Report – By the Pacific Media Centre  news desk
A Papuan New Guinea environmental advocacy group has accused Prime Minister Peter O’Neill of “falling silent” on the controversial Solwara 1 deep sea mining venture planned off the coast of Madang.
“Why has our Prime Minister fallen silent on this core issue?” asked Wence Magun, national coordinator for the Madang-based Mas Kagin Tapani and also a steering cvommittee member of the Deep Sea Mining (DSM) Campaign.
The campaign wrote to O’Neill last December about its environmental concerns about the Solwara 1 mine and asked for documents relating to the approvals process of Nautilus Minerals Solwara 1 deep sea mine be made publicly available.
The campaign is still awaiting a response from the PNG government. The group’s statement today said:
Wence Magun, national coordinator for Mas Kagin Tapani, said: “After receiving our letter last December, Our Prime Minister described the environment as a “core issue”.
“But communities are still waiting to hear how he will address the many risks associated with the Solwara 1 mine – and they want to hear this before his Government re-opens any discussions with Nautilus. Why has our PM fallen silent on this core issue?”
Nautilus has been in dispute with the PNG government since last year and the company suspended operations relating to the Solwara 1 project in November 2012.
Michael Johnston, Nautilus president and CEO, expressed just a few days ago that the company has high hopes for a resolution to the dispute.
Patrick Kaiku, lecturer in political science at the University of Papua New Guinea and another DSM campaign steering committee member, said: “Not only is a response from the Prime Minister overdue, the petitions from the various coastal communities in the proposed Solwara project areas, that were submitted in November last year to Hon. Byron Chan, PNG Mining Minister, are yet to receive a formal response.
“Our campaign’s two reports show that there are many errors and omissions in the Solwara 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
“This means that we don’t yet understand the risks to our coastal communities posed by this mine. How could the PNG government have granted Nautilus its 20-year operating licence when so many questions remain unanswered?”
“In the interests of transparency and informed debate the PNG government should now release the documents we requested in the letter we sent late last year. We don’t want discussions to be held with the company behind closed doors while the people of PNG are left in the dark.”
Oigen Schulze, director of Zero Inc, a community organisation in New Ireland province, said: “Local communities have not sanctioned the Solwara 1 project. No one knows what the impacts of this form of mining will be.
“Communities want to know what concrete steps the Prime Minister will now take to ensure we are not being used us as guinea pigs in a seabed mining experiment.
“We know that Nautilus are secretly visiting remote communities in New Ireland province and trying to convince them to agree to deep sea mining. This is not informed consent – these communities have not been provided with information about the risks they also face.”
Dr Helen Rosenbaum, coordinator of the Deep Sea Mining campaign, said: “Solwara 1 is the world’s first deep sea mining experiment. The eyes of the world are watching to see how the PNG government deals with the flaws in the Nautilus EIS and the high level of community concern.
“The people of PNG deserve to know that their government is acting in their best interests and is not putting their lives and livelihoods at risk.”
Source: Deep Sea Mining Campaign