Yama Claims Two Dead After Eating Contaminated Fish

Post Courier | October 18, 2019

MADANG Governor Peter Yama claims two men have died after eating contaminated fish caught in the polluted Basamuk area.

He told Parliament yesterday that post-mortems would be done soon to confirm his fears.

Mr Yama said this when disputing a statement by Minister of Environment and Conservation, Geoffery Kama, which dismissed the seriousness of the situation at Basamuk.

Mr Kama had told parliament that the discoloration of sea water was due to 200, 000 liters of raw slurry that had overflowed from one of the company’s surge tanks within the Basamuk plant site and did not pose any danger to the environment or people. Tests have also been done to prove this, he said.

“Due to the tests done, I would like to inform this house that marine waters around Basamuk Bay and nearby areas are safe to swim, and for recreational purposes only.”

An irate Mr Yama demanded for the immediate closure of the Ramu nickle mine until proper scientific and environmental tests were done. “Next week six scientists will be in Madang not in the name of Peter Yama but for the interest of the people of Madang, East Sepik, Morobe and West Sepik and the country,” he said.

“Why are the animals dying and ending up on the shore of the bay, why are we telling lies, close the mine, prosecute and send them packing or else you will see a protest march that will close down Madang Province.

“This plant at Basamuk is the worse mine this government has allowed to sit in the province, the way it is set up is not like a mine,” he added.
Mr Yama claimed the company had not paid any taxes to the Government or paid royalties to landowners.

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CEPA Says Madang Waters Are ‘Safe’ – but warns against eating fish!

Elias Nanau | Post Courier | October 18, 2019

The Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) has assured that the waters around the Basamuk area in Madang are safe and free of toxic contamination.

CEPA officials gave the assurance yesterday following tests and conclusion of water samples tested at the Australian Laboratory Services in Brisbane.

Michael Wau, director for Environment Regulatory operations, took the media through the findings yesterday. He said water samples were obtained from the villages of Naglau, Duman, Domestic Wharf and Drains 1 and 4 outlets.

Their average concentrations were below baseline concentrations and met environment permit conditions, Mr Wau said. He said out of the 200,000-litre slurry spill, 100,000 was contained within the refinery while 80,000 spilled into the Basamuk Bay. The slurry spill was said to have been caused by pump failure.

“Results of samples did not indicate major interference with sea water composition apart from turbidity caused by outfall material after heavy rains,” he said.

Environment and Conservation Minister Geoffrey Kama who joined the presentation endorsed the statements by his officers. “I think everything is back to normal,” he said.

“It’s not about the color, we want to detect the metals,” has said whilst cautioning the local people not to consume any fish caught in the area until further test were done to make the findings conclusive.

“We are not here to support the company, we are not here to tell lies,” Mr Kama said.
 He said CEPA would engage two independent scientists to sample toxic contamination from fish and this exercise would be completed within four weeks.

While the Madang Provincial Government-sponsored Swiss scientist Dr Alex Mojon and his report appear to contradict CEPA’s report, they told the media they were not able to critique or criticize the report without the benefit of reading it.

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Minister Delivers CEPA Report On Ramu Slurry Spill

A spill into the bay earlier this year turned the sea red. Photo: Facebook/ Elisha Wesley Mizeu

Miriam Zarriga | Post Courier |  October 18, 2019

Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) investigations have confirmed that 200,000 litres of raw slurry had actually over flowed from one of the company’s surge tanks within the Basamuk plant site.

Minister for Environment Geoffery Kama said this when presenting his ministerial statement on the Basamuk plant slurry spill incident.

“Sixty per cent was captured within the bund and emergency ponds, and drainage within the plant site, 40 per cent escaped via the drainage into the sea of the Basamku Bay, 80,000 litres of raw slurry that caused the discoloration of the sea water that continued for two days,” Mr Kama said.

“The discoloration cleared up and the sea water in the Bay was visibly clear on the third day.

“The results from the samples show that no major interference or impacts on the seawater composition at the bay and nearby marine areas.”

Mr Kama declared the area safe for swimming and recreational purposes.

However, precautionary measures must be taken, he said.

