THE current Mining Act (of 1992) caters for offshore mining projects, according to Department of Mineral Policy and Geohazards Management.
Secretary Harry Kore told The National the legislation catered for projects such as Solwara 1 to be operated by Nautilus Minerals in the waters of New Ireland and East New Britain.
“In order to appreciate the State’s legal right to grant a licence for an offshore mining activity, it is better to understand the regulatory framework,” he said.
Kore said Section 5 (1) of the Mining Act 1992 defined minerals as “minerals existing on, in or below the surface of any land in PNG, including any minerals contained in any water lying on any land in PNG, are the property of the State”.
“Putting aside the issue of ownership which rests with the State, the Act caters for all minerals found onshore and offshore,” he said.
“The Solwara 1 project is carried out within PNG’s archipelagic waters – that is in water lying over land in PNG.
“Furthermore, the minerals which are found in the Seafloor Massive Sulphide in the Solwara 1 Project, principally comprising copper, lead, zinc, gold and silver which are defined as common minerals for purposes of mining, adequately comes under the Section 5 definition.”
Kore said Section 2 (1) of the Mining Act 1992 defined “land” to include:
- The surface and any ground beneath the surface of the land;
- the foreshore, being the area between the mean high water springs level of the sea and the mean low water springs level of the sea;
- the offshore area being the seabed underlying the territorial sea from the mean low water springs level of the sea to such depth as admits of exploration for or mining of minerals; (emphasis mine);
- the bed of any river, stream, estuary, lake or swamp; and,
- Any interest in land.
“The definition under the Mining Act 1992 clearly demonstrates that any mining activity can take place on any land whether it is onshore, in the foreshore or the offshore areas of PNG,” Kore said.
“Even though the government did not specifically have an offshore mining policy in place, nevertheless the existing Mineral Policy of 2004 provided the necessary guidance for all mineral exploration and mine development in PNG.
“Therefore, PNG did have in place the necessary policy and legal framework to enable the State to grant an offshore licence.”