Deep Sea Mining – PNG

deep-sea20-mining Proposals for deep sea mining in PNG present one of the most significant threats to the areas marine resources, with huge expanses of marine waters under exploration license and the first proposal for deep sea mining releasing its EIS later this year.

MPI resourced the first national community forum on deep sea mining with leading international marine biologist Rick Steiner and MPI’s executive director Techa Beaumont. The forum, held in a local village attracted hundreds of participants from the coastal regions of the Bismark Seas, and resulted in the establishment of a regional indigenous council called the Bismarck Solomon Seas Indigenous Peoples Council (BSSIPC). BSSIPC aims to ensure there is citizen engagement in any/all offshore development proposals. The forum also enabled local people to develop their position on the issue and communicate it to the public, the company and their government.

Karkum National Sea Bed Mining Forum Statement: June 25 -27th, 2008

We, Indigenous people of the Bismark-Solomon Sea declare our rights to Free Prior Informed Consent over anything potentially impacting our land or sea resources, and that this right arises from our customary law and is outlined in the UN Declaration on Indigenous People.

The Goals and Directives of our National Constitution commit the Nation to ensuring the equal opportunity of all citizens to participate in and benefit from the development of our county; And the conservation of our natural resources and environment to be used for the collective of us all and replenished for the benefit of future generations.

We declare and reaffirm our customary rights and connections to the Bismark and Solomon Seas including economic, cultural, social, political and religious rights. Our livelihood and culture is based around these oceans, and it is an inseparable part of our culture, identity and way of life. Our lives are interconnected with the cycles of the sea, it is our calendar and we are dependent on it for our survival.

We met in Karkum village to discuss our concerns over seabed mining in our seas.

The protection of the ocean and coastal areas of the Bismarck and Solomon Seas is of the utmost importance to all of us and our future generations, and we will never compromise in protection of our seas.

The seabed mining currently proposed and already under exploration lease for our seas – the first of its kind in history – is of serious concern to us.

There has been a lack of any meaningful consultation of the indigenous people of the Bismarck Solomon’s sea regarding the effects of this mining activity.

There are no current laws to manage this activity and the current draft proposals for a PNG sea bed mining policy and an oceans mining act have not been made available to us.

There has been a lack of adequate research to understand the sea bed environment, the currents, the ecology and its true value. The impacts and changes to the environment from this activity can not be accurately predicted.

Using our own traditional knowledge of the complexity, richness, and sensitivity of this marine environment, and calling on the international precautionary principle, we believe there could be serious long term and potentially irreversible impacts by this activity.

Concerned by the fact that exploration is occurring without proper regulation, monitoring or consultation across the entire region.

Concerned that there has been a failure to set aside areas to protect them from the impacts of these activities, and that sanctuaries for threatened species, and habitat and spawning and migration areas for our rich fishery resources have not been created.

We are aware that the socio-economic and environmental costs of mining in PNG are often greater than the benefits. While the company conducting the seabed mining operation – Nautilus – has no track record from which we can judge its environmental and social responsibility, we are very concerned by the poor performance of its parent company – Barrick Gold – in other areas of PNG.

It is the people of the Bismarck Solomon Seas who bear the risks and impacts of these activities while others would reap the benefits of these activities.

We suggest to the government and companies involved that they should concentrate on properly managing existing mines before they propose or permit new areas to be developed. Instead we ask our government and others to focus on constructive alternatives of low impact sustainable industries.

We don’t want our health, livelihood and resources to be subjected to a large scale experiment.

The burden of proof to show that these activities are safe must rest upon the companies and government.

Given all these things above, we do not consent to the sea bed mining activities in our waters and seas.

We ask that the government and industry recognise and engage our newly established Bismarck Solomon Seas Indigenous Peoples Council in any and all matters regarding the Bismarck Solomon Seas eco-region.

We therefore call on the government and companies involved to cease any and all operations until all our concerns above are addressed and resolved to our full satisfaction.

Additional Reading

If you didn’t get here via the Deep Sea Mining Page then its worth a look

DEEP-SEA MINING IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA: POLICY FRONTIER by Syble Michelle Pennington, May 2009.
This is a good background document with an analysis of many DSM issues in PNG. Unfortunately it is underpinned by an assumption that by economic growth flows to people in need. Anyone who went to the Mining Wardens court on April 2nd [see Syble's conclusion] would certainly have grounds for concern. If you are interested in DSM anywhere you should read this.