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The top 10 gold producers in the world


Canadian Mining Journal

Global gold production hit another record just shy of 109 million oz. in 2018, up more than 23 million oz. since the start of the decade.

The ranks of the top producing companies stayed remarkably stable, but last year saw a new company take the top spot – and that’s even before the flurry of mergers in the industry’s top tier.

Long-time leader Barrick Gold produced 4.5 million attributable oz. in 2018, 15% below the previous year, losing its top producer status to Newmont Mining. Newmont mined 165,000 oz. fewer last year but managed to hold output above 5.0 million oz.

Had the mergers been in place during 2018, Newmont Goldcorp’s total would have jumped to 7.4 million oz. while combined Barrick-Randgold would have unearthed 5.8 million oz. Gold production at Newmont and Barrick’s JV in Nevada, inked earlier this year, works out to 4.1 million oz.

Thanks to a surge in gold production at Grasberg in the final years of open pit operations at the Indonesian mine, Freeport edges out Polyus for the No.5 spot. While Grasberg will be pouring much less this year, Polyus is poised to take the No.4 spot from Kinross Gold.

Kinross beat Polyus by just 14,000 oz., but considering that the Canadian company reports gold equivalent ounces, the fast growing Russian company may be already there.

The top tier has a very competitive midfield – with Goldcorp sliding from fifth to eighth, a mere 150,000 oz. covers the middle of the pack.

South Africa’s Harmony Gold increased production by 30% last year to more than 1.4 million oz. and would have made the top 10 for the first time were it not for Grasberg’s excellent year.

In all, 15 gold miners now belong to the 1-million-oz.-plus annual output club with China’s Zijin Mining bringing up the rear.

The top 10 listed, non-state owned gold miners are responsible for nearly 30% of global output.

Here’s the 2018 ranking using data provided by MINING.com’s sister company Mining Intelligence, company reports and public filings compiled by senior analyst Vladimir Basov.

This story first appeared on www.Mining.com.

That Giant Asteroid of Gold Won’t Make Us Richer



Rejoice, people of Earth! News outlets are reporting that NASA is planning to visit an asteroid made of gold and other precious metals! At current prices, the minerals contained in asteroid 16 Psyche are said to be worth $700 quintillion — enough to give everyone on the planet $93 billion. We’re all going to be richer than Jeff Bezos!

OK, now for the bad news: This isn’t going to happen. Yes, 16 Psyche and other asteroids will probably be mined for their metals. But once those metals start hitting the market in large quantities, they’re unlikely to be precious for much longer. As any introductory economics student knows, price is a function of relative scarcity — flood the market with gold, and it will go from being a rarity to being a common decoration. Supply goes up, price goes down.

But in fact, there’s a more fundamental reason why a giant golden asteroid wouldn’t make the world fabulously rich. It’s because wealth mostly doesn’t come from big hunks of metal. It comes from the ability to create things that satisfy human desires.

A steel factory represents real wealth, because you can use it to make parts for cars, buildings and so on. A house does too, because you can live in it or rent it out. The skills and knowledge in your head are also a form of wealth, even though they’re not counted in the official statistics. Even a sandwich is wealth, at least until it goes bad.

But a giant asteroid full of gold only adds a little to real wealth. The metal would have various industrial applications and make nice jewelry and dental fillings, but it wouldn’t spark a new industrial revolution, or dramatically bring down the cost of goods and services, or in general make human life much better or more comfortable. Gold doesn’t command high prices just because it’s rare — plenty of rare things have little to no market value. It’s because it’s rare relative to people’s demand for it. And because a golden asteroid wouldn’t increase the world’s total demand for gold, there’s no way it could create quadrillions of dollars of new real wealth.

Something a bit like a golden asteroid happened once before. In about 1500, Spain conquered South and Central America and discovered large deposits of gold and silver. It then shipped these metals back to Europe and used them to pay for government expenditures (mostly wars). Because gold and silver were used for money at that time, a drop in the value of gold and silver meant a drop in the value of money — in other words, inflation.

