Tag Archives: BHP

When the dam breaks: European Banks investing over €100 billion in dirty extractive companies.

Timika, in the eastern province of Papua, Indonesia September 19, 2015. Bild: © REUTERS/Muhammad Adimaja/Antara Foto

The Dirty Profits 6 report released by Facing Finance highlights the investments of ten european banks in ten extractive companies which continually violate human rights and damage the environment.

Facing Finance | 10. May 2018

Minerals and metals are an integral part of our daily lives, from smartphones to toothpaste, but the global extractives industry is also heavily involved in some of the worst labour, environmental and human rights violations, particularly in countries of the South. The industry also has a substantial impact on climate change, particularly those companies involved in the extraction of coal, oil, or in risky practices such as Arctic drilling. In fact, just 7 of the 10 companies shown are responsible for almost 8% of global GHG emissions. 

Some of the violations in this report, by the ten extractive companies (companies include for example Barrick Gold, Grupo Mexico, Eni and Gazprom), variously cover contamination of land, water and air; silencing community activists using violence, threats and intimidation; labour violations and forced labour; and failure to provide the remedy communities deserve.

While banks increasingly claim to be improving their ESG policies, and that they pay attention to incidents and violations by companies, the report shows that almost a third of all capital provision (€32 billion) by the ten banks was to the very worst category of companies – those with poor human rights policies, a lack of commitment to international standards, severe violations and an unwillingness to engage on these issues. Over the seven-year period the two UK banks (HSBC and Barclays) provided nearly €9 billion to this category. The largest provision of capital to all the companies, was by BNP Paribas, Barclays and Crédit Agricole, with DZ Bank and Rabobank providing the least.

“The Dirty Profits 6 report shows that most banks, particularly those that made the most capital available, are not taking strong enough action to ensure that the mining and extractive companies they invest in respect human rights and environmental concerns”  Lesley Burdock, Facing Finance

An example of one of the cases covered in the report is that of the company Samarco Mineração (jointly owned by Vale and BHP), responsible for the worst environmental catastrophe in Brazil when its tailings dam broke in 2015, killing 19 people, destroying entire villages and damaging around 2,200 hectares of land and 650 km of river. It has become increasingly clear that this was a preventable tragedy and that the tailings dam was poorly managed.  Danilo Chammas of the International Network of People affected by Vale notes

“Besides being negligent in taking all necessary measures to avoid the dam’s collapse, Samarco, Vale and BHP Billiton have also not taken the required responsibility with regard to reparatory measures for the victims. We have been following up on the company for many years, so for us this does not come as a surprise,  given the company’s bad record of human rights violations and damage to the environment, as well as its usual lack of ability to deal with those affected by its operations.” BNP Paribas and HSBC were two banks which provided direct capital totalling €537 million to Samarco Mineração in the years leading up to the incident. These banks omitted to take action through their due diligence processes to ensure stronger standards of management and thus to prevent the tragedy. The companies Vale and BHP over the seven year period were also provided with capital of over €5 billion and €20 billion respectively- predominantly by HSBC and Barclays.

Facing Finance expects banks to take responsibility for human rights and environmental concerns in their decision making. In particular by improving transparency and making public all relevant information related to engagement; by defining the line between engagement and exclusion of companies; and by taking a proactive approach to identifying non-compliant companies.

Banks claim to use engagement with companies as a tool to identify and mitigate human rights violations and to validate their investments, but most banks provide no public information on this process. Without this information the public cannot know what banks have done to meet their ethical obligations.”  Thomas Kuchenmeister, Facing Finance.

Dirty Profits 6 download

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Papua New Guinea’s resource curse

Armed clan near Komo, Hela Province, Papua New Guinea. Photo by Michael Main

Disaster strikes the nation’s massive gas project

Jo Chandler | The Monthly | May 2018

Brisbane, February 17, 2010. A clutch of ExxonMobil executives gathers for a briefing from Papua New Guinea specialists: a geographer, an epidemiologist and an agronomist. All academics at the Australian National University, they’ve clocked up decades of fieldwork in the remote highlands. They’ve assembled some slides that they hope will give the overseers of ExxonMobil’s $US19 billion liquefied natural gas project, PNG LNG, insight into the lives of the people whose resource they are preparing to pump out of the country’s hinterland and ship to markets across Asia.

The specialists’ pitch is a hard-headed evaluation of looming risk. And it is pointedly plain-spoken, assuming little, if any, knowledge of Papua New Guinea’s geography, history or staggeringly complex cultures.

The good news, they say, is that local people, and the provincial and national governments, want the project.

And the bad news? Expectations are perilously high. The desire for PNG LNG is founded on the belief that it will bring not only wealth to landowners in its footprint but also desperately needed services, roads, power, jobs and economic growth to the region. Health care for most locals is a long walk to an aid post that in all likelihood has no health worker or medicines. Child mortality rates are almost 40 times what they are in Australia, and markedly worse than elsewhere within the nation. Education levels are woeful – 64 per cent of men and 77 per cent of women living around the gas source have no formal education.

The PNG LNG operation will be dropping into a landscape in which the state barely casts a shadow. Violence is rife, and police and justice elusive. Tribal conflict, deeply rooted, has waxed and waned over the years in what is today called Hela Province. Now anxieties and rivalries are flaring around who will and won’t benefit from the gas mother lode, the experts say, with the potential to escalate to blockades, sabotage and armed resistance. Colleagues have been warning about the stockpile of heavy weapons in the highlands for years.

While numerous promised works were built into the benefits-sharing agreements wrangled with landowner representatives a year earlier, these PNG specialists in Brisbane urge ExxonMobil to invest deeply in education, health, livelihoods, infrastructure, security and monitoring. They point to the junior project partner, PNG veteran Oil Search, which has long-established health programs that are highly valued by local people – why not piggyback on those relationships?

Next slide. “Contexts: other large resource projects.”

There’s the Porgera goldmine (“Police attack migrants and locals, burn houses, shoot people – company accused of breaches of human rights”) and Ramu Nickel (“Chinese company ignored local social and employment conditions – Riots … Mine closed temporarily”). And then there’s Ok Tedi, which in the ’80s became shorthand for BHP’s international shame after a monumental environmental disaster when a tailings dam collapsed.

At the top of the list is Bougainville, a shattering and multilayered episode distilled thus: “Second generation unhappy with benefits … [Bougainville Copper Limited] said it was the PNG Government’s responsibility to fix … Power supply sabotaged / PNG Defence Force soldiers attacked civilians … Years of civil war result [in] permanent closure of mine and high death rate.”

