MAC: Mines and Communities

Opposition to Pacific seabed mining continues

Published by MAC on 2013-11-13
Source: Statement, Radio Australia,

... but legal action and calls for free, prior and informed consent for affected communities has not stopped India promoting exploration in the Indian Ocean near Mauritius.

Also a new YouTube animation highlights experimental seabed mining risks for the Pacific region - see:

Previous article on MAC: Deep Sea Mining Targeted By Activists At London Conference

Civil society groups take PNG gov't to court over Nautilus seabed mining project

Radio Australia

11 November 2013

A coalition of NGOs is mounting a legal challenge to the world's first license to operate a deep sea mine in Papua New Guinea.

The license was granted under the former Somare government to the Canadian company Nautilus for its Solwara 1 mine.

One of the NGOs which is taking the government to court over the seabed mining project is Stop Experimental Seabed Mining in the Pacific.

Its spokesman Wenceslas Magun has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat that the current government has been "arrogant and ignorant", despite its appeal to stop the project.

"Just this fear that it's going to threaten our marine environment, our marine ecological system and affecting the livelihood of the people that benefit off our marine resources," he said.

Mr Magun says the move to block the project is a precautionary measure.

"The majority of Papua New Guineans that live off the marine resources do not know what the threats of seabed mining is going to cost to the marine environment," he said.

Mr Magun says the group's advisors - which include scientists and lawyers - have "clearly indicated that there is going to be damage to the ecological system".

"Nobody knows what the impact of the damage is going to be to the marine ecosystem because no one has ever done seabed mining in the world," he said.

"It's only based on assumptions... we cannot learn from lessons learnt in the past and mitigate any effect that does happen should the seabed mining take place."

Mr Magun says the group has been told "there is sufficient grounds to take the matter to court."

"Based on these information from our experts, we are going to strategise how we are going to address the issue," he said, adding that a working committee has been formed to take the matter forward," he said.

"We know that other countries like in Australia, the... people have banned attempts to mine their sea floor.

"And the government of Australia, the state of Queensland had adhered to their appeal.

"The (PNG) government has not heard our appeal, that is why we are taking this matter to court."

Vanuatu world leader on best practice Deep Sea Mining decision-making

Deep Sea Mining Campaign Media Release

7 November 2013

Around the Pacific the feverish interest in deep sea mining has given rise to an equally intense opposition to this unprecedented extractive industry.

Dr. Helen Rosenbaum, coordinator, Deep Sea Mining campaign said "With over 1.5 million square kilometres of Pacific Ocean floor under exploration leasehold around the Pacific, communities fear their governments will rush into granting licences before there has been open debate and before scientific studies have been able to assess the risks to livelihoods, health and ecosystems."[1]

The world's first license to operate a deep sea mine has been granted in PNG by the former Somare Government to Canadian company Nautilus Inc for its Solwara 1 mine.

"The fact that this license was granted without the Free Prior and Informed Consent[2] of the communities that will be affected has created a storm of public protest. This was undoubtedly a significant factor in Nautilus' decision to suspend operations a year ago," stated Ms Rosenbaum.

Community leaders are now pressuring PNG PM O'Neill to not allow Nautilus to resume its operations or pay the company the money a recent arbitration hearing ruled it should.[3][4][5]

Oigen Schultz, Director of Zero Inc, a community organisation in New Ireland Province said, "Local communities have NOT sanctioned the Solwara 1 project. No one knows what the impacts of this form of mining will be."

"We are calling for our PNG National Government to place a moratorium on sea bed mining until New Ireland Province communities have provided their consent to the mine's go-ahead."

In stark contrast to the PNG Government, the Vanuatu Government is embarking on a national deep sea mining consultation process. Under the oversight of the Hon. Ralph Regenvanu, Minister for Land and Natural Resources, the Vanuatu national consultations aim to model best practice Public Participation in Deep Sea Mining Decision-Making."