Gold no longer is used as money, nor is the value of modern money pegged to the value of gold or any other metal. Thus, the arrival of a giant golden asteroid would probably not cause consumer prices to go up, and would instead simply cause gold prices to crash to almost zero.

So a giant asteroid wouldn’t make us all billionaires. But whatever space-mining company managed to claim the space rock would still probably be able to make a substantial fortune for itself. It would have to follow the playbook of the diamond company De Beers.

Diamonds used to be exceedingly rare, until large deposits were discovered in the 1800s in South Africa. The British businessman and colonial government official Cecil Rhodes consolidated all South African diamond mining under the De Beers company, an effective monopoly which later was controlled by the Oppenheimer family. Over the years, De Beers managed to defend this monopoly against challenges from various upstarts, by hoarding diamonds when prices were low and flooding the market to destroy competitors.

A monopoly allows a company to limit supply to keep prices high. But De Beers needed more than that in order to prevent diamonds from eventually becoming commoditized — and so it turned to marketing, launching one of the most effective advertising campaigns ever with the slogan, “A Diamond Is Forever.” This convinced couples all around the world that diamond engagement rings were an indispensable symbol of marital commitment. That symbolism represents real value.

Owners of a golden asteroid could conceivably try to pull a similar trick, launching advertising campaigns to get people to start using gold for more things — building materials, perhaps, or clothing. But it seems unlikely that they could persuade the world to pay a premium for the sheer volume of gold coming from an asteroid like 16 Psyche — especially if a rival company showed up with another golden space rock.

The impossibility of extracting untold riches from 16 Psyche teaches two important lessons about how wealth really works. First, it shows that a great deal of wealth exists only on paper — when you try to sell your assets, the price goes down. Liquidity — the ability to sell an asset for cash — is an important factor that tends to be forgotten when calculating net worth.

And second, this example shows that real wealth doesn’t actually come from golden hoards. It comes from the productive activities of human beings creating things that other human beings desire. De Beers’ fabulous fortunes ultimately came not from its control over a certain type of dazzling rock, but from its ability to convince the world that this rock could be used to communicate love and devotion.

If you want to get rich, don’t think about how to seize scarce resources. Think about how to use resources in an innovative way to make something people truly want or need.

Redeveloping historic mines in South Korea


Mining Technology

Bluebird Merchant Ventures recently announced the progression of plans to develop the Kochang and Gubong mines in South Korea; two gold ore sites that last operated in the 1970s. Scarlett Evans spoke to Bluebird COO Charles Barclay about the process of reviving operations at these historic mines, and what the future of South Korean mining might look like.The Kochang mine in South Korea, which has not produced gold since the 1970s. Credit: Bluebird Merchant Ventures

The Asian-focused resource development group, in a joint venture with Australian exploration firm Southern Gold, has submitted applications for permits to develop the sites. The start of operations is awaiting feasibility reports, and Bluebird has voiced its confidence that production will begin during the fourth quarter of 2019.

Scarlett Evans (SE): What attracted you to these sites?

Charles Barclay (CB): After the Philippines became a virtual no-go area for mining for quite a few months, we had the opportunity to look at projects elsewhere with a group of professionals who wanted to open old mines. Through information gathered from friends and industry members, we heard South Korea had some mines that would be worth looking at and, based on that, we did a deal with Southern Gold and made an agreement to develop some old mines and fund the projects. The whole synergy between us and Southern Gold is that they wanted us to do the exploration to help them hit targets in South Korea and we selected these two to start the process.

We operate on the basis that  our company, which has been heavily involved in reopening old mines all over the world in sites from South Africa to Fiji to Vietnam, work to improve mines. That’s the basis on which we looked at the projects in South Korea. We needed to look at why a project closed, when it closed, how much it produced at its time of operation – all of these are important factors in determining if we want to take on the mine looking forward.

