New Ireland governor casts more doubt on PNG seabed mining

3:01 pm on 8 December 2016

The Governor of Papua New Guinea's New Ireland province has cast further doubt on the viability of seabed mining.

Collecting machine.

Collecting machine. Photo: Nautilus Minerals

Sir Julius Chan, who is a former prime minister, says he is in a dilemna over the Solwara 1 mining project planned for the sea in his province.

While he is keen on economic developments, Sir Julius said the sea is the "garden" of his people, yet the impacts of seabed exploration are a set of unknowns.

Although interested in what new technologies can achieve, he questions the veracity of the environmental impact study by project developer Nautilus.

"Maybe they have found some solutions to the environmental protection and I would be far behind if I don't look into the future, if I stop the whole project now then possibly I may miss out, if I allow it to happen it may be disasterous for my people."

The national government has a 15 percent stake in Solwara 1, yet Sir Julius said his provincial government has not taken up an offer to buy in to the project at this stage.

He said the national government has not properly consulted the province about such developments and just bulldozes them through.

This is why, according to Sir Julius, his provincial assembly in September unilaterally declared New Ireland to be an autonomous province of PNG.

The government has yet to formally respond to this.

However, Sir Julius believes PNG needs to take a serious look at modifying the current Westminster-based, centralised system.

"I think we need some form of restructuring and even to the extent of having a constitutional sort of reform to decentralise more powers, and we should form something like federalism in Papua New Guinea."


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