Category Archives: Human rights

Tuke, Yama Want Fresh Deal For Ramu Mine

Politician’s love to make fancy promises – but do they ever actually deliver?

Post Courier | March 19, 2019

MINING Minister Johnson Tuke has said, before he signs any documents regarding the Ramu NiCo project, he needs to understand what is there for the landowners.

“When I understand and am really convinced then I will sign the agreement for the expansion, otherwise that will not happen,” Mr Tuke said.

He said he had discussed with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill the licence that government will issue for the expansion must be under a new agreement.

Mr Tuke said many mining companies usually say they will only give according to the MoA, however, there must be some form of kindness and humility when dealing with the local landowners whose land and water were given away for the project.

Madang Governor Peter Yama said the new expansion plan for the Ramu project will be properly discussed and he, as the head of the province, must be convinced that the people of Madang receive more benefits.

He said the old agreement that was signed before the construction and the operation of the Ramu Nickel Project must be done away with.

“The new agreement will be renegotiated, and the old agreement will be no more,”

He said that the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill during his visit to Usino had publicly announced that the new agreement will be a fresh start. Mr Yama said he is in full support of a new agreement for the Ramu NiCo Project, and stressed that all the parties that will be signing the agreement including the National Government, the provincial government, and the developer Ramu NiCo (MCC) must make sure the agreement provides better benefits to the people of Madang.

This is particularly for those from the impacted communities, the developer Ramu NiCo, Madang province, and the country.

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

Wafi-Golpu land dispute: The other side of the story

Lorenitz Gaius | The National aka The Loggers Times | March 18, 2019

IT appears that some people, like one PK Anding, had lately, been vocal and supportive of the Piu Incorporated Land Group’s claim of ownership of the Wafi-Golpu project land. PK Anding had even gone as far as to mention that the Lutheran Church had written to the prime minister informing him of its support of Piu’s claim of ownership.

Further to my previous letter to the editor, I briefly mentioned that the claim by the Piu Incorporated Land Group, led by chairman Martin Tapei, was thrown out by the Supreme Court. A brief synopsis of the case is provided below for anyone out there to appreciate the origin of the Piu Incorporated Land Group claims of ownership over the 50,000 hectares of customary land.

On Feb 22, 2001, Piu ILG applied to the Department of Lands and Physical Planning for a special agricultural business lease (SABL) over the Wafi-Golpu project land comprising of 6240 hectares. This was done without the knowledge of the people of Yanta, Hengaybu and Babuaf people, including the other seven villages in the area.

On July 24, 2001, an SABL lease was granted to the Piu ILG by the minister for lands under the Land Act comprising of 50,000 hectares instead of the 6240 hectares applied for. This grant was vehemently disputed by the Yanta, Hengabu, Babuaf people as well as the other known seven villages within the area.

On May 18, 2003, following pressures and protests by these groups within the 50,000 hectares of land, the new minister for lands and physical planning intervened and revoked Piu’s SABL lease. His decision was based on the non-compliance of the requirements and provisions of the Land Act under Section 10 and 102.

On Nov 19, 2004, the Piu ILG, not satisfied with the minister’s revocation of its SABL lease, applied to the National Court for judicial review for which leave was granted on May 5, 2005. The minister’s revocation was cancelled and Piu’s ILG title was restored, albeit temporarily.

On Aug 29, 2005, Yanta, Hengabu, Babuaf and Towangola appealed to the Supreme Court for a judicial review of the National Court order of Aug 18, 2004. The appeal was upheld and the National Court judgment was declared void, and the SABL lease granted to Piu on July 24, 2001, was declared null and void.

So to whoever is still supporting the Piu ILG claims of ownership over the Wafi-Golpu project land, I hope the above information gives you a clear picture of the situation. Questions should be asked about how Piu’s claim of 6240 hectares ended up with 50,000 hectares of customary land, especially when the land is communally owned?

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Sinivit Landowners Call For Audit Into Mine Operations

Post Courier | March 19, 2019

The Sinivit Mine Landowners Association is calling on the East New Britain provincial government to fund an independent audit into the operations of the abandoned Sinivit gold mine.

The developer, New Guinea Gold Limited abandoned the project in September 2014 after blaming the government and the Mineral Resources Authority for not quickly renewing their mining licence.

It is understood MRA had notified the company to return and rectify safety and environmental issues related to the Sinivit project but this has not eventuated.

