Pacific Women Activists bear witness in global protest in Rio De Janerio

Women activists from around the world took to the streets of Rio De Janeiro yesterday to again bear witness to the growing inequality within and between nations, ecological and economic injustices and gender injustice across the globe.

Islands Business Women activists from around the world took to the streets of Rio De Janeiro yesterday to bear witness to the growing inequality within and between nations, ecological and economic injustices and gender injustice across the globe. Activists took to the street to bring the human face to negotiations and remind our negotiators that the world is watching.


There is a major dis-connect between the text of the Rio negotiations and the reality faced by the majority of people across the world but especially in the Pacific. “We are not here to ask! We are here to demand for ecological justice, for economic justice, for gender justice. We are here to demand justice for all”, said Noelene Nabulivou of the Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era.

Full article PNG Mine Watch

Earth Matters Radio feature on Deep Sea Mining

Earth Matters, a radio program with 3CR Melbourne, which highlights grassroots environmental and social justice issues presents a feature on Deep Sea Mining;

On this edition of Earth Matters we hear about the new deep sea mining project, solwara 1, off the coast of Papua New Guinea. We speak to Dr. Helen Rosenbaum, author of Out of our Depth, and Wence Magun, from the Stewards of the Sea organisation about the potential impacts of deep sea mining on precious marine ecosystems and the communities that depend on them.File Download (30:02 min / 14 MB) Produced by Jessie Boylan.

Deep Sea Mining – Out of Our Depth Report

A new report – Out of Our Depth: Mining the Ocean Floor in Papua New Guinea has been produced and supported by the following people and organisations: November 2011
Author: Helen Rosenbaum (PhD) it is available here:

Canadian mining company Nautilus Minerals Inc. (Nautilus) is set to embark on the unprecedented extraction of metals from the sea floor. The mining project, known as the Solwara 1 project, will extract gold and copper from the floor of the Bismarck Sea in Papua New Guinea. It is the first of a potentially large number of deep sea mining projects within the Pacific Region, including others in the Solwara area. Nautilus is headquartered in Toronto, Canada, has regional operational offices in Brisbane, Australia and representation in Port Moresby, PNG and Nuku’alofa, Tonga. The company’s main geographic focus is the territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone of Papua New Guinea. Nautilus has been exploring the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea since 1997. It has been granted more than 158,000 km2 of tenements and a further 366,000
km2 are under application in the territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zones of Papua New Guinea, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Fiji and New Zealand. If granted, these will enable Nautilus to explore a total area of 524,000 km2 . With over 250 deep sea massive sulphide deposits identified worldwide, mining companies are waiting to see how
Nautilus fares before taking the plunge themselves. The focus of deep sea mining is the deposits laid down over thousands of years around underwater hot springs, or hydrothermal vents. Known as Seafloor Massive Sulphides, these deposits occur at depths of 1-2 kilometres and can range in mass from several thousand to 100 million tonnes.

Hydrothermal vents occur in volcanically and tectonically active areas – along ridge lines or associated with island arcs or with seamounts. The ecosystems at hydrothermal vents are produced by the rare combination of superheated highly mineralised vent fluids, cold seawater and microbes capable of using chemicals as an energy source and a basis for making organic nutrients. As a result, vent ecosystems are rich in carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, organic carbon compounds, methane, hydrogen and ammonium. They provide habitat for thriving communities of organisms. In recent years, they have been found to host over 500 species previously unknown to science. There is evidence to suggest that deep sea hydrothermal vents may be where life first evolved on earth. Vent fauna are highly endemic (not found elsewhere) because of the special adaptations required to live in an environment associated with high temperatures, extreme pressures and the presence of toxic chemicals.

Read the report here.

Seabed Minerals Takes On Greater Importance

October 24, 2011

The importance of deep seabed minerals as a new major economic resource to island states in the Pacific has been reinforced with the appointment of Ms. Hannah Lily – Legal Advisor Deep Sea Minerals Project.

