Search

 MEDIA RELEASE

Wednesday 14 December 2016

Seabed mining in PNG: environmental experiment,

false hope of economic returns

Nautilus Minerals pedalled false hope for experimental seabed mining at the PNG Petroleum and Mining Conference in Sydney. NGOs and civil society in PNG raise serious doubt about the commercial and environmental viability of the Solwara 1 seabed mining project.

Natalie Lowrey, Deep Sea Mining campaign said, “Despite securing bridge financing with its two biggest shareholders to continue the Solwara 1 project, Nautilus faces significant technological and financial uncertainties. They are yet to demonstrate that seafloor resource development is commercially viable and environmentally sustainable.”

“The Nautilus Annual Information Form for the Fiscal Year ending 2015 highlights the potential for equipment damage, mechanical failure and operational failure and it warns that the projected yields and costs for Solwara 1 should be viewed with a low level of confidence.”

According to the Form’s section on risk factors, Nautilus has not completed and does not intend to complete a preliminary economic assessment, pre-feasibility study or feasibility study before embarking on mining at the Solwara 1 Site. The Form also acknowledges that the impact of any seabed mining operation on the environment will only be determined by monitoring after Solwara 1 has been developed.

“This does nothing to reassure local communities. The proposed Solwara 1 site is right in the middle of our fishing grounds and ocean currents operating at the Solwara 1 site would bring pollutants to our shores,” stated Jonathan Mesulum, from the PNG Alliance of Solwara Warriors.

Christina Tony, from the Bismarck Ramu Group in PNG said, “These admissions formally confirm what community members and activists have asserted for some time, that Nautilus and the PNG Government are using the Bismarck Sea as their testing ground and that Solwara 1 is indeed Experimental Sea Bed Mining”

“The business case for Solwara 1 is extremely weak and is a huge risk for the PNG government. It will not generate revenue, employment or business opportunities for the local communities whose lives and livelihoods depend on the ocean. Our former prime minister and Governor of New Ireland province, Sir Julius Chan, cast his doubts about experimental seabed mining as a serious environmental risk for our seas which are the gardens for our people.”

The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), who control the world’s largest sustainable tuna purse seine fishery, have warned this week that without caution and adherence to the precautionary principle sea bed mining will go down the same track as the tuna fishery- foreign companies over exploiting Pacific Island resources with no tangible benefits delivered to local populations. The National Fisheries Authority in PNG has also expressed its concerns over seabed mining in the country.

FOR MORE INFO:

Papua New Guinea: Christina Tony, chrisamoka20[at]gmail.com +675 70942439

Papua New Guinea: Jonathan Mesulam, mesulamjonathan[at]gmail.com +675 70038933

Australia: Natalie Lowrey, natalie.lowrey[at]gmail.com +61 421 226 200

Radio New Zealand, 24 November 2016

Papua New Guinea’s public has the right to be informed about impacts of seabed mining, according to the NGO Bismarck Ramu Group.

The Canadian company Nautilus Minerals said it was looking to begin mining in PNG’s Bismarck Sea by 2018 as part of its Solwara 1 project.

The seabed mining project, set to be the world’s first, has been in the planning for about nine years and secured the backing of the government which bought a 15 percent stake.

However there remains strong opposition to the project among local communities and environmentalists, while caution has been urged by the World Bank among others.

Bismarck Ramu Group’s Christina Tony said it is concerning that government gave approval for the project after only one environmental impact study.

She said that study was done by Nautilus.

“And that environmental impact study has never came out to the public. And we’ve had an independent company in Australia actually reviewed that environmental impact statement and they had concerns over that statement, which they gave the information to the national government,” Ms Tony said.

“That information hasn’t been extended to the public yet.”

Bismarck Ramu Group and other civil society groups concerned about Solwara 1 have taken heart from this month’s New Zealand Environment Court ruling that a seabed mining company must disclose information about its plans.

Trans Tasman Resources applied to New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Authority to mine off the North Island’s west coast.

The EPA had withheld some of the application from public access on the grounds it was commercially sensitive.

