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New Petroleum Minister Kerenga Kua

Post Courier | June 17, 2019

A sigh of relief for the aggrieved landowners and key stakeholders of the recently signed Papua LNG, the gas project agreement will be “reviewed”.

This was the ultimate assurance from the Petroleum Minister Kerenga Kua pronounced during the handover take over ceremony between him and outgoing minister Dr Fabian Pok today in Port Moresby.

He said the review should be done to satisfy the government and people that “it was signed in compliance with all applicable laws” and protocols and key institutions like the Bank of Papua New Guinea and Treasury, to name a few have been involved equitably and statutorily.

Former Petroleum Minister Dr Fabian Pok meanwhile has issued caution that by 2024 the supply of gas world-wide will increase and demand will be less.

“If we think we have enough that the world can wait than we have a serious problem,” he said.

He added that the Papua LNG agreement will see the country reap more than what the PNG LNG in the highlands had to offer.

Dr Pok admitted there had been a lot of criticisms and critiques about the Papua LNG agreement but he was convinced that it was for the better of the country and his team had put in substantial effort to ensure it was beneficial to the state and key stake holders like the Gulf Provincial government and landowners.

“There is nothing sinister about it,” he said.

“When you sit on the chair, you are bound by what happens around the world,” Pok said referring to international gas markets supply and demand which influence business.

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Cook Islands Democratic Party leader, Tina Browne Photo: Cook Islands Democratic Party

Radio New Zealand | 18 June 2019

A bid by the opposition in the Cook Islands to have a controversial seabed mining bill face further scrutiny has been quashed.

The Cook Islands News reports that, instead, the government forced it through parliament before adjourning indefinitely.

Opposition leader Tina Browne said her party did not oppose the bill, but she was not satisfied with the consultation process.

She wanted the bill put before a select committee.

Ms Browne said a major concern was how the bill gives the minister responsible for seabed minerals full authority to grant an exploration licence.

She raised concerns about fairness, given the government would also be one of the applicants – as well as the fear of officials being “tempted to do wrong things” with such power.

The government said the bill underwent an extensive consultation process.

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The National aka The Loggers Times | June 14, 2019

MADANG’S Ramu nickel mine has been issued a notice to stop transporting chromite from the mine area in Kurumbukari to Lae for export.

The Madang government issued the notice to Ramu NiCo management last Thursday following concerns raised by locals who use the Yuriya River.

Madang acting deputy provincial administrator Markus Kachau said the notice issued was for the mine to stop transporting chromite until the Yuriya Bridge had been fixed by the Works Department.

Kachau said the trucks transporting chromite had direct contact with the chromite before leaving Kurumbukari for Lae and had chemicals on them and once they came in contact with water the chemicals would pollute the area.

Madang works manager Andrew Kendaura said they had created a bypass for vehicles to cross while the bridge was being fixed.

Kachau said other vehicles could use the bypass but trucks carrying chromite would be barred.

Mathew Yakai, on behalf of the Ramu NiCo, said they would adhere to the notice.

He said the mine had created a job opportunities for locals and was committed to building a good relationship with its development partners.

Yakai, however, said having good communication and understanding to deliver the project was vital for the company and they needed to limit the stoppages to their operations.

Kachau said people’s health and welfare was the priority and the provincial government would do all it could to protect the people along the Yuriya river.

Kendaura said material had been brought in from Madang and Lae to fix the bridge.

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OUR RESOURCES - THEIR PROFITS - YouTube

ACT NOW!

It is time for Papua New Guinea to stop relying on destructive large-scale extractive industries and build an indigenous economy based around our land and our people.

Projects like the ExxonMobil LNG, logging and mining don’t benefit our people or our economy as the revenues and profits are kept overseas.

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The Sepik river in Papua New Guinea. Serious environmental and social concerns are being raised about a mining project by Australian-based company PanAust. Photograph: Emmanuel Peni

Gold and copper project for Sepik region also has potential to cause social conflict and unrest, report says

Lisa Martin | The Guardian | 15 June 2019 

A gold and copper mine proposed for the Sepik region in Papua New Guinea by an Australian-based company threatens to destroy the health of a major river system, poison fish stocks and cause violent unrest, a report has found.

The Chinese-owned company, PanAust, says the Frieda river project could have a 45-year life span and generate A$12.45bn in tax, royalties and production levies for the PNG government and landholders.

