Pacific: Potentially damaging impacts of seabed mining on Pacific Island communities highlighted in new report

A new report by Caritas Oceania, Turning the Tide, highlights the potential negative impacts of seabed mining on Pacific Island communities, including damage to the shoreline, food sources and livelihoods of local people. The report also cites the absence of free, prior and informed consent, plus lack of consideration of the precautionary principle as problematic.

Four mining companies are named in the report: Nautilus Minerals, Ocean Minerals, GSR (part of Deme Group) and Trans-Tasman Resources. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited these companies to respond to the concerns raised in the Caritas report. Three companies responded and one did not (Trans-Tasman Resources) - these responses are linked below. The original Caritas report is also linked below. 

Caritas Oceania Report 2017

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Article
30 January 2019

New Zealand: Trans-Tasman Resources allowed to appeal the overturning of its seabed mining consent

Author: New Zealand Herald

"Trans-Tasman Resources given leave to appeal quashing of seabed mining consent", 24 December 2018

Trans-Tasman Resources has been given leave to appeal the overturning of its seabed mining consent.

Leave was granted by the Court of Appeal...following an application by the mining company....

TTR is seeking to mine ironsand in the South Taranaki Bight, and it applied to the Environmental Protection Agency to take 50 million tonnes of ironsand a year from the seafloor between 22 kilometres and 36km off Patea to export to Asia.

The agency gave its consent in 2017, but opposition groups of environmentalists and iwi appealed that decision to the High Court which quashed the consents....

...TTR said its appeal would be based on the view that the agency followed a legally correct approach in granting the consent to TTR, including conditions specifically designed to protect the marine environment and existing interests, particularly iwi.

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Article
26 December 2018

The battle continues: TTR plans to appeal seabed mining decision

Author: Jane Matthews, Stuff

21 September 2018

A mining company who has had their controversial consent to mine the seabed off South Taranaki denied for the second time has decided to appeal the High Court decision to stop them.

Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) has been trying to gain access to mine the South Taranaki seabed for years and was granted it in August 2017 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, about three weeks ago the High Court quashed their consent on the grounds that the company's method of environmental management was illegal.

...The High Court decision to quash TTR's contract, which granted consent from the EPA to mine up to 50 million tonnes of ironsand from a 66 square kilometre area off the South Taranaki Bight for 35 years, was because they'd planned to use an "adaptive management approach".

Adaptive management is allowing an activity with uncertain effects and continually assessing it - essentially trying it out, seeing what happens and adapting the conditions accordingly, which was argued to be illegal under New Zealand law applying to the Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf.

 

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Company response
12 December 2017

GSR (part of DEME group)'s response to Caritas Oceania Report 2017

Author: GSR (part of DEME group)

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited GSR (part of DEME group) to respond to concerns raised in the Caritas Oceania Report 2017 about seabed mining.

The company responded:

...With regard to our activities in the Cook Islands, we are in a prospecting phase. Environmental data on biodiversity, spatial distribution and eco-system parameters for the development of a robust baseline, in addition to oceanographic, geological and mineral resource information will need to gathered before exploitation will take place.

Download the full document here

Company response
12 December 2017

Nautilus Minerals' response to Caritas Oceania Report 2017

Author: Nautilus Minerals

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Nautilus Minerals to respond to concerns raised in the Caritas Oceania Report 2017 about seabed mining.

The company responded:

...It is disappointing to see that the section on Seafloor mining (section 3) contains almost no facts, is full of emotive language and claims, and is riddled with errors...

Download the full document here

Company response
12 December 2017

Ocean Minerals' response to Caritas Oceania Report 2017

Author: Ocean Minerals

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Ocean Minerals to respond to concerns raised in the Caritas Oceania Report 2017 about seabed mining.

The company responded:

...In summary:

- The seafloor minerals industry can contribute to several of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
- Regulations pertaining to seafloor mineral development are now at an advanced stage in a number of jurisdictions, in the South Pacific and globally.
- The technology required for seafloor mineral development is well understood based on previous work dating back to the 1970s.
- The seafloor minerals industry offers development opportunities for countries that are land-resource poor, including many Pacific Island Countries that have been blessed with minerals on their seafloor.
- Ocean Minerals, together with the Cook Islands, is committed to mineral recovery in a responsible and sustainable manner...

Download the full document here

Company non-response
12 December 2017

Trans-Tasman Resources did not respond

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Trans-Tasman Resources to respond to concerns raised in the Caritas Oceania Report 2017 about offshore ironsands mining.

The company did not respond. 

Article
12 December 2017

Troubled Papua New Guinea deep-sea mine faces environmental challenge

Author: Helen Davidson and Ben Doherty, Guardian

A controversial experimental deep-sea mine is being challenged in court by environmental groups who have accused the Papua New Guinea government of withholding key documents about its approval.

Nautilus Minerals Inc, a Canada-based company...wants to extract gold and copper deposits...using a seabed mining technique...members of nearby communities...claim they were not adequately consulted...hold grave concerns over its impact....

...[chief executive of Nautilus Minerals, Michael Johnston]...said the company had been transparent with all the information on the project...

 

 

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Report
12 December 2017

Turning the tide: Caritas State of the Environment for Oceania 2017 Report

Author: Caritas

November 2017

The State of the Environment for Oceania report is a voice from Oceania highlighting what is happening to our common home, and the actions and responses required to protect it for the poor and future generations...

Seabed mining is a deep concern to many throughout the Pacific, as community leaders...raise their voice in Papua New Guinea, Kiribati and elsewhere. Plans proceed for the world’s first commercial deep sea mine in Papua New Guinea, while Aotearoa New Zealand approves its first seabed mining project – for ironsands. New exploration agreements are made around the Cook Islands and in Pacific international waters...

Download the full document here