8 May 2008

Chinese mine entering PNG is drawing criticism

10:19 am on 8 May 2008

A controversial new mine to feed China's insatiable appetite for minerals is dividing Papua New Guinea's Morobe province, which is famous for its sea life and coral reefs.

The mining project, by the State-owned China Metallurgical Construction Corp or MCC, is China's first major foray into PNG's mining sector and preparatory work for the mine is nearing completion.

But as the Chinese prepare to fill up from the Ramu Nickel mine, local opposition is reaching a peak.

The PNG government has been accused of breaking the country's own laws by allowing mining work to go ahead, despite an ongoing dispute among local landowners about who has traditional ownership of the site.

Locals claim they were not consulted about the project and have been left out of royalty deals.

And people working on the mining project say they are underpaid, and the PNG government is pursuing claims that illegal Chinese workers have been brought in to work in sub-standard conditions.

The environment is another concern, as the MCC plans to pump 100 million tonnes of what it calls "neutralised" slurry waste into the Astrolabe Bay.

Both the MCC and the PNG government claim it is safe.