However, the court ruled in favour of local civil society and fisheries groups that blacked-out parts of the application be made public.

A representative of the Alliance of Solwara Warriors, Jonathan Mesulam, said they had been fighting for the same public right to information in PNG for many years.

Last year, PNG’s Mining Minister Byron Chan said communities in the Bismarck Sea area had been continuously consulted about the project.

However, according to Mr Mesulam, “Nautilus does not have the consent of local communities. We still don’t know what the impacts of this experimental mining will be.

“Furthermore, the Solwara 1 site is right in the middle of our traditional fishing grounds. We are united in our fight against any destruction of our seas, culture and livelihoods.”

Saying PNG’s government stood to earn at least $US124million from the mining project, Mr Chan previously described the expected environmental impacts of the project as relatively small.

 

logos


MEDIA RELEASE

Tuesday 29th November 2016

The Sinking Titanic: International Seabed Authority and Mining the Common Heritage of Humankind

NGOs and civil society from Papua New Guinea and around the world challenge the development of regulations[1] for deep sea mining by the International Seabed Authority (ISA). Their call for a ban on this frontier industry highlights the need for debate on progressing deep sea mining when alternatives are available.

Natalie Lowrey, Deep Sea Mining campaign stated, “The development of regulations for deep sea mining is akin to loading more passengers onto a sinking Titanic. Report after report[2] demonstrate that 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. The ISA is paving the way for yet another assault upon our oceans – an unprecedented and unnecessary assault.”

The Deep Sea Mining campaign made a joint submission to the ISA on the draft framework for the regulation of deep sea mining in May 2015. The submission highlighted that decisions on deep sea mining should be underpinned by implementation of the Precautionary Principle[3], achieving Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)[4], and gaining broad civil society support.

“Our current submission reflects our disappointment that these critical elements have been ignored in the draft regulations now produced by the ISA. Without them there should be a complete ban on deep sea mining”, continued Ms Lowrey.

The call for a ban on deep sea mining reflects the views of communities in Papua New Guinea and across the Pacific. Opposition to deep sea mining throughout the Pacific is strong and growing[5].

Christina Tony, from the Bismarck Ramu Group in PNG said, “The oceans are part of our Common Heritage. The ISA’s prime mandate is to protect the deep sea (Article 145, UNCLOS). Where is the discussion on needs-based mining vs profit-based mining?”

“In Papua New Guinea and across the Pacific we do not see experimental seabed mining as a need for our communities nor a benefit for humankind as a whole. In PNG, and across the world, we already have plenty of land based mines and they have plenty of problems.”

“Enough is enough!” stated Jonathan Mesulam from the Alliance of Solwara Warriors. “People from the Pacific are custodians of the world’s largest oceans and it is these oceans that connect everyone in the Pacific. The oceans are as important as land as sources of food and livelihoods, they are of strong cultural and spiritual importance. Experimental seabed mining threatens this.”

“There are alternatives to extracting minerals resources from our oceans, these include the improvement of product design and the reuse and recycling of materials through processes as urban mining”, said Ms Lowrey.

“There is yet to be a rigorous and thorough examination of the potential impacts of deep sea mining on the environment and human health. Deep sea mining should therefore not proceed.”

Download the Deep Sea Mining campaign submission to the ISA

 

For more info:

Papua New Guinea:
Jonathan Mesulam, mesulamjonathan@gmail.com +675 70038933, Alliance of Solwara Warriors
Christina Tony, chrisamoka20@gmail.com +675 70942439, Bismarck Ramu Group

Australia:
Natalie Lowrey, natalie.lowrey@gmail.com +61 421226200, Deep Sea Mining Campaign

______

NOTES

[1] Comment by ISA members and stakeholders closed to the initial working draft regulations and standard contract terms on exploitation for mineral resources on Friday 25 November 2016. The purpose of the comments is so the Commission can get the “views and opinions on the content and structure (as opposed to any fine-tuning of the drafting language) of the working draft from the Authority’s stakeholder base. These views will be presented to the newly elected Commission in February 2017 together with a revised working draft. It is intended that the next Commission will formulate a clear methodology with regards to the elaboration of the Mining Code, timelines and stakeholder contribution in the regulatory content and drafting process in connection with regulatory development.” https://www.isa.org.jm/news/deadline-comments-working-draft-exploitation-regulations-extended

[2] Reports include: World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Reviving the Ocean Economy (2015) and The Living Planet (2016);  International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) State of the Ocean (2013) and 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.

