Monthly Archives: November 2010

Waste from foreign mines to be dumped in Papua New Guinea seas

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 Basamuk refinery wharf has been built for the import of ore from foreign mines as well as the export of nickel and gold

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!

4 Comments

Filed under Corruption, Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Highlands Pacific to make a small fortune from Frieda mine – but will Papua New Guinea get a similar return?

Highlands Pacific is expecting to make a small fortune – at least US$ 127 million a year – from its share in the proposed Frieda river mine in Papua New Guinea.

But will the people of PNG get a similar return?

Highlands $127 million a year will be a pure cash profit and will come from just its 16.6% stake in the mine.

Where did these figures come from?

Well, as you can see, they come straight from the horses mouth. These predications were part of a presentation given by John Gooding, Managing Director of Highlands Pacific, earlier this year.

And the actual figure could be even higher as $127 million is based on a copper price of $2.20/lb and gold price of $800/oz.

At prices of $3 and $1000, Highlands cash profit will jump to $187 million a year – and the spot prices for copper and gold are currently about $3.75 and $1350 respectively – no wonder Mr Gooding is smiling these days!

These figures show that if the government insists on a 30% stake in the mine for the people of PNG that could be worth at least $250 million a year – think how many teachers or nurses could be paid with $250 million a year?

But will the government insist on a 30% stake, or will it sell out our interests just as it did with the Ramu nickel mine?

1 Comment

Filed under Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Villagers give notice on deep sea mining

By ISAAC NICHOLAS

WEST coast central New Ireland landowners will ask the Supreme Court to stop any deep-sea mining in the area until the current mining laws governing sacred fishing grounds are properly interpreted.

Nautilus Minerals had obtained national government approval to begin deep sea mining off the coast of New Ireland and East New Britain.

Namatanai MP Byron Chan and the provincial government have joined forces with the West-coast Central Seabed Mining Landowners Association to fight for benefits from the mining operations.

Landowner representatives including chairman Benson ToMarum, secretary Eugene Pasmet and technical adviser Roboam Paka and Chan held a joint media conference in Port Moresby last Friday to announce the legal challenge.

“We will make an application to the Supreme Court in Kokopo for an interpretation of the Mining Act,” Paka said.

He said the current memorandum of agreement has three signatories, which is the state, the developer and the two provincial governments of East New Britain and New Ireland.

“We have engaged lawyers to go to court to seek interpretation whether we can claim ownership of the sea.”

Paka said villagers, who used the ocean area to be mined for food,  had not been consulted, simply because the Mining Act was not clear on the sea aspect.

“We want the seaowners to be part of the MoA and pre-project financing be enjoyed by the locals.”

Paka said the rights of landowners to fish and visit their sacred sites out at sea must be protected.

“The state has resolved that we are not owners of the sea.The state seems to think that ownership ends at the waterfront,” he said.

Paka said the people had a long association with the sea around the St George Channel through fishing and sacred shark-calling activities.

“Our cultures are linked to the sea and we want that to be addressed in the MoA.”

Chan said four main issues were equity, mining facilities and operations, seaowners being part of the MoA and pre-project financing.

“We are taking the matter to court for legitimacy of the current Mining Act to ensure the rights of our people are protected,” he added.

Leave a comment

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

Is Ken MacDonald telling porky pies about the Ramu mine?

Ken MacDonald, Chairman of Highlands Pacific, which holds a stake in the controversial Ramu nickel mine in Papua New Guinea, has been telling what could be porky pies (lies) about the mines marine waste dumping plans.

Ken MacDonald

The mine waste will “not be toxic” he says in a radio interview.

Wow!

That would be truly amazing!

Ramu nickel could be the first mine of its type anywhere in the world not to have poisonous chemicals in its tailings?

But what about the arsenic, ammonia and heavy metals, Mr MacDonald?

And surely, just the 5 million tons per year, of what you describe as “essentially mud”, will be pretty toxic for what ever poor organisms it lands on top of?

MacDonald also claims the majority of landowners in Madang support the mine and its marine waste dumping plans

Really Mr MacDonald?

How do you know that?