Ms. Lily is the first lawyer to be employed by the SOPAC Division of SPC (Secretariat of the Pacific Community). Ms. Lily was speaking during the First SPC/SOPAC Division Meeting held in Nadi from October 19 – 22.

Ms. Lily said that the purpose of the project is to support 15 participating member countries in developing a legal framework to allow for deep-sea mineral exploration and mining.

Presently there is little legislation in place specifically to govern deep seabed mining. The world’s first seabed mining activities are set to begin operations in late 2013 in Papua New Guinea waters.

The Canadian company, Nautilus Minerals, is expected to begin mining Seafloor Massive Sulphide deposits at 1500 metre water depth off of the coast of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea – the first deep sea mineral mine in the world.

Both Tonga and Nauru are pursuing exploration licenses in international waters in the east Pacific through their sponsorship of companies, Tonga Offshore Mining Limited (Tonga) and Nauru Offshore Resources Inc. (Nauru).

SOPAC, with the appointment of its first lawyer, now stands ready to assist Pacific Island countries to develop their policy and laws “to regulate these exciting new opportunities.”

“We are working with Papua New Guinea and providing advice on legal documents as they move towards finalizing their legislation on sea bed mining, as well as working with Nauru, Tonga, and other island countries that are considering applying to the International Seabed Authority for the granting exploratory licenses.”

A major reason for the project, she said, was that mining companies as well as many environmental groups interested in seabed mining have highly qualified lawyers, but Pacific Island governments, while having their own excellent legal departments, have limited experience in this high technical specialized area of regulatory law.

Countries participating in this EU funded Project are the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

“It is our intention to help the participating countries have robust legislation in place that effectively regulates and monitors deep sea mineral mining, that protects them from any damage that may occur, but at the same time facilitates mining as a new revenue stream.

“This is an emerging industry, and Pacific Island states are leading the way. SOPAC is delighted, with the EU’s support, to be able to assist them in these exciting endeavors.”

Hannah Lily, who has been with SOPAC for two months, is a solicitor from London with extensive experience in regulatory law with the British Government. She has also worked for the United Nations, the private sector and non-governmental organization.

Is the ocean the next frontier for mining?

Nauru is a step ahead of Australia in its exploration of the sea for minerals and precious metals.

Tied to us by a turbulent history, Nauru is often a good place to look for a lesson on Australia.

Last century we spread the island across our farms in the form of superphosphate until Nauru’s mineral wealth was exhausted.

We saw its mismanaged fortune disappear, and made its people AFL tragics. Now our concern with them is whether to recycle a dubious money-maker in the shape of a detention centre.

Mainly, it would seem, Nauruans gets things done to them. What a change then that Nauru has suddenly vaulted into a futuristic new industry ahead of Australia.

Little noticed in Canberra, large sections of the global oceans are being divided up for minerals exploration. Big transnational companies and economic powers nations are involved.

Lest you think this is something for, say, next century, consider this. One company, Nautilus Minerals, is most of the way to raising $100 million to become the world’s first deep sea miner of copper and gold at its Solwara project in Papua New Guinea in 2013.

Nautilus is no one’s pipe dream. Shareholders include the giant diversified miner, Anglo American, and Gazmetall, a subsidiary of a big Russian iron ore producer. New on the register is a wealthy Omani mining company.

Nautilus reached an agreement with PNG to begin this work, and much potential seafloor mining territory lies within such national marine jurisdictions – either 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zones, or the continental shelves extending beyond the EEZ’s.

But outside these limits the high seas are regarded as the common heritage of mankind, and control is the job of the UN’s International Seabed Authority (ISA). It governs the release of big exploration blocks, for which demand is surprisingly strong.

For example, China last month won the right to explore for mineral-rich polymetallic sulphides in a 10,000 square kilometre block of the south-west Indian Ocean ridge. Russia likewise is pegging out an exploratory claim in the mid-Atlantic.

