China has voted to ban marine waste dumping – but does it have a plan to stop pumping the waste from its Ramu mine into Papua New Guinea’s ocean?
Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Norway have one thing in common; all three continues to dump tailings, or mine waste, into oceans.
At a September meeting in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Norway along with Turkey were the only two of 53 participating countries to vote against an international ban on marine mine waste dumping. IUCN is a membership union composed of both government and civil society organizations.
Both Russia and China, along with the 49 other participating nations, voted in favor of the proposal calling for all states “to ban marine disposal of mine tailings for new mines as soon as possible and to plan a stop to ongoing marine disposal sites.”
IUCN says in the strong wording resolution that dumping of mining waste on the sea floor “may significantly harm the marine environment – for example by contamination of water and air through heavy metals, distribution of contaminants through submarine currents, destruction of marine and costal habitat and biodiversity, modification of the costal line, loss of natural and cultural heritage, sedimentation of bays and ports – and may affect human health and activities.”
Bernt Nilsen, a community activist, standing up against dumping of tailings at sea in Norway, says:
“It is unwise, and totally irresponsible, to dump tailings in the sea. It is an irreversible process that one can’t foresee the consequences of. We take a long-term risk to save some little money now. The damage to marine life, today and in the longer run, can prove to cost way more than saved in the first place. That bill will be passed over to others than the mining companies.”