Has Highlands Pacific identified who the genuine landowners are? No

Has Highlands Pacific ensured their free informed prior consent to the mine and its marine waste dumping? No!

Mr MacDonald should stop treating us like the dumb-asses he clearly thinks we are!

Listen to Mr MacDonald and his claims

3 Comments

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

Plea for Sydney residents to mobilize against Hidden Valley mine damage

HELLO,

I am Reuben, the Interim President of Union of Watut River Communities. An organization that is representing the people along the Watut River where the Hidden Valley Mine is operating. Morobe Mining Joint Venture (MMJV), the company operating the mine, is owned 50% by Newcrest Mining(Australian based) and 50% by Harmony Mining (South African based).

There is already a huge environmental damage to the river system. Mine run-offs and overflows are allowed directly into the Watut River system. The River was most importantly known for its white water rafting and is regarded one of the most fast flowing river within the Southern Hemisphere. Tourist all over the world have been visiting the river.

All these potentials are now gone!

People (children, men, women and old people) are getting rashes due to the pH and alkalinity variations from the river. Food crops are not giving good yields, the alluvial miners are not getting much as they used to before. The silts are covering the once fertile top soil for gardening and the river banks are overflowing and flooding gardens. The river itself is very dirty/murky and filled with contaminated sediments daily….

I am very keen to at least raise this awareness when the 2010 Mining Conference is held down in Sydney between December 6 – 8, 2010. Due to financial difficulty, I cannot make it.

Is there any way we can get all the Papua New Guineans living and working within the vicinity of Sydney to mobilise and put-up some bill boards or placards about the “unsafe, unethical, immoral acts”, that are being caused by those mining giants???

Just a peaceful protest because the PNG Prime Minister will also be there. If more information is needed, I will try to supply.

Have a read and let me know your thoughts. Your help in anyway would greatly be appreciated.

Best Regards,
Mete

4 Comments

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Still no trial date for Ramu waste dumping case

The National court has still not set a trial date for the dispute over plans for the Ramu nickel mine to dump millions of tons of waste into the sea.

The date was to have been settled yesterday, Friday, in a special court hearing, but lawyers for the State of Papua New Guinea suggested that before any trial happens there should be an attempt to settle the matter through arbitration.

This did not seem to please the mine owners, Chinese MCC and Highlands Pacific, who cannot begin mine operations until the legal challenge by local landowners is settled as there is currently a court injunction stopping any waste dumping. Lawyers for the companies wanted the court to set a trial date for January.

Meanwhile the plaintiffs, all landowners who fear the environmental damage from the waste dumping, pointed out to the court that the procedural steps that need to be completed before a trial can be fixed have not yet been completed. In particular the State has yet to file its defence to the plaiantiff’s claim.

With no agreement between the parties, the court decided to adjourn its deliberations for another week and has invited the State to file an application for Alternative Dispute Resolution and the mine owners to file an application for directions for an expedited hearing.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

ACT NOW! hits the streets of Brisbane to protest against waste dumping

From ACT NOW!

ACT NOW! community members took to the streets in Brisbane today to deliver more than 500 protest letters to the directors of mining company Highlands Pacific.

ACT NOW! outside the office of Highlands Pacific in Brisbane

Highlands Pacific is a part-owner of the Ramu nickel mine in Papua New Guinea that plans to dump millions of tons of toxic mine waste into the sea – a practice that would not be permitted in Australia.

ACT NOW! members are also concerned that Highlands Pacific has not condemned human rights abuses against landowners concerned about the mines impacts.

A group of landowners currently have a court injunction stopping the Ramu dumping going ahead but the plaintiffs have been subjected to violence, threats and other intimidation.

Highlands Pacific is not the only mining company on the radar for ACT NOW!

Newcrest Mining is facing a legal suit over the pollution of the Watut river by waste from its Hidden Valley gold mine. The pollution has caused vegetation die-back and flooding and has destroyed landowners gardens. While Newcrest has admitted sedimentation problems in the river it has not commented on allegations of toxic acidification and consequent health problems for local people.

Meanwhile, Marengo Mining from Perth is also planning to dump the waste from its Yandera copper and gold mine into the sea. This is also provoking concern, not least because the Yandera mine is only a few kilometres from the Ramu mine and will dump its waste into the same area of sea.