The PNG LNG operation, however, is touted as a game changer, the biggest resources project in the Asia­-Pacific, with capacity to double GDP. The Australian government has backed it with a $US350 million investment. Compared to the mines in the slideshow, its environmental footprint is light.

But PNG LNG will sit in one of the most culturally fascinating and incendiary landscapes imaginable. The Huli people of Hela Province, keepers of the gas flame, have forever seen themselves at the centre of the universe. For better or worse, the implications of this project – regionally, economically, geopolitically – are seismic.

The last slide is titled “The beginning, not the end”. A small Huli boy is juxtaposed with a barefoot youth crouched by a roadside and nursing a high-powered automatic rifle. “I will be 18 years old in 2022,” says the caption. “And if I have not been educated and I am still a subsistence farmer living in relative poverty, I am going to be really angry! I may be armed and dangerous!”

Tari, capital of Hela Province, February 1, 2018. By the time the Air Niugini Dash 8 drops through the highlands pall we’re almost jumping distance above the forest canopy. It’s broken by the contortions of rivers and the odd road, and clearings occupied by round huts and crops of sweet potato and greens.

Beyond the blur of the propeller, the clouds close like shutters on the distant ranges. There was no world beyond this fortressed horizon for the Huli until first contact in the 1930s. The first permanent colonial patrol post didn’t arrive in Tari until 1951. Then came the missionaries. The prospectors. The oilmen. And then, a decade ago, after a few false starts, the advance guard of PNG LNG.

The ancestors had seen them coming, these “red-legged” men. The Huli knew all about the subterranean power buried within their country, the fire (gas) and water (oil). They navigated around it with ritual. Their lore was selectively enlisted for the PNG LNG hard sell. It was destiny that the underground fire the Huli call Lai Tebo would “light up the world”, bringing in wealth that would transform the nation’s economy and the lives of its citizens.

But as I learnt on a previous visit in 2009, en route to villages with a health outreach team, that account neglected certain critical elements.

“When the white people come to take the power from the earth, there will be terrible fighting and Huli culture will fade away,” Dr Hewali Hamiya, the then CEO of Tari hospital told me. He was at the wheel of a 10-seater troopie, navigating broken roads, expanding on politics (“the poor and illiterate are spectators in our own land”) and explaining Huli Cosmology 101.

In an ancient narrative once described by ANU anthropologist Chris Ballard as “a user’s guide to apocalypse”, the Huli seek to influence the nature of the final event. This apocalypse would be “the terminal point in a long, linear process of moral and ecological decline”. It’s a mythology that has provided fertile ground for fire-and-brimstone Christian missionaries. And it has endured, fuelled by unfolding events.

Much of the mountainous interior of Papua New Guinea is too steep, too high or too wet to produce crops. But the town of Tari, at 2100 metres, sits in a hospitably undulating agricultural sweet spot, a magnet for people and trade from far-flung hamlets. From a window seat on the final approach, it looks like tropical Arcadia. It’s not.

By all accounts, there is a social emergency playing out, one that has ancient heritage but in modern times is enmeshed with both the history and the fate of PNG LNG. The project taps its source in the nearby limestone ridges. Concerned chatter among the Pacific cognoscenti has been gaining volume, the most dismayed among them fearing that Hela could explode. They recall and contrast memories of the Bougainville situation. But PNG pundits know better than to try to anticipate the future in the “land of the unexpected”. The cataclysm that will occur in 25 days’ time is beyond anyone’s control.

By now PNG LNG has been operating for almost four years, dispatching hundreds of shipments worth $US13.9 billion at last count. But none of the estimated $300 million worth of landowner royalties has so far found its way to the people at its highlands source. Indeed, the beneficiary landowners in Hela have yet to be identified. Their dues are meanwhile held by the PNG government.

There’s also no sign of many other promised benefits: the tertiary campuses, an agricultural research centre, roads, water and sewerage projects. The province sends power over the mountains to run the Porgera mine, but its people still have no lights. Even in Tari, power hiccups with the dodgy town generator. Oil Search’s managing director, Peter Botten, says more than $237 million has been paid to government entities and landowner groups to build infrastructure, but “the reality is they haven’t been delivered on the ground”. (ExxonMobil declined an interview, but in a statement said the project had put more than $300 million into projects and programs.)

In a dilapidated church hall in Tari, I meet Janet Koriama, the president of the Hela Council of Women. She is explaining why she declined an invitation to attend the legendary 2009 gathering of thousands of project stakeholders, where benefits-sharing deals worth more than $7 billion over the 30-year life of the project were thrashed out among (overwhelmingly) male landowners after days of negotiations and, infamously, much beer and debauchery.

Koriama thought it was wrong to host the forum in the town of Kokopo, 1000 kilometres away from the project site. (So does PNG law, and so the deal had to then go to a series of local forums.) “And I was a bit scared because of what tradition says.” Koriama is referring to the belief that you can give away “the water” (the oil, which has been pumped out nearby for decades), but not the gas. “They said you give Lai Tebo away, the fire will fuel so many conflicts. The prophecy is fulfilling.”

Downtown Tari comprises the airstrip, roads so fractured that it’s quicker (though not safer) to walk, the heaving open market, the bank (hour-long queues for the working ATM), the hospital, roadside trade stores (bigger Chinese stores have shut down in fright), a handful of tired public buildings, and the bones of several unfinished two- and three-storey structures – relics or promises of the mother lode, it’s hard to tell. It services a population somewhere upwards of 300,000.

Koriama is one of half a dozen leaders who come to me for interviews after I abandon plans to venture out to the project villages – only an hour’s drive away, but too risky. Hela Province is infamously combustible, and things are hot. Fighting flares unpredictably, with guns and bush knives. Police are lying low after two officers were murdered, the shooter accusing them of selling ammunition and weapons to his tribal enemies. Young men in dark glasses and long coats – to conceal their weapons – work their phones, their backs protected by the red-earth cliff that falls away at the edge of the market. Oil Search health workers I’d hoped to meet at Tari hospital have been hastily extracted because of a scare.

One way or another, the trouble is all about money, says Koriama. “The truth is we don’t have funds. No funds – royalties, equities, support grants.”

The project has been shattering for women and children, she says. “Women are the ones who are in the house … we pay for school fees, for the clan compensation [for deaths], all these things. But women are not recognised and we are not benefiting from the LNG … The big money – where is it going?”