[3] The United Nations World Charter For nature (1982) states that the precautionary principle requires that “activities which are likely to pose a significant risk to nature shall be preceded by an exhaustive examination; their proponents shall demonstrate that expected benefits outweigh potential damage to nature; and where potential adverse effects are not fully understood, the activities should not proceed.”

[4] Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) currently exists in many international law instruments. It is most clearly articulate in UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP, 2007). The Deep Sea Mining campaign calls for FPIC to recognised and extended to the Common Heritage and Benefit of Mankind including our international oceans.

[5] Lutherans Walk 9 days Across Highlands Region Campaigning Against Deep Sea Mining in Papua New Guinea, EMTV and VIDEO: Lutherans Campaign Against Deep Sea Mining in PNG, EMTV online.

 

isa_titanic_sinking

 

Deep Sea Mining Campaign submission to the International Seabed Authority on its Draft Regulations and Standard Contract Terms on Exploitation for Mineral Resources in the Area

25 November 2016 | Download Submission to ISA

About the Deep Sea Mining Campaign

The Deep Sea Mining (DSM) Campaign is an association of NGOs and citizens from Papua New Guinea, the Pacific Islands, Australia, Canada, Europe and the United States concerned about the likely impacts of deep sea mining on marine and coastal ecosystems and communities.

The DSM Campaign is a Project of The Ocean Foundation, a Partner of Mission Blue/Sylvia Earle Alliance and a Member of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition.

The Deep Sea Mining Campaign gives its consent to the International Seabed Authority to make this submission publicly available.

For further information about this submission please contact Christina Hill (christinajhill@ozemail.com.au)

Comments on the draft Regulations

The DSM Campaign calls for a ban on all deep sea mining. Our call for a ban is based on the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle requires that “activities which are likely to pose a significant risk to nature shall be preceded by an exhaustive examination; their proponents shall demonstrate that expected benefits outweigh potential damage to nature; and where potential adverse effects are not fully understood, the activities should not proceed”[1].

It is our strong view that the exhaustive examination of the potential impacts of deep sea mining on the environment has not occurred and that the potential effects are not understood. Deep sea mining should therefore not proceed.

Reports by the DSM Campaign[2] and Professor Richard Steiner[3] examining the Environmental Impact Statement of the Nautilus Solwara 1 project in Papua New Guinea herald the widespread and unpredictable harms that may result from deep sea mining. Amongst other factors, the reports highlight the lack of baseline scientific data on the biota and fauna of the receiving environment; the lack of research into the movements of mining plumes; and the lack of understanding of the toxicology and the physical impacts of those plumes.

Further, our call for a ban on deep sea mining reflects the views of our partners and many communities from across the Pacific[4]. Opposition to deep sea mining in the Pacific is strong and growing. The Pacific Islands are big ocean states. People from the Pacific are custodians of the world’s largest oceans and it is these oceans that connect everyone in the Pacific. The oceans are important sources of food and livelihoods and are of strong cultural and spiritual importance. Deep sea mining threatens this.

DSM Campaign believes we need to look towards alternatives to traditional notions of mining, like urban mining, that produce little to no waste and abides by ecological limits to protect life and nature. Urban mining is the process of reclaiming, recycling and reusing compounds and elements from products, buildings and waste. Urban mining along with better product design offers an alternative to destructive land-based mining and to the emerging deep seabed mining industry. The DSM Campaign calls on policy makers in both governments and multilateral institutions – including the International Seabed Authority – to facilitate the transition to a new circular economy and reduced resource consumption before the planet’s resources are depleted.

Nevertheless, we offer the following comments on the draft Regulations.