Marengo is also under fire because it has signed a partnership agreement with Chinese Nonferrous Metal Industries which has a very poor environmental and human rights record in Africa.

CNF is also the pioneer of Chinese funded Special Economic Zones in Africa and the Chinese are currently funding a similar project in PNG. Special Economic Zones are best known for their sweat-shop style factories, environmental problems and workers abuses.

1 Comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

ACT NOW! protest heads to Brisbane

Papua New Guinea based campaign organisation, ACT NOW! has announced it is taking its campaign for better corporate responsibility to the streets of Brisbane in Australia.

ACT NOW! has been conducting an on-line petition targeting Highlands Pacific over its role in the Ramu nickel mine and its plans to dump millions of tons of mine waste into the sea.

The petition has generated over 500 emails to the Board of Highlands Pacific and tomorrow, Thursday, ACT NOW! says volunteers will take to the streets with a large banner and deliver hard copies of the petition to Highlands Pacific’s riverfront offices.

ACT NOW! says Australian listed mining companies operating in PNG have a long history of causing severe environmental problems and the protest in Brisbane “is the first of a series planned in Australia”.

2 Comments

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Zambian miners see little reward from Marengo’s new partner

Marengo Mining, based in Perth, have signed a deal with Chinese mining company Nonferrous Metals (NFC) to build and operate the Yandera gold and copper mine in Papua New Guinea. Like the nearby Ramu nickel mine, also owned by a Chinese firm in partnership with an Australian mining company, Yandera plans to dump its waste into the sea – a practice that is unlawful in China and would not be permitted in Australia.

The article below, from the BBC, explores NFC’s track record in Africa.

From the BBC

Thomas Mumba loved to sing in the church choir and dreamt of recording a CD of gospel music.

At 23 he did not drink or smoke. He preferred to spend his time worshipping his Lord.

His mother Justina hoped his future would be far from the mines that pockmark the landscape of Zambia’s Copperbelt.

“I wanted him to become a pastor, or a reverend,” she said, “because of his good morals. People loved him very much.”

Instead, Thomas lies buried near the gates of Chambishi mine, which is run by NFC Africa Mining, a Chinese state enterprise.

He was killed two years ago, together with 45 workmates, in a blast at a subsidiary mine.

They came to make profit, not to look after the lives of the people who were giving them profit
Justina Mumba

African nations are used to being plundered – the West perfected the art. Now the new scramble for Africa’s resources is coming from the east.

With a voracious economy to feed, China is devouring raw materials – oil, copper, cobalt and zinc.

And it is wooing governments, including those who trample on human rights, with soft loans, aid and arms sales.

For all its taking out of Africa, it is putting a lot back in – creating jobs, making investments, building roads, railways, and hospitals.

Beijing maintains it is a “win-win” situation.

Many Zambians have their doubts, especially those in the Copperbelt.

‘No-one listened’

Thomas’s grave and those of his work mates form a semi-circle on a patch of neglected ground.

Some Zambian workers say they fear their Chinese bosses

After the explosion, Justina did not have a body to bury.

“We didn’t identify even a finger or a toe,” she says.

“He was in pieces.”

She says that before his death, Thomas and other employees were concerned by safety standards at the factory, but no-one listened.

“He was saying I’m afraid, because anything can happen,” she adds.

Kneeling at his grave, Justina mourns for a devoted son who was also the family bread-winner.

She claims the Chinese care more about money than safety.

“They came to make profit, not to look after the lives of the people who were giving them profit,” she says.

It is a short walk from the graveyard to the entrance to the mine.

Inside, the management gave us a guided tour above ground, although we were only allowed a glimpse below.

‘Cultural gap’

They are keen to show the positive side of Chinese investment.

Before they came, the mine was a monument to decay.

Now it employs 2,000 people, and crucially for Beijing, it makes a profit.

But in spite of soaring copper prices, some miners are paid only $100 a month.

They complain of exploitation – “slave labour” in the words of one.

The mine’s deputy chief executive, Xu Ruiyong, speaks of “local friends” and says there is a cultural gap.

