The National, Friday 31st August 2012
By MALUM NALU
NAUTILUS Minerals asserted yesterday that its Solwara 1 project between East New Britain and New Ireland provinces would have minimal impact on the marine environment.
In a comprehensive media briefing at a hotel in Port Moresby, Nautilus chief operating officer Anthony O’Sullivan and PNG country manager Mel Togolo, explained how the underwater mining would take place before taking questions from journalists.
Nautilus has developed a “closed” production system to ensure surface impacts were a minimum.
The mineralisation is disaggregated on the seafloor using robotic equipment, which delivers the material as slurry in seawater to the surface vessel, where the seawater and solids are separated using conventional equipment.
Sullivan, a geologist, said the Solwara 1 project was a ‘Level 3’ activity under the PNG Environment Act 2000 (Section 53), which required that an Environment Impact Statement (EIS) to be submitted to the PNG Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) for their review.
“The Solwara 1 project environmental footprint consists mainly of a single production support vessel, with attendant support vessels, and precision production machinery operating in an area proposed for extraction of approximately 0.11sqkm,” he said.
“There are no directly-affected landowners.
“An extensive multi-stakeholder approach has been used in preparing the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the EIS for the project.
“Workshops were held involving local and international NGOs, PNG government, and local and international scientists to determine the studies that were required to properly evaluate the environment, to identify which groups should conduct these studies, and to estimate project impacts.
“In order to promote transparency and to ensure that leading scientists would be involved with the EIA studies, it was agreed that collaborating scientists would be free to publish the results of these studies, no matter what their findings were.
“This has resulted in more than 36 papers and articles being published in international peer-reviewed journals and/or presented at international conferences.
“On completion of the studies, once again multi-stakeholder workshops were convened to review the findings holistically and to propose mitigation strategies to minimise environmental impact whilst maintaining overall biodiversity and ecosystem health and function.
“All the proposed mitigation strategies were taken on board by Nautilus and incorporated into the EIS and project plans.”
The EIS was submitted to the DEC in September 2009, and public hearings for the EIS were held on November 2009.
“The EIS was then reviewed by the DEC and an independent international consulting group was engaged by the DEC over a six-month period,” O’Sullivan said.
“The EIS was then reviewed by the Environment Council, a group of leading PNG scientists who recommended to the Environment Minister to issue an approval-in-principle of the EIS in August 2009.”