Moratorium on Deep Sea Mining Welcomed But More Courage Required of PM Marape: PNG citizens call for a full ban on seabed mining

PNG Council of Churches – Alliance of Solwara Warriors – Bismarck Ramu Group – Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights
(Papua New Guinea) PNG Prime Minister James Marape supported Fiji's call at the Pacific Islands Forum for a 10-year moratorium on seabed mining. The PM's support for a moratorium was welcomed by the PNG Council of Churches at its meeting last week.  However, the churches and civil society remind the Prime Minister that the environmental, social and economic risks of seabed mining necessitate a complete ban. 

An open letter to PM Marape published in June from the PNG Council of Churches, Voice of Milne Bay, Alliance of Solwara Warriors, Bismarck Ramu Group, and the Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights seeks commitments to cancel all licences issued to Nautilus, to not issue any more sea bed mining exploration or mining licences, and to invest in truly sustainable local enterprises that will benefit local economies.[i]   

Jonathon Mesulam of the Alliance of Solwara Warriors said, “We thank our Prime Minister for heeding the calls of our communities by backing a 10-year moratorium on seabed mining. But we need to go further to protect our seas, our livelihoods and traditions by imposing a ban.”

Peter Bosip, Director, Center for Environmental Law and Community Rights claimed, “PNG’s recent history is littered with many examples of land-based mines with disastrous impacts.[ii] It is very difficult to monitor and regulate the impacts of land-based mining let alone mines deep under the sea. Globally, ocean ecosystems are already under stress due to pollution, plastics, overfishing, climate change and accelerating biodiversity loss.[iii]

“PNG has no need for seabed mining” stated Christina Tony of the Bismarck Ramu Group.  “We are blessed with abundant fisheries, productive agricultural lands and marine life. Seabed mining will benefit only a small number of people who are already wealthy and not bring prosperity to our communities.”

Nautilus is now approaching liquidation,[iv] and PM Marape has described Solwara 1 as "a total failure”[v].  PNG's investment in Nautilus has resulted in loss equivalent to one third of its last national health budget.[vi] The PNG Government through Eda Kopa (Solwara) Limited is attempting to recoup some of its financial loss through the Canadian courts[vii]. Smaller shareholders considering a class action are hoping to collaborate with Eda Kopa.[viii]

new international report describes how Nautilus’ early investors pushed the PNG Government into purchasing a 15% share in its Solwara 1 project.  These investors increased the company's share price with false promises of vast wealth and then walked away as multi-millionaires, leaving the company to flounder.

Sir Arnold Amet stated, “The approval of Solwara 1 occurred under my watch as an MP and Governor for Madang'. I regret that the O’Neill government didn't adequately scrutinize that project and took up 15% equity in Nautilus PNG. It's time to rectify that situation.
“Let's recognise this failed investment in the upcoming budget and ensure we don't enter into seabed mining joint ventures in the future or issue any more seabed exploration or mining licences. We now know how deep sea mining companies attempt to manipulate governments according to their own narrow profit motives without any conscience.[ix] We look to PM Marape to stand up for Papua New Guineans against the pressure exerted by these corporations.”

For more information

[i] Joint Letter calling for the Papua New Guinea Government to cancel all Nautilus Minerals deep sea mining licences and to ban seabed mining in PNG, Post Courier, June 28, 2019.

[ii] Catastrophic environmental and human rights disasters at PNG mine have included BHP Ok Tedi mine in Western Province: ‘OK Tedi Mining blamed for Health epidemic in Western Province’, EMTV, November 18, 2012,; 'Toxic time bomb' awaits Ok Tedi, ABC Science, September 5, 2008,; and Rio Tinto’s Paguna mine in Bougainville that resulted in brutal Civil War from 1989-1997 which claimed the lives of up to 20,000 people, and tens of thousands more were displaced: ‘Rio Tinto walks away from environmental responsibility for Bougainville’s Panguna mine’, Mongabay, April 6, 2017.

[iii]IPBES Global Assessment Summary for Policymakers,

[iv] ‘Nautilus Minerals’ plans to mine the seafloor sink deeper’,, August 13, 2019.

[v] ‘Marape leaning towards Moratorium on deep sea mining’, Post Courier, August 15, 2019. 

[vi] Deep Sea Mining Campaign, London Mining Network, Mining Watch Canada, “Why the Rush? Seabed Mining in the Pacific Ocean”, July 2019, p 6.
Table 29 of the PNG Treasury Final budget outcome released in March 2019 indicates expenditure by sector - the debt of $US125m alone, ignoring interest and other costs. equates to K422m at March 2019 exchange rates.

[vii] Nautilus liquidation looming, Loop PNG, July 31, 2019.

[viii] See Shareholders Unite bulletin board -

[ix] Deep Sea Mining Campaign, London Mining Network, Mining Watch Canada. 2019. Why the Rush? SeabedMining in the Pacific Ocean. July. p. 26.