Thursday 16 November 2016

Public Right to be Informed on Experimental Seabed Mining

PAPUA NEW GUINEA | NGOs and civil society in Papua New Guinea demand that the PNG government and Nautilus Minerals make public key documents relating to the licensing of the Solwara 1 deep sea mining project. This follows a recent decision from the New Zealand Environment Court calling for transparency of seabed mining.

Jonathan Mesulam, Alliance of Solwara Warriors said, “We congratulate and stand in solidarity with New Zealand’s victory for the public’s right to information. We have been arguing for this same right in PNG for many years in regards to experimental seabed mining.”

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining, with the support of Taranaki iwi Ngati Ruanui and Talleys Fisheries Group, had a significant win in the New Zealand Environment court earlier this month against a secretive seabed mining application. It was ruled that the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and seabed mining company, Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) must release hundreds of blacked-out documents from TTR’s application on the grounds of transparency.

Natalie Lowrey, Deep Sea Mining campaign said, “Very little information about the Solwara 1 project has been disclosed by the PNG Government or the project developer, Nautilus Minerals. Papua New Guineans have a right to see this information especially as their Government has invested heavily as a shareholder in this project. In the interest of transparency and informed debate the PNG Government and Nautilus should release the information requested by PNG civil society for the past four years.”[1]

The New Zealand Environment court Judge stated, “Ultimately we conclude that the crucial nature of the sensitive information … when combined with the public’s right to participate effectively in the consent process, outweigh any trade secret or business prejudice interest of Trans-Tasman by a considerable margin.”

Christina Tony, Bismarck Ramu group in Papua New Guinea said, “As in New Zealand, there is a high level of community concern in PNG about experimental seabed mining. This should result in equally high levels of transparency from both the PNG government and Nautilus Minerals. Especially since this is the world’s first venture of this kind and our people are feeling like guinea pigs. Public access to information allows Papua New Guineans to better understand the potential environmental and social impacts of the Solwara 1 project.”

“Nautilus does not have the consent of local communities. We still don’t know what the impacts of this experimental mining will be. Furthermore, the Solwara 1 site is right in the middle of our traditional fishing grounds”said Mr. Mesulam.

“We are united in our fight against any destruction of our seas, culture and livelihoods. We are a strong and committed alliance demanding seabed mining to be banned.”

For more info:
Papua New Guinea: Jonathan Mesulam, +675 70038933, Alliance of Solwara Warriors
Papua New Guinea: Christina Tony, chrisamoka20[at] +675 70942439, Bismarck Ramu Group
Australia: Natalie Lowrey, natalie.lowrey[at] +61 421226200, Deep Sea Mining Campaign

[1] In 2012 the Deep Sea Mining campaign sent a letter to PNG PM Peter O’Neill requesting the release of key documents relating to the Solwara 1 seabed mining project. No response was received and those documents are still not in the public domain. View letter here.