But the report, from research centre Jubilee Australia and Project Sepik, raises serious environmental and social concerns about the mine.

“The lack of information released by the company about its environmental management plans are continuing to cause uncertainty about whether the company’s environmental management plans will be fit for purpose,” it says.

“The potential for this project to lead to damaging social conflict and unrest is real and must be taken seriously.”

Papua New Guinea has a chequered mining history, including an environmental disaster when the BHP Ok Tedi copper mine’s tailings dam failed and the decade-long civil war on Bougainville, which was triggered by the Rio Tinto majority-owned Panguna copper mine and cost an estimated 20,000 lives.

The report notes that one of the PanAust project’s biggest challenges will be building a safe storage facility for the mine’s tailings (waste material left over after separating the valuable mineral from the ore) to prevent acid rock drainage.

That occurs when mine waste is exposed to oxygen and produces sulphuric acid, which dissolves heavy metals such as mercury from nearby rocks, which can then leach into rivers.

The report says the size of the ore body, combined with the relatively low grade of copper in the deposit, means the mine will generate substantial tailings.

Locals protest against the proposed mine project at the Sepik river in Papua New Guinea. Photograph: Project Sepik

“The inaccessibility of the terrain will pose challenges when it comes to finding a large enough site or sites for storage,” it says.

“The extremely high rainfall in the area and the fact that the area is a site of seismic activity add to the risks of a dam collapse. The technical complexity of the feat facing the mining engineers, the extremely large costs involved, and the weather and seismic situation all adds up to a very expensive environmental management problem and one with considerable risks.”

Locals also have concerns about environmental damage from an increase in the number of large vessels operating on the Freida river.

PanAust promised in April it would shortly release an environmental impact statement to nearby villages, but researchers say it has not done so.

In response to to questions from Guardian Australia, the company said PanAust had not received a copy of the Jubilee report and “as such, the company is not in a position to comment on its contents”.

It did however say that PanAust had submitted its plans and an environmental impact statement to PNG regulators and was working with them on its approval.

The report also accused PanAust of a flawed consultation process with indigenous communities downstream from the mine which has created an “atmosphere of animosity and lack of trust” and resulted in acts of sabotage.

“There are reports of official (mainly police) intimidation of anti-mine activists,” the report says.

Map showing the location of the proposed Frieda River mine. Photograph: Jubilee Australia

“In 2017 a youth leader from Oum 2 village led a group of young men to attack a tugboat and pontoon with homemade wire sling shots.”

In October researchers visited 23 nearby villages, where locals repeatedly raised concerns about river and fish health as a result of increased sedimentation from increased tugboat traffic connected with the project.

The Freida river joins the 1,126km Sepik river, which flows across the provinces of West Sepik and East Sepik provinces.

The local economy is built on the sale of sago (starch from a tropical palm stem), fish, freshwater prawn, eels, turtles and crocodile eggs. Crocodiles are also harvested for their skins and teeth. Locals are worried about the mine affecting their food security, the report says.

In a company announcement in December, PanAust characterised the mine project as a “nation building development”.

It has promised 5,000 jobs in construction and 2,100 in mining, and estimates there may be 30,000 more indirect jobs.

“Host communities, especially in rural areas, will benefit from access to improved transport, telecommunications, health, education and government services that will support a higher quality of life and greater social participation,” the company said.

“More broadly, training and employment of Papua New Guineans will provide the skills and capacity to support the nation’s future development and prosperity.”

The company said a final investment decision would be linked to financing and fiscal terms agreed with the PNG government during the approvals phase.

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A rescue worker walks between destroyed houses after another dam disaster in Brazil.

Payal Sampat | EarthWorks | June 12, 2019

In late January 2019, the collapse of two tailings dams at Vale’s Brumadinho iron ore mine in Brazil killed hundreds of workers and local residents in the state of Minas Gerais. Even more horrifying, the Brumadinho catastrophe was a tragedy foretold, with unheeded prior warnings from mine inspectors and Vale’s own workers. This disaster came on the heels of other tailings disasters, notably at the Mount Polley gold and copper mine in Canada and the BHP-Vale owned Samarco iron ore mine in Mariana, Brazil.

How did one of the world’s largest mining companies, Vale, ignore the risks identified by workers and mine inspectors, and fail to learn from its previous tailings disaster?  How many more ticking time bombs around the world are endangering communities, workers, and ecosystems at this very moment?

