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Economics of seabed mining don't add up for Pacific islands

15 May, 2012

Economics of experimental seabed mining don't add up for Pacific island countries

There is no economic, social or environmental argument that justifies Pacific island nations rushing into experimental seabed mining say two of the regions leading NGOs.

“The proposed mines are financially so small they will not generate enough funds to benefit Pacific people and the projected revenues do not justify risking the potential environmental impacts”, says Maureen Penjueli, Coordinator for the Pacific Network on Globalization, based in Fiji.

The worlds first experimental seabed mine, Solwara 1, which is due to start production in Papua New Guinea's Bismark sea in 2014, will be tiny compared to traditional land based mines and will yield comparatively very little copper or gold.

While traditional mines commonly produce between 500 and 20,000 million tonnes of ore, the Solwara 1 mine will produce less than 3 million.

“This means there is no compelling economic argument for rushing the mine into production while scientific and environmental concerns remain, local people remain opposed and the necessary laws and regulations do not exist”, says Effrey Dademo, Program Manager for on-­line campaign organization ACT NOW!, based in Port Moresby.

According to Nautilus Minerals, owners of the Solwara 1, production from the mine will last less than 2 years and produce just 1.2 million tonnes of ore in year one and 1.8 million tonnes in year 2.

This is tiny In comparison to land-­based mines in PNG, many of which have had their own devastating environmental and social impacts. For example the notorious Ok Tedi mine processes over 20 million tonnes of ore every year and is still operating after 25 years and the controversial new Ramu nickel mine is projected to last over 20 years and will process 5 million tons of ore each year.

“Experimental seabed mining does not offer a get-­rich-­quick option for Pacific island countries and Pacific leaders should not allow foreign mining interests to walk all over the rights and interests of Pacific people”, says Ms Penjueli.

ENDS

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