Sources in the Papua New Guinea government have revealed that it will not only be waste from the Ramu nickel mine that will be discharged into the sea off the coast of Madang but also the waste from foreign mining operations.
The Ramu mine owners, Chinese MCC and Australian listed Highlands Pacific, have an agreement that allows them to import nickel bearing ores from other, overseas mines, for processing at Basamuk. The waste from the processing of this ore from overseas mines will be dumped into the sea through the same pipeline as the Ramu mine tailings.
This helps to explain why the harbour facilities that have been built at Basamuk are so extensive. They will handle not just the export of refined nickel and gold but also the importation of millions of tons of nickel ore from overseas mines.
Many local landowners are already challenging the waste dumping plans of the Ramu nickel mine through the courts, and they currently have an injunction in place stopping any waste dumping until their legal action is heard.
But what they probably don’t know is that their seas stand to be polluted not only by the 5 million tons of waste that the Ramu nickel mine will create every year but by untold millions of tons of further waste from other mine sites which could be anywhere in the world.
In another twist to the story, the Chinese government is currently funding the construction of Papua New Guinea’s first Special Economic Zone in Madang. The zone will allow factories to import and export material duty free and the Basamuk refinery would seem to be a likely beneficiary of SEZ status.
China has already financed the building of SEZs in Africa, a policy backed by the World Bank – which co-incidentally is helping PNG to draft its SEZ laws….
So, not only will the people of Madang have to suffer the consequences of the waste from the Ramu nickel mine AND untold foreign mines being dumped into their seas, it seems the people of PNG could be denied the benefit of any tax revenues because the Basamuk refinery will be declared a tax free Special Economic Zone!