Independent research that analyzes decades of data on mine waste dam failures has shown that these catastrophic tailings dam failures are occurring more frequently and are predicted to continue to increase in frequency. This is attributed to multiple factors, including inadequate tailings facilities design, age of facilities, unanticipated weather conditions due to climate change, and mining companies tapping lower grade ores, resulting in larger volumes of mine waste.

And yet, very little is known about these tailings storage facilities (TSFs) – their location, size, scale, ownership, even how many exist around the world.

This is about to change.

In April 2019, the Church of England pension funds and the Swedish Council of Ethics, representing a group of 96 investors with over $10 trillion in assets, launched the Investor Mining & Tailings Safety Initiative.  They sent letters to 683 mining companies, asking detailed questions about ownership, operating status, physical size, construction and independent risk assessment at their TSFs. These companies were given 45 days to respond, and were required to post this information publicly on their websites.

This is the first time that investors have demanded transparency and disclosure of mining companies on this scale – and this may well be the game-changing move that’s needed to understand and mitigate risks at TSFs.

The investor action has lit a fire under some of the world’s largest mining companies, many of whom have swiftly responded, publishing their disclosures to meet the June 7 deadline.  The Swiss mining company Glencore’s disclosure indicated that 14 of its facilities carry “extreme risk” in the event of failure – many in Peru – and another 100 are considered high-risk. Australian miner BHP, the world’s largest mining company, disclosed that five of its tailings dams were at “extreme consequence of failure,” and has set up a tailings task force to improve safety.

In May, the investor group, Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), took another important action. PRI, along with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which published a rapid response assessment on tailings dam safety in 2017,  and the International Council on Mining and Metals, an association of 26 of the world’s largest mining companies, launched a Global Tailings Review process. At UNEP’s invitation, Earthworks agreed to serve on the multi-stakeholder advisory panel to the Global Tailings Review, which is chaired by Professor Bruno Oberle, former Swiss Secretary of State for the Environment. Other advisory panel members include IndustriALL Global Union, Munich Re, the International Finance Corporation, and the Columbia University Water Center.

Earthworks believes that the strongest outcomes will result from a process co-governed by civil society members, particularly mining-affected communities and workers representatives. We support processes that embody this commitment to co-equal governance, such as the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA). But this is an all hands-on-deck moment – and we will willingly pitch in to advance efforts that will shore up tailings dam safety, increase transparency, and protect people and the environment.

The world can no longer bear the costs of dragging feet, making excuses, or putting shareholder returns before people’s lives. Without exception, safety must be the leading priority at tailings dams and storage facilities around the world. Mining companies must act on the findings of their TSF reviews and ensure that risks to communities, workers and ecosystems are mitigated and managed as soon as possible.

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The controversial Panguna mine which land holders are fighting to stop being re-opened for foreign profiteers.

Susan Price | Green Left Weekly | June 14, 2019

A spokesperson for the Bougainville Hardliners Group has called on the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) to explain why the Australian Federal Police (AFP) were at the controversial Panguna mine site in central Bougainville on June 5.

AFP officers were seen taking GPS readings at the abandoned copper mine site. James Onartoo, a former leader of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, said the community has a right to know why they were there and what they were doing.

“I think the public is owed an explanation as to what is happening,” said Onartoo. “To the best of my knowledge the AFP were ousted in 2007 on suspicion of spying on the ABG and the people of Bougainville by the former President, late Joseph Kabui.”

He suggested that their presence could be linked to the mine’s controversial reopening.

“Their presence at Panguna, which is the site of so much controversy and disagreements plus issues of sensitive nature stemming from proposed reopening by ABG, raises serious questions considering the fact that, in the past, Australia has always supported military intervention by the Papua New Guinea Defence Force to regain control of the mine.”

Onartoo said if the AFP can raid the ABC, “they are capable of anything”, including gathering intelligence “for the purpose of regaining control of Panguna and restarting the mine with use of force”.

The June 11 ABC Radio Pacific Beat said the AFP confirmed that members from the Papua New Guinea-Australia Policing Partnership did visit the site to “undertake an assessment of capability development for support to the Bougainville Police Service”.

Onartoo said Australia’s interest in the mineral deposits at Panguna has never declined. He has criticised Australia’s advice that the ABG prioritise mining over agriculture, tourism, fishing and other sustainable industries.

