The National, Papua New Guinea
20 November 2012
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says his government wants to be fully satisfied on core issues such as environmental impact before it participates in the Solwara 1 deep-sea mining project.
Nautilus Minerals, the developer of the project planned for PNG’s Bismarck Sea, last week decided to terminate construction amid a dispute with the government over costs of up to US$80 million.
The Canadian company planned to mine gold and copper in the seabed, the first such deep sea mining operation in the world.
O’Neill said in a radio interview last week he regretted that Nautilus had to freeze its plans.
But he said data that PNG had sought about the project had not been forthcoming.
“We are trying to expend public funds so we need to be comforted,” he said.
“We’ve indicated that we want to participate in this project (but) issues such as intellectual property rights and issues of that nature need to be resolved properly before we make the final investments.”
Questions have also been raised by the environmental bloc over the accuracy of the environmental impact statement (EIS) Nautilus prepared for the project.
Last week, an independent review commissioned by the Deep Sea Mining Campaign, which has an association with the environmental lobby group, Friends of the Earth, and conducted by Austides Consulting, raised concerns about the EIS.
Austides Consulting’s general manager Dr John Luick told ABC Radio that the statement did not include data on ocean currents, which could carry mining waste into PNG’s coastal waters and potentially affect fishing and other activities.
Nautilus chief executive Mike Johnston says the EIS was prepared by an external consultancy Coffey Natural Systems and helped Nautilus secure a 20-year mining lease last year.
“Their (Austides) allegations are somewhat flawed,” he said.
“The current data and all the environmental data that was collected and submitted to the (PNG) government was reviewed externally.
“The EIS was subjected to a peer review by the Australian-based consultancy, Cardno, but the PNG government has yet to make the results of that review public,” he said.