Monthly Archives: August 2019

Chinese-owned Ramu Nickel plant spills 200,000 litres of ‘toxic’ slurry into the sea

 Liam Fox / Pacific Beat | ABC News | 30 August 2019

A Chinese nickel mine operator has apologised after accidentally spilling an estimated 200,000 litres of toxic slurry into a bay in Papua New Guinea’s Madang province, turning the water bright red and staining the shore.

Key points:

    • The spilled material is “very toxic” and rich in heavy metals
    • However PNG authorities say there are no immediate safety concerns
    • Compensation and punishments will be pursued, officials said

Mining authorities in PNG said the spilled material was a mineral-rich slurry that had been piped to the processing plant at Basamuk Bay from a nickel mine site 135 kilometres inland.

Mineral Resources Authority managing director Jerry Garry told the ABC’s Pacific Beat program the slurry was “very acidic”.

“In terms of the heavy metals — in terms of nickel, cobalt, magnesium — they are very toxic,” he said.

Mr Garry said the spill occurred when an electronic fault caused a pump failure, which went undetected by workers, leading to an overflow.

The spill occurred on August 24, and photos showing the contamination caused outrage on social media.

“The people from the village they went down to the beach … and they realised the water was contaminated and the colour had turned to red,” Nigel Uyam, a local villager who took the first photos of the spill, told the ABC.

“They are angry … we are trying to control the angry people and we are trying to control the situation.”

Authorities said compensation would be pursued and a punishment would also be imposed on the plant operator, Ramu Nickel, which is owned by the Metallurgical Corp of China (MCC).

Ramu Nickel’s vice-president, Wang Baowen, said the company was extremely concerned about the incident and “committed to address any compensation”.

$2b nickel mine’s troubled past

The spill is the latest incident in the Ramu Nickel mine’s short but troubled history. The $2 billion project was the first Chinese resource investment in Papua New Guinea.

The start of operations were delayed by a year as landowners fought an unsuccessful legal battle to prevent it from dumping waste into the sea by a process known as deep-sea tailings disposal.

A clash of cultures saw local staff fight Chinese employees in 2012, while armed villagers attacked the mine site in 2014, injuring staff and destroying property and equipment.

A Chinese worker was killed and two local staff injured in a workplace accident in 2016 that saw the mine temporarily closed — that same year slurry leaked from the pipeline connecting the mine to the processing plant.

“People have been raising concerns about the way the plant has been operating for years,” Gavin Mudd, an associate professor at RMIT University’s engineering department, told the ABC.

“If this happened in Australia, there would be heads rolling.”

Despite the toxic nature of the spill, the mineral authority’s inspector found no immediate safety concerns and no reason to shut down the plant’s operations.

Residue samples have been sent to Australia for testing, with results expected in under a month.

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Landowners threaten to shut down mine PNG’s Lihir mine

Radio New Zealand | 30 August 2019

Landowners in Papua New Guinea have given an Australian mining company a deadline to reinstate its manager.

The New Ireland landowners have given Newcrest until the 10 September to reinstate Craig Jetson as its executive general manager.

If the company doesn’t do that, villagers say they will shut the mine’s operations on Lihir Island.

Newcrest has appointed Craig Jones to replace Mr Jetson and this has not gone down well with the landowners.

A landowners spokesman, Newman Sana, said they wanted compensation for damage the mine had caused to the environment.

He said that Mr Jetson, who has been on Lihir for two years, had worked well with the landowners in their negotiations with the company.

“If he (Jetson) leaves, we don’t trust and we don’t believe anyone can take up that fight,” Mr Sana explained.

“Even he has challenged our own governor and the mining minister. We are not going to stop fighting until we make that change.

“We are concerned that if Craig goes, if this is not going to work out we are going to shut down the mine.”

Mr Sana said at a meeting last week with mine officials including Mr Jetson, the landowners issued the company with a 21-day notice to reverse its decision to replace Mr Jetson or face a shutdown of its operations.

He said Mr Jetson is the only company executive to reside on Lihir and engage with the community and landowners.

“His removal in the middle of a review of the compensation package for the landowners is a breach of trust,” Mr Sana said.

“Under Craig’s leadership, he has delivered cash profits for the company and I believe his dismissal is to derail a better compensation package for the landowners.”

Mr Sana said Newcrest has been operating in Lihir for almost 20 years and the landowners have suffered.

“But Mr Jetson brought hope. He is respected by all Lihirians not just the affected landowners,” he said.

Mr Sana said the landowners will meet with company officials again next week.

