Madam Luo Shu, the President of Ramu Nico Management which runs the controversial Chinese Metallurgical Construction company’s (MCC) Ramu mine operation, has blocked internet access to this blog for all MCC staff in Papua New Guinea.
Madam Luo has censored internet access for PNG staff
China is often criticised internationally for its strict media censorship and for blocking access to the internet for its 1.3 billion citizens as well as other human rights abuses.
Clearly Madam Lau intends that MCC operations in Papua New Guinea will be run along similar lines. Perhaps she is forgetting that Papua New Guinea is not a communist dictatorship but a liberal democracy where free speech and human rights are not only respected, they are deeply enshrined in our Constitution.
Mine Watch is now watching to see how MCC’s Papua New Guinean staff react to the censorship and how the company’s media spin doctors (who up to know have refused to comment on stories posted on our Mine Watch blog) will defend Madam Lau’s actions.
Compelling new video footage shows the appalling state of the main Lae-Madang highway where road users were forced to sleep in their vehicles for two nights after recent heavy rains washed mud from the Ramu mine pipeline construction across the road, totally blocking traffic in both directions.
Previous videos posted on this blog have shown the extremely poor quality of the Chinese construction work along the 140km tailings disposal pipeline for the Ramu nickel mine and previous compalints about the lack of compaction, no drainage and absence of retaining walls have now been substantiated by the large landslips caused by heavy rain which is a constant feature of the Madang weather.
The latest videos graphically shows the anger of road users who blame the Chinese mine company and the National government for the terrible condition of the road.
The shoddy workmanship by the Chinese mine company; the lack of government oversight and the governments failure to invest in our road network are all symptoms of the widespread corruption that is crippling our nation.
Rumours have been circulating for the past week that Prime Minister Michael Somare has been given a war chest of K40 million to shore up support for his government from among the nations 109 MPs.
The source of the K40 million has been a mystery – although the whisper on the streets has been that the money has been given by the ‘kongs’ (a common slang word that is used to refer to anyone from SE Asia). But now the Sunday Chronicle has published allegations from unnamed opposition MPs that a ‘large asian mining company’ has provided the funds.
There is only one large asain mining company operating in PNG – the Chinese Metallurgical Construction company which is developing the huge Ramu Nickel mine in Madang province.
So has CMC provided K40 million to the government of Michael Somare to defend itself against a vote of no confidence?
Allegations Somare buys support from MPs are not new
Perhaps we will never know the answer to that question. Though it would seem to make sense for the Chinese given the controversy over their mining operation; the questionable environmental permits for deep sea tailings disposal and coral blasting; the shoddy construction work for its 40km tailings pipeline; and complaints from local people over working condistions, land theft and other human rights abuses.
It is hugely ironic that Prime Minister Somare, who is widely rumoured to be about to try and clean up his governments image by sacking Minister’s Pruaitch and Tienstein, is at the same time accused of accepting a massive slush fund to buy off the support of his fellow MPs.
Disturbing new pictures from Madang show how the Chinese owners of the Ramu Nickel mine are already dumping industrial waste along the shoreline of the picturesque Basamuk Bay.
But this industrial pollution will soon be dwarfed by the dumping of 100 million tons of mine waste into the pristine waters of the Bay.
The Chinese claim the waste is harmless; though this is disputed by Tom Wagner from the University of Papua New Guinea who has described the waste as a ‘toxic’ mix.
What we do know is that many ‘civilised’ countries have banned the dumping of mine waste in the sea. But Wari Iamo, Secretary of the Department of Environment and Conservation and long-term supporter of logging, oil palm and the mining industry, has deemed it okay in Papua New Guinea.
Indigenous people living alongside the new 135km tailings disposal pipeline constructed for the Chinese owned Ramu Nickel mine are already suffering the negative impacts of shoddy construction work and fear far worse is to come once the mine starts operating.
In a new video published on YouTube, the landowners show how the pipeline, which in some areas has been simply laid across the ground and in others stands on already crumbling concrete piles, is already causing erosion and landslides that are destroying bushland and gardens and blocking roads.
The landowners describe how their lives are being ruled by the Chinese who have little respect for them or their way of life. They fear what will happen when the mine is commissioned and hundreds of ton of slurry start flowing down the pipeline to be pumped out into the pristine Astrolobe bay as clearly the pipe has not been constructed to withstand the local weather and heavy rainfalls.
Landowners also point out that in many sections the pipeline has been laid right alongside the road – totally cutting off any space to expand the road in the future and putting the road at direct risk should the pipe be breached for any reason.
With work on the overland pipeline completed, the Chinese are now planning a series of underwater explosions to blast a way through coral reefs for the undersea section of the pipe.
With community outrage over revelations about the true size and value of the Ramu nickel deposit still simmering, figures released by the Lihir gold mine in New Ireland province, Papua New Guinea, which delivered a US$500 million profit in 2009, reveal the extent to which other mining companies are profiting from their extraction operations.
The Lihir gold mine produced a record 853,000 ounces of gold in 2009 – boosting Lihir Group Ltd’s global production to over one million ounces for the first time (LGL also mines gold in Queensland, Australia and in Cote d’Ivoire in Africa, although the Lihir mine accounts for some 75% of total gold production).
The Lihir mine is also one of the lowest cost mines in the world, according to the company. Total cash costs of the Lihir groups mining operations in 2009 were US$397 per ounce.
With the gold selling price averaging at US$1,000 per ounce during 2009, the company figures reveal that the mine was delivering a profit of over US$600 per ounce of gold produced – over US$500 million in total.
A profit of over US$500 million in one year from one mine – yet the company pays no taxes in Papua New Guinea.
Perhaps it is no surprise that PNG is ranked as one of the poorest and least developed nations in the world – despite its enormous natural resources which include oil, gas, copper, timber and tuna as well as gold, silver and nickel – when it allows overseas companies to quite literally steal its gold .
The Ramu Nickel operation which is owned and operated by the Chinese will dwarf the Lihir gold mining operation in its size but all the signs are that it will be an even bigger financial disaster for Papua New Guinea.
Amnesty International has called on the government of Papua New Guinea to investigate police brutality and possible collusion with foreign mining corporations after police officers illegally evicted families living next to the Canadian owned Pogera gold mine.
Amnesty mining and human rights specialist Shanta Martin revealed that Papua New Guinea police had attacked people with sticks and burnt down their homes on land alongside the Porgera mine in Wuangima, which is mostly owned by huge Canadian mining firm Barrick.
“Instead of being able to rely on the police to protect them, these people have been the victims of human rights violations by police who illegally burnt down their houses and destroyed their belongings and gardens,” Ms Martin said.
Another company working with Barrick “supplied accommodation, food and fuel to the police, but this was supposed to be conditional on the police abiding by human rights laws, but instead, PJV and Barrick are publicly defending the police.”
Amnesty has demanded that the Papua New Guinea government investigate the evictions