The Chinese Metallurigcal Construction Company, MCC, developer of the controversial Ramu nickel mine in Madang province, went to court yesterday, Friday 26 March, to request the injunction against its plans to dump 100 million tons of mine waste in the pristine Basamuk Bay be lifted.
Local landowners protesting against the planned mine were not intimidated by a heavy police presence
But in an embarrassing climb down, Ian Molloy, an Australian QC who is more used to defending notoriuos Malaysian logging company Rimbunan Hijau, had to admit his Chinese client was not yet ready to proceed with its application.
In front of a court house packed with concerned landowners and with hundreds more local people protesting peacefully outside the court house against the mine construction, Judge David Cannings ruled that it was not appropriate for the case to be moved to another Province for hearing on 6th April (as argued by Ian Molloy) and instead ordered the Chinese mine company to return to court in Madang on April 12.
Plaintiff’s Eddie Tarsie, Sama Melambo and two local council members, expressed their satisfaction with the Court’s decision which represents another major victory for the indigenous people who fear the environmental damage the proposed tailings dumping will cause.
A Telikom PNG report reveals how plans by Chinese Metallurgical Construction company (MCC) to dump millions of tons of mine waste in Basamuk Bay could seriously affect Papua New Guinea’s international communication links.
Telikom PNG owns a submarine fiber optic cable that runs between Sydney and Guam and is PNG’s main link to the outside world. Part of the cable is routed into Madang.
According to its report, Telikom has serious concerns about currents and turbidity caused by the disposal of 100 million tons of waste by MCC.
Telikom says the manner in which the tailings will be dumped could seriously damage the cable system.
“Should a build up of tailings on the upper continental shelf of Basamuk Bay occur, any failure may result in a turbidity current comprising not only of the tailings, but also of naturally occurring sediments…” the report states.
“…Such a turbidity current may be capable of breaking and washing away a section of our cable system which lie some 32 kilometers north [of the tailings discharge point]…”
Telikom PNG has tried to raise its concerns with MCC but until now it has been ignored by the mining giant which was about to begin coral blasting before last weeks court decision granted a temporary injunction
Indigenous landowners described as “ignorant” by lawyers acting for the Chinese Ramu nickel mine have pulled off an enormous victory by securing a temporary court injunction to stop work on the mine’s submarine tailings disposal system.
The Chinese Metalurgival Construction company (MCC) plans to dump 5 million tons of hot tailings into Basamuk Bay in Madang Province every year and was about to start blasting coral reefs to allow the laying of the tailings pipeline.
But local landowners are suing the mine company and the State for gross public and private nuisance and breaches of the Environment Act and two weeks ago they applied for interim injunctions to prevent any further construction work on the tailings disposal system.
On Friday (19th March) the National Court granted temporary injunctions forcing MCC “and their Associates, agents and employees to cease all preparatory work on the Ramu Nickel Mine deep sea tailings placement system that involves directly or indirectly damage or disturbance to the offshore environment – including all coral blasting or popping of dead or live coral and laying of pipes – and shall not carry out directly or indirectly any such work, pending determination of the substantive proceedings.”
A Chinese supervisor was tragically killed in a fatal accident at the Ramu nickel mine site at Kurumbukari yesterday.
The supervisor had instructed a local worker to climb onto a load of pipes that had arrived on a delivery truck to untie the ropes securing the load. When the man sensibly refused to do as he had been instructed, as it was clearly unsafe, his supervisor decided to demonstrate that it was perfectly okay by doing the job himself.
Unfortunately, as the supervisor loosened the ropes the pipes moved and he lost his balance and fell to the ground where he was crushed to death by the pipes as they slipped off the truck.
This unfortunate accident highlights the daily clash of cultures between the Chinese and indigenous Papua New Guineans. For the Chinese health and safety and the life of a peasant worker is as nothing compared to the needs of the State and the greater purpose of the Nation while of course in PNG the life of the individual and his family is everything.
Sadly, more deaths are inevitable as the mine nears its commissioning phase and we must ask the question; if the Chines operators of the mine – the Chinese Metallurical Construction company (MCC) – cannot stop a fire in its kitchen because of shoddy construction, can rip the genitals off a worker because there is no safety equipment available; and if one of their own supervisors can tragically kill themselves doing something patently unsafe; what hope can we have that they will not destroy the Ramu river; that their pipeline will not leak; and, that their submarine tailings disposal will not destroy our marine environment?
Internal emails from the headquarters of the Chinese Metallurgical Construction company reveal that the Chinese mining giant was repeatedly warned several months ago that its diesel powered woks and the plastic fuel pipes whcih caused a devasting fire last week, were dangerous and needed to be replaced.
The kitchen destroyed in the fire
MCC and its Chairwomen, Madam Luo, put the company’s entire staff at risk by ignoring the warnings and were lucky that nobody was killed or injured in the fire which destroyed one kitchen and badly damaged a mess hall.
The first warning for the company came in an email on January 22
“The #2 Wok Cooker and #2 Soup Cooker in the new China Mess are both leaking diesel and require to be repaired as a matter of utmost urgency. Staff have been instructed not to use these pieces of equipment”
The official company response was that this was a serious issue and needed urgent attention
“We view this as a serious risk. One is the obvious risk of fire and the other is contamination of the floor area and food. I ask all concerned to give this your urgent attention”
However these good intentions were not carried through into action as this email of January 28 reveals
“I went on Monday and checked but nothing has been done”
Finally a decision was made to improve safety by removing the plastic fuel pipes and replacing them with steel pipes, as this email shows:
“The contractor workers are getting rid of the PVC pipes supplying fuel and water and they are replacing them with galvanized steel pipes. Maybe they will finish the piping system for fuel and water and THEN attempt to fix the diesel leaking from #2 wok cooker and # 2 soup cooker”
These plastic fuel pipes should have been replaced in January
These post fire photos show that in fact the PVC fuel pipes were NEVER replaced – and they were what caused the fire.
The photo at the top of this blog also shows that Chinese claims that the fire was a “minor incident in a boiler room” [Matthew Yakai, MCC Community Liaison] are completely untrue.