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RAMU NICKEL WANTS TO GET AWAY WITH AN APOLOGY

Vice President of Ramu NiCo, Wang Baowen took the opportunity to apologise to Mining Minister, Johnson Tuke, Governor Peter Yama and MRA MD, Jerry Garry during their visit to Basamuk Refinery on Wed Aug 28 to carry out an independent assessment on the slurry overflow

‘Unfortunate overflow caused inconvenience to villagers’

Ramu NiCo apologises to slurry overflow

Wang Baowen | MCC

THE Vice President of Ramu NiCo Management (MCC) Ltd, Mr. Wang Baowen apologised to the nation through Mining Minister, Johnson Tuke, Madang Governor, Peter Yama, Managing Director of Mineral Resources Authority, Jerry Garry and landowners at Basamuk in Rai Coast district for the unfortunate slurry overflow on August 24 that entered the harbor causing inconvenience to the local villagers.

“Company management is extremely concerned about this incident and will not treat it lightly. Even though the slurry spillage occurred accidentally and not out of Company’s negligence to industrial requirements and standards, we will take this incident up to the management level and work very hard to improve so we do not face similar incident in the future,”

“To our local communities who are our friends and have been our most important host and who have been very cooperative to date, we want to continue working with you as we are committed to ensure a harmonious relationship.”

“We are committed to address any compensation in-line with the existing Compensation Agreement as a result of the incident including carry out awareness of the situation once all the facts have been provided to us by agencies responsible,”

“We value your support towards our project as we strive to achieve mutual win-win outcomes, we will continue to work together to enhance our common benefits,” Mr. Wang Baowen expressed in front of the Mining Minister, Tuke, Governor Yama and MRA MD, Mr. Garry on Wednesday Aug 29 during their visit to Basamuk Refinery to do an independent assessment on the slurry overflow.

Mr. Wang Baowen assured all stakeholders and the landowners of Basamuk on behalf of Ramu NiCo that his company is currently working closely with the independent investigators on the ground to establish the main cause of the incident.

“The company will be guided and accept any remedial measures imposed by Government after the findings and is committed to fully implement directions by the State to avoid reoccurrence of this event,” Mr. Wang Baowen said. 

Mining Minister Johnson Tuke and Madang Governor Peter Yama expressed concern on the incident that has gone viral on social media causing a lot of uncertainty and criticism. They emphasised that such incident must be avoided to enjoy a harmonious project operation that will promote confidence to all stakeholders to the Project.

Mr.Tuke said what had happened is now gone but he will meet with the Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Jeffrey Kama and release a joint media statement next week to assure the people of PNG and Madang on the Basamuk incident and way forward for the Project success.

While supporting the Mining Minister, Governor Yama told the Company that he is committed to serve his people in the province while supporting major investors like Ramu NiCo for the development of Madang and PNG

“I as the governor of Madang have the responsibility towards my little people and nothing else. When you (Ramu NiCo) do the right thing, my people are happy, I am happy and you will be happy doing business. Simple as that,” Mr. Yama said.

Managing Director of MRA, Jerry Garry expressed his satisfaction towards Ramu NiCo for solving the initial critical issues and asked the Company to further provide information on heavy metal concentration in the slurry before the overflow, the amount of heavy metal into the harbor (sea), the quantity of slurry into the sea and metal concentration. 

According to MRA’s preliminary findings, Mr. Garry said the slurry overflow was from one of the slurry neutralisation tanks on early hours (4.30am) Saturday Aug 24 after maintenance work. Two slurry pumps control system failed causing a loss of primary containment and tank overflow for almost 48 minutes.

“The overflowed slurry flowed into an emergency retention pond and some slurry bypassed the diverter gate then flowed into the harbour less than 28 minutes,”

“The Authorities (MRA & CEPA) were informed Saturday (August 24) afternoon, and officers were dispatched to site on Monday Aug 26 afternoon to conduct a thorough investigation till Wed Aug 28,” Mr. Garry said.

MRA confirmed closure of the affected ocean front after Company Community Affairs officers had communicated several times to villagers not to utilise for recreational purposes or fishing within the affected area.

“The investigations will determine the nature of the slurry, including toxicity, pH and other heavy elements discharged and how best to mitigate the slurry already accidentally discharged into the ocean,”

“The sea water sample collected by CEPA has been delivered to an independent lab in Australia for further analysis and result will be delivered to CEPA for final report.”

“Furthermore, the investigations will establish any procedural failures on the part of the operator and necessary remedial measures will be imposed,”

 “We will surely update the nation and everyone when the investigations are duly completed. In the meantime, we are placing our efforts in safeguarding the local communities as our priority,” Mr. Garry said. 

Mr. Wang Baowen said the operation of the Refinery is normal with no casualty. He said the imprint of the environment damaged has been stabilised and final result of the independent investigation will be produced once ready.

