THE Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) has branded PNG’s 13th Mining and Petroleum Conference happening in Sydney this week as an exercise in encouraging investment in destruction.
"This conference is aiming at not only showcasing existing opportunities for destructive investment but also highlighting PNG’s status as the first country to try the untested and potentially devastating industry of sea bed mining," said Maureen Penjueli, PANG’s coordinator.
"Investors must know what it actually means to invest in these industries, that it is an investment in environmental, social, economic and cultural destruction, which in turn makes this a high risk investment." Nautilus Minerals recently announced its financial report amounting to over K72 million in cash and assets for this year.
In addition, the company has managed to secure intellectual property rights as per its agreement with the PNG Government which plans to pave the way for a shipping contract. The Bank of South Pacific has footed the state’s 15 per cent equity in the Solwara 1 project with a loan of US$120 million or K315 million.
PNG is the first country to approve the process of sea bed mining despite vocal opposition by custom land owners, non-government groups, faith-based groups and scientists. Recent research shows that disregarding indigenous peoples rights to consent to such projects will only increase risk to mining industry and investors.
"Nautilus’ Solwara 1 sea bed mining project is fast advancing, yet there are issues that need to be addressed including the concern of provinces surrounding the Bismark Sea. The Government of PNG seriously need to listen to its people," said Penjueli.
"This project is not only at the forefront of new and unknown levels of destruction to the ocean ecosystems but has the audacity to try co-opt the cultural meaning from the ties that unite the Pacific – our Solwara.
Our cultures would never put their name to such disregard and neither should our governments," she say. The conference will discuss the impacts of the global downturn in commodity prices and what that means for the PNG economy and mining sectors.
"PNG’s mineral wealth has been at the expense of the agriculture sector, the back bone of the people’s economy that has a greater capacity for distribution of the wealth from economic growth. In fact recent research is showing that major mining projects are having a detrimental effect on those sectors of greater importance to Papua New Guineans," added Penjueli.
PANG argues that the focus on mining projects and attracting some of the richest companies in the world detracts from the real questions that need to be asked about how PNG, and other Pacific Island Countries, create an economic future that embraces Pacific lives and realities and has people at its centre.
"Instead of trying to drum up greater support for companies to pay a pittance to strip away WPNG’s wealth, the global downturn is actually an opportunity to ask the harder questions about how PNG gets off its addiction to resource grabbing and focuses on building an economy that embraces and supports the cultural practices and realities of PNG life."