We must be wary of undersea mining

Letters, Normal

The National, Tuesday 17th July, 2012

IT is human nature to tell stories and enjoy listening to them. Our stories or folklore are our source of learning. 
Many of our stories were orally passed down over the generations to the present day. 
They are both good and bad, make or break relationships, families, so­cieties or even a nation.
In a village, lived a story teller who was the eye of the community.  He was in sync with nature and could read the signs of times. 
He enjoyed his status, perks and privileges that came with it. 
One day, the story teller went home and alerted his community of the dangers of tsunami. 
He explained to them that a huge wave would come from the east any moment and destroy their entire village. 
He told them to flee to the mountains. Without hesitation, everyone obeyed him and fled.
They waited for days without food but soon realised nothing happened and returned home.
After some time, the story teller again warned them to flee to the mountains or be killed by the tsunami. 
Again the people took heed of his warning. But there was no tsunami and they returned to the village.
One day, the story teller received a warning of an impending tsunami. 
He urged the clan elder to warn the people to flee to higher grounds. 
But the leader no longer trusted him. Instead, he grabbed the story teller by the throat and clobbered him to death.
The warning was ignored and the villagers paid the price. The tsunami came and swamped the entire village.
By the time it receded, only a handful of people survived. The survivors lived on to tell us this story.
Today, we are again facing the same threat.
We have been warned by scientists, non-governmental organisation representatives, environmental activists and villagers to stop Nautilus Minerals and the government from carrying out sea bed mining at Solwara-1 area in the Bismarck Sea.
According to an independent environment impact study by University of Alaska’s Prof Richard Steiner, there are many flaws and dangers in undersea mining. 
Dr Helen Rosenbaum et al’s re­port, “Out of our depth”, also repor­ted numerous other discrepancies related to this mining venture.
In  a paid advertisement in July 2007 signed by Paul Daing, director of Bagabag Community Development Association and Rev Kinim Siloi of the Evangelical Lutheran church, the Bagabag islanders told the government and Nautilus Minerals that the 2,000-plus people of Baga­bag and surrounding outer islands in Madang province were against undersea mining.
They said they were neither consulted nor gave their consent.
“We will not allow this mine to destroy our marine ecosystem which we depend on for our survival and will take appropriate action to protect our way of life, our re­sources, and future generation.
“For 50,000 years, the people of PNG have lived a subsistence lifestyle in harmony with our na­-
tural environment. 
“We have the right to determine our own destiny and at its own pace. 
“Development in PNG should take place at its own pace and not be imposed by multinational corporations who see our resources as profits.
“The PNG government should put the interest and dreams of its people before that of outside interests.”
There are a several story tellers here warning and calling on the go­vernment to stop undersea mining, which is a first in the world, at Solwara-1 in the Bismarck Sea.
Is the government listening to these people? 
Or is the government equally frustrated and angry with the story tellers and, in the process, kills the story tellers and its own people?
Will the government allow un­dersea mining to take place in its waters? 
Will the government take heed of the warning and save our nation or to allow sea bed mining to go ahead?

Wenceslaus Magun
Port Moresby