Chairman Douglas Augustine said a submission was given to the provincial government in August last year requesting an independent audit to be conducted on the mine.

He said before any mining project can be re-opened, an audit must be done to establish how much was generated by the mining operations in the past and who benefited from those funds.

Mr Augustine said currently there is an environmental issue where some of the 29 abandoned vats used to extract gold and other minerals at the mine site were further damaged by heavy rain and flooding, with potential chemical contamination into nearby rivers of Warangoi and Nengmutka.

“Right now most of those vats near the cliff have collapsed and I appeal to communities near the two rivers not to use it too much as it is not safe,” he said.

Therefore he urged the provincial government and its administration to fast track an investigation or audit, so that any such issues are addressed before the mining project can be re-opened.

The landowners say they are not against the planned re-opening of the mine, but want an audit and report to be tabled first before the mine can be re-opened.

The office of the ENB Governor in response said the Minister for Mining will officially visit the mine soon to determine the next course of action.

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Mining Pollution Limits Access to Clean Water in Papua New Guinea

Mining pollution turns Papua New Guinea’s Pongema River red. Photo: Red Water report

Aly Azhar  Columbia University | March 15, 2019

new report titled Red Water documents the social, environmental, economic, and health impacts of gold mining in Porgera, Papua New Guinea. The report finds that the communities affected by mining do not have access to consistent and safe drinking water. This is due, in part, to the fact that the PNG government has not met its human rights obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to water in Porgera, and because companies that own and operate the mine — Canadian company Barrick Gold and Zijin Mining from China — are in breach of their responsibilities to respect the right to water.

Red Water finds that the Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) gold mine poses direct threats to the social and economic rights of communities living near the mine. These key findings are a result of a four-year study conducted by Earth Institute scientists, Pennsylvania State University scientists, and Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic faculty and students. The investigation conducted over 177 interviews and meetings and collected and analyzed 45 sediment samples from streams adjacent to the PJV gold mine, 25 soil samples from local residents’ household gardens, and water samples from 64 sites.

Homes near the mine do not have running water inside them. 

The PJV releases mine waste, known as tailings, from the mine facility into the Pongema River at an average rate of over 14,000 tons per day. The tailings discharge forms what local residents refer to as the “Red River.” A 2013 study noted the catastrophic environmental consequences of tailings discharge and noted that of the 2,500 industrial-sized mines in the world, only four mines — three of them in PNG — were found to rely on riverine tailings disposal. According to one resident of Porgera, the local residents are “in a desperate situation. [Our] environment is not in a good condition.” Moreover, with a changing climate, water insecurity in the area is an acute problem.

The Porgera gold mine has been one of the world’s highest-producing gold mines over the course of its quarter-century history, and has accounted for a considerable percentage of PNG’s economic income. The mine, which began operations in 1989, has long been contentious, and has generated global attention for both violence by security personnel and allegations of environmental degradation. The mine is owned by the PJV with a 95 percent share held by the mining companies.

The Red Water report highlights key recommendations for the corporations who own the mine, government actors in Papua New Guinea, the government of Canada, and international development partners:

  • Publicly commit to advance the human right to water in Porgera. The report recommends that the consortium of mining companies publicly announce a commitment to initiate a multi-stakeholder process to create a Human Right to Water Policy for the Porgera Joint Venture.
  • Work with the government of PNG to promote consistent access to adequate amounts of clean water for household uses in Porgera. The companies, in partnership with the Papua New Guinea government and in consultation with Porgeran communities, should invest in infrastructure improvements to provide adequate sources of safe water at the household level.
  • Immediately pledge to carry out an independent environmental and social audit of the PJV. This must be a full audit examining all the social, environmental, and health effects of the mine, including on water, land, flora, fauna, and human health. The results of the audit must be made public and accessible, especially for potentially impacted communities.
  • Adopt necessary laws and regulations to ensure that Canadian corporations respect human rights in their extraterritorial activities, and that there is access to remedy where such activities breach international human rights.

A launch event for the report will be held in April and will involve the research team and members of human rights and international development groups.

The report was supported by Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Clinic and a Cross-Cutting Initiative grant from Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

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SI oil spill worse than first thought, say tanker owners

Oil spreads along the coastline of Rennell Island after spilling from the MV Solomon Trader.

