18 Jun 2010

PNG parliamentarian quits Government over controversial environmental law change

8:35 am on 18 June 2010

A Papua New Guinea MP has resigned from the government coalition in protest at changes to environmental laws, aimed at protecting a controversial Chinese-run nickel mine in Madang province.

Ken Fairweather, whose Sumkar electorate includes a number of islands off the Madang coast, says the plan to dump tailings in Basamuk Bay will cause irreversible damage there.

He says the amendments will prevent landowners challenging approved resource projects and this is undemocratic.

Mr Fairweather says he is not against mining but is opposed to environmental damage that may affect the people in the future.

"The people want to find an alternative system. There are alternative systems, it's just that the Government is being pigheaded about it. doesn't want to look at it. There are other ways even if the Government pays for it and instead of collecting all the royalties we pay it out of the royalties. I don't particularly want the project to stop either, I don't want it to use tailings. I mean the other mines in PNG don't use tailings."

Both the Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, and the minister responsible for the legislation, Benny Allan, have defended the changes, saying they won't undermine landowners' rights.