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Communities call for ban on deep sea mining


By Reilly Kanamon There are hundreds of communities in New Ireland, East New Britain, Manus, Madang, Bougainville, and Milne Bay provinces whose EEZ holds the fishery and tuna stock for Papua New Guinea.

This rich ocean resource is on the brink of exploitation after constant pressure by the government since 2011 for experimental seabed mining exploration. In 2011, Canadian mining company Nautilus Minerals Limited was given a mining and environmental permit to operate Solwara 1 project in the Bismarck Sea, making it the first international seabed mining operation in the world despite flaws in its operations an environmental impact reports. The company was reported bankrupt in 2019 and closed its operations. Now local communities in New Ireland have discovered that a new joint venture company has purchased Nautilus Minerals’ assets. Deep Sea Mining Finance and Sustainable Mining Solutions have been pushing decision-makers in PNG to re-open the Solwara 1 deep sea mining project in the Bismarck Sea. According to director of the West Coast Development Foundation and Alliance of Solwara warrior advocate Jonathan Mesulam, the companies have been meeting with the government since May. The Alliance is calling on the PNG government to walk its talk and ban all seabed mining and cancel licenses for future seabed mining exploration. Mesulam has questioned the stance of the Marape government on the issue amidst calls by foreign governments including France and New Zealand to ban seabed mining. “When is the PNG government going to make its stance very clear on the issue of seabed mining in PNG and stop secret meetings with deep sea miners behind closed doors?” Mesulam asked. “We are all aware that the Solwara1 project has cost the people of PNG more than K375 million. “It was declared a failed project by former prime minister Peter O’Neill back in 2019. Why is the government still silent on this issue? “We are raising these questions because it seems that the Marape-Rosso government does not have the guts to come out publicly to share the latest developments surrounding the Solwara 1 project – despite the moratorium at the Pacific Island Forum in 2019,” Mesulam said. “Deep sea mining is not wanted!” said Caritas coordinator for Kavieng Catholic Diocese, John Momori. “The PNG government should be following in the footsteps of other Pacific states like Fiji, Samoa, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia which have now been joined by eight other countries calling for a pause, moratorium or complete ban.” The Alliance of Solwara Warriors is demanding that the PNG government: - Stand with other nations across the world to say no to seabed mining. - Make public statements on the government’s position at national and high-level conferences like COP27. - Cancel all existing seabed exploration and mining licenses in PNG. The Alliance is also calling on political leaders in coastal provinces to come out publicly and state their position on seabed mining.

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