The ISA regulates this, allocating large swathes of specially reserved high seas areas on long leases to national agencies, often acting for commercial interests.

Which is where Nauru comes in.

At the ISA’s last meeting, Nauru Ocean Resources, a government-owned company, successfully applied for a 74,830-kilometre block of Pacific high seas in a 15-year contract for prospecting and exploration.

It was the second attempt at completing the deal. Success was ensured when the ISA was satisfied all profits would go to Nauruan educational and environmental foundations.

So where does Australia stand on this new frontier?

We claim to control 13.6 million square kilometres of ocean, among the largest national marine territories on the planet. Clearly we are also one of the great miners.

The Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism said Australia would “continue to follow with interest” international developments in commercial deep sea mining, including involvement in the ISA.

But there are no offshore minerals exploration titles in Australia, a departmental spokeswoman said.

Greenpeace International has turned its mind to the question, concerned it will mean the effective “strip-mining” of vulnerable ecosystems that we know next to nothing about.

Yet the Minerals Council of Australia had nothing to say. “None of our members are involved in this activity,” a spokesman said.

Indeed, why bother, when we’ve got so much of the stuff on the land?

Ask the Nauruans.

Curb deep-sea mining now

Letter to the Editor – Published online – Nature 471, 36

Cindy Lee Van Dover in her review of the Bismarck Sea mining project (Nature 470, 31–33; 2011) accepts the

inevitability of interest in excavating the sediments of hydrothermalvents for minerals such as copper, zinc, gold and silver. Many of the hundreds of these sites are accessible, and the issue is widely seen as not whether mining should proceed, but how it can be done profitably and safely.

I approach the issue with a strong bias, based on efforts over decades to figure out how to keep the world working as a biophysical system capable of serving indefinitely as a human habitat. On the overall issue I am not optimistic. On one topic, however, I am certain: the integrity of the oceanic biophysical system is being lost now and the human cost is overwhelming.

The fact is that intrusions into the global environment have passed a limit of acceptability and this one must be seen for the twofold attack on the global commons that it is.

Hydrothermal vents are one of the wonders of Earth: communities of autotrophic organisms that survive on Earth’s energy as opposed to photosynthetic energy from the Sun, the source of energy of almost all other life. Each vent site may have its own high degree of endemism, essentially unique life. The mere fact that the sites are commercially attractive as ore is not an adequate reason to exploit them, any more than the existence of the giant redwoods of the Sierra Nevada justifies harvesting them for shingles. The vents are a window onto the history of life. By what right do we destroy them for corporate profit?

George M Woodwell

Pacific islands seek protection from deep-sea mining

[MANILA] Surging interest in deep-sea metal mining in the Pacific Ocean has prompted island nations to work together to develop the scientific capacity needed to protect their environment.

The move follows the discovery of large deposits of rare-earth metals such as scandium on the seabed near Hawaii, Tahiti and other locations in the eastern South Pacific and central North Pacific. The latest discovery was reported by Japanese researchers in Nature Geoscience earlier this month (3 July).

Canadian mining company Nautilus Minerals is already planning a deep-sea copper and gold mine at the Solwara 1 site near Papua New Guinea from 2013. And last week (19 July), the UN’s International Seabed Authority approved applications from China and Russia, and companies sponsored by Nauru and Tonga, to explore deposits around hydrothermal vents in the eastern central Pacific Ocean.

But inadequate international legal safeguards for such mining are causing concern that it could damage the unique biodiversity surrounding deep-sea vents, which spew hot, sulphurous water into the ocean, forming deposits that contain economically important metallic minerals.

Member countries of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) established a Deep Sea Minerals project in March under its Applied Geoscience and Technology Division (SOPAC) and met last month (6–8 June) to begin developing policy and legislation.

The project is funded by a grant of €7.7 million (US$11.1 million) from the European Union and will be implemented by 2014 in 15 Pacific states.

