Monthly Archives: September 2010

BREAKING NEWS: Ramu mine agrees new halt on waste dumping

The owners of the Ramu nickel mine in Papua New Guinea, MCC and Highlands Pacific, have agreed to give a legal undertaking to put a new halt on their marine waste dumping plans until a court hearing on 15 October.

An application by Louis Medaing and his clans for another injunction to stop the blasting of coral and the construction of the waste pipeline was listed for hearing tomorrow, 1 October.

But the mine owners have requested an adjournment to allow them more time to prepare and have agreed to give a legal undertaking that they will not blast coral, construct the mine waste disposal system nor discharge anything until the hearing of the injunction application which will be on 15 October.

Any breach of the undertaking would be a contempt of Court.

This means the construction of the marine waste dumping system is once again on hold and the court will decide on 15 October whether to extend that further.

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Ramu mine back in court on Friday to defend waste dumping

Plans by the controversial Ramu nickel mine to dump 100 million tons of mine waste into the ocean will be back before the National Court in Madang on Friday.

Landowners will be asking the court for a fresh injunction to prevent construction of the marine waste dumping pipeline and the blasting of coral along its proposed route.

A similar injunction was granted by the court in March but was lifted last week when the original landowner plaintiffs withdrew their court challenge after legal and physical threats.

A new group of landowners is now looking to take up the fight against the marine waste dumping plans.

The Ramu nickel mine is majority owned by the Chinese State company MCC with Australian firm, Highlands Pacific as a junior partner.

The dumping of mine waste in the sea is prohibited in both China and Australia.

The PNG government granted an environmental permit for the dumping despite advice from its own experts that further research was necessary before it could be decided if it would be safe.

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Watut River communities want answers about Hidden Valley mine pollution

By MALUM NALU

Minister for Environment and Conservation Benny Allan and his secretary Dr Wari Iamo have been asked to explain to mining-affected communities along the Watut River of Morobe province how the environment audit of Hidden Valley Mine will be conducted.

The Union of WatutRiver Communities (UoWRC) said the river people had patiently waited for the minister’s commitment to fufil but nothing had eventuated.

“The UoWRC has also blamed the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA), Department of Mining and the Health Department for ignoring the suffering of the silent majority by allowingthe foreign-owned Harmony Gold and Newcrest Mining to regulate their own action in the Hidden Valley Mining,” said UoWRC president Reuben Mete.

“The UoWRC has now served a 14-day notice starting Friday, Sept 24 to Friday, Oct 8, for theauthorities to respond favorably to their request of having an initial collaborative dialogue as soon as possible or they would refrain from working with the government and will address the issues their own way.”

In a letter to Allan dated Sept 20, 2010, Mete said their disappointments were well-echoed by Harmony chief executive Graham Briggs on Oct 26, 2009, admitting that“higher-than-expected sediment impacts in the Watut River had affected theWatut River communities”.

“The Hidden Valley Gold Mining Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) approved by your department, whichpredicted that sediment load in the Watut River during construction will be of minimum, is now of great concern for the riverine communities who entirely rely on the Watut River,” he said.

“This now leads us to question the credibility of the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC)and the manner in which they have taken in the issuing of the environmental permit to the Hidden Valley Gold Mine for construction and operation.

“The issuing of the environmental permit by the DEC and mining license (ML) 151 by the Departmentof Mining granted in March 2005, eight months before the actual approval of the environmental management plan (EMP) by the DEC in Nov 2005 indicated that the DEC has issued the riverine communities with a ‘death warrant’.”

Mete told Allan that aletter to UoWRC by his department dated Oct 1, 2009, assured the Watut River communities that a state team comprising DEC and MRA would review all their claims as per their petition dated Sept 11, 2009.

He said DEC and MRA said they would advise on ways which the government could address their concerns both currently and into the future “which has now been a completely-misleading assurance to us as to this date, nothing constructive by your department nor the MRA or the so called ‘state team’ have materialised”.

“Also, lack of detailed response provided to the Watut river communities within the available 12-month period time frame, lack of reviews and/or investigation of all of our allegations as per the initial petition last September, reflect how your department and the other relevant government agencies have turned a blind eye on us, the rural people at the bottom in this matter, to amicably address it,”Mete said.

