Monthly Archives: April 2010

Landowners hit back at Anderson and Gooding

Landowners affected by the Chinese State owned Ramu nickel mine have hit back at criticism of them by Greg Andreson of the PNG Chamber of Mines and John Gooding of Highland’s Pacific with a full page advertisement in PNG’s daily newspaper.

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Over 4,000 landowners sign petition against STD

More than 4,000 indigenous landowners who could see their land and fishing grounds polluted by mine waste from the Chinese State owned Ramu nickel mine have signed a petition against the waste dumping plans.

Madang Governor Sir Arnold Amet has been invited to Bongu village to receive the petition from the people.

On April 14, landowners from many of the Rai coast villages, as well as from the North Coast, Madang town and Karkar Island, gathered at Bongu village to share their experiences and concerns about the deep sea tailings placement system, which would see five million tonnes of tailings from the mine dumped into the Basamuk Bay every year – 100 million tonnes over 20 years.

During the day, hundreds of people lined up to sign the petition, which calls on Sir Arnold to stop the STD system, and force the mine developers China Metallurgical Company (MCC) to find an alternate system of disposing of the tailings.

Eddie Tarsie, one of the representatives and ward three councillor in the Saidor LLG, said: “People are worried about the marine life because that is the source of our food and livelihoods. Our fear is that dumping the mine tailings into the Basamuk Bay will pollute our waters and cause harm to the fish stocks on which our livelihoods depend.”

Mr Tarsie disputes claims by Greg Anderson from the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum  that people were being misinformed about the dangers of the mine, and insists that the only misinformation is coming from the company and the Government, when they say that the STD is safe.

Martin Dampat from Mindere village on Basamuk Bay said: “The Government agencies are not doing their job. They are only relying on the information provided by the company. There has been no proper, independent assessment of the risks and dangers.”

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PNG government employs top international law firm against its own people

The Mineral Resources Authority, a PNG government agency created in 2005, has engaged one of the regions largest law firms, Allens Arthur Robinson, to defeat a case brought by a group of indigenous landowners worried by the potential environmental impacts of the new Ramu nickel mine.

Allens Arthur Robinson employs more than 1,500 lawyers in 14 offices across Australia and the Asia region and boasts that 45 out of the world’s largest 100 companies are clients.

In contrast, indigenous landowners in PNG are some of the poorest in the world with 60% living below the international poverty line and PNG ranking a lowly 148th out of 180 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index. For example indigenous people in PNG suffer from maternal mortality rates which are some of the highest in the world at 773 deaths per 100,000 live births and more than 500 people die unnecessarily every year from maleria.

The MRA says that its vision is “to improve the lifes of Papua New Guinean’s through responsible managment of the nations mineral resources” and its goals include “encouraging the participation of local people” and “ensuring optimal benefits for the people”.

If this vision and goal are to be believed then the MRA should explain why it is using the peoples money to pay the huge costs  of hiring Allens Arthur Robinson to defeat a claim by indigenous landowners who say they have not been consulted on the Ramu nickel mine’s submarine tailings disposal plans which will see 100 tons of mine waste dumped in their seas; have not agreed to the dumping; and do not believe it will not have a negative impact on their environment.

Who is the PNG government trying to protect here? The indigenous people of PNG or the Chinese State owned company that is developing the Ramu mine?

And if the landowners case has no merit as the mining companies claim why is it necessary to waste money PNG tax payers money on an Australian law firm?

Are the MRA and the Somare government just the puppets of the Chinese State?

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Lawyer hits back at Highland Pacific claims

Tiffany Nonggorr, lawyer for the indigenous landowners who have obtained an injunction against construction of the submarine tailings disposal system for the Chinese State owned Ramu nickel mine, has gone to the media to protest about claims made by Highlands Pacific that ‘legally recognised landowners support the Ramu nickel mine’.

Nonggorr says these claims by Highlands Pacific, who own a minority stake in the mine, are “false” and “misleading”.

“These statements are misleading as there are no legally recognised landowners over any of the mine impact area, only disputing claimants to the land. For Highlands Pacific, or anyone else to claim that there are, is a lie,” says the lawyer.

“The truth is that there are 360 landowner clans/groups involved in 60 registered land disputes with the Land Titles Commission over the areas covered by the mining tenement. The disputes started in the Local land Court in 1999, but as there were so many disputes the Government in 2001 suspended the Local Land Court and said it would put in a special land titles commissioner to determine the disputes. However, no SLTC were appointed until 2004 and even then only one was appointed. The commissioner called for everyone to file their disputes and supporting material and the 360 parties involved in the 60 separate disputes were registered with the Land Titles Commission in Madang. As one dispute normally takes months to hear and determine the Special Land Titles Commissioner had a huge job and in fact the size of the task demanded that at least ten commissioners be appointed if the government were serious about resolving the disputes so the genuine landowners could be involved in the development and use of their land. All the landowner clans have the same legal status are “disputing claimants” and have the right to be heard and consulted on issues surrounding the mine.” says Ms Nonggorr.