A three-mile-long slick threatens Unesco World Heritage site

  • More than 70 tonnes of oil has been lost after MV Solomon Trader ran aground a month ago
  • With hundreds of tonnes of oil still inside ship, there are fears disaster could get worse

Karen Zhang  | South China Morning Post | 14 March, 2019

The oil spill from a Hong Kong-flagged tanker that is threatening to destroy marine life at a Unesco World Heritage site in the Solomon Islands is worse than first thought, its owner King Trader has said.

Bulk carrier MV Solomon Trader ran aground a month ago during bad weather near the remote Rennell Island in the South Pacific, home to the world’s largest raised coral atoll.

So far, more than 70 tonnes of oil has been dumped into the ocean, causing a three-mile slick in Kangava Bay which experts said was likely to cause long-term damage to the local ecosystem.

The ship ran into difficulties on February 5, while loading a cargo of bauxite, the ore used to make aluminium. In a statement on Thursday the vessel’s insurer said the spill might be more serious than expected.

An aerial view of the oil slick in Kangava Bay in the Solomon Islands.

“Although initial estimates indicated that some 70 tonnes of oil entered the water, it’s now believed that the escaped amount is higher, something that will be clarified as the response progresses,” Korea Protection and Indemnity Club, and King Trader, said.

The vessel’s owner said earlier it was transferring the remaining 600 tonnes on the vessel to safer tanks. As of Thursday, less than half of the remaining fuel oil – about 230 tonnes – had been transferred to a tank barge towed from Vanuatu.

The 225-metre vessel carried about 700 tonnes of fuel on board before the accident.

Hong Kong’s Marine Department said it was already in contact with the vessel’s owner about containing the spill, which sparked global concerns over the environmental disaster. The Australian government has sent specialised equipment and crew to help clean up the mess.

“The department has urged the shipowner to take all actions to minimise the pollution impact to the environment,” the department’s spokeswoman said.

“The salvage company engaged by the shipowner has been carrying out cleaning and pollution control operations in the casualty site for weeks, but the progress has been affected by the local weather and the remoteness of the island.”

The spokeswoman added that the department had been liaising with authorities in the region to assist the local government. It is also involved in a joint investigation into the accident.

Dr Stephen Li Yiu-kwong, a professor of maritime studies at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said the city’s authorities needed to follow up on the incident as the vessel is registered in Hong Kong.

“It’s like if my son did some damage to your house,” he said. “As a parent, I also have the responsibility [to follow up].”

He said the department could punish the owners with a warning or suspension of their shipping licence if the company were found culpable for the spill.

The vessel was chartered by Indonesia-based Bintan Mining to take nearly 11,000 tonnes of bauxite from its mine on the western half of Rennell Island to China.

The shipowner apologised earlier last week for the slow salvage operation to stop oil from leaking further, saying the situation worsened with the arrival of Cyclone Oma, which pushed the stricken vessel harder into the reef.

A spokesman for the insurer and shipowner also told the Post the oil spill was because of structural damage to the vessel caused during the cyclone.

“Fuel oil escaped into the engine room and has leaked from a rupture in the hull,” he said.

In its latest statement, King Trader said it expected to complete the transfer of fuel in the “coming days”, but added that breaks could occur due to weather or equipment repairs.

Minor residual amounts of leaked oil have been detected entering the water because pumping and skimming operations in the flooded engine room, it added.

It reiterated that the salvage operation was difficult at such a remote and hazardous location, in addition to the lost of power of the vessel and the adverse weather, but said it would protect the environment as far as “practically possible”.

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Call for PNG seabed mining licences to be cancelled

Benjamin Robinson-Drawbridge | Radio New Zealand | 14 March 2019

Groups opposed to sea bed mining in Papua New Guinea want the government to cancel licences given to embattled miner Nautilus.

The company’s Canadian parent has been granted protection from its creditors while it restructures, which the groups say will lead it to selling its PNG licenses.

For more than a decade, New Ireland civil and community groups have opposed the Nautilus Solwara mining project in the Bismarck Sea over its potential to damage the environment.

Gold and copper deposits on the sea floor enticed Nautilus to form a PNG subsidiary of which the government acquired a 15 percent share.

But with Nautilus now selling its assets to pay debts, the groups want its licenses cancelled so other miners can’t continue the project.

With support from the Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights, the groups went to court to seek the disclosure of the licenses and other documents they say the government is constitutionally bound to produce.

But since the court case finished in September, the centre’s executive director Peter Bosip said the judge had not issued a decision.