Koriama is savvy – politics in PNG is no place for the faint-hearted. She’s dealt with corporates as a landowner in the Mt Kare goldmine. But she can’t get traction with PNG LNG. She travels to Port Moresby and talks to ExxonMobil and the government. “I said, ‘We are the women of Hela, but we are not benefiting’ … I said, ‘How do we do it?’ Do we write a letter? Do we dress up? … But we are not recognised.”

All that said, she declares that none of the problems are the fault of ExxonMobil or its partners, Oil Search and Santos. “They are here to help us.” She sits on the hospital board with Oil Search’s Peter Botten, under whose chairmanship (and resources) that neglected facility has become unrecognisably functional. (The host of my guesthouse has twin baby girls, Faith and Grace, and a dramatic birth story that none of them might have survived without what the hospital has become.)

Koriama lays responsibility for all the disappointments squarely with PNG authorities, the national and provincial governments, and “our own sons, who were educated, who were supposed to put it together, to look into who is owning the area … I am blaming ourselves.”

The distance between what PNG LNG promised and what it has delivered is an issue preoccupying many close observers of the project. ANU economist and PNG specialist Stephen Howes has highlighted concerns about the failure of royalties to flow to landowners, for this and future projects. “The other surprise is that it has generated hardly any revenue for the PNG government.” This is despite outputs being much higher than anticipated. Most of the blame is put on tax concessions criticised by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as too generous. But “we still don’t have a complete answer on why tax revenue has been so far below expectations”.

Botten blames a dramatic drop in oil prices. He defends the project’s economic contribution to the country, citing PNG National Research Institute modelling that says PNG LNG “has delivered tremendous benefits to the PNG economy and is expected to do so in the future”.

But a new analysis by the economist Paul Flanagan, an associate of Howes at the ANU Development Policy Centre and a former executive in the Australian and PNG treasuries, catalogues a “yawning chasm between spruiked expectations and outcomes”. Oil prices are not the explanation, he says – they are in line with predictions, “[but] all the other predictions about economic gains were well off”.

His report for Jubilee Australia, an anti-poverty research centre attached to the Australia Institute, found that rather than a doubling of the economy there has been a gain of only 10 per cent, all focused on the largely foreign-owned resource sector. Household incomes were expected to increase 84 per cent but have fallen 6 per cent; jobs were to grow by 42 per cent but are down 27 per cent; government spending on services and infrastructure was to kick up by 85 per cent but has fallen 32 per cent; imports were expected to rise 58 per cent but have fallen 73 per cent. “On almost every measure of economic welfare,” Flanagan concludes, “the PNG economy would have been better off without the PNG LNG project.”

A trio of male leaders comes in to meet me in Tari from project hotspots: Henri Harinda from the town of Angore, Pipe Tundu from Komo, and Haguai Kamia from Hides. Like Janet Koriama, they are damning of the PNG government, but they don’t share her regard for the companies. They each bring piles of worn paperwork tracking their land claims and, in English and the local languages of Tok Pisin and Tok Ples (via an interpreter), attempt to explain their rights through the labyrinthine local lore of customary landholding.

Individuals might have a tie to a piece of land on the father’s line (“A” class), or on the mother’s or wife’s line (“B” class), or through association (“C” class). Any piece of land might have several custodians with overlapping rights. These rights are archived not in titles but in fine-grained memory going back generations. ANU geographer Bryant Allen, who worked on contract for ExxonMobil, has stood in the bush with his GPS and a posse of clan leaders countless times trying to determine boundaries. “Sometimes they will say, ‘Bryant, you go over there, we have to talk about this.’ And there will be some shouting and screaming. Then it stops. Three or four people have said their genealogies and argued their case, and someone has said, ‘You’re right,’ and they all agree.” Mostly, he says, it sticks.

In the years leading up to PNG LNG, local landholding custom was explored and explained in depth to corporates and bureaucrats by experts such as Allen and the anthropologist Laurence Goldman. Goldman likens residency arrangements on the land to hotels: some rooms are occupied by descendants of the hotel ancestor, some get a room by virtue of a female link (but might get kicked out at any time) while others are occupied by friends – so long as nothing rocks the boat. Yet as the landowners I meet tell it, the strongest land claim these days sits with the man who is drinking buddies with the company community affairs rep or who has the most persuasive English.

The village of Hides sits on a ridge the locals call Gigira, home of the underground fire, Lai Tebo. It is at the heart of the project, hosting the gas-conditioning plant and several wellheads. Haguai Kamia has spent five years in court seeking rental payments for key sites. He won his case in 2017 and was awarded $100,000 back rent. The court orders, filed in a worn leather satchel, cost him most of that in legal fees, he says. So far he hasn’t been able to retrieve a larger payment, for environmental damage, that he says ExxonMobil gave to the wrong person. Like everyone, he’s still waiting on royalties. When the money comes he will be obliged by custom to share it between seven clans – dozens of individuals – and the church. All of them, waiting.

Kamia was one of the landowners involved in a blockade of the Hides plant in August 2016, a defining escalation in tensions between locals and the project. ExxonMobil’s blanket position is that payment and distribution of royalties and other benefits is the responsibility of the PNG government – nothing to do with the company. Many landowners accept this, but they also know that they won’t get action from the government unless they bring pressure to bear on the project. And around it goes.

Later I speak to three senior village women who live near the plant. They say that fighting has displaced many people, many schools are closed, and many families are hungry. Meanwhile, “the government is employing policemen to just look after the camp, and neglect the people”. The three women also worry about waste from the plant contaminating the water they rely on to cook and wash. They ask me not to publish their names.

Kamia says his boys dropped logs over the Hides access road “because we are crying for the royalties to be paid”. Armed men occupied the plant and shut it down. An ultimatum was given to the national government to honour benefits-sharing agreements within seven days. In the end a deal was brokered, including a government offer of $14 million “to try and soften the mood”, says Kamia, “make [us] feel, Oh, there is something bigger coming, just sit down and relax.

Things could have gone differently. Kamia says a lot of big weapons were moved into the area. There was potential for the situation to explode. But soldiers and police guarding the project are mindful that locals outstrip them for firepower, says Michael Main, a Melbourne-based anthropologist who was doing fieldwork in the area at the time. “One [police officer] told me, ‘We’re not going to risk our lives for ExxonMobil – I can see people have got nothing out of this project. We’re not going to go against the locals.’”

Main also tells of encountering young men who had hauled 20-kilogram rice bags packed with marijuana through the bush to the West Papua border and traded it for Indonesian military weapons. He observed landowners growing emboldened. Whether the Huli have the cohesion to mount a Bougainville-style resistance is a matter of lively dispute, but their firepower is not in doubt.