When you look at the 1940s, 50s and 60s, when gold was valued at around $25 to $30 per ounce, the workers at the time would have only mined within a certain range and below that, they would have left it because it wouldn’t be profitable. Nowadays the equipment available to us, in addition to the degree of recovery we can get from the processing, all makes it far more economic. We can also determine from samples what grade of ore are down there and we can select the grades that will be profitable to us. In general, gold mines are very difficult to kill, so long as dewatering costs are minimal.

SE: Can existing infrastructure be utilised at these sites or will most of it have to be built anew?

CB: You won’t find much existing infrastructure at mines in Korea because they’ve been closed for so long. It in fact took us three weeks just to find Gubong with the plans we were given. There we have a mine that’s been out of operation for 45 years, so the infrastructure we have on the surface is absolutely zero. However, we do have the shafts, the main arteries underground, and all the ore development that was done over its 60 year operational life-span. These are extremely valuable if you’re reopening sites, because it’s far cheaper than if you had to completely redevelop something. In addition, comparative to exploration sites, we don’t have to discover the gold, we already know it’s there because we’ve been looking at what the mine did when it closed.

SE: Are these sites relatively underexplored?

CB: We know that around the Gubong mine, at various levels of altitude, there are four other major pieces of underground mining that are not attached to Gubong itself. So it’s really a goldfield more than a gold mine, and by our estimations there is plenty of potential for more exploration and development outside the mine parameter further down the line.

SE: What are the next steps to getting the mines up and running again?

CB: Thus far we have completed funding for the projects, we created the local companies, and we have applied for a permit to develop for each mine. We believe these are not far off being granted, and once those are through we can start the real process of getting to work. At the moment all we’ve been doing is investigating, sampling, making very minor repair works where necessary – once the permits are through then we can really get on with the job.

The problem with the South Korean mining industry is that very little information was ever kept about the histories of mines – we had to glean a lot of information from people and anecdotes, and we had to really dig for it. Our understanding of South Korea is that it was occupied by the Japanese from 1928 to around 1944/45, and most of the mining was apparently either run by the Japanese or by Korean sympathisers. During World War Two the Japanese gave compensation to gold mine owners to stop mining gold and start helping them to build more base metals such as copper or iron. Then, after the war, the Koreans weren’t interested in gold mining as it had too much stigma attached to it. Aside from Kubong and Gochang, most mines were discontinued after that point. Over recent years the government has been instrumental in upscaling the whole country – which they’ve done to the nth degree- but they now have a first world country without much of a mining industry.

SE: What has the response been like from the South Korean government?

CB: They’ve been very supportive. Almost more important is getting the local community and local authorities behind the projects. The Government of South Korea is trying to rejuvenate their whole mining industry – not just gold – so they are very supportive of our projects moving forwards. The ministry of trade and industry has also been very supportive of us, and the provinces and councils have done their work and are reviewing the applications. Our understanding is they’re good to go, so we wait. But we’re confident.

SE: Do you think South Korea has potential to become a major player in the overall mining industry?

CB: This is my opinion only, but I don’t think it’s ever going to challenge the major markets of China, Australia or even South Africa. However, it can certainly be a significant player in many mining configurations – not just gold.

Tavua landowners receive mineral royalties


Fiji Government

The Fijian Government has paid out approximately $230,000 to the Nasomo Landowners Trust in Tavua as fair share of mineral royalties for gold and silver mined or extracted by Vatukoula Gold Mines Limited (VGML) from the Nasomo Trust land. 

This afternoon, 123 trustees received a fourth payout of $46,400 since the inception of the Fair Share of Mineral Royalty Act in May 2018.

“We are very happy with these payouts because many of us are retirees and there is a large population of over 1000 people in Nasomo,” said trustee, Solomoni Gonevoti.

Each landowner has also contributed towards a community fund to refurbish their hall and kindergarten, and commended the financial empowerment of the royalty payments to improve their village. 

“This payout is aligned to Regulation 5 of the Fair Share of Royalties of the Fair Share of Mineral Royalties Act 2018, which states that 80 percent of mineral royalties be given to landowning units that host mining projects and 20 percent of royalties be retained by the State,” said Manager Mines, Raymond Mohammed.