“In addition to this, an environmental audit commission by your department to review the environmental performance of Hidden Valley Mine and investigate those concernsraised on the effects of mine-derived sediment awarded to the Snowy MountainsEngineering Corporation (SMEC) on Watut River systems is now a wonder to us as we are now into six months past the set date of Feb 22, 2010.

“We would therefore appreciate if your department and other relevant government agencies such as the Department of Mining and MRA could hold an initial collaborative dialogue with us, the UoWRC executives, as soon as possible to find a common way to resolve our concerns within 14 days given period.

“A joint attention through dialogue and understanding is needed as the Watut River communities cannot be patient and be cooperative after the given date.”

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Is Highlands Pacific misleading the Australian stock market?

Australian company Highlands Pacific, a minority stakeholder in the Ramu nickel mine in Papua New Guinea, has released what appears to be a very misleading statement to the Australian stock market.

In the statement Highlands Pacific Managing Director John Gooding claims that support for the Ramu nickel mine in local communities “has never been stronger”.

Gooding does not say on what his assertion is based, but his statement is directly contradicted by the three plaintiffs who last week abandoned their court case challenging the mine’s waste dumping system, in circumstances the Judge described as “suspicious”.

The three landowners filed sworn affidavits saying they were withdrawing their court case because of the amount of conflict in local communities over the mining project and fears for their safety.

Gooding may be pleased that intimidation and force has created sufficient fear in the communities for the legal action to be dropped, but to claim support has never been stronger flies in the face of the evidence.

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The true story of the Ramu mine litigation

By Tiffany Nonggorr

IT IS GOOD to see the issues concerning litigation around the Ramu nickel project being debated but  I enter this discussion for the sole purpose of correcting the false information concerning both the existing plaintiffs and the parties who attempted to be joined to the now discontinued proceedings.

Mr ‘Dexter Bland’ uses a false name to defame me often on this website, to which I generally do not respond. But spreading incorrect information about the people I represent is another matter.

He alleges that instead of acceding to clients wishes I went in search of another landowner to be the face of rich international environmental purists.These are complete and utter lies.

The parties seeking to be joined as additional plaintiffs were Mr Louis Medaing and the Tong and Ongeg clans. They approached me at the Madang National Court on 7 September, after Mr Mellambo had pulled out the day before and after it was reported in the newspapers that I had been threatened.

Mr Medaing stated he and his clans wished to join the proceedings and asked me to represent them and gave me many documents to set out his position. I discussed the matter with the plaintiffs and, on 13 September, the existing plaintiffs filed a motion to join Mr Medaing and his clans.

That motion was to be heard on 15 September 2010 but was adjourned to 21 September on the grounds of short service. Last week I wrote to the Provincial Police Commander seeking a police escort for the plaintiffs to come from the Rai Coast to Madang as there had been numerous threats against them.

On Saturday 18 September we sent a boat to collect the plaintiffs, who I was in mobile phone contact with, and who were in hiding in the bush on the Rai Coast due to the numerous threats to force them to stop the proceedings. When the boat neared the coast it was ambushed by two other boats carrying men with guns and knives who then threatened the occupants of the boat and told them they could not get the plaintiffs and they must return to Madang. On their return to Madang, they contacted me and told me what happened and I rang the Provincial Police Commander who provided Task Force Police members to accompany three boats back to the Rai Coast to collect the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs came out of hiding and boarded the boats, and they arrived in Madang on Saturday night at about 7 pm. All this is in affidavit material that was filed in court.

The next day, Sunday 19 September, the plaintiffs attended a meeting, that went from 11 am to 2 pm, with elders from the Minderi area (near Basamuk) who had travelled to Madang to hear the plaintiffs’ position on the court case as they had heard rumours of the threats and did not know whether the plaintiffs would continue or not. The plaintiffs at the meeting told the elders that they were 100% going ahead with the court case which was to start on Tuesday. An affidavit by Terry Kunning, one of the elders present at the meeting, was filed in the court proceedings confirming this.

That was the last we heard from the plaintiffs until Tuesday morning at court, when a fax was sent from Stevens Lawyers in Port Moresby stating that they had instructions to represent the plaintiffs and the plaintiffs wished to discontinue. I had arrived in Madang only on Monday and had previously tried to contact the plaintiffs from Sunday night to Monday evening, but their phones were switched off and, as I was concerned for their safety, I reported them missing to the Provincial Police Commander at 6.20 pm Monday evening.

