By Lester Seri - Collingwood Bay landowner and Environment Advocate
Our Minister for Mining has made known his support for experimental seabed mining, but he has not given any rational justification for his endorsement of Nautilus Minerals and Solwara 1, especially when there is so much uncertainty and questions being asked about Papua New Guinea being used as a guinea pig.
There are international scientists highlighting likely serious biological / ecological problems that could come about, as there has never been any such seabed mining done before anywhere in the world. Surely, anybody in a responsible position as an elected member of Parliament entrusted with the duty to represent the interest / concerns of his or her electorate and the country, is supposed to, in the midst of citizens concern, take time, assess and evaluate the issues / concerns before taking a decision. Minister Tuke has failed miserably in this regard!
Many people have already raised serious doubts and concerns, but neither the Minister nor the Government have come forward to give an honest and truthful answer to the people. Instead they have made a unilateral decision without taking time to answer or respond to the people's queries. The Minister has taken a dictatorial stand defying the peoples concerns.
The Minister says he is only going by the Government's decision to approve the mining permit but does not give any serious scientific or economic rational for why Solwara 1 has been granted the mining license.
The minister is concerned there have been no new mines been opened recently, and says that he is pursuing the Governments policy to get new mines on stream and operational. This is common government bullshit all over the world.
The question that needs answering (and as citizens we want to know) is, what is the economic rationale and benefits that will accrue to the people and the country now and into the future. I mean how much difference (benefit) in terms of actual money and human development will Solwara 1 effectively contribute to the the country?
We need some indication of the volume and quantity of minerals and value, and the likely benefits that we will be gaining from this mining project. These benefits, whatever they may be, ought to be spelt out, clearly articulated, so we are not only clear but assured of what we are likely to gain.
Just because the Minister or Prime Minister and their members are elected MPs does not necessary mean that they are always right in their judgment, and that we will surely gain as they claim. This uncertainty arises from the government failure in giving its citizens the actual benefits analysis and, breakdown of the financial benefits that will accrue.
As citizens, we also want to know, what likely costs (environmentally and economically) we will have to endure, and how much of this cost can be justified, considering the fact that the government has bought shares (using public funds) in Solwara 1.
We would like to know, in the event of the mine being unsuccessful / unprofitable and if we miss out on benefits, how are we going to recoup our investment? The Minister and the government have a duty and responsibility to explain to its citizens, how it will insure itself from any possible loss.
Our history has shown us over 40 years that despite active government engagement in extractive (mining) industries and despite seeing and witnessing billions of kina in revenue earned by foreign companies, there really is nothing to show in terms of real development and benefit to the citizens and the nation.
All our development indicators are well below the respectable levels enjoyed by much smaller countries in the Pacific with little or no natural resource base in the abundance that we have.
It is this very arrogant and reckless attitude of MPs who have been elected to Parliament as the people representatives, politicians, legislators, and decision makers that has cost this country so dearly and we are all experiencing the hardship today, and no doubt it will be experienced by the future generation.
I cannot fathom the reckless attitude of the Minister, especially in the light of the financial problems that Nautilus Minerals is facing and its executives resigning. Any sane and rational elected leader would not only be cognizant of the problems and doubts raised, but would be applying intelligence, and precautionary principles in evaluating and assessing the pros and cons before taking any decision.
PNG’s increasing financial debt, no medicines, roads falling apart which we are unable to maintain, owing millions of kina to oil and gas landowners, teachers, superannuation funds, schools, and increasing law and order problems are a testament to the recklessness of our politicians, and should warrant them to be conscious and rational and put the interest of our citizens and country first and above the profit interest of foreign companies!
I cannot believe the Minister has made time to meet with the Nautilus executives to hear their side of the story but is not able to meet with citizens to hear our concerns? One can easily draw conclusions of what might likely be happening, whether true or not? Politicians are supposed to allow time to hear the concerns of all parties affected by any of their decisions. This is not the case in the current situation.
Thus, one questions the Minister and whose interest was he was elected to represent?
Can someone drum some sense into the Minister, the Prime Minister and the Government?