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Deep Sea Mining is not the answer

17 December 2013 - View online

Deep Sea Mining is not the answer to poverty alleviation for the Pacific

PIANGO (Pacific) | VANGO (Vanuatu) | CELCOR (Papua New Guinea) | Deep Sea Mining campaign (Australia)

PACIFIC | Civil society groups across the Pacific criticise SOPAC and its development of a regional regulatory framework on deep sea mining (DSM). They argue that it facilitates and pre-empts DSM before Pacific Island communities have had the opportunity to debate whether this is a form of development they want.

Last week the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) funded by the EU held its 4th Deep Sea Minerals Regional Training Workshop in Fiji. The workshop was jointly organised by Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and focused on “the Environmental Perspectives of Deep Sea Mineral Activities”.

Laisa Vereti, Pacific Islands Association of on-Government organisations (PIANGO) said, “The EU funded SOPAC DSM project needs to have a clear process and mechanism in place. Our pacific governments lack the capacity and expertise to go into this new venture. Countries need to put proper legislation and regulation in place to safe guard their resources and the well being of their people before even thinking of engaging in this new industry.”

The workshop brought together civil society, Pacific Island Government Representatives and DSM mining companies. The scientific experts confirmed that little is still known about deep sea environments and there is much speculation about the extent and nature of the impacts of deep sea mining.

The discussion at the SOPAC meeting was sometimes tense as industry and government were confronted by some difficult truths about the deficiencies in Environmental Impact Assessments and the serious gaps in capacity to manage environmental issues.

Thomas Imal, Lawyer with the Centre for Environmental Law & Community Rights (CELCOR) said, “The PNG Government has put the cart before the horse by issuing Nautilus Minerals Solwara 1 mining licence without adequate and independent scientific studies, or comprehensive national policy, laws and regulations for DSM[1].”

“To date the PNG Government has ignored the concerns of communities and other stakeholders. This has been the cause of a strong backlash from PNG society culminating in the threat of a legal challenge.”

“Whilst DSM maybe a viable option for other Pacific Island states it is not the same for Papua New Guinea. We need to apply the Precautionary Principle[2], the uncertainties far out weight the benefits and it is not beneficial for the country at this time.”

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.

Charlie Timpoloa Harrison, Interim CEO, Vanuatu Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (VANGO) said, “It is paramount that our people fully understand what DSM is before we develop any policy, review any mining legislation or, for that matter, develop any new legislation. All policy and legislation amendments have to involve civil society participation at the core of these national undertakings.”

“This Vanuatu process will draw on the principles and approaches embedded in Free Prior and Informed Consent[3] 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.”

Dr. Helen Rosenbaum, coordinator, Deep Sea Mining campaign said, “SOPAC is actively promoting DSM as the Pacific Panacea – the answer to poverty alleviation throughout the Pacific. However the truth is somewhat different. Many Pacific countries already have significant mining projects but still lack basic infrastructure, and good health and education systems. DSM will not be a quick fix for this.”


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