2 December 2011
A Canadian mining company has rejected claims by environmentalists that its Environmental Impact Study for the world’s first under sea mining project in Papua New Guinea is flawed.
Nautilus Minerals hopes to start mining gold and copper deposits under the Bismarck Sea off New Ireland Provinve in 2013.
A report” Out of our Depths” by environmental campaigner, Dr Helen Rosenbaum says claimed Nautilus’s Environmental Impact Study was flawed.
Speaker:Joe Bowling, Vice President for Corporate Communications, Nautilus Mineral
DOWLING: The authors have failed to understand the processes that are used in PNG and the detail of our project, and just for example they have said that we are beginning production in 2012, and they’ve called for a delay. Well we’re not even scheduled to begin production until the last quarter of 2013. So they haven’t even got some fairly basic dates correct. The report was compiled without any consultation with us, and they didn’t at least come to us to see if they could check some of their basic facts.
NANOL: The report in a nutshell is saying people are not being made aware what kind of impacts it will have. Has Nautilus come up with what are the likely impacts and how it would be mitigated?
DOWLING: We have had so much consultation with the people of New Britain and New Ireland, we have spoken to, I think the latest estimate is around 10-thousand people in the local communities, we’ve had extensive consultation. For anyone to suggest that is ridiculous. In addition to that of course the preparation of our EIS, which was granted in 2009, followed three years of detailed preparation and extensive involvement of eminent scientists. Our mining lease, which was granted earlier this year was a result of very extensive preparation and consultation. A lot of detailed work’s gone into it, and the report seems to suggest that the people who’ve prepared it are not aware of all of the work that’s been done since the EIS was first granted in 2009.
NANOL: There would be definitely destruction and impacts to the marine life and fish and livelihoods of people. Is Nautilus denying that or are you saying that there won’t be any impact at all?
DOWLING: There will of course be impacts from the mining of the sea floor, that’s inevitable and that’s the case in any mining operation. What we have been working very hard to do is make sure that the impacts are carefully managed, and we’ve been going to great lengths to achieve that. For example in the way we manage the environment, we’ve made very certain to engineer out all of the impacts pretty much for the upper levels of the ocean. So that it’s a closed system that we’ll be using, and the vast majority of fish life that exists in the top layers of the ocean will not be affected in any way.
NANOL: Look obviously some people rely to fish and to look for food and diet along those areas will be impacted, how will the company, Nautilus be able to look after them?
DOWLING: Well this operation is 50 kilometres from Rabaul and 30 kilometres away from New Ireland. So we’re a long way out from shore, we’re nowhere near any coral reefs, we’re a long way from any fishing ground. The area that we’re going to be working in is at a depth of 16-hundred metres. All of the marine life that exists at those levels are already heavy in metal content and can’t be eaten. People need to just step back and look at the facts here and realise that the way this is being proposed is going to have a minimal impact on people’s ability to eat fish or catch fish.
NANOL: Now any chemicals, will they be used, like when you’re digging out those minerals and taking them up to the surface, what happens to the remains; rocks and elements that are not needed, and will there be any sort of chemicals used that could poison the fish and marine life?
DOWLING: No, no, we will not be processing any of the material that we collect at sea. What we’re doing is pumping it up from the sea floor to the ship, we’re taking the water out of it, and then we’re pumping the water back down to the sea floor where we got it from after we’ve cleaned it. The material that we have taken the water out of, we’re simply taking to shore. There’s not going to be any processing or release of chemicals into the sea.
NANOL: Nautilus environmental impact study has been labeled as flawed by this report, “Out of our Depths” by Dr Helen Rosenbaum. What do you think?
DOWLING: Our environmental impact statement and our documentation that supports the mining lease have all been prepared absolutely in accordance with the requirements of PNG legislation and regulations. In fact we’ve gone to great lengths to go beyond those requirements to ensure that we create an environment where we can develop a sustainable long-term industry for the people of PNG. And we’re very grateful for the strong support we’ve been getting from the government and from the vast majority of people in the local community.