In December 2016, shortly after an ambush on a political convoy killed two men, and with a national election looming, the PNG government announced it would deploy the PNG Defence Force to the project area to quell violence. But skirmishes continued, including kidnappings of PNG LNG personnel and attacks on facilities. Last November, after an ExxonMobil security manager was kidnapped and released unharmed at Angore (thanks to the intervention of a local pastor, according to Main’s sources), the company evacuated non-essential staff.

Main has written a report exploring the backstories of recent clashes, often identifying threads relating to PNG LNG. His analysis, which will also be published shortly by Jubilee, echoes warnings from a gathering of development and resources specialists and scholars at ANU back in 2007 that “far from improving the wellbeing of [highlands] communities, these new sources of revenue have created new sources of friction”.

The question of how powerfully the PNG LNG project factors in the tempo of tribal conflict provokes intense debate among scholars and old PNG hands. Peter Botten says he’s seen profound cultural change over 25 years in PNG. “There were no mobile phones, tribal culture was relatively straightforward, and the elders and leaders were respected and listened to.” But it’s simplistic to blame big projects, he says. “The resources industry has really had very little effect apart from bringing more money in. Fights aren’t over jealousies [about] resources issues; the fights are very strongly around traditional issues of ‘you took my wife’ or ‘you took my pigs’, and then someone gets killed and then it’s payback.”

The Huli are infamous fighters. (We are sharing, caring and loving, says Janet Koriama, until you take what is ours.) But warfare was historically highly regulated and centred around compensation for losses, says anthropologist Chris Ballard. The LNG project “has massively ramped up rivalries, fuelled the arms race, and provided everyone with some level of grievance”. That said, apportioning blame is “hugely complicated, and I would be deeply suspicious of any narrative that claimed to know otherwise”. Another expert, who lived in the area for many years, argues that “government at all levels must bear responsibility”.

I ask Pipe Tunda, a landowner from Komo, how people are feeling. He lets rip. The interpreter summarises: “They are traumatised, it is really pressuring them, it could explode at any time … They are hungry and they have nothing.” During the construction phase, Komo was buzzing with jobs, aircraft bringing in equipment, camps full of workers. Now it’s a no-go ghost town.

Tunda is party to a judicial dispute-resolution process set up to try to resolve competing landowner claims that have dragged on for more than three years. He’s also involved in a process of “clan vetting” set up by the PNG Department of Petroleum and Energy to try to find ways to get royalties paid to rightful clans or sub-clans in Hela. That mission is now eight years over deadline.

Janet Mbuda, a schoolteacher from Hides who interprets some of my other interviews, says much of the danger comes from young men, teenagers mostly, who left school because of fighting or the lack of school fees. “They can kill anyone … the white men, the black men, they don’t care … their mindset is spoiled. They were expecting something high, but their life went back to zero.”

Around 80 per cent of Papua New Guineans live beyond the reach or interest of a largely dysfunctional state. Land, most of which is still in customary ownership, is cherished as central to security, society and survival. Papua New Guinea law recognises this. The Oil and Gas Act 1998 requires that before convening a development forum for a new project – the meeting where stakeholders thrash out terms and conditions – the petroleum minister shall determine the persons who will receive royalties and equity benefits. Yet today those beneficiaries remain unidentified in Hela.

“Somehow all the construction went ahead without this important part of the law being complied with,” says Stephen Howes, who with PNG lawyer Sam Koim co-authored an analysis on the stalemate. Howes says the responsibility – and the failure – to make the determination rests with the PNG minister. But “it’s the responsibility of all parties to ensure compliance”.

“In hindsight, it’s a mystery as to how this happened given ExxonMobil is a multinational and pretty risk averse, and worried about its reputation. And the only answer I have been able to come up with is that they thought [the determination process] would happen pretty quickly.” But Howes says that assumption meant that “Exxon and the other developers were taking on a massive project risk”.

Howes also questions Australia’s $US350 million investment in the project, through the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) in 2009. At the time it was the biggest foreign loan made by the Australian government. “Given that it was a legal requirement prior to construction, EFIC should have put as a condition of disbursement that landowner identification be determined by the minister.”

ExxonMobil deflects questions on this issue. But Oil Search’s Peter Botten answers emphatically. Determinations were made for every licence area, he says, albeit with landowner leaders rather than individuals. “I was there on the ground [in Hides] at four in the morning when it was signed. They had the mandate from their people, I assume, to sign off on that, otherwise they wouldn’t have done it.”

Colin Filer, an anthropologist and resources expert at ANU who helped write the PNG legislation, explains that what the law requires is for companies to undertake and submit to PNG authorities “full-scale social mapping and landowner identification studies”. But what that means is open to interpretation.

Filer says that in 2006, as the PNG LNG project was rapidly taking shape, meetings were held in Brisbane and Canberra between the PNG government and ExxonMobil to try to sort out what the process should and would entail. He was there as an independent consultant. The PNG side argued it wanted a kind of “telephone directory” of Huli landowners, something that would identify individual beneficiaries.

“And we said to ExxonMobil, ‘Well, that’s probably what you ought to produce.’ But then the question was, who was going to pay for it? Because it was going to be an expensive thing. And ExxonMobil said, ‘Well, we’re not paying for it – we’re not required to do this [in] the Act.’”

So no telephone directory, partly because it was going to be extremely difficult (some argued impossible) and costly. And “because basically these guys in Texas can’t see the point”, says Filer.

“They don’t seem to have ever been able to adapt their corporate management style to the realities of Papua New Guinea. They are still operating as if it was just any other gas project anywhere else in the world. It could be Siberia.”

The upshot is that four years down the track the landowners of Hela are still waiting. As angry as many of them are, the rationale is that they can’t and won’t mount any substantial, sustained or coordinated attack on the project for fear of never seeing their money.

But Howes argues that “people aren’t always rational, especially over long periods of time in a conflict-prone area. And the second problem is that once the [distribution of royalties] is finally made, there will be winners and losers, and the losers then will protest.”

In the capital, Port Moresby, I got a glimpse of the superheated tensions among landowners when I found myself squashed in the National Court’s tiny public gallery with about 60 Huli men hearing rulings on a disputed portion of the $13 million payment that was promised to break the Hides blockade 18 months earlier. (The only other woman in the court was the judge.) The desperation of the Port Moresby–based landowners, some of whom have been enlisted for years by the companies to keep a lid on tensions at home, was palpable.

