13 December 2011
THE East New Britain Sosel Eksen Komiti (ENBSEK) has urged the ENB Provincial Government to inform the people of its position in relation to the Solwara 1 deep sea mining project and what steps it was taking to protect coastal communities and marine life.
The non-government organisation in a press statement outlined that the people were aware of the 20 years mining lease given by the previous government to the Canadian company, Nautilus Minerals Inc but said the project should not go ahead until it can be proven that coastal communities and marine species will not be poisoned.
The Solwara1 massive sulphide deposit was located within national jurisdiction, about 30km out of New Ireland and 60km out of Rabaul.
ENB SEK program co-ordinator Sharon Nerius said the project was not 100 miles away from the people and therefore closer consideration was required of the marine environment, impacts on people’s livelihood and the overall social and economical benefits of local to regional communities in the use of marine resources within the Bismarck Sea.
The statement outlined that the Environmental Impact Study produced by Nautilus and approved by the previous government identified several immediate and direct environmental impacts including destruction of tens of thousands of hydrothermal vent formations and their unique ecosystems beneath the sea floor.
Mrs Nerius said the report, titled, Out of Our Depth, by Dr Helen Rosenbaum, stated that “Nautilus has prepared a deeply flawed environmental impact statement. For example, the company has insufficiently tested the toxicity of its mining process on vent species, and has not sufficiently considered toxic effects on organisms on the marine food chain.”
Mrs Nerius said the impacts alone would provide sufficient reason to not approve the project and added that to date; the company has not released its environmental management plan which has raised a lot of fear about what impacts can be expected from deep sea mining.
She also said Nautilus had rated the overall ecological impacts as moderate, provided it can develop strategies to manage them. ENBSEK called on National Government and ENB and New Ireland governments to stop further development until a satisfactory environmental management plan was produced.