Continuing disquiet over mine tailings at PNG nickel mine
Continuing public disquiet over mine tailings at the Ramu nickel mine in Papua New Guinea.
Public concern continues to fester in Papua New Guinea's Madang province over the deep sea tailings placement system of the huge Ramu nickel mine.
The US$1.5 billion mine - operated by the Chinese state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corporation - has been dumping tailings into the Bismarck Sea for a year now after the national court rejected a lengthy legal challenge against it by landowners.
However, as Johnny Blades reports, the fight to stop the waste being dumped into the sea appears to be gaining fresh momentum.
The Madang Governor, Jim Kas, announced last week that the Ramu nickel mine's tailings disposal system must be stopped. His announcement followed a report from the Public Accounts Committee, which found that all laws and contracts approved by Madang's provincial government since 1994 were illegally administered and therefore null and void. This would cover approval of the Ramu mine disposal system, which - according to Rosa Koian of the NGO Bismarck Ramu Group - remains deeply unpopular.
ROSA KOIAN: People are reporting already colour changes in their reefs and sea floor. They're talking about a carpet of red mud in their sea floor. Those are some of the changes that are happening already. And we've just had a report from the French Museum of Natural History. They've done some dives here last year. They've released an interim report that says near the canyon there's already an impact of tailings.
Community leaders from across Madang gathered this week to voice their concerns on the deep sea tailings system at a public forum organised by the Bismarck Solomon Sea Indigenous People's Council. The Council's chairman, John Simoi, says the event comes as PNG's Law Reform Commission seeks a provincial position on laws relating to mine tailings disposal.
JOHN SIMOI: What we have is we have the environmental law and we also have the mining safety law. Those are the only two laws that the government used to give the environmental permit to the mining companies to dump their waste into the sea. And there is no law whatsoever in this country regarding the deep sea tailing disposal system.
But Greg Anderson from PNG's Chamber of Petroleum and Mines says the environmental impact of the Ramu operation was considered thoroughly under existing legislation.
GREG ANDERSON: What some people are saying is that there's not detailed laws in the sense that there's a separate act or a separate part of the act. But it all comes under environmental appraisal that is done with every mining project. There's not a separate act, separate part of the act or separate legislation that deals with mine waste or mine water or anything. It's all part of the overall consideration. And a detailed part of it involves environmental assessment.
However, Rosa Koian says Madang landowners will look to start a new legal battle against the China Metallurgical Group's tailings system. She also says the Madang Governor needs to back up his words with action.
ROSA KOIAN: Like him giving the direction to stop the DSTP, I said, 'You're the governor. You gave the direction. Stop it. Make it happen'.
Meanwhile, a team of government agencies led by the Department of Mineral Policy is touring the country to consult on proposed changes to mining laws. Deep sea tailings disposal, which is not legal in China, is expected to be discussed.
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