He noted that the Trust would continue to receive gold and silver royalty payouts as long as VGML remains in operation and continues to extract from areas under land belonging to Nasomo. 

“Therefore the Vatukoula Gold Mines management needs your full support in securing the future of mining in Vatukoula, VGML, as holders of the Vatukoula mining lease, has and continues to make significant capital investment to modernize mining infrastructure, improve underground working conditions, ensure cost-effective power generation and also improve gold recovery in its process.”

Mr Mohammed also thanked the trustees for their collective agreement to contribute to the community development fund for Nasomo, which is made up of six mataqalis.

OceanaGold Provides Update on Philippines Operations


Junior Mining Weekly

Oceanagold Corp. says that reports stating the company has halted operation are untrue and the Didipio mine continues to operate.

The company lodged its application for renewal of its financial or technical assistance agreement with the Philippine government in March, 2018. The company received confirmation on June 20, 2019, from the regulatory authority, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, that the Didipio operation is permitted to continue operations pending the confirmation of the FTAA renewal by the government. The company is committed to operating in accordance with the law and will always comply with its responsibilities under its contract with the Philippine government.

The Didipio mine has delivered significant socio-economic benefits to the barangay of Didipio, neighbouring communities, the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino, and the Philippines. It directly employs 1,500 workers of which approximately 95 per cent are Philippine nationals including over 50 per cent from the local communities and several thousand additional livelihood opportunities/indirect jobs through partnerships with co-operatives and social development organizations.

About Oceanagold Corp.

Oceanagold is a mid-tier, high-margin, multinational gold producer with assets located in the Philippines, New Zealand and the United States. The company’s assets encompass the Didipio gold-copper mine located on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. On the North Island of New Zealand, the company operates the high-grade Waihi gold mine while on the South Island of New Zealand, the company operates the largest gold mine in the country at the Macraes goldfield which is made up of a series of open-pit mines and the Frasers underground mine. In the U.S., the company operates the Haile gold mine, a top-tier, long-life, high-margin asset located in South Carolina.

Grasberg Mine


This mile-wide crater high in the mountains of Indonesia is the largest gold mine in the world. 


Aerial view of the gold and copper mining pit. ROOM THE AGENCY / ALAMY


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Ask questions about this place before you go or share your travel experiences.

The Grasberg Mine is a vast open pit mine in Papua, Indonesia, forming a crater an entire mile wide. For years it has been one of the most productive mines in the world, with massive reserves of gold and copper. Situated high in the rugged Sudirman Mountains near two rare equatorial mountain glaciers, it is also the world’s highest quarry, some 14,000 feet above sea level. 

This massive mine sits at the collision point of two tectonic plates, where millions of years ago hot magma intruded into sedimentary rock layers during the uplift of the local mountains, resulting in the formation of copper- and gold-bearing ore. Since the early 1990s, the Grasberg operation has been busily extracting this ore at a staggering volume. In 2016, the vast mine produced more than 1 billion pounds of copper and 1 million ounces of gold.

Once the precious metal is extracted, it is crushed in the mine’s milling and concentrating complex, which is the largest in the world. The grinding units at the mill can process a daily average of 265,000 tons of ore. The ore is then sent in a slurry along three pipelines to the seaport of Amamapare, over 70 miles away. It is filtered and dried at the port, after which the copper, gold, and silver can be shipped to smelters around the world.

Today, the pit mine has been all but exhausted. But while production has temporarily fallen away, the huge reserves of gold and copper remain—albeit deeper underground. Grasberg is now transitioning to underground block carving, with underground mines replacing the work in the pit.

Unsurprisingly, such a massive mining project has not gone without its share of controversy. To start are the environmental concerns: Each year, the mine dumps tens of millions of tons of waste into the local river system, which is now almost devoid of fish and generally considered unsuitable for aquatic life. Freeport-McMoRan, the U.S. company in charge of the mine, has long insisted that its practices meet industry standards. That, however, is not a position held by environmental groups and local citizens. Tensions have also flared at Grasberg due to the low share of revenue going to local Papuans, and questionable payments made by the mine to the Indonesian security forces that protect it. 

