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Papua New Guinea: Communities Resist Deep Sea Mining

PAPUA NEW GUINEA | In August this year, Prime Minister Hon. James Marape publicly supported the call for a moratorium on deep sea mining[1] during the Melanesian Spearhead Group Meeting (MSG).[2] Local communities now question why the New Ireland Provincial government are still having discussions with deep sea miners.

Jonathan Mesulam, Director of the West Coast Development Foundation, and member of the Alliance of Solwara Warriors stated: “On November 13, the New Ireland Provincial Government met with joint venture companies, Deep Sea Mining Finance and Sustainable Mining Solution who acquired the assets of Nautilus Minerals Niugini Ltd.[3] This meeting was met with strong opposition from local communities.”

"We express our gratitude to PM James Marape for courageously supporting the MSG's call for a moratorium on seabed mining – a call that is also been made by 24 states around the world.[4] However, we question why the company is still present in the country and continues to hold discussions regarding the seabed mining project. The company must now heed our Prime Minister's call and depart from our shores.”

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A forum organised by WCDF, Caritas and other local groups held on 4th October in Namatanai submitted a petition to the President of Namatanai LLG, Hon Joshua Takin. A second petition was submitted to the Office of the Governor on 24th November at a 500-people strong forum in Kavieng. The petitions called for a ban on seabed mining and all licences to be cancelled as well as highlighting other human rights violations faced by the people of New Ireland.[5]

John Momori, Caritas coordinator emphasized, “Our petition should serve as a reminder to the provincial government that discussions on seabed mining have been exhausted. It is extremely disheartening that our provincial leaders remain silent on this issue despite the people's resistance to seabed mining for over 13 years and PM Marape’s announcement. This clearly demonstrates the greed and self-interest of politicians who exploit the people for personal gain.”

“We attended two planned warden hearings[6] this year both of which were postponed.[7] This clearly indicates that the Mineral Resource Authority, New Ireland government and the company have failed to gather the opinions and consent of local communities. This should be sufficient grounds for the cancellation of all exploration and mining licenses,” asserted Mr Momori.

Local community leader, Mr. Hubert Melake of the Malas Foundation, has expressed support for the campaign and urges all New Irelanders to stand up and voice their opposition to such treatment by our political leaders:

“We will not rest. We will continue to monitor the government and Nautilus's next course of action. Today marks a crucial moment in our history as we witness an increasing number of people supporting not only the fight against seabed mining but also addressing other issues affecting the local population.”

“This is just the beginning of more events and activities to come in the province next year. I thank the Alliance of Solwara Warriors for taking the lead."

[1] ‘No deep sea mining in PNG: PM’, Loop PNG, 31 August, 2023, https://www.looppng.com/business/no-deep-sea-mining-png-pm-122508

[2] ‘Pacific alliance adopts moratorium on deep-sea mining, halting resurgent PNG project’, Mongabay, 6 September 2023, https://news.mongabay.com/2023/09/pacific-alliance-adopts-moratorium-on-deep-sea-mining-halting-resurgent-png-project/

[3] ‘Minister explains Solwara 1 project’, 17 August 2023, The National https://www.thenational.com.pg/minister-explains-solwara-1-project/

[4] See ‘Resistance to deep sea mining: Governments and Parliamentarians’, Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, https://savethehighseas.org/voices-calling-for-a-moratorium-governments-and-parliamentarians/

[5] These issues included gender-based violence and domestic violence, environmental and climate change concerns, law and order, the need for proper market facilities in Kavieng, illegal land grabbing, high unemployment rates and reserved business opportunities for Indigenous New Irelanders. There was also a call for an audit on the New Ireland Provincial Government, Namatanai and Kavieng District Administrations, and all 10 Local Level Governments in the Province.

[6] https://mra.gov.pg/regulatory/warden/

[7]The first warden hearing on EL 2537 occurred in January, and the second one took place just this week on the 28th of November concerning EL 1196.

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