourth quarter of 2018, resulting in a 12-month delay to the original schedule. 

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World’s First Experimental-Sea Mining Venture Set to Launch in 2019

Remote-controlled robots will journey to the bottom of the ocean in search of copper, nickel, cobalt, gold, and platinum as global demand for minerals surges.

Greg Walters | Seeker | 24 March 2017

The world’s first deep-sea mining operation will [may] kick off in early 2019 when a Canadian firm, Nautilus Minerals Inc., lowers a trio of massive remote-controlled mining robots to the floor of the Bismarck Sea off the coast of Papua New Guinea in pursuit of rich copper and gold reserves.

The machines, each the size of a small house, are equipped with rock-crushing teeth resembling the large incisors of a dinosaur. The robots will lumber across the ocean floor on mammoth treads, grinding and chewing the encrusted seabed, sending plumes of sediment into the surrounding waters and killing marine life that gets in their way. The smallest of the robots weighs 200 tons.

“A lot of people don’t realize that there are more mineral resources on the seafloor than on land,” said Michael Johnston, CEO of Nautilus, by phone from the company’s field office in Brisbane, Australia. “Technology has allowed us to go there.”

If Nautilus succeeds, an undersea gold rush could be at hand.

Over two-dozen contracts have already been granted to explore hundreds of thousands of square miles of ocean floor by a United Nations body called the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which regulates areas of the seafloor that lie outside of any national jurisdiction.

“In the seabed, resources are incredibly rich,” said Michael Lodge, Secretary-General of the ISA. “These are virgin resources. They’re extremely high-grade. And they are super-abundant.”

An Auxiliary Cutter goes along the sea floor first, removing rough terrain and creating benches for the other machines to work on. It has a boom-mounted cutting head for flexibility

The Collecting Machine gathers cut material by drawing it in as seawater slurry with internal pumps and pushing it through a flexible pipe to the riser and lifting system

Analysts warn that population growth and a transition to low-carbon economies will test global supply constraints for minerals. Indeed, current levels of mining exploration are not keeping pace with future demand, according to a peer-reviewed paper published in March by a team of researchers led by the University of Delaware’s Saleem Ali.

The prospect of mineral demand outstripping supply has led an increasing number of firms to consider operations at the bottom of the ocean, where reserves of copper, nickel, and cobalt are thought to be plentiful, along with lesser amounts of gold and platinum.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that there are thousands of years’ supply of minerals in the seabed,” Secretary-General Lodge said. “There is just absolutely no shortage.”

Nautilus says early tests show their Bismark Sea site, called Solwara-1, is over 10-times as rich in copper as comparable land-based mines, with a copper grade above 7 percent versus an average 0.6 percent grade on land. The site also boasts over 20 grams per ton of gold, versus an average grade of 6 grams per ton on land.

Many of the world’s best options for surface mining have long since been explored and developed, according to Thomas Graedel, an industrial ecologist at Yale University.

“The planet has been extensively explored on land,” he said by phone from New Haven. “I think industry will continue to want to explore for new potential deposits of minerals.”

Indeed, mining the ocean floor has been under consideration for decades, but seen as a remote possibility.

In one famous case in 1974, the CIA used a fake ocean floor mining expedition, ostensibly backed by the eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, as cover for an attempt to hoist a sunken Soviet submarine off the coast of Hawaii.

But now, the practice is shifting from fantasy to reality — a fact that is causing alarm among environmental groups who argue that not enough research has been done to prove seabed mining is ecologically sound.

“There are too many unknowns for this industry to go ahead,” said Natalie Lowrey of the Australia-based Deep Sea Mining Campaign, which is calling for the practice to be banned. “We’ve already desecrated a lot of our lands. We don’t need to be doing that in the deep sea.”

Lowrey worries that the plume of seafloor sediment stirred up by the mining robots could travel with sea currents, disturbing ocean ecosystems. Sediment clouds could prove harmful to filter-feeders, environmentalists argue, undercutting the lower rungs of the food chain and potentially causing knock-on effects for other creatures.

“There’s a serious concern that the toxicity from disturbing the deep sea can move up the food chain to the local communities,” who live along the coast of Papua New Guinea, she said.

Johnston of Nautilus said his company is taking the sediment plume issue seriously, and that the company’s machines are designed to minimize the undersea cloud through the collection procedure itself.

“When we’re cutting, we have suction turned on,” he said. “It’s not like we’re blowing stuff all over the place. We’re actually sucking it up. So the plume gets minimized through the mining process.”

Johnston added, “We go to great efforts to minimize the impact of the plumes. We’re quite confident that the impact from these activities will be significantly less than some of these people claim.”

At Solwara-1, Nautilus is going after a type of deposit known as Seafloor Massive Sulfides (SMS), which form next to subsea hydrothermal vents at the margins of tectonic plates.

The deposits, which include copper, gold, and potentially other valuable minerals, collect after cold water seeps into the earth and becomes geothermally heated, dissolving metals and sulfides from the surrounding rocks before being spewed back out of the vent at temperatures up to 400 degrees Celsius and collecting on the sea floor — along with the minerals brought up from below.

The mining robots have been designed to operate in near-freezing temperatures, under pressure 150 times greater than at sea level.

The first robot, the auxiliary cutter, carves a level path to make way for the second machine, the bulk cutter, which is equipped with a wide, powerful cutting drum.

The third robot, called the collecting machine, follows behind them, slurping up the seawater slurry with a consistency like wet cement through internal pumps before sending the material to the ship at the surface via a riser system.

On the ship, the water is filtered, and solids larger than eight microns are removed, before being returned back into the ocean. The cargo is then transferred to a transport vessel and sent directly to customers in China.

Now, as Nautilus prepares for its maiden voyage, many will be watching from the sidelines — and if it succeeds, imitators will likely try to follow.

“If Nautilus goes ahead, it’s going to open the gateway for this industry,” Lowrey said.

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