The Constitutional Law Review Commission (CLRC) has raised questions on seabed mining, in relation to other laws in the country.
CLRC Secretary, Dr. Eric Kwa, said with the passing of the Maritime Zone Delimitation Act, the government now has the challenge to see how that will progress with the issuing of seabed mining licence.
Dr. Kwa said the Maritime Zone Delimitation Act was passed last year but is yet to come into effect.
“In that particular law, they (government) now can declare marine protected areas.” he said.
He questions how this will sit within the government’s pursuit of seabed mining and its exploration licences.
“How does that work with the government also trying to declare an area a marine protected area?” Dr. Kwa asked.
The PNG government has granted the world’s first seabed mining licence to a Canadian company, Nautilus Minerals, and mining is set to begin in 2018.
“Current licence holders will say they have pre-existing rights. The challenge is that we as a government need to deal with this new law while pursuing sea bed mining,” he said.
Another law that Kwa says needs consideration is the Fisheries Act, which covers the fisheries industry in the country. According to the National Fisheries Authority, the potential for this industry is yet to be fully realised.
“We are talking about fisheries within the mining exploration zones and in terms of fishing, particularly tuna fishing, how does it impact on fishing?” Dr. Kwa asked.
PNG’s exclusive economic zone, which is 2.4 km2 in size, is considered the most productive in the region. Tuna alone is a billion kina industry.
Kwa says that currently there is no specific law for seabed mining.
“So we are using the current mining act to regulate seabed mining so obviously there are gaps in the law,” he said.