Locals in Papua New Guinea have petitioned the government to stop a seabed mining project along the nation’s coast.
A petition with 24,000 signatures was given to Mining Minister Byron Chan yesterday, stating that residents of Madang, Oro and New Britain provinces do not want the project in PNG’s Bismarck Sea to go ahead.
Canada-based company Nautilus Minerals will mine gold and copper from hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, the first operation of its kind anywhere in the world.
Residents say dead fish have been turning up on beaches and that exploration works have polluted the water, Herald Sun reports.
"What guarantees do we have that the explorations going on are not disturbing our eco-system from the sea floor and up?" New Ireland resident Oigen Schulze said.
"The sediments that are causing the waters to be dusty and murky during the calm weather, can that be from the sea floor? How is it possible for schools of dead fish to be spotted on the shores of New Ireland?
"I as the voice of the communities in New Ireland province request that this project be put to a stop, as we do not really know what we are getting ourselves into."
Chan told concerned residents that the government was still in negotiations over a decision regarding the site.
"I am faced with the issue right now, Prime Minister Peter O'Neill is faced with this issue … we are a responsible government and we are treating this matter responsibly," he said.
"I cannot go into too much about what has been presented. We are in a dispute resolution right now with Nautilus over aspects of the deal that have been presented."
Nautilus has previously drawn criticism from former Greens leader Bob Brown over its seabed mining plans.
After a spike in the number of seabed exploration applications off the Northern Territory coast, the state has banned seabed mining until at least 2015, during which an assessment on the impact of underwater mining will be carried out.