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Attorney-General doubts mine company assurances on tailings disposal

Papua New Guinea’s Attorney-General and Justice Minister, Dr Allan Marat, has questioned the truthfulness of scientific advice to the Government on the safety of the dumping of mine tailings in the ocean.

The PNG government has, on the advice of foreign experts employed by mining companies, allowed the submarine discharge of mine tailings despite the fact it is banned in many other countries. But Dr Marat says,
“I doubt the truthfulness of the scientific advice by foreign consultants and experts relating to the tailings discharged into the sea.”

Dr Marat is calling on the Government to engage an independent team of scientists or experts in deep sea mining disposal to do research on the issue and establish whether the mining companies are correct that the tailings do not damage the marine environment and marine life.

The PNG government currently allows submarine tailings disposal at the Lihir gold mine, has approved the marine dumping of 100 million tons of mine waste from the controversial Ramu nickel mine and is allowing Nautilus Minierals to do develop the world’s first underwater mine in the Bismarck Sea.

Dr Marat says he has not been involved at all in the development of the Solwara One undersea mining proposal despite the fact it has progressed to an advanced stage. “The developer of Solwara One, Nautilus Minerals Inc, plans to have its stockpiles in my electorate.
As Rabaul MP, I have never been invited by the department of mineral policy and geo-hazards management and the Mineral Resource Authority to all the meetings and discussions relating to the undersea mining project”.

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Landowners meet to protest plans to dump mine waste in the sea

On April 14, over 500 indigenous landowners from three coastal districts in Madang Province met to discuss plans by the Chinese Metallurgical Construction Company (MCC) to dump hundreds of tonnes of mine waste into their pristine seas.

The meeting at Bongu village concluded with the landowners signing a petition to be presented to Madang Governor, Arnold Amet, calling on him to support the people in opposing the mine waste dumping.

The video below captures some of the speakers and the angry mood of the people who do not seem about to give up their fight to preserve their local environment.

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Why is a mining company paying travel costs for the government regulator?

The controversy over the Chinese owned Ramu nickel mine and its plans to dump hundreds of millions of tons of mine waste into the pristine waters of Basumak Bay just gets deeper and deeper.

While the Chinese Metallurgical Construction Company is still reeling from its failure to persuade the National Court to lift an injunction preventing the construction of its submarine tailings dumping system, new evidence has emerged that the mining company has paid the travel costs for the lawyer representing the government department that is meant to be regulating its activities, Laias Paul Kandi, and one of its staff.

The Department of Conservation (DEC) has as its a mission to ensure natural and physical resources are managed to sustain environmental quality and human well-being. Two of DECs primary functions are “environmental impact assessment of major projects including mining and proposals and pollution control”.

DEC is required to monitor, assess and manage all development proposals through the environmental planning legislation. Once approval has been granted and the development proceeds, DEC is then responsible for ensuring that the development’s progress complies with the conditions laid down in the environmental plan. This involves regular inspections and the evaluation of monitoring and survey results to verify compliance.

But how can DEC even pretend to be an independent and effective regulator of the environmental impacts of major resource projects when it allows a foreign mining company to pay for the airfares, accommodation and meals for its lawyer and one of its officers?

But this is exactly what has been happening in the case of the Ramu nickel mine injunctions. And to make matters worse, after a recent hearing in Kimbe, MCC representatives were apparently furious because the DEC lawyer had not said things in court that Wari Iamo, the Secretary for DEC, had told MCC the lawyer would say? What is Wari Iamo, boss of DEC, doing telling a Chinese mining company what DEC lawyers will say and do in Court?

This it seems exposes as a complete sham the government’s supposed role as a regulator of the mining industry and protector of the rights and interests of the people of PNG.

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Ramu not the only new mine facing problems in PNG

The National newspaper in PNG is reporting that proposed seabed mining in the Bismarck Sea is facing some stiff opposition with Nautilus Minerals on a collision course with some leading scientists and oceanographers over it’s Solwara 1 project.
This news comes just days after the National Court confirmed an injunction preventing the construction of a system to dump mine waste from the Chinese owned Ramu nickel mine in the sea.
As in the Ramu mine case, the PNG Government has already given the green-light to Nautilus Minerals plans by approving its environmental impact study (EIS) last September.
However, a conservation biologist Prof Rick Steiner, formerly of the University of Alaska, who was called in to examine the company’s original environmental impact assessment study has expressed concern about the impact of the project.
Interviewed by BBC news yesterday, Prof Steiner is concerned about the dumping of thousands of tonnes of rock on the seabed and the danger of spillages of toxic residue and destruction to vent chimneys and unknown species of marine life.
Volcanic vents spew out hot water and precious metals like copper, gold, silver and zinc. “(At) The site that they mine, they’re going to destroy all these vent chimneys where the sulphide fluids come out.” He added that it could cause the extinction of species that were not even known to science yet. “I think that, from an ethical stand point, is unacceptable,” he said.
Nautilus CEO Steven Rogers said he accepted that the mined area would be damaged, but said he was convinced it could recover. He believes deep-sea mining will be less damaging to the environment than mining on land.

