Concerns over deep sea mining escalate

Concerns over deep sea mining proposals are escalating across the Pacific region where exploration is moving at a fast pace. Australian national research organisation, the CSIRO has given further authority to the requests of indigenous peoples in the Bismark Ramu sea to halt these operations until more is known and the communities rights to exercise their rights over developments impacted their resources are recognised. Concerned peoples from across five provinces of PNG came together to discuss their concerns and declare their opposition to the current mode of development in late June 2008.

Indigenous People of Bismark and Solomon Seas Petition PNG Government to suspend sea bed mining in their territorial seas

Bismark Solomon Seas Indigenous People’s Council: Media release July 1st 2008

Indigenous peoples from around the Bismark and Solomon Seas gathered at Karkum village, Madang last week and signed a statement seeking to halt the current fast tracking of deep sea mining in their territorial seas.

More than 80 participants attended the meeting organised by the Madang People’s Forum and attended by community representatives from Manus, Kairiru island, New Ireland, Bagabag Island, Karkar Island, Riwo, Gildiasi, Rai Coast, and the statement was also endorsed by representatives of the Ramu River Authority, Simil Hondulwa Evangelical Alliance of PNG, New Ireland Students Association of University of Technology, Sea Turtle Restoration Project, Alemewo Foundation, the Catholic Church, Madang Rehabilitation and presented from Vanuatu, Porgera, plus observers from surrounding community based organisations, school teachers and students.

The participants established a council to guide their ongoing coordination and participation in the resource management of the shared marine resources and to seek resolution of their concerns at the local, national and international level.

Wenceslaus Magun, the newly elected interim chair of the Council stated, “We are calling upon the relevant bodies to halt activities that pose risks to our marine resources until steps have been taken to engage local people and address our concerns. Our livelihood and culture is based around these oceans and our people are dependent upon it for survival.”

Rick Steiner, Professor of Marine Biology from Alaska University who attended the forum to stated, “citizen oversight and monitoring of any proposed developments is essential to address the significant risks and threats to the marine environment that deep sea mining represent. Coastal resource owners need to assess these proposals to ensure they are in best interest of the communities whose resources at are risk and this meeting represents an important first step.”

Wence Magun: +675 3232632, +675 6825671, or +675 71959665;

Professor Rick Steiner:

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.

PNG Indigenous council petitions government to halt sea-bed mining

Posted at 22:01 on 01 July, 2008 UTC

A newly formed Council of Indigenous people in Papua New Guinea is petitioning the government to suspend sea-bed mining in their territorial seas.

The Bismark and Solomon Seas Indigenous Peoples Council, which was established last month, includes a range of NGO, church and academic representatives from Manus, Madang and New Ireland provinces.

Their petition seeks to halt deep sea mining developments in their region by Canadian company, Nautilus Minerals which has an exploration license frmo the governent.

However the Council’s chair, Wence Magun, says there’s no research to prove sea-bed mining doesn’t devastate the environment.

He says the livelihood and culture of local people is based around the seas and to ensure its survival the council intends taking the matter to the international stage.

“We’ll be looking for a response from the United Nations and from the government, not just our current government, because there is a trend for mining companies and logging companies and all the industries in this country to bulldoze their intentions through the government and the voices of the little people are not being considered.”

Wence Magun

Indigenous group moves to block PNG deep sea mine

By PNG Correspondent Steve Marshall

Posted Tue Jul 1, 2008 7:00pm AEST

Indigenous people from coastal areas in Papua New Guinea are trying to halt the world’s first deep sea mining project to take place in their territorial seas.

Brisbane-based Nautilus Minerals is well on its way to starting the world’s first sea floor copper mine in 1,500 metres of water not far from East New Britain.

But the project’s fast pace is worrying locals, who have formed a council to ensure their concerns are heard at Government level.

The Bismark Solomons Sea Indigenous Peoples Council says it wants Nautilus to stop activities that pose a risk to marine resources until their concerns are heard.

Nautilus Minerals PNG manager Mel Togolo says the company has undertaken extensive consultation with locals living near its exploration site.

He says the company is also required to provide a detailed environmental study before the Government will grant it a mining licence.

Impacts of deep-sea mining a worry: Report (From The National, June16, 2008)


A new Australian study on seabed resource mining raises concerns that unknown risks pose a potential problem for this emerging industry, The National reports.

The report released Friday by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) identifies a particular concern with the level of uncertainty over the environmental impacts of seabed mining.

The report followed discussions with companies involved in deep-sea mining activities including Canada’s Nautilus Minerals that is developing its Solwara-1 mining project off the territorial waters of PNG.

Better understanding of the impact of this mining activity was essential for companies to develop deep-sea mineral resources “to ensure social and economic wealth while maintaining environmental integrity,” the report said.

The report also recommends improving communications among the people involved in the projects to have a better understanding of deep-sea mining and its impact on the environment.

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One Response to Concerns over deep sea mining escalate

  1. Rob Agen says:


    Something has to be done to prevent this proposed deep sea mining within our seas. Does anyone know anything latest regarding this? At this current point in time, how far advanced is Nautilus Minerals on the exploration works?

    There is a real possibility that seabed mining could cause a massive impact where the mining actually occurs and where the sand is redeposited on the seabed. Another possinility is that this will disrupt the natural replacement of sand and worsen erosion along the picturesque coastlines of ENBP.

    No scientist need to explain this – it is common sense that the seabed mining would remove some of the sand that would otherwise be part of that beach system as a consequence there is a potential for the coast to erode, and natural erosion of the wonderful NG Islands coastline will be made worse.

    No one in this world fully understands the potential side effects of such mining activity, not even the best environmentalists/oceanographers – they can only predict but what they will confirm is that “for any resource projects land/sea, there will be a degree of damage to natural ocean system/environment.

    This has to be PREVENTED at all costs for the sake of the future generations.


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