Alliance of Solwara Warriors

PNG’s approach to deep sea mining is ‘chaotic and uncoordinated’, all licences must be cancelled

MEDIA RELEASE | Thursday 10 September 2020

PAPUA NEW GUINEA | Local communities across the Bismarck and Solomon Seas are concerned that the PNG Government is sending mixed messages about deep sea mining in their waters, calling the process and approach so far as “chaotic and uncoordinated”.

“The Alliance of Solwara Warriors, representing thousands of people across the Bismarck and Solomon Seas, have organised in opposition to the industry to protect our cultures, lives and livelihoods for us and future generations”, stated Jonathan Mesulam, Alliance of Solwara Warriors.

The Alliance of Solwara Warriors, civil society and PNG Churches have been speaking out against Solwara 1 for many years. This included a joint letter in June 2019 calling for the Papua New Guinea Government to cancel all Nautilus Minerals deep sea mining licences and to ban seabed mining in Papua New Guinea.

“Our Prime Minister has supported Fiji’s call for a Pacific regional moratorium and declared the Solwara 1 project in PNG national waters a total failure,” continued Mr. Mesulam “and Minister for State Owned Enterprises, Sasindran Muthuvel has recommended the Solwara 1 project be discontinued.”

Earlier this year, Garry told The National that the PNG had invested a lot of money in this risky and untested project and would probably have to write off the US$120 million (K408.8mil) as State debt.

“Mr. Jerry Garry, Managing Director of PNG’s Mineral Resource Authority recently ruled out any chance of revisiting the failed Solwara 1 project. This has all been at the significant expense to the PNG taxpayer. The cost to PNG of this failed project is indisputable. The debt is around one-third of our annual health budget.”[i]

Throughout July 2020 the Alliance of Solwara Warriors collected thousands of objections from local communities, schools and churches to the renewal of EL2537 deep sea mining licence in Namatanai District, New Ireland Province. On Wednesday 22nd July objections from New Ireland, Manus, East New Britain, Madang, Morobe and Milne Bay Provinces were hand delivered and lodged with the Mineral Resource Authority (MRA). All community members present at warden hearing in Labur village, New Island Province objected to the renewal of EL 2537.

Mr Mesulam questioned, “We would like to know why the MRA conducted stakeholder consultation to renew the exploration licences of Nautilus Minerals Nuigini ltd. Why is the MRA facilitating their continued operation against its own Managing Director, the Hon. PNG James Marape and other senior ministry?”

“This cowboy company is owned by the same investors who ran Nautilus into bankruptcy and left PNG in debt – they have no concern for the wellbeing of our people or our oceans.”

In December 2017, coastal communities launched a landmark legal case against the PNG Government in a bid to obtain key documents relating to the licensing and the environmental, health and economic impacts of the Solwara 1 deep sea mining project.

“The MRA is seeking to have our case dismissed,” claimed Mr. Mesulam.

“We have been waiting for over 2 years to find out if our case can proceed. MRA appears to be blocking the right of Papua New Guineans to know how the Solwara 1 mine was approved and licenced – why are they trying to hide information from citizens of PNG?”

“PNG’s approach and process to deep sea mining has bee chaotic and uncoordinated. We call on PM Marape, senior Ministers and the MRA to walk their talk and cancel all licences for deep sea mining exploration and mining.”

“It’s time to listen to Papua New Guineans and to economic common sense.”

For more information
Jonathan Mesulam, Alliance of Solwara Warriors
Director, West Coast Development Foundation
mesulamjonathan[at]gmail.com; +675 70038933


[i] Deep Sea Mining Campaign, London Mining Network, Mining Watch Canada, Why the Rush? Seabed Mining in the Pacific Ocean, July 2019, pp 6. http://www.deepseaminingoutofourdepth.org/wp-content/uploads/Why-the-Rush.pdf

Table 29 of the PNG Treasury Final budget outcome released in March 2019 indicates expenditure by sector – the debt of $US125m alone, ignoring interest and other costs. equates to K422m at March 2019 exchange rates.