The draft Regulations should place high importance on the precautionary principle as a key principle on which all decisions about deep sea mining projects are based. The current reference to using a ‘precautionary approach’ (in regulation 8) is inadequate. For one, it is not clear what a ‘precautionary approach’ actually is and whether or not it meets the threshold set by the precautionary principle as defined above. Further, the draft Regulations do not place any direct obligation on applicants to demonstrate they have undertaken an exhaustive examination of the potential risks of a deep sea mining project. The Regulations should place obligations on both applicants/contractors and the International Seabed Authority with respect to the precautionary principle. Due to the unprecedented nature of this industry, the Regulations should adopt the strong definition of the ‘precautionary principle’ contained in the UN World Charter for Nature.

We note that the draft Regulations define ‘confidential information’ and ‘environmental information’. There is a risk that information crucial for assessing the risks, impacts and benefits (and thus conducting costs benefit analysis) could be deemed to be confidential at the discretion of the International Seabed Authority and at the request of a contractor. A commitment to transparency should override concerns for confidentiality. We note that the New Zealand Environment Court recently determined that the Environmental Protection Authority and seabed mining company, Trans Tasman Resources (TTR), must release hundreds of blacked-out documents from TTR’s application for a mining consent on the grounds of transparency. The judge in the case concluded that the crucial nature of the sensitive information, combined with the public’s right to participate effectively in the consent process, outweighs any trade secret or business prejudice interest of TTR by a considerable margin[5].

Similarly, the definition of ‘environmental information’ should be expanded to include all and any information related to the environment, including how deep sea mining could impact on the environment and on human health via marine food chains and direct exposure to pollutants. Such information would therefore not be subject to confidentiality provisions.

In order to ensure there is public confidence in the regulation of deep sea mining, and to ensure the implementation of the precautionary principle, the Regulations should:

  1. Allow for stakeholder engagement, including review of and making submissions in relation to individual applications for an exploitation contract (while we note that the proposed Environmental Regulations will include such requirements, these requirements should be mirrored in the Exploitation Regulations)
  1. Allow for the establishment of a scientific advisory council and citizens advisory council to ensure that all decisions on deep sea mining are informed by independent scientific advice and the views of civil society

The recommendations made in this submission echo those we made in our submission in May 2015 on the draft framework for the regulation of deep sea mining. That submission highlighted the need to develop best practice deep sea mining decision making underpinned by the implementation of the Precautionary Principle, achieving Free Prior and Informed Consent, and gaining broad civil society support. We are disappointed that these critical elements have been ignored in the draft regulations now produced by the International Seabed Authority. Without them, there are insufficient checks and balances to allow this industry to proceed. There must be a complete ban on deep sea mining.

___

NOTES

[1] The United Nations World Charter For Nature (1982)

[2] http://www.deepseaminingoutofourdepth.org/wp-content/uploads/Out-Of-Our-Depth-low-res.pdf and http://www.deepseaminingoutofourdepth.org/wp-content/uploads/EIS-Review-FINAL-low-res.pdf

[3] http://www.deepseaminingoutofourdepth.org/wp-content/uploads/Steiner-Independent-reviewDSM1.pdf

[4] Lutherans Walk 9 days Across Highlands Region Campaigning Against Deep Sea Mining in Papua New Guinea, EMTV and VIDEO: Lutherans Campaign Against Deep Sea Mining in PNG, EMTV online

[5] http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/86392828/released-mining-documents-pivotal-to-understanding-southtaranaki-submission

 

Rachel Shisei | EMTV News | 23 November 2016

It took 9 days and an estimated total of 261 kilometres, for a group of Lutherans, to walk four Highlands provinces.

Their outreach awareness focused on the issues affecting ‘God’s creations’, or the natural resources in the country. The campaign specifically aimed at the Experimental Seabed Mining project, the only kind in the world licensed by the government, to operate in the country.

“We are not in favor of this ‘experimental’ seabed mining project to happen in the country, so we’re including and doing awareness in our outreach. If we don’t do it, who else will?” said Pastor Matei Ibak, the Lutheran Youth Bible Study Master.

