Former minister joins opposition against seabed mining

A former Papua New Guinean attorney-general and minister for justice has joined the growing opposition against Nautilus Minerals' Solwara 1 deep sea mining project.

Sir Arnold Amet says it is understandable that Nautilus shareholders want to protect their own financial interests but new investors should beware - the Solwara 1 project is very high risk.

“The muddy puddle at the so-called test site at Motukea Island is not fit for purpose. It will not provide any evidence that these machines won't malfunction at the intended operating depth of 1.6km. The hulks are already deteriorating in our tropical conditions,” points out Sir Arnold.

Canadian company Nautilus is still seeking funds for its flagship Solwara 1 deep sea mining project. Commercial operation has been delayed year after year since it received its licence to mine the floor of the Bismarck Sea in 2011.  

In a last ditch bid to finance Solwara 1, Nautilus’ two largest shareholders have now formed a new company whose sole job is to secure funding for the Solwara 1 project.    

“I am concerned that the Papua New Guinean Government has bought a 15 percent share in a dodgy project, any operating disasters by Nautilus Minerals will quickly translate into an environmental catastrophe for the Bismarck Sea and its communities. The associated financial liabilities will be huge,” says Sir Arnold.  

In recent statements, the machine operators of the Solwara 1 project voiced their fears about the safety of operating the equipment 1.6km under the surface and only 25km off the coast of New Ireland Province.  

In their Annual information forms lodged with Canadian Securities, Nautilus describes Solwara 1 as an experiment - both the environmental impacts and profits are complete unknown. Nautilus has declined to conduct a preliminary economic assessment, pre-feasibility study or feasibility study – as per conventional industry practice.

"With this high level of environmental and financial risk, the PNG Government should never have issued Nautilus with its licence. It was issued even though PNG has no legal framework to regulate such a mine and we have no capacity to monitor its impacts. The legal context for the licensing Solwara 1 is highly questionable," continues Sir Arnold.

Coastal communities in Papua New Guinea are holding the PNG Government to account. Formal letters have been submitted to the Ministry of Mining and Ministry of Environment and Conservation requesting that key documents relating to the licensing of the Solwara 1 project be made public. They have given the PNG Government until October 18 to respond or face the prospect of legal proceedings. 

Meanwhile, Nautilus Minerals has boldly stated that Solwara 1 Deep Sea Mine will have zero impact on marine life and coastal communities in New Ireland Province.

Related articles:

K1bn needed for Solwara 1

Deep sea mining to have zero impact: Nautilus

Landowners remain unimpressed with Nautilus







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