Call for PNG deep sea mining licenses to be cancelled
For more than a decade, New Ireland civil and community groups have opposed the project in the Bismarck Sea over its potential to damage the environment.
Gold and copper deposits on the sea floor enticed Nautilus to form a PNG subsidiary of which the government acquired a 15 percent share.
But with Nautilus now selling its assets to pay debts, the groups want its licenses cancelled so other miners can't continue the project.
With support from the Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights, the groups went to court to seek the disclosure of the licenses and other documents they say the government is constitutionally bound to produce.
But since the court case finished in September, the centre's executive director Peter Bosip says the judge has not issued a decision.
"The reasons for withholding the decision is not known. It's kind of holding people at ransom. So, we need to know whether we lost or we were successful in this instance. We don't know and we are still waiting."
The former chief justice Sir Arnold Amet also wants the licenses cancelled.
Sir Arnold says if released, the documents would show the government is liable for the company's debts and if the government can reacquire or cancel the licenses.
"All of those are going to be packaged and put on the market for any potential bidders. So, our abilities to actually extricate ourselves from those binding licenses and agreements, and to free ourselves from ongoing liabilities may be limited considerably by the current legal entitlements of Nautilus in the region."
The mining minister Johnson Tuke could not be reached for comment.
Mr Bosip says given the company's financial strife and local opposition to deep sea mining, it would be futile for the government to continue to back Nautilus or any other company.
"The government has to think about cancelling this license because apart from economy loss, they also have to realize that the fight to reject deep sea mining in PNG is not over. The communities have mobilized."
Sir Arnold says PNG is not equipped to regulate foreign mining companies, especially those experimenting with deep sea mining.
"Regulations, governance, accountability mechanisms, in a developing country like Papa New Guinea, and if I might say so in the Pacific region, are considerably wanting. We don't have the capacity of professional institutions to hold to account sufficiently, all the mining giants, multinationals of the world that are continuing to exploit our natural resources."
Sir Arnold says other Pacific countries have given rights to Nautilus that could be sold to mining giants ready to exploit the sea floor and islanders who depend on the ocean. https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/programmes/datelinepacific/audio/2018686541/call-for-png-deep-sea-mining-licenses-to-be-cancelled