Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Deep Seabed Mining is Madness

Nautilus Minerals was granted the approval for its environmental plan to mine the ocean floor in the New Guinea Islands of Papua New Guinea. Even though, all the stakeholder consultations by Nautilus and Mineral Resources Authority of PNG was severely opposed by the people of Madang, East New Britain, New Ireland and Manus, the government went on to grant the approval.

The people from Madang, East New Britain, New Ireland and Manus objected deep seabed mining because of the following reasons;

• The potentials for undersea mining was realized around mid 1960. Countries like Franch, Germany and the United States sent out research vessels in search of nodule deposits. Initial estimates of deep sea mining viability turned out to be much exaggerated. This overestimate, coupled with depressed metal prices, led to the near abandonment of nodule mining by 1982. From the 1960s to the 1984 an estimated US $650 million had been spent on the venture, with little to no return, however, it was not pursued. Nautilus is now prospecting in the Pacific and especially in PNG to develop the first deep seabed mining in the world. No doubt, this is will be a large-scale industrial experiment. In an experiment, anything can go wrong. Who is going to be responsible for unlikely consequences of this industrial experiment? How do the department of environment and conservation and the government of PNG know that nothing will go wrong and thus approved the Nautilus’ environmental plan? Did they bother to find out, why France, Germany and the US decided not to pursue deep seabed mining ?

• The area Nautilus is prospecting is a geological hotspot, including the Pacific Ring of fire with active volcanic vents. Is this not a concern for the country for mining activities happening in this sensitive geological zone?

• The government and Nautilus claim, that, coastal communities in PNG do not own the sea as it is with the land and therefore have no right to oppose the deep seabed mining project. However, how about the right coastal communities have over the marine territorial boundaries, for fishing and customary practices (e.g. the shark callers of New Ireland)? We also know that the sea is unstable and is in continuous motion due to oceanic currents and tides, thus, how does it justifies to say that communities have no right to object the project if they are potentially going to be affected by the deep seabed mining activities, such as pollution and geological activities due to the mining activities tampering with the active geological areas on the ocean floor?

• PNG already has the highest number of inland mines in the region and the government continues to issue more exploration licenses, so why do we need to reap the ocean floor? Now with the LNG project and the country is set to experience an economic boom, why allowing deep seabed mining? The way the PNG government is handling mineral resource development is total madness with no concerns whatsoever for the people, the ecosystem and the future generation. Is this a wise trend?

• The government does not the capacity to carryout surveillance and monitoring so what is the guarantee that it will monitor Nautilus’ activities? How will Nautilus account honestly for the amount of mineral it mines? How will environmental and geological monitoring be undertaken when Nautilus will basically operate a mobile mining on a floating infrastructure and can relocate if things go wrong in a certain location of the ocean?

The government of PNG is out there to make money, whether scientific data permits or not, or whether the people concerns are valid of not.

Read the story below:
The National, 15 April 2010

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  1. Hi there Depana,

    sorry indeed to hear that indigenous peoples concerns are not being taken into account. Seabed mining is looming in NZ too, with Nautilus prospecting large areas of the Kermadec Arc to the north. We plan a large Ocean Sanctuary in this remote region to protect the oceans biodiversity for the future. Karen (Forest and Bird, NZ)

  2. Hi karen, please keep me posted on the progress of the Ocean Sanctuary. Would like to learn form your


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