The process will draw on the principles and approaches embedded in Free Prior and Informed Consent and the Precautionary Principle[6]. It will be open and transparent and will ensure that if any licences are awarded it is with the consent of Vanuatu's civil society and on the basis of independently verified science-based risk assessments.

Wence Magun, National Coordinator for the Madang based Mas Kagin Tapani said "We call on PM O'Neil and the PNG Government to WAKE UP and to now commit to a National PNG consultation similar to Vanuatu's."

"Vanuatu is showing PNG how a Government who truly respects the concerns of its citizens should go about decision making for this experimental form of mining."

Dr. Helen Rosenbaum (Australia)
hrose[at] +61 413 201 793

Oigen Schultz, (New Ireland Province PNG)
schulzee86[at] +675 7250 9562

Wences Magun (Madang, Papua New Guinea)
magun.wences[at], +675 7195 9665

For comments from Hon. Ralph Regenvanu, Minister of Lands and Environment, Vanuatu please contact: rregenvanu[at]


[1] Being a new form of mining there is a high level of uncertainty about the risks DSM poses to marine environments and communities. What is certain is that impacts will be associated with each step of the mining process. The DSM campaign's two comprehensive reports highlight many errors and omissions in the Solwara 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This means that we don't yet understand the risks posed to coastal communities.

[2] Free Prior and Informed Consent
FPIC is recognized in many international law instruments. Of these, the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP, 2007) provides one of the clearest articulations of FPIC. Its key elements are defined as:
Free - Consent is free from force, intimidation, manipulation, coercion or pressure by any government or company.
Prior - Consent is obtained prior to government authorisations, allocation of exploration permits, operating licences etc.
Informed - all the relevant information must be presented to communities and civil society in an accurate, and accessible manner independent of vested interests
Consent - requires that communities and civil society have the right to say "Yes" or "No" to the project in accordance with community decision-making processes and at each stage of a project. It means that civil society can withhold consent or can determine the conditions for consent if it is given

[3] 'Govt must defend sovereignty over seabed mining', media release, from ACT NOW! and Bismarck Ramu Group, 17 October 2013,

[4] 'Nautilus Minerals deal benefits only investors', The National, Papua New Guinea, 16 October 2013

[5] 'Government wrong to alow Nautilus leader says', The National, Papua New Guinea, 10 October 2013

[6] The Precautionary Principle
The United Nations World Charter For Nature (1982) states that:
activities which are likely to pose a significant risk to nature shall be preceded by an exhaustive examination; their proponents shall demonstrate that expected benefits outweigh potential damage to nature, and where potential adverse effects are not fully understood, the activities should not proceed.

Unlike later interpretations, this definition of the PP prioritises the protection of the well being of communities and the environment. It clearly identifies that the developer bears responsibility for proving that a development it is not harmful.

Implicit in this principle is the social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk.

India makes official bid for seabed sulphide mining

Anthony Halley

28 October 2013

India has made an exploration claim for seabed poly-metallic sulphide mining in the Indian Ocean near Mauritius.

The proposal was placed with the International Seabed Authority (ISA), established as part of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

"We are awaiting a response from the ISA...we already have a dedicated region in the Indian Ocean region for the purpose of mining," said a senior official from the Indian earth science ministry.

"For any further extension or new explorations beyond the designated sub basin region, we have to make a claim through ISA to avail rights for mining. This is all about administering the resources of the sea and now we are in the queue."

Getting a green light from ISA is said to include significant political lobbying:

"It is similar to that of a real estate industry or cybersquatting where a lot of small islands and countries play the game of ownerships and claims they have made years ago," said an Indian government official.

India's ocean exploration program is around two decades old and has involved nickel, copper, cobalt and rare earth metals, which are particularly abundant in the Central Indian Basin.

India has tested seabed mining to a depth of 512 metres and it's now targeting depths up to 6,000m.

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