When I recall the scene for lawyer Sam Koim a couple of hours later, he provides the backstory. “These people have come to Moresby, they live on borrowed money, they hire vehicles, they are chased after by loan sharks.” Koim has observed the fallout, the fragmentation even within families, fighting and suing one another. Hela Province is not like Bougainville, he says, where you had an organised and cohesive society. “But the people [in Hela], with due respect, are the last people you want to play games with. They may not be organised, but it needs just a spark.

“I’ve warned the Exxon guys, told them, ‘Don’t be arrogant.’ They think these people up there are ignorant, but the moment they are enlightened, they cannot continue to be suppressed,” says Koim. “They have the weaponry to do it, they have the potential to do it, they have the might to do it.”

And then the earth roared.

The 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck under Mt Sisa in Hela Province at 3.44am on February 26. It poured mountains of earth into rivers and destroyed food gardens, choking the lifeblood of countless families, so its cruelty has barely begun. As well as many deaths there were reports of communities desperately eking out supplies waiting on unreliable food drops and suffering outbreaks of diarrhoea. Damage shut down PNG LNG facilities for more than six weeks, with ExxonMobil declaring force majeure on its exports. It announced it would be restarting operations on April 13.

The response from the outside world to the crisis was slow, largely blamed on remoteness. ExxonMobil said it would give $1.3 million to earthquake relief, and Oil Search $6.4 million in cash and kind. The latter quickly mobilised its helicopters to take a lead role in assessing needs and delivering relief, ferrying Prime Minister Peter O’Neill into the crisis where he consoled bereft survivors daubed with mourning mud.

But distress soon turned to anger on the ground. “This is 5th Day,” wrote Hela governor Philip Undialu in a Facebook post.

Where are all the helicopters used to fly around Hela looking for Oil and Gas? Why a number of helicopters still flying around the disaster areas but not interested in helping victims? Why we have helicopters for evacuating employees but nothing to rescue injured people? Don’t we have social obligation to the communities?

“The Tari fight is getting worse,” tweeted the Catholic bishop of Mendi, Donald Lippert, on March 30. “They’ve come to the Mission primary school and burned down four staff houses. What’s next???? Most people have run away carrying their belongings on their backs and dragging their pigs behind them. PNG 2018!!!! Good Friday!!!”

The same day, James Komengi, the disaster response coordinator with the Uniting Church in Tari, sent me an email. “We are outside on the road watching the communities on one side of town burn down. We are told many men and women have been shot dead. Will confirm deaths.” Seven fatalities were later reported, among them three teenage schoolboys – one shot, two hacked with bush knives. The killings were described as tribal payback for the shooting in the Tari market of a local councillor two weeks earlier.

Seismic and social aftershocks continued, one crashing upon another. In Tari, violence spiralled. Under the headline “Tari on the Brink of Anarchy”, The National’s reporter wrote that people were more fearful of the fighting than they were of the earthquake. Governor Undialu said he had fewer than 20 police to secure the town. Meanwhile, a specialist squad was up the road, guarding the ExxonMobil plant at Hides. “Why should PNG LNG Project be given preference over the lives of ordinary people?” Undialu asked. “I’ve been asking the police commissioner to … give us additional manpower, which has fallen on deaf ears.”

By mid March the quake’s death toll stood at 125. Soon after, more than 55,000 people had been displaced by either the quake or the fighting, and 270,000 were in need of assistance.

With the landscape rolling and roiling with powerful aftershocks, the traumatised population looked for explanations. While all else was broken, Digicel’s communications towers were working overtime. Some turned to the spiritual, recalling the Lai Tebo prophecy, some to science. Social media erupted with a mix of passionate religious rants appealing for mercy from the Huli god Dadagaliwabe, and cut-and-pastes from geological journals on “induced seismicity” (where minor earthquakes and tremors can be triggered by human activity). These “Facebook scientists”, as James Komengi describes them, were “confusing people who are 80 per cent uneducated” by blaming the earthquake on gas extraction. Either way, the project was squarely in the frame.

“I now demand answer[s] from Exxon and my own government as to the cause of this unusual trend in my Hela,” wrote finance minister and local MP James Marape on Facebook. The prime minister appealed to the Australian government to provide scientific advice.

When Geoscience Australia responded with a report explaining that the quake was consistent with the regional plate tectonics that have shaped the highlands over millions of years, and that it was highly unlikely to have been triggered by mining, exploration or extraction, Hela governor Undialu wasn’t persuaded. Nor was former justice minister Kerenga Kua, who in parliament argued that the Australian government could not carry out an independent assessment because it had a financial stake in the project.

Peter Botten was quoted saying that the Huli superstitions around the cause of the earthquake represent “a communication issue”. But anthropologist Michael Main argues it is, rather, a critical development issue, arising from the collision of the conditions in Hela before the quake and the trauma in its wake. “Huli cosmological belief that the extraction of their gas will bring about the end of the world has been fuelled over the past four years by growing resentment over the failure of the project to come good on its development promises,” he wrote for the scholarly blog EnviroSociety.

If the PNG LNG project had delivered on its promises of education and training opportunities, infrastructure, business development and alleviation of poverty, then the concern of its Huli landowners might be over how to utilise their resource to better develop their province to cope with earthquakes into the future. As it is, the PNG LNG project is logically understood in the context of their resource curse.

In an email to me, American-born Bishop Lippert described a maelstrom of factors at play: frustration at the failed promises of the PNG LNG project (“no matter what the causes … legitimate and illegitimate”); young men impaired by blind rage and the abuse of cannabis or alcohol; the breakdown of traditional society with nothing to take its place … “The perversion of cultural constraints has opened the door to killing women and children, something that would be rare in the past, so I’m told.”

On March 30, an emergency order was issued, declaring that “the security situation in Hela Province (and specifically the town of Tari) has deteriorated to the point where the lives of relief workers, public servants and the general public are manifestly in danger”. The order mobilised the PNG Defence Force to bring the situation under control using “all reasonable force”. There was a “shoot to kill” curfew from 6pm to 6am, Bishop Lippert wrote. The United Nations and other agencies evacuated their relief teams, who had still not returned by mid April.

James Komengi keeps a running list of requirements for when the relief teams return: tarpaulins, water containers, building materials, tanks … “The rains are saving many families,” he writes. “Without rain, many people will become very sick.”

In a closed Hela Facebook group, someone posts a picture of four high-powered automatic weapons leaning against the wall of a grass hut. The post says the guns were stolen from a mobile police squad – they’re being offered for sale. Papua New Guinea’s highly active social media commentariat furiously debates whether this might become another Bougainville, and what else it signals for the fragile nation’s future.

