The two principal government witnesses in the legal case that will determine the future of the Ramu nickel mine have tragically died.
Wesley Irima, Manager of Environment and Compliance in the Mineral Resource Authority died on 30 March 2010. This was just a week after he swore an affidavit that revealed the environmental permit for the Chinese State owned Ramu mine only allows the tailings disposal system to be operated if it causes no environmental harm.
Kelly Gawi, Deputy Director in the Department of Conservation, and the Departments only witness in the Ramu case, died on April 18, 2010. He was the public servant in charge of all the Ramu mine’s dealings with DEC. He had, shortly before his death, signed an affidavit that revealed DEC never required an Environmental Impact Assessment to be done on the Ramu mine’s tailings disposal plan, even after it had been advised by its own experts that one was necessary.
Nobody has suggested there was any foul play in the deaths of either man. But it is a fact that the two most senior public servants directly involved in the technical issues surrounding the granting of permission for the Ramu mine to dump 100 million tons of mine waste in the sea are both dead. It is a fact that both men died after landowners issued court proceedings challenging the government permitting process. It is also a fact that both men died within weeks of signing affidavits that revealed interesting new information about that permitting process.
Conspiracy theorists will, no doubt, also remember the tragic death of the head of the Lutheran Church, Dr Wesley Kisagung, in 2008. Dr Kisagung died while spearheading the church’s campaign against the marine tailings disposal plan. Shortly before his death he had called on the Prime Minister, Michael Somare, to publicly respond to an independent scientific report that threw doubt over assertions the tailings dumping plan was safe.