Apparently in the 36 hours between Sunday afternoon 19 September and Tuesday morning 21 September, someone had flown the three plaintiffs to Moresby, had hired them new lawyers, and they had decided to discontinue.

In their brief affidavits filed later on Tuesday as ordered by the court, they stated that they had been happy with the case, that they did not want DSTP and that they were concerned about the trouble that the case had caused and they were concerned for their safety so they wanted the case to discontinue.

Mr Medaing and his clans’ applications were due to be heard – so the judge adjourned the applications until Wednesday afternoon to be heard, as well as ordering the plaintiffs to appear.

Mr Medaing and the clans’ applications were heard, and on Friday the judge determined, as a result of affidavit material filed by Louis Medaing and intensive cross examination by the miner’s QC, that Mr Medaing was a genuine claimant in nuisance with sufficient standing to sue, but that he would not join Louis Medaing and the clans to the current proceedings because there were no proceedings left as the plaintiffs had discontinued.

His Honour said of course Mr Medaing and the clans could file fresh proceedings, which they did at 9.40 am on Friday morning 24 September, along with a motion for an injunction to prevent the construction of the DSTP system. That motion will be heard on Friday 1 October 2010.

For Mr Bland to state that I go looking for landowner plaintiffs to be puppets for some unnamed rich environmentalist is not only completely false but it is offensive to Mr Medaing and the clans and also racist in the extreme. Mr Bland fails to understand that PNGeans are capable of thinking for themselves and are capable of determining that they want the mine but they do not want their marine environment destroyed, particularly when there are safer land based tailings alternatives.

Yes there was an affidavit from a mine waste expert (not a mine paid for consultant) which set out alternatives and further that no nickel laterite project in any tropical area in the world used riverine or deep dea tailings disposal systems.

PNGeans run many court proceedings with or without lawyers and can hire lawyers if they determine to. Mr Louis Medaing and his clans successfully completed a judicial review proceedings in February this year wherein they had sought to quash the decision of the Minister for Lands to award the title over the land at the refinery when the land was subject to a dispute in the Lands Title Commission.

Mr Medaing conducted the case by himself all the way to the final hearing and then hired a lawyer to do the trial.

Mr Bland owes Mr Louis Medaing and his clans an apology.

Mr Bland chooses to make his false statements under cover of anonymity and takes aim at those that seek to protect their land through proper court processes and those who are not so cowardly to have their true names revealed.

It is one thing to have a point of view under an anonymous name; it is a whole other situation to make false and defamatory statements under the cloak of anonymity.It smacks of bad faith and maliciousness.

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Filed under Corruption, Environmental impact, Human rights, Mine construction, Papua New Guinea

BREAKING NEWS: Judge offers a lifeline to marine waste dumping opponents

Australian based Highlands Pacific and Chinese mine company, MCC, joint owners of the Ramu nickel mine in Papua New Guinea, face a nervous seven days while they wait to see whether another injunction again halts construction of a marine waste dumping system.

The companies celebrations this afternoon when an existing injunction was lifted after landowner withdrew their court case in circumstances the judge described as “suspicious” were tempered when the Court invited a new plaintiff to return next Friday to ask for a new injunction.

The Court has already acknowledged the new plaintiff is a “genuine landowner with legitimate interest in the proceedings” based on cross-examination from the mining companies lawyers.

The original plaintiffs, who were seeking a review of the environmental permit allowing the marine waste dumping, are still opposed to the mines plans but, due to what the judge described as intimidation, threats or ‘paying off’ decided to withdraw their case to end the conflict in their communities and because of fears over their safety.

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Circumstances suspicious says judge

National Court Judge, Justice Cannings, has said the circumstances surrounding the withdrawal of a case challenging the dumping of mine waste into the sea were “suspicious”.

The three plaintiff’s challenging the mine waste dumping plans of the Ramu nickel mine in Madang withdrew their instructions on the eve of the planned trial this week.

The judge said the circumstances were suspicious and people would legitimately wonder if the landowners had been intimidated, threatened or paid off.

The Ramu nickel mine is jointly owned by the Chinese State company, MCC, and Australian company Highlands Pacific.

The marine dumping of mine waste is banned in both China and Australia.

Although they have stopped the legal challenge, the plaintiff’s have not withdrawn their criticism of the marine dumping plans but say they wanted the case to end to stop the conflict in their communities and because they are scared for their safety.

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