“The worst-case scenario is one that PNG has already experienced,” argues ANU economist Paul Flanagan in an article for East Asia Forum.

The loss of social licence for the Bougainville copper mine in 1989 started a decade-long civil war that led to thousands of deaths, undermined development prospects on the island for a decade, damaged PNG’s economy more broadly, and quite directly led to the removal from office of prime ministers Paias Wingti and Julius Chan.

“There are real risks that the parallels [in Hela Province] will be much more manifest than to date,” Flanagan tells me. “Almost every wrong policy is being pursued – everything we wouldn’t want to avoid a resource curse.”

If the crisis in the wake of the earthquake persuades the PNG government to find a way to get overdue royalties to Hela landowners, and along the way rethink some of its macroeconomic policies, “hopefully things will go well”, Flanagan says. It’s not too late, he argues, to change the development path from a resources focus to something more inclusive that builds on agriculture and other areas. “It will take a decade. It’s got to start.”

If not, he warns, the consequences will be worse than what Papua New Guinea endured through the 1990s, when incomes across the country fell by 25 per cent. Provinces with healthier economies would resent the drain of poorer ones. “That is the sort of thing that leads to these fracturing tendencies in the nation state of PNG,” says Flanagan, an observation that feeds into increasing anxiety about the fragile geopolitics of the Pacific.

Stephen Howes argues that the failure of royalties to flow to Hela landowners already casts a significant pall over the prospects of future resource projects. “The PNG LNG project was supposed to send the global investment community a strong signal that PNG could manage large resource projects. But it is increasingly evident that this one very important piece of the puzzle was never put in place. And that will surely be a deterrent to other potential investors.”

Michael Main says that not so long ago, despite all the distress of landowners around the project, he would not have imagined that they would ever organise to put an end to it. “But things change, and the structures that were there – and that I thought would mean this project would keep going – are themselves subject to change in a way I hadn’t expected.” And that was before the Huli apocalypse.

Laurence Goldman, an anthropologist with many more years’ experience in the highlands, albeit not recently, won’t venture any such bets. “PNG has a wonderful way of contravening the best guesses that people have.” It’s an observation that evokes a favourite line from another PNG veteran, the late historian Hank Nelson: “As is often the case in Papua New Guinea, unfolding events have continued to unfold.”

Back in Australia, I receive an email from James Komengi in Tari. He says that there’s a lot of talk about protests planned in Hides and Tari against the project, maybe another shutdown. “Many people here [even outside the project area boundaries] are demanding they be compensated as landowners because the ‘man made’ earthquake disaster has affected us.” Events are unfolding.

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PNG government to sue BHP Billiton over alleged environmental damage

Children playing in tailings downstream from the Ok Tedi Mine in Papua New Guinea, 2009. (Brent Stirton/Getty Images)

ABC News | 11 April 2018

Papua New Guinea’s government says it will sue Australian mining giant BHP Billiton for alleged environmental damage in the Western Province when the company was operating the country’s largest copper mine in the 1990s.

It’s not the first time legal action has been touted.

In 2004, a massive law suit representing thousands of PNG landowners, was dropped after settlement was reached, which included compensation.

PNG’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says the government will also initiate an independent commission of inquiry into the PNG sustainable development program, which has been a subject of a court case in Singapore.

Former PNGSDP Chairman and Opposition member of Parliament Sir Mekere Morauta says Mr O’Neill doesn’t understand the purpose of the project.

Bethanie Harriman has the story: Listen Here 

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Commission Of Inquiry Into OK Tedi

The Ok Tedi river was destroyed by Australian miner BHP

A COMMISSION of inquiry into the OK Tedi issue, the environment damage and the establishment of the PNG Sustainable Development Program will be set up.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced this in Parliament yesterday.

“Papua New Guineans deserve to know the truth, not just colouring of the truth so that it suits somebody’s interest, they deserve to know the truth and that’s why I have decided to establish a commission of inquiry,” he said.

Mr O’Neill said he would get an independent person, possibly an Australian judge, to carry out the investigation.

He also said the State had also engaged the biggest environmental law firm in Australia, Slater and Gordon, to review the case that was done by Rex Dagi so that the PNG Government itself takes out the court case against BHP.

“We have to sue this company for the substantial environmental damage they have caused to our people,” he said.

Mr O’Neill was answering questions from South Fly MP Sekie Agisa who, during Question Time, asked the PM what the government and OK Tedi were doing to mitigate the environment damage to Western Province.

Mr O’Neill said the issue about the environmental damage to Western Province has been well publicised, well debated and well documented.

“It is certainly a sad story which successive governments had no due care for the welfare of their own people and protected the interest of the big mining giants and was given protection in fact by legislations passed by this parliament,” he said.

He said the saga is continuing with the PNG Sustainable Development Program that was established as part of that compensation program by the then Morauta Government while giving indemnity and legislative protection to BHP.

“BHP walked away unchallenged for their responsibilities that they had to the people of Western Province on the massive environmental damage they have conducted while they were managing OK Tedi, that is a proven fact.

“I know that our people have now taken over the mine and I know there are certain improvements in the way they manage their waste in OK Tedi, but I feel that this is a question that still lingers in the mindset of our people,” he said.

He said PNGSDP is now subject to a court case in Singapore between the State and the directors of PNGSDP.

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Brazil dam disaster: firm knew of potential impact months in advance

Unreported documents show mining company was aware of threat before country’s worst environmental disaster – but firm failed to take action, prosecutors allege

Dom Phillips and Davilson | The Guardian | 1 March 2018

Six months before a dam containing millions of litres of mining waste collapsed, killing 19 people in Brazil’s worst environmental disaster, the company operating the mine accurately predicted the potential impact of such a disaster in a worst-case risk assessment.

But federal prosecutors claim the company – a joint venture between the Brazilian mining giant Vale and the Anglo-Australian multinational BHP Billiton – failed to take actions that they say could have prevented the disaster. The prosecutors instead claim the company focused on cutting costs and increasing production.

“They prioritized profits and left safety in second place,” said José Adércio Sampaio, coordinator of a taskforce of federal prosecutors, summarising the criminal case against the joint venture and its parent companies.

When the Fundão tailings dam failed on 5 November 2015, it unleashed about 40m litres of water and sediment from iron ore extraction in a wave that polluted the water supply for hundreds of thousands of people, decimated wildlife and spewed a rust-red plume of mud down the Doce river.

Yet more than two years later, nobody has accepted responsibility.

Previously unreported internal documents from the joint venture Samarco show that six months before the collapse, the company carried out a worst-case assessment of the dam, near Mariana in Minas Gerais state.