Know Before You Go

Grasberg Mine is located in the village of Tembagapura in the Papua province of Indonesia. It’s about 60 miles north of Timika, and not far from Puncak Jaya, the highest mountain in Papua. Tours of the mine can be arranged.

Lion One drills 91 g/t gold at Tuvatu in Fiji


Junior Mining Network


Lion One Metals Ltd. has released results from the first six diamond drill holes from its 2019 exploration program at its 100-per-cent-owned and fully permitted high-grade Tuvatu gold project in Fiji. Notable results include:

  • TUDDH480: 3.21 metres of 12.98 grams per tonne (g/t) gold:
    • Including 0.38 metre of 91.00 g/t gold;
    • 0.95 metre of 15.79 g/t gold;
    • Including 0.26 metre of 50.20 g/t gold;
  • TUDDH481: 0.85 metre of 24.34 g/t gold:
    • Including 0.35 metre of 57.50 g/t gold;
  • TUDDH484: 19.15 metres of 8.07 g/t gold:
    • Including 8.55 metres of 10.51 g/t gold;
    • 5.25 metres of 12.22 g/t gold.

Please refer to the attached table for a summary of the most significant results.

Drilling has focused on areas in the northern parts of the Tuvatu resource area, targeting extensions of the H and T lodes. These lodes occur along a northwest-trending corridor of intense potassium alteration in which spongey-textured feldspar and coarse biotite have replaced the host monzonite. The porous nature of this alteration allowed later gold-rich fluids to permeate this corridor, producing what has only recently been recognized as a new, potentially important style of mineralization at Tuvatu. The long interval of continuous gold mineralization seen in hole TUDDH484, 19.15 metres of 8.07 g/t gold, is one of the longest intervals of gold mineralization encountered to date at Tuvatu. These promising results indicate more exploration is needed to further test for extensions of this style of mineralization beyond the resource area.

Additional lodes, including notable low-angle SKL lodes, were also encountered in drilling. An intercept across lode SKL3 in hole TUDDH480 encountered 3.21 metres of 12.98 g/t gold, including 0.38 metre of 91.00 g/t gold. SKL lodes appear to serve as linking structures that provided conduits for gold-rich fluids to access high-angle structures during the time of gold deposition. Their importance is increasingly being recognized in the Tuvatu lode system.

Further results from the bottom half of TUDDH484 are awaited. Diamond drilling is continuing.

Lion One recently purchased the drilling assets of Fijian-based company Geodrill, which has provided the company with two diamond drills, one for surface drilling and one for underground. Operating these drills in-house has enabled Lion One to significantly reduce drilling cost, a huge benefit to the company’s ability to implement cost-effective exploration. Lion One plans to continue drilling through 2019, starting initially with near-resource drilling, then testing new targets generated by the company’s current greenfield exploration campaign later in 2019 and 2020.

Navilawa caldera exploration

The company has a commenced its 2019 Navilawa caldera exploration program (please refer to the company’s news release dated April 8, 2019 for further details). Lion One controls the entire Navilawa caldera, a seven-kilometre diameter alkaline gold system of which the company’s Tuvatu high-grade vein deposit is a small part. To better understand the extent and distribution of gold mineralization within the caldera, initial exploration work includes specialized stream sediment sampling using a technique called bulk leach extractable gold (BLEG) over the entire concession area. Navilawa is an ideal place for BLEG sampling, given that gold predominantly occurs as fine grains within small fractures that, when weathered, should yield appreciable fine gold that generates a strong analytic response.

Lion One’s Fijian crew was recently fully trained in BLEG sample collection and field sampling has commenced in the southern half of the caldera. Approximately 80 total sample sites have been planned, covering most of Lion One’s concessions. Sampling is expected to take a couple months and initial results from the southern half of the caldera are expected back in July, at which point the company will present data to the market.