“The Basamuk Bay people must refrain from catching and eating fish from the Basamuk Bay now and for the next four and six weeks as CEPA is yet to establish if there is any residues of heavy metals contamination through food chain in the fish around the bay.”

Speaking on the independent study endorsed by the Madang provincial government, Mr Kama said that CEPA as the regulator has not been formally informed of such an independent study by the Madang provincial government.

“I want to see the provincial government and the national government working together and not working in isolation.”

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MPs Query Basamuk Spillage

Simon Keslep | Post Courier | October 15, 2019

The Basamuk slurry spillage was again raised in Parliament last week Friday by three Members of Parliament.

Tewai-Siassi MP Dr Kobie Bomareo asked if marine life is affected and the wider effects alleged to have reached as far afield as Bogia and even parts of his district in Morobe province who share the sea border with Rai Coast (Madang).

“There are reports that marine life is affected in the sea and I have heard that this is spreading to Bogia too.

“Can the Minister (Environment and Climate Change) inform us in this House (Parliament) and the people of Madang and Morobe on the latest approach his ministry is doing to address this matter?” asked Dr Bomareo.

Minister for Environment and Climate Change Geoffrey Kama in his response said whatever marine destruction that happened in Dr Bomareo’s district is outside of Basamuk. The minister said the spillage at Basamuk which included the raw material from Kurumbukari caused by tank blockage that overflowed about 200,000 litres of raw material.

“Sixty per cent of the spillage went into the tank and 40 per cent flowed into the sea.

“The colour of the sea is something new to the people which they have not seen in their life. At that time we sent out officers to collect samples and send it down to Brisbane, Australia for testing,” said the Minister.

Mr. Kama said it took 15 days for the results to come back and now they have asked a local expert to check and interpret the results.

“We will get the interpretation and inform the people.

“I want to make it clear to this parliament, the people of Basamuk and wider Madang that test shows there is no major destruction occurring but rather change of sea colour. Next week in Parliament, I will read out the result to everyone,” said Mr Kama.

“There are evidences of fish, dogs and animals dying. The minister must explain well on this,” queries Wewak MP Kevin Isufu.

Minister reverts saying it is important to establish facts given there are investors in Madang and everyone (MPs) must abide by law.

“However Ijivitari MP Richard Masere said the minister has the responsibility to the people and if we are unsure then it shows a lot of gaps that we are unaware of. “There needs to be a formal statement on this issue.

If there is already threats to our people then what actions will the minister take to ensure we put a stop or temporary suspension on the mine.

“Until a formal investigation is taking place and we understand fully the implications of these spill will cause… These spill will have detrimental effects into the future, our children may be born with defects’,” said Mr Masere.

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Cooks opposition backs seabed mining moratorium

Radio New Zealand | 15 October 2019

The Democratic Party of the Cook Islands is backing a call by some Pacific countries and civil organisations for a 10-year moratorium on any seabed mining activity.

The opposition party said there were too many unknowns about the seabed and long-term impact of mining it.

Party leader Tina Browne said a precautionary approach would afford Pacific island countries, including the Cook Islands, time to gather and learn from more scientific data.

Ms Browne is urging the government to be completely transparent and cautious about any ventures to exploit the local seabed to harvest stocks of manganese nodules concentrated in the South Penrhyn Basin.

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Chinese miner in PNG likely to face environmental lawsuit

A spill into the bay earlier this year turned the sea red. Photo: Facebook/ Elisha Wesley Mizeu

Dateline Pacific | Radio New Zealand |  14 October 2019

The Madang provincial government in Papua New Guinea is likely to file a lawsuit against the owner of the Ramu nickel mine in coming weeks.

The mine, owned by Metallurgical Corp of China, or MCC, has been found to have mismanaged toxic waste it dumps into the sea.

Madang’s government engaged an oil spill response consultant from Sweden, Dr Alex Mojon to investigate contamination of local waters and fish species.

A report into the matter by PNG’s Conservation and Environmental Protection Authority is still pending. But, a lawyer working with Madang’s government, Ben Lomai, told Johnny Blades that Dr Mojon’s probe identified catastrophic impacts from mine waste on the marine environment.

