Report details unacceptable impacts from deep sea mining by Canada’s Nautilus

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November 24, 2011 | Port Morseby, Papua New Guinea/ Ottawa, Canada/ Melbourne, Australia. The Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and MiningWatch Canada and have released a new report called “Out of Our Depth.”. It details serious environmental and social impacts expected as a result of unprecedented mining of the ocean floor in PNG.

Canadian mining company Nautilus Minerals Inc. (Nautilus) plans to extract gold and copper from the floor of the Bismarck Sea in 2012 at its Solwara 1 project. The project will mine active and inactive hydrothermal vents at 1.46 kilometres under the sea. Thousands of these vents over an 11 hectare area will be destroyed. Possibly the origins of life on earth, these high-temperature underwater vents host unique species, most of which have not yet been identified or studied.

The underwater mine site is located close to coastal communities that rely heavily on sea food for diet and income. The project is raising alarm among these directly affected communities, as well as among PNG citizens who question the environmental process that led to the licensing of the project.

Moses Murray, advisor to the “sea bed mining forum” of community organisations from New Ireland Province, East New Britain and Madang, says:

“The PNG Constitution in its preamble provides for sharing of natural resources with future generations. The current trend shown by our political leaders have taken the direction that they are not worried about the future generations anymore. It is “the now” that matters to them. Every mine on land, be they gas, oil, and other natural resources including mining under the ocean is set to be opened. The brain, pen and ink used to draft the preamble of the Constitution was a waste of time.”

Helen Rosenbaum, author of the report, says “Nautilus has prepared a deeply flawed Environmental Impact Statement. For example, the company has insufficiently tested the toxicity of its process on vent species, and has not sufficiently considered toxic effects on organisms in the marine food chain.”

Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada, an editor for the report, notes “once again a Canadian company is set to inflict unusual environmental and social harm in Papua New Guinea in a way that would not be permitted in Canada. Canadian mining company Placer Dome dumped mine waste into the sea for many years and Barrick Gold is currently using a major river system as a mine waste dump. It is tragic that Canadian mining companies are profiting from weak governance in Papua New Guinea.”

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Summary of media from release of report (thanks to Papua New Guinea Mine Watch)
Experimental seabed mining making waves in regional media