Fiji-based SOPAC provides earth sciences information and services to SPC countries and is funded by member states and donors.

The project’s leader, Akuila Tawake, said there has been plenty of research into deep-sea minerals over the past 40 years, but much more is needed to understand the likely impacts of mining and to protect the environment.

“The need to carry out the precautionary approach came out [of the meeting] loud and clear,” he told SciDev.Net.

Tawake added that several countries had approached SOPAC for technical advice relating to the exploration and mining of seabed minerals.

Under a draft plan, the project will first develop a regional framework and then help countries develop policy and legislation over the next four years. It will also map the information on deep-sea minerals, Tawake said.

Michael Lodge, legal counsel for the International Seabed Authority, based in Jamaica, said: “There are no regulations addressing waste removal in seabed mining since nobody has done it yet, so it’s very hard to regulate until we know exactly what technology is going to be used.”

He added that standards must be the same for all countries, and that there are many questions to resolve.

Community leaders in Papua New Guinea have condemned the Solwara project, claiming that it could have many unknown consequences.


Joel D. Adriano

Additional Information

Conference; Mining and Mining Policy in the Pacific History

Mining and Mining Policy in the Pacific History, Challenges and Perspectives, Nouméa (New Caledonia), 22–25 November 2011

Mining in the Pacific is characterised by its diversity and by the role it has played in the historical development of the region. Often an issue of major economic, social and environmental import, mining has continued throughout the colonial and postcolonial eras, with widely divergent political implications and impacts. Mining activity, which comes in long and irregular cycles, varies from country to country according to market dynamics, the technology used and the minerals in question.

The issue of mining is not as crucially important at all times and in all places, and the activity gives rise, during its ‘cycles’, to periods of tension and prosperity, depending on the resource in question, the geographical location of the mine, local added value and the scope of projects, the mining techniques used, the ways in which revenue is distributed, and the positioning and strategies of local communities, companies, states and local authorities.

Managing the benefits and risks and impacts of mining, beyond merely dealing with mining rent and the fluctuating price of raw materials, can become a major public policy issue. The trend is particularly marked where the mining sector is of key importance in the country’s political economy, as it is in Papua New Guinea for instance, and in New Caledonia, which is strengthening its commitment to the metallurgical industry with the ongoing construction of two big processing plants. Everywhere, local and national authorities, local populations and their representatives, specialised non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and also companies, are trying to manage an increasingly complex institutional world.

The scope of these actors’ power to act and make decisions may be local, national or international, and new links are bringing together networks, communities, and public and private actors, blurring the boundaries between the different spheres. Who decides whether or not to get involved in mining is another issue.

Mining is a matter of money, power and resources. It puts the future of communities at risk. It is often a source of conflict and, in this context, information constitutes a strategic asset. Although data do exist on mining sites, they often remain in the ownership of companies or governments. Likewise, academic reports and articles on mining are often limited to specific sites or to the history of a country or a region. Sometimes they focus only on a specific activity (such as extraction), whereas a wider understanding of the industry (including markets) would enable us to grasp the interplay of local activities which otherwise appear unconnected. Information is seldom shared or discussed. Several worlds seem to be developing in parallel: that of mining, that of government authorities and that of civil society, each with its own vision and its own truths; and the decisions of each, taken in isolation, can lead to uninformed communities and opacity. Likewise, the links between the different levels of operation within the mining sector, from the mine site to the international regulations and strategies, are far from perfect. Mining is a complex issue, and as none of the different actors alone possesses all the necessary knowledge, it is only by bringing them together, sharing information, and discussing the issue from a range of perspectives that understanding and viable action can be achieved.

This conference adopts a novel stance in that its express aim is to create a forum for dialogue among actors who often have conflicting interests. The call for papers is, therefore, open to mining-sector professionals from the whole of the industry—from extraction to metallurgy and its applications—as well as to representatives of communities that live near mines, local and international associations, State representatives, local governments and local authorities, and also to researchers from different disciplines.