Ben Lomai: Because there was some issues within the area that fish were dying, babies had deformed fingers and toes, a couple of people died within the area by eating fish, etc, etc. So they were trying to ascertain what was the cause? I mean, we obviously… with the report now from Alex, and also, we might be able to have this CEPA (Conservation and Environmental Protection Authority)  report coming in. All this will be confirmed and then compared and then Ramu / MCC will take a position on it, perhaps.

Johnny Blades: Should the mine operations be closed until this is sorted out?

Ben Lomai: Yeah, well, you know, there is very good evidence that so the court the only way is to have the mind closed for a period of time for have six months to remedy the situation, and then can get the mine open again, that’s what is done in Pujiang city in China. They passed a law that if you have not complied with the Waste Management (rules), they come in and shut the power down, tell you to do all these things and inspect, come and check, recommend that you have done it and then they come and put the power back on for you to work. It’s very, very strict. I don’t understand why they come here and they don’t do it here in this country.

Johnny Blades: Well this is a test, isn’t it, for Papua New Guinea’s environmental agencies and its courts?

Ben Lomai: Yeah I have actually briefed a QC in Sydney. I told him that look, I need another report to back up the case because the preliminary report is just showing some indication that yes, there’s some contamination but the second report is very solid, because it indicates the level of contamination is very high in toxicity in all 28 samples that were collected by Alex. And if we have the opinion that there was a cause for the environmental claim then we should be able to file it before the end of October.

Johnny Blades: What has MCC’s response been so far?

Ben Lomai: Well, MCC has not come back yet. They said they wanted to see the CEPA report, and then they can they can comment on it.

Johnny Blades: Is there a danger that there will be more more reports required, more assessments, and that it’ll drag on?

Ben Lomai: Yeah, absolutely. Because we need to really ascertain the actual contamination. We’ve got a report from Alex, and Alex is not doing it on his own. He’s got a team of environmental scientists and professors that are working with him. We welcome the MCC to also have its own environmental scientists to do their investigation. We also… by law, CEPA is obligated to produce a report and they should have done that a long time ago when the issue was raised. But anywhere they said the report is nearly completion. So we’ll wait for them to do that. At this stage, we’re not putting the blame on the MCC yet. We want to work with them in a friendly way so that we can resolve for the benefit of the people. That’s the approach that we’re taking. But if they are not cooperating, then perhaps we can be able to look at other options.

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Chinese Owned Ramu NICO brushes aside Basamuk report

NBC News / PNG Today | 12 October, 2019

The Chinese owned Ramu Nickel company who is developing the Ramu Nickel Project in Madang has brushed aside the scientific findings of the Switzerland scientist who was engaged by the Madang Provincial Government to carry out an investigation into the Basamuk Spillage.

Swiss-based scientist, Dr Alex Mojon, whom the Ramu Nickel Company described as a self- proclaimed scientist, revealed his findings on Wednesday this week in Port Moresby.

The company said Dr Mojon’s investigation was not authorized by the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) – the regulated government body to conduct such investigations.

Dr. Mojon was engaged by the Madang Government following recent reports of dead fish being discovered in Madang waters and people developing complications after allegedly eating contaminated fish and swimming in the sea.

Findings by Dr Mojon revealed that Basamuk has suffered extensive pollution over the years, as a result of Ramu Nickel Mine carelessly dumping its wastes into the Basamuk Bay over the years.

However, Ramu Nickel says it will only accept the officially sanctioned report from the CEPA investigation.

The company also says it doubts whether the scientific report and Madang Provincial Government’s engagement are independent in nature.

A statement from the company states that the Swiss Report may be independent for the Madang Government but not for Ramu Nickel and they will out rightly ignore the findings.

Ramu NiCo is also asking CEPA and other government authorities to confirm if the Swiss scientist was authorised to collect samples and produce – what it says is a ‘damaging report’ towards a genuine foreign investor.

The Company also said it was not consulted by the Swiss scientist before visiting Basamuk to collect samples of dead fish, water, sand and pebbles for testing.

Meantime, Minister for Environment and Conservation Geoffrey Kama told NBC News, the report into the ‘Basamuk spillage’ by CEPA will be presented in Parliament next week.

Mr. Kama says the National Executive Council has already approved the report.

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