Several companies, including of Australian origin, are vying to reopen the Panguna mine, which was shut down in 1990 after a brutal battle against mostly indigenous landholders who received none of the huge profits generated by the mine. More than 20,000 people were killed during the 10 year civil war.

The Bougainville Hardliners Group has been actively resisting attempts by the ABG to weaken the Mining Act to give foreign companies exclusive rights to large-scale mining. It opposes further large-scale mining in the autonomous Papua New Guinea region, saying the focus should be on sustainable alluvial mining.

Bougainville is scheduled to hold its independence referendum in October under the terms of the 2001 peace agreement. The referendum outcome then has to be ratified by the PNG parliament.

The ABG has expressed its desire to reopen the Panguna mine.

Legislation to amend the Mining Act is currently being debated in the PNG parliament. According to landowners, the proposed amendments would effectively remove customary ownership of minerals and remove landowners’ veto rights over mining projects.

Onartoo has said that Bougainville’s 350,000 people do not need large-scale mining, and that the changes being proposed are in breach of sections 23 and 24 of Bougainville’s constitution as well as the Mining Act which provides protection from a repeat of “the ownership of minerals on the island by colonisers”.

A report by Papua New Guinea Mine Watch in January said Australian businessperson Jeffrey McGlinn of Caballus Mining is pushing for the act to be amended. A Radio New Zealand report said McGlinn “wanted to shortcut a number of what it calls complicated requirements in the act to fast track vital infrastructure development in Bougainville and boost employment ahead of the referendum”.

However, other reports suggest that he is more focussed on seizing control of major mineral deposits across Bougainville ahead of the referendum.

The Osikaiyang Landowners group has referred the government’s mining plans to the Papua New Guinea Ombudsman.

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Papua New Guinea Today | June 13, 2019 

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister  James Marape  has urged investors in the mining and petroleum sectors to consider the interest and benefit of the resource owners and the country.‍

Prime Minister Marape said this when responding to the Managing Director of Oil Search Peter Botten, who said the new Government led by Prime Minister Marape should be investor friendly.

“I know Oil Search Managing Director, Peter Botten came out a while ago in the media asking me to be investor friendly.‍

“Peter Botten knows that I am investor friendly. But I am more concerned for the interests and benefits and speaking for the 8 million shareholders of this country.

“That is what this generation of leaders wants in our country. That is the catch cry of these leaders and our country and what our people want,” said Prime Minister Marape.‍

He said that his Government welcomes new investors and encourages those already in the country to continue investing in the economy.‍

“I am not in the business of harming our investors in the country. Other investors in the country and our partner investors, ExxonMobil, Oil Search, Total, Santos, Nippon Oil, they have been with us for a long time.‍

“We are in the business of now consolidating on these investments here, as well as attracting new investors into the country.‍

“But, as I speak I want to first pick the lowest hanging fruits to improve our economy, improve on areas of domestic market obligations, areas of local content, and in improvements in greater equity participation in the resource sector by our landowners.‍

“We are tired of being rent collectors. Sometimes down the line, whether that is in 2022 or 2025 with the best advice from the Petroleum Department and with the new Ministers we will be making regime shift and change in the resource laws and most importantly it will be friendly to the investors.‍

“But more so importantly friendlier to the interests of the 8 million people of our country and the benefits they truly deserve.‍

“And that is by making sure that our economy gets the residual benefit from those resources.

“And I make no apologies to anyone. I make no apologies. If you don’t like the way I am speaking, pack up and leave.

“I am more about adding value to the economy and for my people to benefit,” said Prime Minister Marape.

Prime Minister Marape on May 30th during his maiden speech after his election as the 8th Prime Minister of PNG told Parliament he does not want any international conglomerates in the resource sector to dictate to his Government what to do and or change the laws to suit their interests.‍

He said he would tweak and turn the resource laws for the benefit of the resource owners and the country. Prime Minister Marape said his intention is not to chase away investors, but wants maximum benefit and meaningfully participation by landowners and the Government in the resource development.

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Philip Miriori and the SMLOLA are not happy with proposed changes to Bougainville’s Mining Act (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

Post Courier | June 13, 2019

As the Caballus/McGlinn deal comes under intense scrutiny and criticism, the pressure is on Bougainville’s Department of Mineral and Energy Resources.