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Ramu Mine spill turns PNG coastline red

AFP News | 29 August 2019

Papua New Guinea officials have sealed off the area around a Chinese-owned nickel plant in the north of the country after the leakage of potentially toxic slurry that has turned the ocean red.Map locating Chinese-owned Ramu nickel refinery from where a potentially toxic slurry leaked into the ocean on August 24

The Mineral Resources Authority said on Thursday it had cordoned off a portion of Basamuk Bay in the north of the country, while emergency tests are carried out to determine the scale of environmental damage.

The water and coastline were dyed ochre red by the slurry, which is said to have overflowed from tanks at the Ramu Nickel refinery for almost an hour.

The multibillion facility is run by the state-owned China Metallurgical Group, which mines and processes nickel, a metal widely used in batteries, including in electric cars.

The Mineral Resources Authority said it had moved to “prevent villagers from going near or fishing within the affected area” while investigations “determine the nature of the slurry, including toxicity, pH” and whether heavy elements were discharged.

The incident is believed to have taken place at 4:30am on Saturday, but was not reported until the afternoon.

Officials finally reached the site on Monday and they have now been joined by Mining Minister Johnson Tuke.

The probe will “establish any procedural failures on the part of the operator and necessary remedial measures will be imposed”, the authority said.

“In the meantime, we are placing our efforts in safeguarding the local communities as our priority.”

The mine and processing plant have been deeply controversial since their inception.

The project was commissioned in 2012 and had been delayed for almost two years by a legal challenge that ended in the Supreme Court.

Local landowners had tried to block the project because waste from the plant is dumped in the ocean rather than landfill — so-called “deep sea tailings placement”.

During a meeting in Beijing last week, the China Metallurgical Group asked visiting Papua New Guinea officials to approve plans to expand production capacity.

It was not immediately clear what caused the spill, with reports that slurry pumps or a pipe may have failed.

The local provincial governor Peter Yama has called for the ministry of environment rather than the Mineral Resources Authority to take the investigative lead.

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Papua New Guinea may close Chinese-owned nickel plant after spill – regulator

REALLY? CEPA SHUT DOWN A MINE? IT IS A NICE HEADLINE, BUT REALITY IS CEPA WOULDN’T LIFT A FINGER TO SAVE THE LAST TREE IN THE FOREST OR THE LAST FISH IN THE OCEAN…

Melanie Burton | Reuters via CNBC | 29 August 2019

A nickel processing plant owned by Metallurgical Corp of China (MCC) that spilled mine waste into Papua New Guinea’s Basamuk Bay faces compensation claims and possibly closure, the head of the country’s mining authority said on Thursday.

MCC’s Ramu nickel plant located in Madang, on the country’s northeastern coast, spilled waste into the bay over the weekend which caused the surrounding ocean to turn red and left a muddy residue on the rocky shoreline, according to locals and photographs of the incident.

The spillage occurred when a plant operator did not notice a pump failure during a maintenance shutdown, causing a tank to overflow and mining waste to disperse into the ocean, Jerry Garry, managing director of PNG’s Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) said.

“From an environmental point of view, obviously the slurry discharge… has already caused damage to the ocean and the livelihood of the people because they will not be swimming and they will not be fishing in the area any more,” he said.

“There will be summons to pay compensation. There will be other punishment imposed by CEPA. Im really not too sure as to what the nature of the penalties may be,” he told Reuters.

CEPA is PNG’s Conservation and Environment Protection Authority.

The MRA’s inspector found no immediate safety concerns and no reason to shut down the mine. However, residue samples of the spill have been sent to Australia for testing and results are expected in under a month, said Garry. The environment minister has the authority to shut the mine, he added.

MCC’s Basamuk Bay plant produces nickel sulphate for the battery industry from ore sent by pipeline from the Kurumkukari nickel and cobalt mine about 135 km (81 miles) away.

Environment Minster Geoffrey Kama said in a report on Thursday by local newspaper The National that he would go to the site of the plant this Monday.

“If I see the situation is devastated I will close the mine,” he said, according to the report.

“We need to see the report first and then make a decision,” Kama said, according to the newspaper.

Reuters could not immediately reach the CEPA or Kama for a comment. MCC did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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Landowners Urged Not To Disturb Basamuk Refinery

Post Courier | August 29, 2019

Mining Minister Johnson Tuke yesterday urged landowners from the areas around Basamuk Refinery in Madang’s Rai Coast district not to disturb the operation of the facility while an investigation into a slurry over ow into the sea last weekend is underway.

Mr Tuke visited the refinery accompanied by Madang Governor Peter Yama and managing director of MRA, Mr Jerry Garry to inspect the slurry over ow that occurred in the early hours of Saturday August 24.

