Mining of precious minerals from the seafloor of Manus basin in Papua New Guinea (PNG) has recently been hot on the radar of this blog and on tweeter (for those who follow me @BomaiCruz) since the invitation to the licence granting ceremony in the mining haus was issued and the recent deferral of the project. I am not in PNG at the moment so it is quite hard to follow what is happening there but from latest intel gathered, landowners from the West coast and central New Ireland will be asking PNG’s Supreme Court system to stop any deep sea mining in the area until current mining laws governing sacred fishing grounds are properly interpreted.
It appears mining operations off the coast of New Ireland and East New Britain have been approved by the PNG national government, an act which has caused local and provincial leaders in the area to team up with the West-coast Central Seabed Mining Landowners Association to fight for benefits from the mining operations. Apparently, the MoA signed had three signatories, the state, the developer and provincial governments but did not include landowners (here on referred to as sea owners).
To explain about land ownership in PNG is in itself a separate post and for those of you interested to know more about this issue, you can read more here. I keep telling my friends in the United States that while land ownership is easier to understand because of land marks marking the boundaries of ones land, the sea is a totally different story. Land can be split up and owned by individuals but the sea can not, the sea is common to all who use it but we do have traditional leaders who manage these areas.
The West-coast Central Seabed Mining Landowners Association will be trying to see if PNG’s mining act will have a clause in it to let them claim something from the area to be mined. Spokesman for the group Roboam Paka said the group wanted to be part of the MoA citing that their rights to fish and sacred areas must be protected as their cultures were linked to the seas. This will not be easy as the mining act was set up after the 10 year civil war in Bouganville and it is based on terrestrial mining operations in PNG. Weather there is a clause for seabed mining or not will remain a mystery until I post an update soon.