MAC: Mines and Communities

Nautilus seabed mining project jeopardized again

Published by MAC on 2012-11-01
Source:, AAP

Nautilus seabed mining project jeopardized again

Cecilia Jamasmie

24 October 2012

Canada-based Nautilus Minerals Inc. sank to fresh lows Wednesday in London, falling almost 5%, hit by the news of a Papua New Guinea's landowners petition to the Government to cancel the firm's seabed mining permit.

The company, the first to explore the ocean floor for polymetallic massive sulphide deposits, was granted a mining lease by the PNG authorities in January 2011, following the environmental permit award in December 2009.

But the mine developer has been swimming in choppy waters ever since. It faces critics from the environmentalist and the marine biologist community as per the consequences of its Solwara 1 gold, copper and silver project. The company has also been locked in a dispute with the government of the South East Asian nation since June over ownership of the project, located in the Bismarck Sea.

Over 20,000 signatures submitted to PNG Mining Minister Byron Chan by residents from the provinces of Madang, Oro and New Britain, stating that they don't want the project to go ahead, reports Radio New Zealand.

Locals insist they have seen dead fish washing up on beaches and that the water has been polluted by the exploration work.

The Canadian mine developer was granted a 20-year permit by the government of Michael Somare to mine an area in the Bismarck Sea to a depth of 1.6 kilometres. Nautilus has said it plans to begin extracting minerals from the Solwara 1 deposit in 2014.

The new PNG government, led by Peter O'Neill, is reportedly challenging the deal and wants to make a number of amendments, according to Radio New Zealand.

A leading copper producing country before both BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto were forced to abandon two massive mines over land and environmental disputes, PNG is one of the poorest countries in the world. It is the impoverished nation's eighth poll since it gained independence from Australia in 1975 and most observers now expect the balloting to continue beyond the initial deadline of July 6.

Shareholder in Nautilus have seen the value of their investments plummet by more than half since the company initiated the legal battle on June 1 over Solwara1.

PNG landowners want seabed mining stopped

Eoin Blackwell, AAP Papua New Guinea Correspondent


23 October 2012

LANDOWNERS in Papua New Guinea have petitioned the government to halt a controversial seabed mining project along the nation's coast.
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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.

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