MAC: Mines and Communities

PNG Governor condemns proposed seabed mining project

Published by MAC on 2011-03-28
Source: The National (2011-03-22)

Sir Julius Chan is the Governor of New Ireland Province in Papua New Guinea, and one of the country's most senior political figures.

Now, Chan joins his voice to growing criticisms of the world's biggest proposed sea-bed mining project, declaring:

"It is likely that the project would result in severe, prolonged, and perhaps region-wide impacts to a globally rare and poorly understood biological community, and it is clear that the EIS does not adequately assess many of these impacts".

Sir Julius not convinced Solwara 1 is best for NIP

The National (PNG)

22 March 2011

NEW Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan has issued a circular to the public in the province stating the provincial government remains unconvinced the Solwara 1 project by Nautilus Minerals is environmentally and economically safe and, therefore, does not support progress of the pro­ject.

Mining rig: a Canadian group plans to use existing technology from the offshore oil and gas industries to mine up to two kilometres below the sea surface off northern Papua New Guinea
Mining rig: a Canadian group plans to use existing technology
from the offshore oil and gas industries to mine up to two
kilometres below the sea surface off northern Papua New
Guinea. Photo: ABC

In a statement, Sir Julius, who has always insisted on an independent environmental impact study on Nautilus pro­jects in PNG, issued the circular to inform and update the people about the statement of an independent scientific review of the environment impact statement (EIS) of Nautilus.

Addressed to provincial assembly members, LLG presidents, provincial administration, all principals and head teachers and all New Irelanders, the circular highlighted extracts of the independent scientific review by Prof Richard Steiner, a well-respected professor and scientist at the University of Alaska.

His report concludes: "It is likely that the project would result in severe, prolonged, and perhaps region-wide impacts to a globally rare and poorly understood biological community, and it is clear that the EIS does not adequately assess many of these impacts.

"Further, the benefits to local people of the economy of PNG seem disproportionately low compared to the scale and risk of the project."
Steiner's review said the mining activity would "destroy an extensive patch of productive vent habitat, including tens of thousands of vent chimneys, killing virtually all of the attached organisms".

Sir Julius said the provincial government position, therefore, was that the EIS of Nautilus did not present sufficient information with which PNG (or New Ireland government for that matter) could efficiently judge the project's expected impacts.

He said under the Malagan Declaration, the provincial government's stance was to protect the people of New Ireland, adding that decisions made today must embrace all people in this generation and the next.

"We must hand over a better and safer and satisfying future to the new generation than what we inherited from our predecessor - that is why we must stand firm together," Sir Julius said.

The national government granted Nautilus Minerals a licence for the Solwara 1 seabed mine on Jan 14 to dig gold and copper from deep-sea hydrothermal vents.

But Sir Julius said many risk contingencies were poorly analysed, some were not analysed at all and many of the baseline studies necessary to understand potential impacts had yet to be completed.

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