The Fundão dam had a catastrophic failure in 2015, causing flooding and at least 17 deaths. Photograph: Nicoló Lanfranchi

The document – one of hundreds submitted to the court by prosecutors – warned that a maximum possible loss from a “liquification break” could mean up to 20 deaths, cause serious impacts to land, water resources and biodiversity over 20 years, and cost $3.4bn.

The prosecutors’ complaint also includes harrowing accounts by survivors from Bento Rodrigues, a small community obliterated by the mud released in the disaster.

Wesley Izabel managed to save his two-year-old son, Nicolas, but his daughter, Emanuelle, 5, slipped from his fingers to her death.

When the mud engulfed her house, Darcy Santos heard her grandson Thiago, 7, cry “help me, Jesus!” before he was suffocated.

In 2016, 21 people were charged with qualified homicide, including Samarco’s former CEO and representatives from Vale and BHP Billiton on its board of directors. All the defendants and three companies were also charged with environmental damage.

A separate civil action by prosecutors seeking $48bn in damages was launched in 2016 and is still being negotiated. In January last year, prosecutors and the three companies signed a preliminary deal worth $680m to guarantee recuperation work.

In statements to the Guardian, Samarco, Vale and BHP Billiton said they rejected the charges, that safety had been and remained a priority and that the dam complied with Brazilian legislation. The companies have separately said they would defend their employees and executives.

Separately from the civil action, the three companies made a deal with the federal and state governments in March 2016 to carry out repair, restoration and reconstruction programmes. They have spent more than $1bn on a huge clean-up and relief operation, separate from civil actions launched by prosecutors.

Samarco has also paid about $6.7m in fines levied separately by the state government of Minas Gerais – but none of the 24 fines totalling $105m imposed by the Brazilian government’s environment agency, Ibama.

“Samarco believes there are technical and juridical aspects in the decisions that need to be re-evaluated,” the company said in a statement.

None of the 375 families who lost their homes have yet been rehoused.

“It is a lot of injustice,” said Sandra Quintão, 45, whose small restaurant in Bento Rodrigues was swallowed by the mud.

Until the disaster, Samarco was a Brazilian success story. In 2014, despite falling international iron prices, it declared a net profit of $1.3bn.

But prosecutors allege that its directors encouraged the company to keep cutting costs.

When the dam failed, it unleashed about 40m litres of water and sediment from iron ore extraction. Photograph: Nicoló Lanfranchi

According to minutes from an August 2015 board meeting, which were included in the legal proceedings, company directors said: “Despite the improvements in cost reduction the world is not standing still and further improvements are needed.”

The importance of safety was also stressed at board meetings. At a meeting in August 2012, the board praised Samarco’s safety performance and said the company should “maintain its focus on eliminating fatal risks”.

Prosecutors say that the Fundão tailings dam, one of several huge earthworks built to store iron ore mining waste, had always been problematic.

“The dam had been giving problems year after year,” claimed Sampaio, the prosecutor.

Almost as soon as it started operating in 2008, the dam presented problems with its drainage system and signs of erosion, according to photographs and inspection reports included in court documents.

Samarco lowered the reservoir, changed the drainage system and embarked on a series of remedial works.

After the disaster, Samarco, Vale and BHP Billiton commissioned an investigation by the international law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton (CGSH). Published in August 2016, it found that construction flaws had damaged the dam’s original drainage system and described attempts to correct the problems.

The report also pointed to three small seismic shocks in the area about 90 minutes before the dam failed. “This additional movement is likely to have accelerated the failure process that was already well advanced,” it said.

The CGSH report did not apportion any blame and Samarco said it would not comment on it. Many of the issues it described are also included in the prosecutors’ complaint.

Seepage, saturation and cracking were seen at the dam in 2013, and again in August 2014, the report said. Samarco reinforced the dam with a berm.

Sandra Quintão, a survivor from Bento Rodrigues, with her daughter in front of a temporary new house in Mariana. Photograph: Nicoló Lanfranchi

A month later, Pimenta de Ávila, a consultant who had previously carried out work for Samarco, reported that “static liquefaction could be present”, documents show. He inspected the area in December 2014 and told prosecutors he had informed Samarco the situation “was not under control”.

Samarco continued raising the height of the dam. According to the CGSH report, this was done in part to enable the company to correct drainage problems.

In separate responses to the Guardian, all three companies denied the prosecutors’ charges.

Samarco did not respond to questions on the dam’s problems, its failure and the risk assessment. In a statement, it said prosecutors had “disregarded the defences and testimonies presented during investigations”, which it said “prove that Samarco did not have any previous knowledge of the risk to its structures”.

BHP Billiton, which owns half of Samarco, said in an email: “We have no reason to believe BHP people knew the dam was at risk of failing. BHP and its representatives will defend these charges.”

Vale, which owns the other half of the joint venture, said in an email that it “repudiates vehemently the complaint presented by prosecutors because innumerable pieces of evidence and testimony presented in the case files that proved that Vale was never responsible for the operational management of the Fundão dam were disrespected”. Vale said: “Board members were always expressively assured of the regularity of the structures.”

According to minutes included in court documents, Samarco’s board of directors, which included representatives of Vale and BHP Billiton, was briefed several times between 2009 and 2014 on the dam’s construction problems and efforts to fix it.

Minutes for all of these meetings – included in court documents – state that representatives from all three companies attended.

At the time of the disaster, the Fundão dam was fitted with devices used to measure liquid pressure and water level, but according to the prosecutors’ case, several were either not working, lacked batteries or had been moved to another dam. Samarco declined to comment on this.

President Michel Temer’s business-friendly government wants to increase mining, even in sensitive areas like the Amazon, and make environmental licensing more flexible. Photograph: Nicoló Lanfranchi

There was no warning siren. When the dam broke, residents were warned by telephone calls or – in Quintão’s case – by a neighbour who roared up on a motorbike shouting: “The dam has burst!”

Samarco said that at the time of the disaster, sirens were not legally required.

The court case, which is being heard in the town of Ponte Nova, is in its preliminary stage and the judge is yet to decide whether it will be heard by a jury.

It was suspended in July after the former Samarco CEO Ricardo Vescovi and another defendant complained that wiretaps were recorded outside of the investigation period, and that the inclusion as evidence of corporate emails and chats invaded their privacy.

The case resumed in November, after the judge decided that corporate emails and chats could not be included and ruled to separate out the cases involving foreign defendants.

Samarco and its owners are keen to return to production. In December, Samarco was given preliminary licences by the Minas Gerais state government’s environment agency for a new reject storage system at the plant.