“Maybe we think it’s normal, but other people think it’s too harsh,” he adds.

Mr Xu says part of China’s purpose in opening the mine was to help the local economy, but there is little sign of improvement in the township of Chambishi.

‘Cheap labour’

In his cramped two-roomed home, one young miner told me about his struggle to survive on what he earns at the mine.

Union leaders say Chinese mines have the worst safety records

His children are not going to school, because he cannot afford to send them.

He has planted a tiny vegetable garden to try to feed his family.

“The Chinese believe in cheap labour,” he said. “They are just here to take our copper.”

And he said workers could not open their mouths to any Chinese boss for fear of losing their jobs.

“At the moment, I am desperate,” he said. “As soon as I find employment somewhere I will leave the Chinese.”

Hands-off approach

The Chinese are not the only foreigners exploiting Zambia’s raw materials, but they are the ones who arouse the greatest fear and hostility – in spite of their increasing stake here, or perhaps because of it.

Beijing is about to pour another $300m into mining and manufacturing here, according to a recent announcement by the Zambian government.

That is on top of $900m which China has already earmarked for the Copperbelt.

Many jobs are promised, but the Mineworkers’ Union of Zambia is concerned about what kind of jobs they will be.

The union’s president, Rayford Mbulu, says the Chinese still have the worst safety record and pay the lowest wages.

But for poor African governments, China can be an attractive partner.

It does not demand reform, and takes a hands-off approach – that makes a change from institutions like the World Bank.

‘No strings attached’

And it is a selling point for Zambia’s Finance Minister Ng’andu Magande, who welcomes deals with no strings attached.

“I think that is where perhaps Chinese investment, at the moment, is more attractive for us,” he says.

“So far in Zambia, I haven’t seen the strings. If they are there, they are nylon ones. I don’t see them. They are very thin.”

But African economies are already suffering the downside of Chinese investment.

It comes in the form of cheap Chinese imports and Chinese labour.

And there are political concerns, like Beijing’s cosy relationship with the governments of Zimbabwe and Sudan.

Before leaving the Copperbelt we saw illegal miners in action – young boys in flimsy shoes, risking their lives, hoping to feed China’s endless hunger.

Africa’s people tend not to benefit from its riches.

The fear is that Beijing is just here to take what it can get.

1 Comment

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

Marengo’s new Chinese partner has very dubious credentials

Australian based  Marengo Mining has announced a deal with the Chinese Nonferrous Metals Co (NFC) for the financing, construction and operation of the Yandera copper and gold mine in Papua New Guinea.

Coffins from the NFC accident in which 46 miners died

NFC has a very poor reputation in Africa where its Chamishi mine and other operations have experienced serious human rights and safety issues. In 2005, 46 workers died in an accident at a NFC plant and in 2007 five miners were shot and killed in violent protests over working conditions.

SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 2007: The poor conditions in the mine were highlighted in a Christian Aid report. It said that while other foreign mine operators, including Swiss and Indian firms, were often slipshod too, they provided at least some social benefits, sponsoring anti-malaria programmes and football teams. The report also described how two miners were shot and injured during [the] wages protest outside the Chinese managers’ compound last year, either by Chinese-hired security guards or by Zambian police. The shooting, it said, confirmed in the popular imagination the idea that Chinese bosses were uniquely brutal and exploitative, and that the Zambian state’s relationship to them was too close.

Zambian miners protest against NFC

In June 2009 a decision by the Zambian government to allow NFC to take-over the running of a second copper mine at Luanshya, attracted fierce criticism. The opposition party questioned the decision because of NFCs bad track record on social responsibility and mine safety and its failure to maintain mine facilities.

Chishimba Kambwili, the Luanshya member of Parliamen , argued that the sale of the mine to NFCA would spell the end for Luanshya:

It’s not that we’re merely against the Chinese. We’re just protecting the welfare of people who have suffered at the mercy of investors who are only interested in enriching themselves at the expense of the workers

Zambia has seen a backlash against Chinese influence in its economy, largely fuelled by workplace accidents; concerns over poor working conditions and low pay at Chinese-run mines.

5 Comments

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