Ibak said, despite speaking about the ‘sea’ to people of the Highlands provinces; most people were in tears when the youth group from Karkar Island performed dramas and songs, expressing the importance of the sea to their livelihood, and country as a whole. This, he said, is a sign that people agree, that things are going the wrong way and may become worse, if nothing is done in time.

Former Chief Justice, a Karkar Islander and a Lutheran churchgoer himself, Sir Arnold Amet weighed in on the issue saying that in terms of awareness, the government has a lot more work to do to help the people understand the environmental; biological; and oceanographic impacts that the mining activity can have on the sea once disturbed.

“The potential impact upon the sea life is still uncertain so I am expressing the view against the project from continuing until those issues are fully explained to the people.

Sir Amet said, it is very vital that for such projects, the whole government, regardless of the various departments and levels of government, should unite and respond in accordance.

“There’s a lack of united response that results in many issues remaining outstanding until disasters strike,” said Sir Amet.

Pastor Ibak pointed out, that their awareness is not based only on the Lutheran faith, but promoting Christianity as a whole in the country; that in the beginning God created the earth, and gave man his first duty to look after the land and everything on it.

MEDIA RELEASE

Thursday 16 November 2016

Public Right to be Informed on Experimental Seabed Mining

PAPUA NEW GUINEA | NGOs and civil society in Papua New Guinea demand that the PNG government and Nautilus Minerals make public key documents relating to the licensing of the Solwara 1 deep sea mining project. This follows a recent decision from the New Zealand Environment Court calling for transparency of seabed mining.

Jonathan Mesulam, Alliance of Solwara Warriors said, “We congratulate and stand in solidarity with New Zealand’s victory for the public’s right to information. We have been arguing for this same right in PNG for many years in regards to experimental seabed mining.”

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining, with the support of Taranaki iwi Ngati Ruanui and Talleys Fisheries Group, had a significant win in the New Zealand Environment court earlier this month against a secretive seabed mining application. It was ruled that the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and seabed mining company, Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) must release hundreds of blacked-out documents from TTR’s application on the grounds of transparency.

Natalie Lowrey, Deep Sea Mining campaign said, “Very little information about the Solwara 1 project has been disclosed by the PNG Government or the project developer, Nautilus Minerals. Papua New Guineans have a right to see this information especially as their Government has invested heavily as a shareholder in this project. In the interest of transparency and informed debate the PNG Government and Nautilus should release the information requested by PNG civil society for the past four years.”[1]

The New Zealand Environment court Judge stated, “Ultimately we conclude that the crucial nature of the sensitive information … when combined with the public’s right to participate effectively in the consent process, outweigh any trade secret or business prejudice interest of Trans-Tasman by a considerable margin.”

Christina Tony, Bismarck Ramu group in Papua New Guinea said, “As in New Zealand, there is a high level of community concern in PNG about experimental seabed mining. This should result in equally high levels of transparency from both the PNG government and Nautilus Minerals. Especially since this is the world’s first venture of this kind and our people are feeling like guinea pigs. Public access to information allows Papua New Guineans to better understand the potential environmental and social impacts of the Solwara 1 project.”

“Nautilus does not have the consent of local communities. We still don’t know what the impacts of this experimental mining will be. Furthermore, the Solwara 1 site is right in the middle of our traditional fishing grounds”said Mr. Mesulam.

“We are united in our fight against any destruction of our seas, culture and livelihoods. We are a strong and committed alliance demanding seabed mining to be banned.”

For more info:
Papua New Guinea: Jonathan Mesulam, +675 70038933, Alliance of Solwara Warriors
Papua New Guinea: Christina Tony, chrisamoka20[at]gmail.com +675 70942439, Bismarck Ramu Group
Australia: Natalie Lowrey, natalie.lowrey[at]gmail.com +61 421226200, Deep Sea Mining Campaign

[1] In 2012 the Deep Sea Mining campaign sent a letter to PNG PM Peter O’Neill requesting the release of key documents relating to the Solwara 1 seabed mining project. No response was received and those documents are still not in the public domain. View letter here.