PNG officials snipe at Nautilus go-ahead
PNG local officials have been lining up to take a whack at Nautilus Minerals’ Solwara 1 seabed mining project since it got a green light last week.
Drilling at Solwara 1.
Nautilus was granted a 20 year licence by the PNG Government to mine high grade copper-gold resources that lay 1.6km below the sea, off the coast of New Britain.
The PNG Government has taken a 30% equity stake in the project and agreed to contribute funds for development costs. Despite this commitment, officials have been speaking out against Nautilus.
Mining Minister Byron Chan, speaking to NZ Radio, said “I have to monitor any activities of this company… if it’s in breach of any part of its agreement, then the license will be revoked or re-looked at.”
PNG’s Post Courier quoted several officials opposed to the project.
Managing director of National Fisheries Authority, Sylvester Bartholomew Pokajam, said “I would have humbly thought that we should not allow it until PNG has an Ocean Policy and Ocean Act enacted… PNG should ban sea bed mining in our territorial and archipelagic waters.”
Member of Parliament for the region, Ken Fairweather, said “I am hoping that this issue will be given prominence. I will not let up in parliament... I will even box if I have to.”
Another MP, Anton Yagama, said, “no one from Nautilus has bothered to call me or paid me a visit to brief me on this project. This is great disrespect, never mind to me as a person, but to the people of Sumkar whom I am mandated to serve.”
Environmental concerns over the project centre on damage to biodiversity in the little understood seabed environment and exposing marine life to toxic metals with sediment stirred up by mining activities.
Nautilus’ chief executive, Steve Rogers, told the Post Courier, “This will be a relatively small footprint compared to a mine on land, on an area about the size of a dozen football pitches. We’ve sought out the best scientists in the world.
“This isn’t in a fishing area and won’t impact coral. Even if it were in a fishing area, it won’t affect that upper area where the fish are.”