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.”
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 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.
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. 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.”
The Ocean Foundation