Monthly Archives: December 2010

Watut landowners file legal claim over Hidden Valley pollution

Landowners living along the Watut river in Papua New Guinea have filed a legal action seeking compensation for pollution caused by heavy metals and sediments from the Hidden Valley gold mine.

MP Sam Basil is leading the landowners fight for proper compensation

The legal papers were filed today by lawyers acting for one hundred ten landowners and their MP, Sam Basil.

The landowners are seeking compensation from the Hidden Valley mine operator, Morobe Mining Joint Venture (MMJV), which is jointly owned by Harmony Gold and Newcrest Mining.

MMJV last week made a joint announcement with Mr Basil that it was setting up an expert technical advisory panel to review the sediment and pollution issues affecting the Watut river.

In return, Mr Basil says, he agreed to delay issuing legal proceedings to see if the issues could be settled co-operatively without involving the courts.

But, in breach of that agreement, Mr Basil says MMJV has been attempting to buy off the potential plaintiffs with single payments of K1,200 compensation.

“I feel completely deceived”, says Mr Basil. “I have tried to negotiate in good-faith with the mining company even though they have been covering up the pollution problem for over a year”

“As a result of the discussions I thought we had established a clear road-map to resolve the pollution issues and I was prepared to trust their word. Instead the miners have gone behind my back and tried to buy-off the landowners”.

“I am disgusted by the two-faced behaviour from MMJV and therefore the legal action has been filed”.

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Papua New Guinea’s Ramu dumping case to be heard from February 8

The much anticipated legal battle over plans to dump waste from the Ramu nickel mine into the sea has been listed for trial from February 8, 2011.

Landowners protest against the marine dumping plans

Local landowners in Madang Province are concerned the proposed waste dumping will cause environmental damage and ruin their traditional subsistence lifestyle. They currently have a court injunction stopping the $1.8 billion Ramu nickel mine from starting operations as it is not allowed to dump into the sea until the court case is resolved.

The issue of whether the dumping will cause environmental harm was to have been determined by the courts in September this year. But that trial was abandoned when the four landowner plaintiff’s decided to withdraw their legal action in circumstances that the judge described as ‘suspicious’. The landowners had been subjected to violence, threats and other intimidation from the government and the mining company.

However, when the first legal case collapsed hundreds of other landowners stepped forward to challenge the waste dumping plans and they quickly secured a new injunction.

The Ramu nickel mine is owned by Chinese state corporation, MCC, and Australian listed company, Highlands Pacific.

MCC and two of its staff are currently awaiting trial on contempt of court charges for harrassing and intimidating the new plaintiffs.

Neither mining company has condemned the threats, violence and intimidation against landowners who oppose their marine dumping plans.

The results of the trial will also be closely watched by Parth based Marengo Mining who also intends to dump the waste from its proposed Yandera mine into the same stretch of sea.

Marine dumping of mine waste is banned in China and would not be permitted in Australia, but is an incredibly cheap way to deal with mine tailings. Leaked documents from the Ramu mine show the marine dumping system, which will involve 5 million tons of waste every year, will cost the mining companies less than US$75,000 a year to operate.

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Deep sea mining facing a storm in Papua New Guinea

The National reports that the deep-sea mine to be developed by Canada’s Nautilus Minerals off the coast of New Ireland and East New Britain is now faced with stiff opposition.

The recently incorporated land group, West-coast Central Seabed Mining Landowners Association (WCCSMLA), has the backing of the Namatanai joint district and budget priority committee (JDBPC) with a funding of K50,000 towards meeting legal cost. A further K20,000 will come from the Central LLG.

Chairman of JDBPC and Namatanai MP Byron Chan who supported the landowners’ plight said the financing of such legal battle was crucial so that the government could be made aware of the reality that any mining agreement must involve landowners.

He argued that currently the mining agreement did not accommodate the landowners’ issues and wanted to see it resolved by putting in place proper laws to safeguard the landowners.

Chan said at present, there were no mining laws that deal with the sea in PNG and wanted the landowners to pursue the court’s interpretation on this.

Recently, the landowner executives of WCCSMLA met with Chan and the media and raised their concerns and announced the legal challenge.

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

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

Similarly, a total of K100,000 had been approved by the Namatanai JDBPC for the Simberi landowners to take the company Allied Gold to court for environment pollution, royalty differences and review of mining lease.

Chan also called on Lihir and Nimamar local level government to be prepared for the Lihir infrastructure development grants and to review current mining benefits as the agreement to increase the output gold next year had been approved.

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

Newcrest and Harmony admit Watut pollution

Under pressure from landowners and campaign groups, Newcrest Mining and Harmony Gold have publicly admitted their Hidden Valley mine has polluted the Watut river in Papua New Guinea.

The admission has been made in a joint press release with local Bulolo MP, Sam Basil, who has been threatening legal action after the miners tried to brush off the problem as just one of ‘higher than expected sedimentation levels’.

The admission coincides with the first day of a major PNG Mining conference in Sydney, Australia, where Newcrest and Harmony had been warned to expect a major public protest.

Details of the acidification of the Watut river by the Hidden Valley mine was first revealed a month ago, Hidden Valley Pollution could be worse than Ok Tedi, and was followed by revelations about the health problems being faced by local villagers along the river.

The miners admission is a stark reminder of the environmental and social problems that major mining operations invariably seem to cause in Papua New Guinea despite the promises of the company’s and their scientific experts.

