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Proposed dumping of mining waste could threaten tuna breeding grounds

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Nov. 10, 2008) – Papua New Guinea Fisheries Minister Ben Semri is not convinced the proposed mining activities to be undertaken by Nautilus Minerals Limited will not affect the country’s tuna stock.

This is despite the fact that company executives have assured Mr. Semri there is no need for concern.

Nautilus is the first company to commercially explore the ocean floor for gold and copper seafloor sulfide deposits and subject to time permitting is positioning itself to become an emerging producer in 2010.

The company’s main focus is the Solwara 1 project, which is located in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea in the western Pacific Ocean.

Speaking to reporters at the conclusion of the International Deep Sea Tailing Placement conference in Madang last Friday Semri said that of particular concern to him was the Magadus Square-the country’s tuna hub.

This, he said, was situated within the vicinity of the area in which the company was proposing to mine.

"Twenty per cent of the world catch comes from the Western Pacific of which PNG contributes 10 per cent," Semri said. "The last thing that should happen is for this breeding ground to be destroyed."

He said while he acknowledged the important contribution the mining sector had and continued to play to the country’s economy, a balance had to be struck.

On the issue of DSTP, Semri commended the organizers for staging the four-day meeting and also the level of scientific presentations.

He said he hoped it would form the basis for appropriate authorities to come up with the best input for a national policy in the government’s pursuit for the adoption of best practice models in this regard.

With government giving DSTP a nod as the mine waste management option for the Ramu nickel project, Semri said these policies for best practices would be very crucial.

"We have a big fisheries sector which must be protected. Having said that I am not against the mine proceeding," he said.

"However, I would like to appeal to companies intending to mine or dispose their waste into the sea to ensure their activities are environmentally friendly.

"We have lucrative markets in Japan and Europe and we can’t afford to lose these markets. Any detection of lead or any toxic substance in the fish could lead to the collapse of our industry and the chances of reassessing these markets will be very difficult."

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