This session was hosted as part of the 2020 Virtual Ocean Dialogues by the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Pacific Network on Globalisation.
The ocean is a constant for people of the Pacific, with cultures centred around long-held relationships that remain embedded in everyday life. Knowledge, guardianship and traditional resource management systems enable the bounty of a healthy ocean to perpetually sustain physical, economic and spiritual well-being.
The impending industry of deep seabed mining has focused its attention on the Pacific region both on the high seas through the International Seabed Authority and within national jurisdictions, where proposals to date have been shown to be at odds not only with cultural beliefs and practices of Pacific societies, but also with contemporary marine legislation, economic and cultural activities such as fisheries and tourism, and the commitments of all countries to reverse the decline in biodiversity. The outcomes and stories of civil society engagement with prolonged seabed mining licensing processes lay bare the question of appropriateness of the activity in the 21st century.
In this Virtual Ocean Dialogue session, stories from frontline indigenous leaders offered a Pacific people’s perspective on the “sustainable relationship” with the life-giving entity, Moana nui. Experts also explored the interconnectedness of deep-sea environments and the rights of both human societies and nature in the context of exploiting the global commons.
On 21st November, Nautilus Mineral’s court-appointed monitors, Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC) confirmed that the relevant legal papers had been filed to assign Nautilus Minerals Inc. into bankruptcy.[i] Whilst this news was expected, there has been no news on their plans for the Solwara 1 deep sea mining project in Papua New Guinea, leaving local communities and civil society who are opposed to the project with many questions.
Nautilus filed for protection from its debts in a Canadian Court in February 2019.[ii] The company tried to restructure but it failed to find any buyers for its assets. In August 2019, court approval was obtained for creditors to liquidate the company in order to get back a fraction of what they were owed.[iii]
The risks and uncertainties of experimental seabed mining are too great to allow this industry to ever proceed in Papua New Guinea.
This was the view shared by seabed mining advocates, together with locals of West Coast Namatanai and representatives of Duke of York Islands, East New Britain Province, during an open forum in Namatanai.
After the gathering, a joint statement was issued, saying: “As New Irelanders we have two world class mining in Lihir and Simberi gold mine. We have logging operations and oil palm industry operating in the Province. We have run down plantations that can be used for cocoa or copra project that support local people.
On 11 March 2019, Nautilus Minerals Inc. took the next step in its bankruptcy proceedings, seeking court protection from creditors under the Canadian Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). Having conducted a pre-filing on 21 February, that protection was extended to 28 June at the court ‘Comeback Hearing’.
On 21 February 2019, Nautilus Minerals Inc. filed for protection from creditors under the Canadian Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. Whilst claiming this as a victory in their decade-long campaign to stop the Nautilus Solwara 1 Project in the Bismarck Sea, local communities and civil society in Papua New Guinea are taking heed that the fight is not over until all Nautilus licences are cancelled.