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Record turnout for PNG mining conference

From ABC News

Record numbers of delegates are expected to attend as Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, opens the 11th PNG Mining and Petroleum Investment conference in Sydney, Australia, on Monday.

With commodity prices high and PNG in the grip of a mining and gas boom, more than 1100 delegates are registered to attend this year’s conference in Sydney.

The three-day event will see Sir Michael joined on the podium by all his key economic and resources ministers, as well as landowners and landowner companies.

Investors will hear updates on projects ranging from the $15 billion ExxonMobil-led PNG liquefied natural gas project and Xstata Copper’s $5.3 billion Frieda River development.

Also to be covered is the Chinese-owned Ramu Nickel mine and well-advanced plans for the world’s first seafloor mining.

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Newcrest keeping Hidden Valley hidden on its website

Newcrest Mining is Australia’s largest gold producer, one of the world’s top 10 gold miners and one of Australia’s 20 largest companies, but you won’t find much information about its Hidden Valley mining operation on its extensive website.

Hidden Valley isn't listed under "Operations"

The Hidden Valley gold mine in Papua New Guinea is jointly owned by Newcrest and Harmony Gold of South Africa.

Although the mine has only been operational for 18 months local landowners already claim the mine is responsible for the destruction of their river systems through toxic acidification.

Perhaps it is these problems that have caused Newcrest to effectively disown the mine on its corporate website?

The Hidden Valley mine isn’t listed by Newcrest under “Our Operations” – despite the fact it has been in production for 18 months.

In contrast Lihir mine in Papua New Guinea which Newcrest acquired just a few months ago, is listed.

Hidden Valley also isn’t listed under “Projects” or “Exploration”.

Also interesting is that if you search in the Newcrest website for ‘Hidden Valley’, although you will find links to 10 documents, only one link works!

Although the Hidden Valley mine is mentioned in some of the downloadable documents on the website, the only reference to Hidden Valley on the actual website itself seems to be an obscure mention as a project in the “development pipeline” on the “Profile” page.

Come on Newcrest, why are you hiding your involvement in the Hidden Valley mine?

The only reference to Hidden Valley on the whole website

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Nautilus: PNG Mining Minister needs “re-education”

Solwara 1 will be the world's first undersea mine

Nautilus Minerals CEO, Steve Rogers, says Mining Minister John Pundari’s appointment has led to a delay in the issuing of a licence for its word first under-sea mining operation in Papua New Guinea, while the Minister is “re-educated” about the project.

Nautilus had been expecting to be issued it’s mining licence at the end of October, but the ceremony was cancelled at the very last minute when the Mining Minister queried why a government stake of 30% in the proposed mine had been deleted from the licence agreement.

Rogers has also said, according to the report in Mining Weekly, that negotiations for the issue of the licence are now “heading in the right direction” and the licence will be issued later this month or in early 2011.

As well as waiting for its mining licence, Nautilus is also hoping to soon announce a project partner for the Solwara 1 under-sea mine.

In the meantime, Rogers has not commented on the threat of litigation from local landowners and New Ireland politicians.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Papua New Guinea

Ramu marine dumping will cost miners almost nothing

The detailed design report for the ‘deep-sea tailings placement system’ for the Ramu nickel mine in Papua New Guinea reveals that the marine waste dumping system will cost just US$8 million to construct and is projected to cost less that US$75,000 a year to maintain and run.

The report cover

These are miniscule sums of money compared with the $1.8 billion cost of the mine and show why the mine owners, Chinese MCC and Australian listed Highlands Pacific, have been so passionately defending their marine waste dumping plans – it is HORRENDOUSLY CHEAP!

The design report was prepared by Pipeline Systems Inc (PSI) and Hay and Company (HayCo).

The report describes the $75,000 a year operating cost as ‘a detailed operating cost estimate’ ‘for pipeline system operations’ and is the ‘annual operating cost for the next twenty years’. It even includes a 10% contingency allowance.

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On-line action targets pollution of the Watut

In response to requests from people living along the Watut river, ACT NOW! has launched a new Email Action asking mining companies Harmony Gold and Newcrest Mining to ‘come clean‘ about the pollution caused by their Hidden Valley mine.

www.actnowpng.org/action

Foreign resource companies operating in Papua New Guinea have a long history of causing environmental destruction and serious social problems.1

Harmony Gold and Newcrest Mining, are the latest to be making headlines – for all the wrong reasons. Their mine has caused the acidification of the Watut river system which has resulted in health problems and food shortages for local people as well as vegetation die-back along the river.2

If this problem were occurring in Australia or South Africa, where these companies are based, then the public outrage and political pressure would ensure an immediate and comprehensive response.

But, in Papua New Guinea foreign companies take advantage of the ineffective monitoring of environmental impacts and weak enforcement to ignore or cover up the problems they cause – which is why we all need to take action – to show them the eyes of the world ARE WATCHING.

www.actnowpng.org/action

Harmony and Newcrest have admitted to some sedimentation problems and have tried paying landowners a few dollars in compensation, but this is simply covering up the much bigger problem of the acidification of the river system.3

Please support the landowners by sending an email to Harmony and Newcrest calling on them to come clean about the true extent of the damage they have caused and to start a program of proper remediation and financial compensation.

www.actnowpng.org/action

References
1. Examples include BHP and the Ok Tedi mine; Rio Tinto and Panguna (Bougainville); Barrick Gold and Porgera; the Tolukuma mine; and Rimbunan Hijau’s logging operations
2. See the Bulolo Live blog and Ramu Mine Watch
3. ABC News: Villagers offered payout

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