“Our first 2019 drilling has returned strong results,” commented Dr. Quinton Hennigh, technical adviser to Lion One. “The northwest-trending H-T corridor appears to have potential to host a significant new style of gold mineralization at Tuvatu. Further drilling is needed to chase this intriguing mineralization further along strike. In addition to drilling, our BLEG program is well under way. We eagerly await first results from the southern half of the Navilawa caldera. This is an important first step in expanding our understanding of the exploration potential at Tuvatu.”

Qualified person

Stephen Mann, professional geoscientist, is the qualified person pursuant to National Instrument 43-101 responsible for the technical information in this release. Mr. Mann is a certified professional geologist and member of the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, with over 30 years of experience in gold and uranium exploration throughout Australasia. Mr. Mann is not independent as he is managing director of Lion One and a shareholder of the company. Mr. Mann is satisfied that the results are verified based on an inspection of the core, a review of the sampling procedures, the credentials of the professionals completing the work, and is familiar with the style and continuity of mineralization.

Quality assurance and control

The samples are transported by courier in security-sealed bags to the facilities of ALS Chemex in Townsville, Australia, for sample preparation and gold analysis by fire assay and multielement inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Apart from the routine ALS standards and duplicates, Lion One includes regular standards, blanks and duplicates with every batch of samples submitted. All standards are internationally certified. The 2019 exploration program has been performed under the supervision of Mr. Mann, who has prepared, reviewed and approved the technical content of this release.


Drill hole      From        To  Interval  True width             Au      Zone
                  (m)       (m)       (m)         (m)          (g/t)      

TUDDH479           8      10.5       2.5        1.40           4.23        T1     
Including         10      10.5       0.5                      11.35        T1     
TUDDH480       49.43     52.64      3.21        3.00          12.98      SKL3   
Including      51.55     51.93      0.38                      91.00      SKL3   
               55.75      56.7      0.95        0.50          15.79      GRF1   
Including      55.75     56.01      0.26                      50.20      GRF1   
                65.7     66.65      0.95        0.50           3.44      GRF2   
               79.93     81.05      1.12        1.05           3.88      SKL6   
              100.60    101.76      1.16        1.08           6.67      SKL8   
Including     100.60    100.80       0.2                      33.50      SKL8   
TUDDH481       30.00     45.05     15.05        4.10           2.94        H1     
Including      30.00     30.85      0.85                      24.34        H1     
Including      30.00     30.35      0.35                      57.50        H1     
Including      35.50     37.58      2.08                       6.08        H1     
Including      36.53     36.85      0.32                      31.20        H1     
Including      44.20     45.05      0.85                       7.63        H1     
               50.60     58.00       7.4        2.00           3.29     W1H/W  
Including      50.60     51.00       0.4                      26.50     W1H/W  
               70.40     72.35      1.95        0.50           4.26        H2     
Including      72.05     72.35       0.3                      18.65        H2     
TUDDH482        9.00     15.80       6.8        3.40           2.52        H1     
Including      11.50     12.65      1.15                       5.13        H1     
               25.00     29.95      4.95        2.50           1.64        H2     
Including      25.00     25.60       0.6                       5.97        H2     
TUDDH483       72.90     77.70       4.8        2.30           2.11        H2     
Including      75.70     77.70         2                       3.75        H2     
Including      77.35     77.70      0.35                      11.85        H2     
TUDDH484       53.70     54.75      1.05        0.40          37.48      GFR2   
               58.55     77.70     19.15        4.80           8.07        T1     
Including      58.55     67.10      8.55                      10.51        T1     
Including      72.45     77.70      5.25                      12.22        T1     
               83.70     88.17      4.47        1.60           6.37   West HW

About Lion One Metals Ltd.

