Rising tide of opposition to large-scale mining in Papua New Guinea

Porgera Landowners protest against Barrick Gold (2018).

PNG Mine Watch

Opposition to large-scale mining in Papua New Guinea is becoming more and more visible as communities become much more vocal in expressing their anger and disapproval.

Both existing and proposed new mines are feeling the heat from landowners who are realising the benefits they are promised are illusory and it is they and their families who suffer the severe negative environmental and social consequences of large-scale resource extraction.

Landowners in Enga have lodged a US$13 billion claim against the government over unfilled promises and environmental and social damage from the Porgera mine. The miner is owned by Barrick Gold and Zijin Mining and has been operating since 1989.

Meanwhile landowners in Madang are petitioning the government not to allow a planned K5 billion expansion of the Ramu nickel mine and they want the existing Basamuk refinery shut down. Again, it is the lack of tangible benefits and the environmental and social costs that are angering local people.

Proposed new mines in Morobe and the Sepik are also facing opposition.

Last week, landowners in Morobe forced the evacuation of the site of the proposed Wafi-Golpu mine. They are unhappy at the terms of an MOU agreement signed by the government with the mine owners, Harmony Gold and Newcrest Mining.

The landowners protest is supported by Morobe governor Ginson Saonu, who has already declared his opposition to the mine:

“People are not like before, when they had no knowledge, no idea, no education to read what’s happening in other parts of the world where there is environmental damage and so forth. Everybody is knowledgeable about what’s happening in other mines around the world, and even in Papua New Guinea like Ok Tedi, Bougainville and others.

The governor has identified agriculture and tourism as better development options in his Province.

At the same time, the Morobe Provincial government has passed a resolution rejecting the MOU for the mine and landowners living along the coast have declared their opposition to the planned dumping of toxic tailings in their seas.

The proposed Frieda river mine, to be developed by the Chinese company Guandong Rising Assets Management, is also facing strong opposition from landowners worried about the impacts of mining on the Sepik river, which is their lifeblood.

Communities have been organising their own protest meetings and have banned Mineral Resource Authority representatives from entering some areas.

Similarly, communities around the abandoned Panguna mine on Bougainville, have successfully petitioned against any moves to reopen the mine, forcing the Autonomous Bougainville Government and governor John Momis into an embarrassing climb down.

In another blow to the mining industry, Nautilus Minerals is on the brink of financial collapse, unable to complete preparations for its proposed experimental seabed mine, Solwara 1. Local communities and environmentalists have been waging a long running campaign against the mine.

Although the PNG government still seems determined to press ahead with new mining operations, the resistance from local communities, both those affected by existing mines and those threatened by the new operations, shows no signs of abating .

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

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