Three months ago, following the court injunction that stops the Chinese building a marine waste dumping system for their Ramu nickel mine, we asked the question where do the Chinese go next?
Of the four options we laid out then (moving the case, appealing, changing the law and removing the Plaintiff’s lawyer) the Chinese have tried three – and failed each time.
So how can we expect them to fight back now the Supreme Court has confirmed the injunctions stay in place?
1. They are going to threaten to pack up and go home
We can expect to hear plenty in the media about how much the injunction is costing the Chinese. About how they are running out of money. And about how they will soon have to pack up and go home. This is all complete nonsense. The Chinese have no limit to the funds they have to invest in the Ramu mine and they know that if they have to, they can safely treat and dispose of the mine waste on land. They would rather avoid the cost and the effort of course, but at the end of the day they will stay whatever happens in the court cases.
2. They will pressure other companies to say PNG is no longer a ‘safe investment option’
Yes, the Chinese will roll out the Chamber of Mines and other friendly puppets to say how much this is affecting the business climate and investment prospects. But again, we know that this is just more bullshit. PNG is crawling with mine exploration companies and nobody else is seriously suggesting they are going to shut up shop just because the Chinese are having a hard time. Also remember, mining and oil companies operate in plenty of countries with tight environmental and social protections – hell the Chinese even said Rudd’s proposed 40% super tax in Australia was okay and wouldn’t affect them investing in Australia
3. They will play the victim
Lets all get ready for the sob story. We are the victims here the Chinese will say. The PNG government invited us in. We have complied with all the laws. We have all the permits. But now we are losing millions of $ every day. Well sorry guys. You KNEW the marine dumping was a least cost worst environmental outcome option. You KNEW marine dumping is banned by your own government in China. You KNEW the landowners had not even been identified let alone consulted. You KNEW all this but you went ahead regardless. You are the guilty one here NOT the victim.
4. They will continue to pressure the PNG and Madang govts to buy off the landowners
We have already seen Prime Minister Somare being sent by the Chinese to offer the landowners K40 million to drop their opposition to the marine dumping. Expect to see plenty more of this over the coming weeks and also Governor Amet being pushed to play a bigger and bigger role as a puppet for the Chinese.
5. They will get their spiv landowners to start bullying and harassing the plaintiffs
The Chinese have already tried using their little group of landowner thugs to intimidate the court plaintiff’s – but thus far they have usually been too drunk to inflict any real damage. But now will the Chinese start trying to get them better organised? Might they even resort to arming them and encouraging some more full blooded tribal fighting? Or even try using their own security forces in attacks on the landowners? We certainly hope not.
If nothing else, it is certainly going to continue to be a very interesting time in Madang Province over the next few weeks and months!