Vice president of Ramu NiCo, Mr Wang Baowen, received them in the presence of registered refinery manager Bill Hill and other company senior officers. “While the investigation on the slurry over ow is going on, I ask all of you to stay away from the slurry outflow point into the sea.

“And do not disturb the operation of the refinery.

“As the government, we are aware of your concerns and we will try our best to ensure a full investigation is completed and presented.

It will take some time but we will ensure the root cause is identified and rectified,” Mr Tuke said.

More than 70 landowners and nearby villagers gathered at the Basamuk Refinery old camp and petitioned the minister.

They asked for permanent environment officers to be stationed at Basamuk.

This is to monitor any environmental issues and compensate them for the inconvenience caused by the Saturday August 24 slurry over ow.

On Tuesday August 27 more than 50 landowners from nearby villages to Basamuk Refinery including Mindre, Bobidik, Jangag, Duman, Sulu, Ganglau and Tugiak expressed concerns on the same issue and urged MRA and CEPA to thoroughly investigate and establish the toxicity of the slurry in a transparent manner.

Chief inspector from MRA, Lave Michael, and inspector Joseph Umare, including mining manager from CEPA, Robert Sine, were present to hear the landowners’ grievances.

The mentioned government officers arrived at Basamuk on Monday August 26 to carry out investigations on the alleged spill to establish the cause.

A vocal leader from Mindre village and an associate to NGO’s in Madang, Terry Kuning challenged the government and Ramu NiCo to establish the main cause of the slurry overspill transparently and to avoid similar situations in the future.

“The environment damage has been done and we ask the company and the government to compensate us. This must be done soon,” Mr Kunning said.

Other landowners and women representatives present expressed concern on the slurry spill and urged the company to avoid a similar situation in the future that will cause unnecessary inconveniences.

CEPA mine manager Robert Sine thanked the landowners for their patience and understanding despite the slurry spill.

He assured them that proper and careful investigation is currently underway and strict measures and guidelines will be imposed after the findings.

“We don’t take bribes or favours.

We go by the books and carry out our work in line with laws.

We will make sure investigations are done properly and will inform you through Ramu NiCo,” Mr Sine said.

Chief Inspector from MRA, Lave Michael informed the landowners that he will complete the investigation and any measures taken will depend on the outcome of the investigation.

Inspector Lave emphasised that his responsibility is highlighted under the Mining Act where he complies accordingly and will not attend to other matters raised by the landowners.

“I am guided by the Mining Act and my job is in line with requirements thereafter.

I have disciplined several mines including Ramu NiCo when in breach of safety issues and I will continue to do if any mine including Ramu NiCo is found in breach of their safety laws,” Mr Michael said.

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Rai Coast MP Calls for closure of PNG’s Ramu Nickel Mine

NBC News / PNG Facts | August 28, 2019

Member for Rai-Coast in Madang Province Peter Sapia is calling for the immediate closure of the Ramu Nickel Mine’s Basamuk refinery.

Mr. Sapia’s calls follow several images which went viral on social media Facebook, showing the sea’s color turning a different shade of red, brown and orange.

He says this is clearly a breach of the company’s environmental permit and therefore they shouldn’t be allowed to operate there anymore.

Mr. Sapia who directed his question to Minister for Environment of Conservation Geoffrey Kama today in Parliament says as local MP, he wants the Government to go back to the table and negotiate the future of the mine.

“Mr. Speaker according to the Ramu Nickel environment plan, the tailings waste will be processed properly before being discharged into the sea and that there will be zero leakage or spillage.

“I have already engaged an independent mining expert to be on site to conduct a quick inspection which I will present next week.

“Mr. Speaker environmental plans are presented to the Conservation Environment and Protection Authority before any environmental permit is granted to any mine to operate.

“Ramu Nickel has now breached the environmental permit and therefore cannot operate anymore – profit must not be prioritized at the expense of the environment,” Mr. Sapia said.

Meantime Environment and Conservation Minister Geoffrey Kama in response, says he has engaged specialists working in the Department of Mining and they are in the area currently assessing the situation.

Mr. Kama says the suspected spill occurred on Saturday 24th August.

“Em spill tasol, long graun na wara mix I kam em spill na igo insait.”

“Nau ol lain i wok long em I stap.

“They will give me back the report and I am scheduled to go there next Monday.

Mi go long hap na taim mipla i lukim situation em i bagarap, yes bai umi pasim displa main.

“Tasol bai umi lukim ripot na bai umi toktok, mi hamamas olsem man I gat pawa long pasim – Chief Mine Inspector em I stap pinis long hap wantaim olgeta staff blong mi.

“So I kam bek na I go olsem wanem, bai mi kambek na toksave gen,” Kama i tok.

In November 2018, the landowners petitioned the National Government to ‘stop the K5 billion project extension-‘ it is unclear what has become of that petition.

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