The Herald Sun via AAP
23 October 2012
LANDOWNERS in Papua New Guinea have petitioned the government to halt a controversial seabed mining project along the nation’s coast.
Mining Minister Byron Chan on Tuesday was handed a petition with 24,000 signatures from residents of Madang, Oro and New Britain provinces who say they do not want Canadian-owned Nautilus Minerals’ Solwara 1 project in PNG’s Bismarck Sea to go ahead.
The project is the first of its kind in the world and will see minerals – mostly copper and gold – extracted from the ocean floor.
Residents from provinces around the Bismark Sea say fish have been turning up dead on their beaches and the water has been polluted by exploration works.
“What guarantees do we have that the explorations going on are not disturbing our eco-system from the sea floor and up?” New Ireland resident Oigen Schulze said.
“The sediments that are causing the waters to be dusty and murky during the calm weather, can that be from the sea floor? How is it possible for schools of dead fish to be spotted on the shores of New Ireland?
“I as the voice of the communities in New Ireland province request that this project be put to a stop, as we do not really know what we are getting ourselves into.”
Nautilus was granted a 20-year lease by the government of Sir Michael Somare in March last year and plans to mine an area 1.6km beneath the ocean, 50km off the coast of New Britain island.
Mr Chan, who is the MP for New Ireland province, told the group of about 30 concerned residents and activists that the government would make the right decision regarding the site.
“I am faced with the issue right now, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill is faced with this issue … we are a responsible government and we are treating this matter responsibly,” he said.
“I cannot go into too much about what has been presented. We are in a dispute resolution right now with Nautilus over aspects of the deal that have been presented.”
The PNG government is reportedly challenging the March deal and wants to make amendments.