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Where do the Chinese go next in PNG?

The Chinese Metallurgical Construction Corporation (MCC), the company building the Ramu nickel mine in Papua New Guinea, will be seriously considering its options now the National Court has confirmed that an injunction against its plans to dump millions of tons of mine waste in the ocean stays in place.
MCC had been hoping to commission its mine in the next few months – but without a tailings disposal system the mine cannot start production.
So what are the options for the Chinese?
1. Get another judge.
Justice Cannings is the man who granted the injunction to a group of indigenous landowner plaintiffs. He is the man who refused the Chinese miners application to lift the injunction. He is a man of integrity and totally uncorruptable. But some other PNG judges have a history of strange decisions. Should MCC try and get the case before a different judge?
2. Appeal to the Supreme Court
This is the most likely option – but an appeal takes time and the results can not be guaranteed. So while it is likely MCC will be launching an appeal in the next few weeks they will not be content to sit and wait for the outcome.
3. Get the government to change the law
This is the approach that has been favoured by the Malaysian logging industry in PNG. When the courts get in the way, just change the law. And guess what, MCC have employed the logging industrtries favourite Australian barrister, Ian Molloy. Molloy is suspected by the PNG Eco-Forestry Forum to have drafted the Forestry Amendment Act on behalf of Rimbunan Hijau to defeat an injunction against its illegal logging operation in East Awin. But how will the landowners react if the PNG government is seen to be the puppet of the Chinese?
4. Deal with the plaintiff’s lawyer
The indigenous landowners who have secured the injunction have a brilliant lawyer, Tiffany Nonggorr. She is PNGs top environmental lawyers and one of the very few who will take on cases against the corporate oligarchy that feeds the majority of law firms pockets. How far would the landowners get if Tiffany were no longer part of the equation?

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Patriots leader sad and angry at Ramu landowners plight

The founder of the Patriots PNG movement, Ganjiki Wayne, has expressed his sadness and anger at the plight of the indigenous landowners who live around the site of the new Ramu nickel mine in Madang Province, but urged them not to give up in their fight for justice.

The mine is being developed by the Chinese Metallurgical Construction Company (MCC) and has been plagued by disputes with the local landowners over environmental destruction, human rights abuses and racism by the mine company.

Ganjik Wayne spoke out after viewing videos of the landowners plight which have been published on the SoulPNG Youtube site.

“The videos are powerful and moving, I was literally moved to tears at the despair of our people and I got angry at the treatment of the landowners by the company [MCC], but worse still…by the police—our own people! Papua New Guineans! How could they not have any care for their fellow citizens and treat them with respect and dignity?? It blows my mind!”

“I am angry also with the leaders of Madang Province. The clip showing Madang governor’s response was just stupefying! How could he talk about all the environmental care regulations and so on being proper as they were signed by the government and the people, when it is obvious the Chinese don’t care to follow them and are destroying the environment and the land?”

“I am saddened by the despair I see in the eyes of the people, and the words that they uttered. The loss of hope is the last thing I want our people to feel. But it seems generally that they HAVE lost it. One of your interviewees said they had no “FATHER”…that broke me because it demonstrates just how LOST the people are…and how helpless they feel. They profess (rightly so I guess) so much negativity for themselves and the future generation. But one that cut me deep was a fellow who said he tried and tried and couldn’t get anywhere, so he has given up and ‘stap tasol’”

“But please tell the people to NEVER GIVE UP! We cannot allow them to lose hope. That is the one thing they must hold on to, no matter how faint it may be. Hope is the only thing that will keep the fight in them. Something worth fighting for is always costly and takes time and needs patience and endurance. They must understand and know that results WILL come if they keep on persevering”

“The people must unite and fight this evil. We cannot allow this to go on. We cannot be slaves in our own land any longer. I hate what I am seeing! It rocks every Papua New Guinean cell in this body of mine.”

“If there is anything I can do to help this people please let me know. I will show the videos at Patriots meetings to increase the awareness and ignite passion among other PNGeans. These videos are truly gold and must be seen by every PNGean who loves PNG. Those people need our help and we must do what we can for them.”

“THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE!!”

Here is one of the videos Wayne was commenting on:

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