Supreme Court refuses to lift mine injunction

Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court has refused to  lift an interim injunction that prevents construction of the Ramu nickel mine’s marine waste dumping system, according to project partner, Highlands Pacific.

The decision will further delay the start of production at the project which is owned by the Chinese government through  the China Metallurgical Construction Corporation (MCC) with other Chinese partners including Jinchuan group, Jilin Jien Nickel Industry Co and Jiguan Iron and Steel (Group) Co.

The mine is expected to produce 31,150 tonnes of nickel and 3300t of cobalt per year over a 20-year mine life and production had been expected to start in June. But that plan changed in March when indigenous landowners won an interim injunction preventing further work on the deapsea tailings system which will see 100 million tonnes of mine waste dumped in the sea over the life of the mine.

The Chinese had challenged that injunction, on the basis the claim was not supported by the legally recognised landowners at the minesite, on the inland and coastal pipeline route, or at the process plant site.

But Highland Pacific told the Australian Securities Exchange yesterday [Highlands Pacific announcement] that Ramu NiCo had failed to win the support of the PNG Supreme Court to overturn the lower court injunction, and an environmental regulation passed by the PNG Government in June, affirming the validity of the Ramu project’s environmental permit, appears not to have been gazetted yet.

Highlands Pacific says the project partners will now have to wait for a substantive hearing on the matter to come before the Supreme Court in mid-August to get a ruling on whether work can again begin on the tailings facility.

That hearing, due to begin on August 18, will hear submissions from the project partners and the Mineral Resources Authority of PNG, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Independent State of PNG.

While it isn’t clear how long that hearing will take, Ramu NiCo can’t afford for the legal action to drag out, as the lack of the deapsea tailings facility may have a significant impact on the project if it isn’t finished by the end of the year.

In April Highlands managing director John Gooding told the legal action would become critical to the project timetable if it is not resolved by the end of the year, as deepsea tailings was the only viable solution for Ramu, given the high rainfall and steep terrain in that part of the world.

He said at the time being forced to move to another tailing option would “probably break the project”, which has already cost the partners more than $A1.5 billion to date.



Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Mine construction

7 responses to “Supreme Court refuses to lift mine injunction

  1. madang watcher

    Now HPL knows that MRA will kill Ramu mine. Never before has HPL been worried as now. No more MRA truth remains unpublished. Deep sea tailings placement is protected by law. MRA is not. Environment (Amendment) Act 2010 protects MRA.

  2. PW

    The removal of the injuction being rejected by the Supreme Court because it appears that the Environment Act changes have not been gazetted. The Environment Act changes are retrospective and would have made the injunction null and void.

    But the Enviroment Act changes cannot now be gazetted because they are being challenged in the Supreme Court. So it appears that the whole thing is in grid lock.

    I was told by an insider expat who works for MCC that Madam Lau is getting impatient and if the mine is abandoned, MC will sue the shirt, pants, undies, socks, shoes and arse off PNG. A figure of K5b has been mentioned.

  3. Lizz

    is it truly possible the project will be ‘broken’? after so much investement? somehow I think not. perhaps the tailings could be shipped to China for further refining and disposal.

  4. John Luick

    The partners have spent 1.5 billion so far. Let’s hope they have learned something, so that in future PNG can be developed, and not simply exploited. Unfortunately, given that the same mistakes we have seen over and over – remember Bouganville – seem to have been repeated here.

    Perhaps it is time someone or some people close to the situation set out some guidelines for future mining projects. I will make the first suggestion: that a prospective mining company enter into a long-term contract (say 50 years) from the outset. Not to be in such a rush to grab the minerals and run. There won’t be any need for a small foreign army to maintain security, if the first ten years (before a single road was bulldozed) was spent preparing the local community for the inevitable changes.

  5. madang watcher

    Ignorance of law is no excuse. Madam must be lady with no lawyer advising her? Law on MRA is rocking MCC. Keep up the pressure. NA Government will open up MRA can of worms soon. Temu will be removed and Pala will be reduced to nobody. Then Ramu mine will take on MRA.

  6. Fed up

    as far as i am concerned, people’s livelihoods and respect for the human person ranks far above everything else, including whatever monetary value anyone might wish to quote. this is being upheld by our courts.

    my faith in our justice system has been restored.

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