Philip Miriori, chairman of the Panguna Landowners Association (SMLOLA) said the department head now has to justify the deal, as it has been exposed for what it is.

He said the department head now claims that the proposed mining changes are not designed and targeted to favour anyone.

“This is even though the department head acknowledges in writing that McGlinn’s lawyer was involved in the drafting of the proposed Bills to change the Bougainville Mining Act.

“The Caballus/McGlinn presentation to the ABG specifically demanded all these changes to the BMA as a condition precedent to his purported investment, and which they are now trying so desperately to deliver.

“It is completely absurd to claim the amending legislation is not designed and targeted to favour Caballus… when Caballus even ends up with a 40 per cent free interest, while also admitting Caballus/McGlinn cannot develop Panguna,” he said.

The landowner’s who now enjoy freehold ownership of the minerals and an array of other protection, will lose everything and become subservient to those in question if this new law is passed.” said Mr Miriori.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Penelope Simons* | The Guardian | 12 June 2019

Earlier this year, Canadians were given a behind-the-scenes view on attempts by the Liberal government to ensure that SNC-Lavalin would escape potential criminal liability under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. What may be less clear is that the government’s stance in this case is reflective of its broader approach to corporate accountability.

The Liberal government’s tendency to overlook corporate malfeasance threatens to sink an innovative initiative – the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) – with the potential to make real change.

Canadian companies are implicated in credible allegations of wrong-doing worldwide. In addition to charges of corruption, the Canadian private sector is linked to human rights abuses and environmental destruction.

The extractive sector is of particular concern. Canada hosts a majority of the world’s largest exploration and mining companies, and a significant number of medium and large-sized oil and gas companies, many of which operate overseas. These companies raise billions of dollars on Canadian stock exchanges. They have also been implicated in grave human rights abuses perpetrated by their security forces in many countries around the world, including Sudan, Papua New Guinea, Eritrea and Guatemala, among others.

A study by the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project at Osgoode Hall Law School found that between 2000 and 2015, 28 Canadian extractive companies had been associated with 100 incidences of violence in Spanish-speaking Latin America.

In 2017, the UN body charged with promoting respect for human rights by the private sector visited Canada to assess compliance with a set of guiding principles endorsed by the Canadian government. The UN experts expressed concern that Canada lacked a coherent policy framework to fulfil its legal duty to protect against business-related human rights abuses. They raised concern that the victims of human rights abuses struggle to obtain adequate and timely remedies against Canadian businesses.

It appeared that the Trudeau government would begin to address these serious shortcomings with its announcement in January 2018 of CORE, a ground-breaking complaint mechanism charged with investigating allegations of harm caused by Canadian extractive and garment corporations operating abroad. The government committed to equipping the independent office with robust powers – including the power to summon witnesses and compel the production of documents.

What’s happened since then?

The Order in Council (OIC) that formally established CORE, created its mandate, and appointed Sheri Meyerhoffer to the position, was released this past April. It shows that the government has not only backtracked significantly on its original promise, but it appears to have established instead a slightly modified version of the toothless and now defunct Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor. Notably, the government has so far failed to grant CORE the investigatory powers it needs. At the press conference, Minister Carr stated that he was “seeking external legal advice” on “the appropriateness” of giving the ombudsperson powers to compel witnesses and documents under the Inquiries Act and that the decision on this issue would be announced in June.

The government has also charged the office with investigating parties who allege corporate wrong-doing – in other words, investigating the victims of alleged human rights violations and/or those supporting victims in bringing a complaint.

This surprising inclusion will surely make it more difficult for victims to have legitimate complaints of corporate-related human rights abuses heard. It is also likely to place human rights defenders, whose physical integrity is often at risk, in even greater peril.

In April, two years following his mission to Canada, the chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Surya Deva, returned to this country. He warned that Canada is falling behind other countries, such as France and Switzerland, that are passing laws to hold their companies to account when they cause harm overseas. Dr. Deva cautioned that Canada’s international reputation would be damaged if it failed to provide the ombudsperson with real investigatory powers.

While the Trudeau government may position itself as a champion of human rights and the rule of law, its new complaint mechanism speaks a different narrative. More important than the reputation of the government, however, is the fact that the lives and livelihoods of individuals and communities in other countries are at stake. This will remain the case until the Canadian government takes meaningful steps to incentivize Canadian companies to change the way they do business abroad.

* Penelope Simons is an associate professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa.

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