Landowners stand up for their land in an attempt to spread the word that coal and any kind of mining, regardless of the governments commitment to foreign investment, is not welcomed on their (the people’s) customary owned land.
Red soil | ACT NOW!
A new year, 2015, is here, and the Tangu People of the Joseph Stall area in the Bogia District of Madang Province say they are and will be more alert then ever before. They have customarily made a traditional taboo and set it on their land, as a sign and message to foreigners and those wishing to trespass on their land for coal and any form of mining and theft.
Men, women young and old, youths and children all gathered and performed the ceremony where soil/earth was spread on the ground, a piece of coal was put on the earth, ‘tanget’ leaves were laid on the coal and a mini bow and arrow was laid on it all.
According to the elders, the coal is nothing without the earth because it is part of the earth and should never be taken out or even moved. They said any movement, especially forced movements like mining will cause an irreversible disturbance to nature.
The ‘tanget’ leaves, commonly used in most PNG traditions, are used to symbolize the values of their traditions and beliefs in conjunction with nature. The mini bow and arrow laid on everything else represents a weapon, used to symbolize the duty of everyone in the village, who are now more than ever, ready to protect their land by all means.
This is after word about coal mining to happen in their area went around this year without their consent. This talk is not new to them as they have physically chased out a foreigner and two Papua New Guineans in December last year (2013), trespassing’ into their area in the name of coal exploration.
When asked by the people why they (people) weren’t notified of their (trespassers’) coming, the trespassers said its simply because they are developers, a ‘white man’, and two ‘geologists’ with the East Sepik Province’s Frieda Mine, bringing development to them (Tangu people).
There was a sense of anger in the air when the word ‘mining’ was defined, and it was clear these people do not want anything of the sort to be happening on their land, to them and their future.
The very vocal women said they do not want their children to become part of those ‘street children’, because that’s what mining will do to their children if they don’t stop the miners from destroying their land. They said even if this ‘little group of parliamentarians in Port Moresby’ had a perfect plan and a place ready for them to relocate, they will not move because Tangu is the right place for them and their children to grow up and enjoy their lives in.
The men explained that there’s no individualism. Though everyone has their portion of the land, it is basically areas allocated to them each to protect, for the good of everyone.
Youths on the other hand are making a strong call out to the government, from the Mining Minister Byron Chan to the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neil who are likely to have sold us (Papua New Guineans) at the recent Sydney Mining Conference, to not forget where they got their mandated power from.
The village elders explained that they’ve heard of the terrible mining effects of the MCC Ramu Nickel Mine in the province (Madang) as well as those from other provinces, and knew that the thieves will eventually come their way. “That’s why we alerted everyone, took precaution measures and caught the first invaders and sent them away, and now they want to come back? Who do they think they are to keep coming back against our wishes?” they remarked.
The village elders, the youths, the men and the women all described their concerns in different manners, but all come down to one thing. ‘Land is life, and mining of any kind whether it be coal, nickel, gold or copper is still destruction to their land, their life’.