President Michel Temer’s business-friendly government wants to increase mining, even in sensitive areas like the Amazon, and make environmental licensing more flexible.

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Thirty years a ‘world class’ mine and still no doctor in the local hospital

Kiunga is just 137km from the ‘world class’ Ok Tedi mine and is the main port for the dispatch and receipt of goods and services from the mine. All the mine concentrate is filtered, dried and stockpiled in Kiunga before being shipped.

The Ok Tedi mine has been exporting gold silver and copper for over 30 years, precious metals with a value that runs to many billions of dollars; but the local hospital has not had a doctor for 20 years…

World Class!

Hospital without a doctor for 20 years

Jacklyn Sirias | The National aka The Loggers Times | August 11, 2017
THE Kiunga district hospital in Western has been without a doctor for more than 20 years, Nursing Services director Thomas Tepend says.
He told The National in Kiunga that the hospital operation was being run by 29 staff made up of 19 community health workers and 10 nurses including himself.
“I have been working with the hospital for more than 14 years now. The last government doctor left us in 1997,” he said.
Tepend said they usually get more than 100 patients a day.
“The big projects in the province are attracting a lot of people and the population has increased,” he said.
“Thus the number of patients we receive per day has also increased.”
Tepend said government funding at times failed to reach them because of the hospital’s remote location.
In 2009, the hospital entered a public-private partnership which saw Ok Tedi Mining Limited through the North Fly Development Programme contribute funding and support.
It enabled the hospital to recruit two medical officers, an anaesthetist and a hospital administrator.
One of the medical officers, Dr Asael Kaptigau, said under the arrangement, they were trying to rebuild the health system.
“Under the PPP structure, we come in to assist the hospital where we can in terms of the health programmes in the province,” he said.
He said their two-year contract would expire next year.
He urged the health department to send government doctors before their contract expired.

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TOO LITTLE LAND, TOO MUCH CONFLICT

Mining communities continue to disagree over the use of sparse land


Mining activity, for years now, has been an issue of serious environmental dispute to the communities it affects – particularly in developing countries. Once land is used for mining activity, it becomes unusable for many other large industries in resource rich developing countries, such as farming and forestry. Particularly Impacting communities in developing countries, largely due to a lack of governmental regulation and structure in the face of such projects. Although conflict resolution strategies have been attempted to address this long standing issue, it seems as though, community consultation; coordination of governments; compensation packages and working partnerships between large and small scale miners, is what’s required, but hardly done successfully. 

Shelina Assomull | PNG Blogs | June 2, 2017

Despite the gloom and doom, there is a lot to be said about mining creating economic growth within communities. In Canada, mining accounts for approximately 15% of national exports and 4-5% GDP, with 340,000 Canadians gained high paying employment due to the works. Similarly, is the case in Zambia, with 20% accounting for GDP, 90% of export earnings, and 15% of the country’s workforce in mining.

With figures like these it is hard to see what is so troublesome about land use for mining activity, however, the issue lies in the way that the implementation of large scale mining projects often causes an unwilling relocation or resettlement of the present communities. This can impair the freedom of movement they are accustomed to, and consequently force them to alter things that are customary to their cultures and traditions. As well as this it can cause environmental damage to their homeland, in the form of removing large tracks of forest, and contamination, chemical spillage collapses of tailing dams and heavy metals leaching. Alongside this is the further threat of foreign disease entering their communities, through foreign persons entering. Castro & Nielson have commented the situation can be, “severe and debilitating, resulting in violence, resource degradation, the undermining of livelihoods and the uprooting of communities.”

Alongside the conflicting wishes of the people and the projects, are the projects and other industries. Land is scarce, and whilst miners are fighting for it, farmers and ranchers want a piece of the pie too. This is highly fuelled by these operations continual conduct outside of the law, making it harder to assess and regulate. As well as this are the clashes between small scale and large scale miners themselves as both parties tend to fight for land in the regions, fuelling conflicts between communities at all levels in the region. Small scale miners are unwilling to let go of the land due to unwillingness to relocate as well as strong cultural ties to the areas, rooted in their ancestry. Although licensing systems have been implemented for small scale miners, it is not organised enough and often results in a ‘double booking’ of land for small scale miners on large scale mining projects’ land. This has resulted in a multitude of violent clashes between the two parties, only serving to destroy the land further. This is exemplified in the case of Ghana where disputes have caused productive land to disappear, with 1.05% of cropland and 1.26% of forest cover lost to desertification, industrialization and urbanisation, every year.

A recurrent theme though out the issue of land use in mining communities is the social implications versus the financial gains. A clear example of this, is the negative cultural impact that new projects can have on aboriginal and indigenous communities, and the monetary compensation they may be offered to subdue this. Land being using for mining in indigenous areas, impairs self-determination to the land, their right to peacefully maintain their culture (the land being a historical part of this), as well as threats to their traditional knowledge of the area. This is often tackled monetarily, by offering compensation. As in Goldfields’, Ghana’s Tarkwa mine where compensation for those affected included housing, improved sanitation facilities, compensation for crops, efficient storm water drainage and an allowance of US$1000. However, sometimes this economic boost does not rectify the cultural losses these people experience.

BHP’s activity in Ok Tadi Mine in Papua New Guinea is an example that encompasses many of the problems discussed. Although outputs from the mine account for at least 16% of annual export earnings and 10% of national GDP, it has also destroyed 1000km2 of virgin natural rainforest as well as water pollution due to chemical residue decreasing fish populations. This highly affected the Wopkaimin communities in the region, and left many of them displaced. Although the community chose to surrender small areas of land for money, much lobbying had to be done to ensure they received adequate treatment in this situation. BHP settled in a US$6.6 million compensation fee, however a package of US$56 million was initially promised. Promises being unfulfilled are the key reason for unresolved land use mining conflicts.

The only resolution to this highly neglected issue is to ensure that residents in the communities are kept informed of mining on goings through visits to mines, surveys, partnerships in industries, liaising with the community and provided public communities, so that there is a stronger interaction between the community, and the company. Finally, compensation needs to go beyond monetary measures, because it cannot make up for cultural losses, this can be done by providing natural resources to replace those lost, improving communities’ skills and employment prospects and encouraging local hire to ensure economic prosperity centres around the community the land mine affects. This will require increased communication, consultation and cooperation, on behalf of the government, the companies and the communities.

However, for as long as these issues remain in developing countries, the desperation to enjoy potential economic contributions from these mining projects, will always force these communities to have to consider a loss of their culture and land for a gain in their wallets.

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