Lion One’s flagship asset is Tuvatu, its 100-per-cent-owned and fully permitted underground gold project, located on the island of Viti Levu in Fiji. Lion One envisions a low-cost high-grade underground gold mining operation at Tuvatu, coupled with exciting exploration upside inside its tenements in the adjoining Navilawa caldera, an underexplored, yet highly prospective, seven-kilometre-diameter alkaline gold system. Lion One’s chief executive officer, Walter Berukoff, leads an experienced team of explorers and mine builders and has owned or operated over 20 mines in seven countries. As the founder and former CEO of Miramar Mines, Northern Orion and La Mancha Resources, Mr. Berukoff is credited with building over $3-billion of value for shareholders.

Take Gold Profits Now



Gold has had a good run, but it appears to be set up for a decline.This rally has had an effect on sentiment, turning bears into bulls. Judging by the opinion polls, when optimism was this high in the past, gold had a very high probability of being lower one to three months later. The rising bullion price has also affected trading. Hedgers are holding 40% of open interest net short, a condition that has led to losses over the next three months two-thirds of the time.

Price action adds to the evidence. On Friday, price popped through the $1345 resistance intraday but failed to hold the gain, closing at the low of the day, a swing of about $10. In fact, the gold price is at an overhead resistance level as the weekly and the monthly gold price cycles are topping together. This alone makes it quite doubtful that gold will break out to the upside. I add that the U.S. dollar cycle has bottomed.

The elements of a top are developing. Reduce gold holdings.

Chart 1: Gold at Resistance Levels

Gold is up against resistance.

Gold is up against resistance. CYCLES RESEARCH INVESTMENTS LLC

Chart 2: Gold Weekly Cycle

The weekly cycle is cresting.

The weekly cycle is cresting. CYCLES RESEARCH INVESTMENTS LLC

Australian-based company’s PNG mine could pose big environmental risk


The Guardian

A gold and copper mine proposed for the Sepik region in Papua New Guineaby an Australian-based company threatens to destroy the health of a major river system, poison fish stocks and cause violent unrest, a report has found.

The Chinese-owned company, PanAust, says the Frieda river project could have a 45-year life span and generate A$12.45bn in tax, royalties and production levies for the PNG government and landholders.

But the report, from research centre Jubilee Australia and Project Sepik, raises serious environmental and social concerns about the mine.

“The lack of information released by the company about its environmental management plans are continuing to cause uncertainty about whether the company’s environmental management plans will be fit for purpose,” it says.

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“The potential for this project to lead to damaging social conflict and unrest is real and must be taken seriously.”

Papua New Guinea has a chequered mining history, including an environmental disaster when the BHP Ok Tedi copper mine’s tailings dam failed and the decade-long civil war on Bougainville, which was triggered by the Rio Tinto majority-owned Panguna copper mine and cost an estimated 20,000 lives.

The report notes that one of the PanAust project’s biggest challenges will be building a safe storage facility for the mine’s tailings (waste material left over after separating the valuable mineral from the ore) to prevent acid rock drainage.

That occurs when mine waste is exposed to oxygen and produces sulphuric acid, which dissolves heavy metals such as mercury from nearby rocks, which can then leach into rivers.

The report says the size of the ore body, combined with the relatively low grade of copper in the deposit, means the mine will generate substantial tailings.

Locals protest against the proposed mine project at the Sepik river in Papua New Guinea
 Locals protest against the proposed mine project at the Sepik river in Papua New Guinea. Photograph: Project Sepik


“The inaccessibility of the terrain will pose challenges when it comes to finding a large enough site or sites for storage,” it says.

“The extremely high rainfall in the area and the fact that the area is a site of seismic activity add to the risks of a dam collapse. The technical complexity of the feat facing the mining engineers, the extremely large costs involved, and the weather and seismic situation all adds up to a very expensive environmental management problem and one with considerable risks.”

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Locals also have concerns about environmental damage from an increase in the number of large vessels operating on the Freida river.

PanAust promised in April it would shortly release an environmental impact statement to nearby villages, but researchers say it has not done so.

In response to to questions from Guardian Australia, the company said PanAust had not received a copy of the Jubilee report and “as such, the company is not in a position to comment on its contents”.

