Regional Director Genereal says not enough data to safely allow Experimental Seabed Mining

Source: PNG Mine Watch

Collecting more information about the marine environment is a “critical need” if people are to make informed decisions about seabed mining, said the Director General of the South Pacific Regional Environment Program


In Papua New Guinea the government has already issued a Mining Lease and Environmental Permit for experimental seabed mining, but that is premature according to the Director General of SPREP, David Sheppard.

Sheppard says there is a critical need for more baseline environmental data to be collected to enable Pacific countries to ensure informed decision making and strengthen the responsible management of their deep sea mineral resources.

Shappard also says mining companies like Canadian company Nautilus Minerals which holds the permit in PNG, need to do more scientific work to justify their mining plans.

“The companies themselves need to allocate money for independent scientific studies of the biodiversity and the environment in the deep sea. There is good understanding of the mineral deposits but we need to have the same level of information of the deep sea ecosystems where they occur".

Sheppard's comments were made during a regional workshop in the Cook Islands in January.

Sheppard also said seabed mining needs to be considered within the wider context of the marine environment and its resources.

“To date much of the discussion has been focussed on project level EIA but this needs to be done within a wider context of strategic plans and assessments such as marine spatial planning, cost benefit analysis and sustainability appraisals. We need to consider deep sea mining as only one of the potential uses of our ocean resources and consider it in an integrated way along other uses such as conservation, fisheries and tourism paying particular attention to accumulative impacts, setting acceptable thresholds, equity of benefits and long term sustainability.”

Sheppard emphasized the need to take a precautionary approach to experimental seabed mining, something the PNG government and its environment agency have manifestly failed to do.

“We need to proceed cautiously in line with the precautionary approach especially since this is an activity that has not been carried out anywhere in the world and ensure that public consultation and participation in decision making is at the core of this process.”