Malum Nalu | The National aka The Loggers Times
THE Fly River in Western “is gone” as a result of the massive damage to the environment caused by mining over the years, according to Environment and Conservation Minister John Pundari.
He told Parliament yesterday that there was no point in putting up a tailing dam (to withhold the waste) now because the damage to the river by the Ok Tedi Mining Limited “cannot be undone”.
“What difference will it make when we have the damage already? The Fly River system is gone. The livelihood of our people, if any, is gone,” he said.
“We’ve lost it. If we have to build a dam today, just to tell the world and show the world, and tell ourselves that we are doing the right thing for ourselves, and for our future generations, I don’t know what the tailings dam will do.
“What will this tailings dam save?”
He was contributing to the debate on the Eminent Persons Group report tabled by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.
The group was set up by the National Executive Council to mediate and facilitate an agreement between the State, PNGSDP, BHP Billiton and OTML after differences over the impact of mining on the communities in Western.
“It will take 50 to 100 years for natural occurrences to help rehabilitate it (Fly River). That is a long time,” Pundari said.
North Fly MP Boka Kondra said the people had suffered greatly because of the Ok Tedi mining operation. In a lengthy and emotional address, he told of the plight of his people, who had silently been suffering from various ailments as a direct result of mine pollution on Fly River.
“People are dying, mothers are dying, children are dying, with not much benefits (from the mine),” Kondra said.
“I brought in a media team from Japan and they went to a village where they found 17 deformed children. When this was shown in Japan, millions of people there were in tears. Look at how many people are dying along the river.”
Sumkar MP Ken Fairweather said it was ironic for the Government to continue operating the Ok Tedi mine after the huge damage to the Fly River by previous operator BHP Billiton.