It did however say that PanAust had submitted its plans and an environmental impact statement to PNG regulators and was working with them on its approval.

The report also accused PanAust of a flawed consultation process with indigenous communities downstream from the mine which has created an “atmosphere of animosity and lack of trust” and resulted in acts of sabotage.

“There are reports of official (mainly police) intimidation of anti-mine activists,” the report says.

Frieda River mine map
 Map showing the location of the proposed Frieda River mine. Photograph: Jubilee Australia

“In 2017 a youth leader from Oum 2 village led a group of young men to attack a tugboat and pontoon with homemade wire sling shots.”Advertisement

In October researchers visited 23 nearby villages, where locals repeatedly raised concerns about river and fish health as a result of increased sedimentation from increased tugboat traffic connected with the project.

The Freida river joins the 1,126km Sepik river, which flows across the provinces of West Sepik and East Sepik provinces.

The local economy is built on the sale of sago (starch from a tropical palm stem), fish, freshwater prawn, eels, turtles and crocodile eggs. Crocodiles are also harvested for their skins and teeth. Locals are worried about the mine affecting their food security, the report says.

In a company announcement in December, PanAust characterised the mine project as a “nation building development”.

It has promised 5,000 jobs in construction and 2,100 in mining, and estimates there may be 30,000 more indirect jobs.

“Host communities, especially in rural areas, will benefit from access to improved transport, telecommunications, health, education and government services that will support a higher quality of life and greater social participation,” the company said.

“More broadly, training and employment of Papua New Guineans will provide the skills and capacity to support the nation’s future development and prosperity.”

The company said a final investment decision would be linked to financing and fiscal terms agreed with the PNG government during the approvals phase.

As the crisis escalates…

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AFP police presence at Bougainville mine raises suspicions


Papua New Guinea Today

The chairman of Bougainville Hardliners Group and former combatant-turned-businessman, James Onartoo, has called on the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) Police Minister to explain what the Australian Federal Police (AFP) were doing at the site of the controversial Panguna mine last Wednesday.

According to Onartoo, members of the communities around the mine site became suspicious when they saw the Australian police taking GPS readings at various points around the mine.

These points included the one where the mining company BCL had considered building an airstrip in the early part of the Bougainville crisis to fly in aircraft supposedly to evacuate expatriate mine workers and their families out of Panguna.

“I think the public is owed an explanation as to what is happening. To the best of my knowledge the AFP were ousted in 2007 on suspicions of spying on the ABG and the people of Bougainville by the former President, late Joseph Kabui,” Onartoo said.

“Their presence at Panguna, which is the site of so much controversy and disagreements plus issues of sensitive nature stemming from proposed reopening by ABG, raises serious questions considering the fact that in the past Australia always supported military intervention by the PNG Defence Force to regain control of the mine.

“If AFP can raid the ABC office in Australia itself, then they are capable of anything, including maybe gathering intelligence on ground for the purpose of regaining control of Panguna and restarting the mine with use of force,” Onartoo said.

Onartoo said that it is a well known fact that Australia’s interest in the mineral deposits at Panguna never declined and Australian advisers to ABG have denounced agriculture, tourism, fisheries and other sustainable industries, claiming that only mining is able to finance Bougainville’s independence.

Several companies which are vying to reopen the Panguna mine, which was shutdown by landowners in 1990, are also of Australian origin.

The AFP party, which comprised three policemen and two civilians – including a doctor – were escorted on their visit to the autonomous region by the Bougainville Service Commander, Francis Tokura and police personnel.

They are also said to have visited the proposed border post sites at Koromira and Kangu Beach.

Onartoo said he had nothing to say about AFP visiting other parts of the Autonomous Region.

Meanwhile, Bougainville deputy police commissioner, Chief Inspector Francis Tokura, says there is nothing suspicious about the presence there of Australia Federal Police last week.

But Tokura says they were there as part of preparations for the international police support team that will be in Bougainville at the time of its referendum on independence in October.

That mission, to be led by New Zealand, will also include police from Fiji, Solomon Islands and Australia.