“The reasons for withholding the decision is not known. It’s kind of holding people at ransom. So, we need to know whether we lost or we were successful in this instance,” he said.

“We don’t know and we are still waiting.”

The former chief justice Sir Arnold Amet also wants the licenses cancelled.

Sir Arnold said if the documents were released, they might show the government is liable for the company’s debts and was unable to sell its stake.

They should also reveal if the government could reacquire or cancel the licenses, he said.

“All of those are going to be packaged and put on the market for any potential bidders,” he said.

“So, our abilities to actually extricate ourselves from those binding licenses and agreements, and to free ourselves from ongoing liabilities may be limited considerably by the current legal entitlements of Nautilus in the region.”

The mining minister Johnson Tuke could not be reached for comment.

But given the company’s financial strife and the local opposition to deep sea mining, it would be futile for the government to continue to back Nautilus or any entity that tried to acquire the licenses, Mr Bosip said.

“The government has to think about cancelling this licenses because apart from economic loss, they also have to realize that the fight to reject deep sea mining in PNG is not over,” he said.

“The communities have mobilized.”

Jonathan Mesulam is from a village on the west coast of New Ireland Province is just 25km from the Solwara 1 project.

Speaking for the Alliance of Solwara Warriors, Mr Mesulam said New Irelanders had “given their undivided support for many years to stop experimental seabed mining”.

“The longer Nautilus is delayed and tied up in protecting itself from bankruptcy the longer they are in debt and not able to get Solwara 1 up and operating, and the closer we are to stopping the project and protecting our livelihoods and seas.”

Christina Tony, from the Bismarck Ramu Group agreed “local communities have consistently opposed Nautilus Minerals”.

“We strongly believe this unified voice is what is driving Nautilus Minerals out of our country and towards bankruptcy. Other companies thinking of mining the sea floor in PNG or the Pacific should pay attention.”

PNG is not equipped to regulate foreign mining companies, especially those experimenting with deep sea mining, Sir Arnold said.

“Regulations, governance, accountability mechanisms, in a developing country like Papa New Guinea, and if I might say so in the Pacific region, are considerably wanting.

“We don’t have the capacity of professional institutions to hold to account sufficiently, all the mining giants, multinationals of the world that are continuing to exploit our natural resources.”

Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu may have also given rights to Nautilus that could be sold, Sir Arnold said.

The people of Pacific needed to band together to stop the exploitation of the sea floor and the islanders who depend on the ocean, Mr Bosip said.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Mine construction, Papua New Guinea

Barrick CEO ‘Concerned’ Over Law And Order Issues In Porgera

Post Courier | March 11, 2019

The new president and chief executive officer of Barrick Gold Corporation, Mark Bristow, is concerned about the level of violence at Porgera in Enga.

“It’s disappointing to come here and see such conflict. We should be working to make sure that the community around this mine improves…to make this place a better place to come to work.”

Mr Bristow said this during a ‘question and answer’ (Q&A) session with employees recently, at the Porgera Gold Mine.

On his maiden visit to PNG, Mr Bristow led a Barrick delegation to Port Moresby and up to Porgera, from February 15 to 18, 2019.

He called on national employees, particularly those from areas in the vicinity of the mine and the general Enga Province, to look at ways within their families, clans and tribes, to deal with the ongoing tribal warfare that has resulted in the loss of many lives and destroyed properties, over the years.

“We’ve convinced other people to come and put their money here and my job today is to convince Barrick investors to continue to stay in Papua New Guinea and I can’t do that without your help.”

Mr Bristow, from South Africa, shared many of his experiences on conflict resolution.

“So when is it that we stop and take the responsibility ourselves for our own future?

“I will point out to you that there’s not one example that a war has resulted in peace. Wars are always resolved in the conversation after the war. So why should we fight? Why don’t we just go straight to the conversation?”

The Q&A session gave employees an opportunity to ask questions on varying subjects.

“Every question that you highlighted is a critical question for us and they are valid. There’s nothing there that you shouldn’t ask about,” Mr Bristow told employees.

Barrick in a statement said Mr Bristow, during his four-day visit to PNG, met with Deputy Prime Minister Charles Abel.

This included representatives of the Porgera Landowners’ Association (PLOA), Enga Governor Sir Peter Ipatas, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Rimbink Pato, Wabag MP Dr Lino Tom, and Lagaip-Porgera MP Tomait Kapili.

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