Sunday, November 11, 2012

Global Citizens: Take Action

It does not matter that I am not Papua New Guinean. As a world citizen, I signed the ActNow petition against the Solwara 1 [].

Solwara, (Tok Piksin for salt/sea water) is the first deep sea mining in the world and it will be pioneered in the province of New Ireland. Canadian-registered Nautilus Minerals, Inc., ( / points in its September 18 ad in The National that it is "the first company to explore the ocean floor for polymetalic seafloor massive sulphide deposits and is developing its first project at Solwara 1, in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea, where it is aiming to produce copper and gold". It claims that the government has granted all the necessary environmental permits, and in January 2011, the mining lease.

Why PNG? The Nautilus ad in the Post-Courier on September 19 cites that Solwara 1 was discovered in 1996 and "is the best studied seafloor copper-gold deposits in the world". And because it is in "protected..calm" Bismark Sea, "the location is ideal for safe operations". So why Solawara 1? The "high grades [of materials] mean less waste created to produce the same amount of metal as similar mines on land". Finally, "being offshore there is also limited social disturbance as no people will need to be relocated from their homes".


I am not. First, there are a good number of extractives currently in play in Papua New Guinea -- gold and nickel mines, and liquified natural gas -- some have operated close to two decades and some, like the gas projects, are yet to go online.

Absent is a strong reason to believe that the polity has learned from the African resource curse or the Dutch disease.

As it stands now, the population and government expenditure are growing, but basic infrastructure and services, and literacy need very serious attention. Over the year, GDP has increased but living conditions have not improved. Government spending for the past 10 years have retracted to more centralization in favor of Waigani, the seat of the national government. The National Research Institute recently pointed that 90 percent of spending is done there while very little has been devolved to the local level.

Second, and as a friend had pointed out, some provinces are considering going the way of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. They would, therefore, need their own extractives to fend, and this move seems to communicate the structural failure in the distribution of gains from the extractives. Will we see PNG fragment like blocks of concession areas demarcated for resource exploration, A layer on top of their already 800 different tribes and languages?

There are no convincing reasons yet that income from the extractives would be effectively and efficiently used to alleviate the quality of life of the seven million. So why another one now?

Third, if Nautilus deems the process safe, why doesn't it venture into the seabeds of developed countries. There the environmental regulations are robust, the law enforcers are equally knowledgeable and as technically qualified as the experts that Nautilus could afford, and voters hold their government accountable. And as cohabitant of this planet, we would be, in effect, better protected.

So why in PNG?

Just as I was leaving the country in October, Act Now submitted a petition to the government that had 25,000 names in support of stopping Nautilus from proceeding.

Why should you and I care? Because we are one organism and the impact of the scarring the earth will affect us. So, too, the structural inability of PNG to alleviate the conditions of its people.

Now, what (more) should you and I do?

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