By SINCLAIRE SOLOMON
BOUGAINVILLE Copper Ltd will review its mine tailings disposal options when it reopens the Panguna mine, chairman and managing director Peter Taylor said.
In an in-depth interview on Radio Australia, he said it was up to the landowners and the government which method they wanted.
So we will have to look at the available tailings disposal mechanisms.
Technology has moved on, so we’ve now got options we didn’t have before.
But at the end of the day, the landowners and the government are going to have a fairly significant input on that and they’ll have to decide which method they want.
They can’t have the mine without tailings so they have to go together.
Taylor did not say whether one option was the deep sea tailings placement (DSTP) system, one which Ramu nickel project developer, Ramu NiCo Management, wants to use for its Basamuk Bay refinery which a group of landowners have opposed and are fighting to stop through the National Court in Madang.
The Panguna mine closed in 1988 after it became the spark which ignited a 10-year civil war.
Taylor believed it would take at least five years to reopen it.
He added that there was a lot of misinformation about the Jaba River and the so-called environmental damage.
The material that was put into the river is a very finely ground rock so you get this siltation in the river which means we keep putting levy banks up because the river bed rises.
There was never any toxic material put down there.
Quite often I read articles about there being cyanide.
People have to remember gold and copper were never produced at the mine; only a concentrate, so those sorts of chemicals were never used.
On compensation for damage done to the Jaba River,
Taylor said there was a compensation agreement in place between BCL, the landowners and the company directly but it lapsed when mining was suspended.
So there’s a question of what is equitable for compensating for the period between mining being suspended and when it starts again.
Most of the compensation was paid as royalty and paid initially directly to the PNG government which was always a bone of contention, and then paid back to the provincial government, which in turn, paid the landowners only part of that.
This renegotiation we are going to have, we’ll have to look at all of that and look at what sort of regime is appropriate for the future not what happened in the past.
He said that having mining operations suspended for more than 20 years had given them an opportunity to study what happened if nature alone was allowed to take its course.
Taylor said that the engineering had also withstood the test of time, for example the pit had to be drained and whether the drainage tunnel still worked.
There is no water accumulating in the pit.
The faces of the pit are stable. There’s been some minor degradation, but pretty good.
He added that the tailings disposal area was rehabilitating itself, the Jaba River was rehabilitating itself and the waste dumps were still intact, all which he put down to “an excellent engineering job”.