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Deep sea mining in Papua New Guinea

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#1 Glasseye Snapper

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Posted 11 August 2016 - 07:13 AM

A Canadian mining company, Nautilus Minerals, reached an agreement with PNG several years ago to mine deep sea vents at 1.5km depth in the Bismarck sea. This would be the first ever deep seabed mining operation.


In their environmental impact assessment they compare their mine with three others, all of which are land-based. Guess what; the deep sea operation is predicted to have little impact on land-based criteria such as effect on forests, fresh water, food supply, etc. For other criteria, such as presence of organisms of medicinal value, they claim no impact because no studies exist (more likely none have been carried out) that prove such organisms exist. They also score very good on a third set of criteria simply by claiming that, yes effects will be present (for instance habitat disturbance) but it won't affect us as no one will see it. What is all but absent is analyses of effects that would be specific to the (deep) ocean environment. Nothing about expected levels of chemicals and particulates released into the water and the impossibility to contain them. Nothing about currents that may carry contaminants to nearby shores.


It is of course possible that deep seabed mining has much less impact than land mining but I am very uncomfortable with this development as we are only just getting a glimmer of understanding of the deep sea biotic and abiotic world. In addition, oversight of land-based mining is already poor and I can only imagine it being much worse when it is out of sight. Finally, if it was just one small operation, they claim just a few hectares, then likely the impacts will also be small but by now 19 licenses for deep seabed mining have been given out and that is unlikely to stop.


The BBC already reported on this in April 2014 (http://www.bbc.com/n...onment-27158883).


Nautilus Minerals has posted its reports online (http://nus.live.irma...4&masterpage=31) the one I read is named "Discussion of Impacts of Solwara 1 and three comparison mines" (http://nus.live.irma...-reports/15.pdf)


Nautilus Minerals would probably claim this should not interest divers because it is well below safe diving depth, but I hope many of you at least want to know about this. You may also be interested to know that AVAAZ started a petition to target investors that are needed to finance the project. If you want to sign it you can use the link below.






Edit: I just noticed the Ocean Foundation has a special project on this topic as well: http://www.deepseami...ofourdepth.org/

Edited by Glasseye Snapper, 11 August 2016 - 07:17 AM.

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#2 troporobo


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Posted 11 August 2016 - 05:56 PM

Nautilus has been pursuing deep sea opportunities throughout the SW Pacific for many years, including all of the Melanesian countries and as far east as the Cook Islands, possibly further.  Governments are super-keen as they see this as essentially money for nothing and really do not care about the unknown and perhaps unknowable effects. Pacific regional organizations have been facilitating approaches by miners and their discussions with governments.  The only opposition voices have been a few "pesky" regional environmental NGOs but they aren't getting much attention. I am not optimistic that anyone is going to take the risks seriously. 


Aside from the miners (who can't be expected to listen to cautious voices ) and governments (who might be expected to do so, but aren't) the main regional player has been the geoscience program of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, funded by the EU.  This program has been going for over 5 years with no noticeable impact.  Perhaps European citizens could make their voices clear:


The SPC- EU Deep Sea Minerals Project


Edited by troporobo, 11 August 2016 - 06:03 PM.