Pacific alliance adopts moratorium on deep sea mining

Tavarua Island, Fiji. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Leaders from the Melanesian Spearhead Group, comprising Fiji, Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and an alliance of pro-independence political parties from the French territory of New Caledonia, have issued a moratorium on deep-sea mining in their jurisdictions.

The group said more research is needed to ensure that mining the seabed is possible without damaging ecosystems and fisheries, Mongabay reported.

The decision is a blow to the Solwara 1 project in Papua New Guinea, once poised to be one of the world’s first deep sea mining projects.

In 2011, Solwara 1 operator Nautilus Minerals was granted the first ever deep sea mining exploration license for the deep sea gold, copper and silver project in the Bismarck Sea.

Facing opposition from local communities, Nautilus tried a financial restructuring, but failed to find any buyers for its assets and officially went bankrupt in 2019.

For now, Solwara 1 can’t go ahead until “technology and studies show that it can be done in an environmentally sensitive manner,” Prime Minister James Marape said on August 28, according to the online news outlet Loop Pacific.

“Papua New Guinea, as a responsible big brother in the region, we had to subscribe to majority views in the Pacific and we place a moratorium on deep-sea mining in the country,” Marape said.