Tag Archives: DEC

To Get and Get Out: The story behind Lihir

It seems an immutable trade off: the greater the rights of corporations, the less the rights of real persons, we indigenous people…

“The company has spoilt our environment…I don’t know what the future holds for us”. Mrs. Francisca Wesparo and Thecka Inial are the only remaining elderly women at Londolovit.

“The company has spoilt our environment…I don’t know what the future holds for us”. Mrs. Francisca Wesparo and Thecka Inial are the only remaining elderly women at Londolovit.

Cyril Gare | PNG Blogs

When the Airlines PNG Dash 8 aircraft touched down on Lihir airport on Aug 9, 2015 I couldn’t believe that this rich gold mining township airport runaway is bare soil, sending clouds of dust backwards as we taxi in to park at the small terminal nearby. For a first timer, first impression counts. The miner is not serious in sealing the runway. ‘They’re here to get and get out’. The ring road around the airport parameters are bare soil. Even Camp 1 and 2 which houses the official residence of the Newcrest Mining Limited (NML) general manager, Craig Jetson is bare soil causing dust everywhere each time a vehicle passes through.

Parts of Lihir Island have sealed roads and permanent houses because of mining benefits except the West Coast where almost nothing is there; roads are neglected for years, people leave in traditional hamlets and evidence of neglect are sporadic. But thanks to the missions especially the Catholic Church for being there with them and providing basic health and education opportunities.

Newcrest Mining Ltd (formerly Lihir Gold Limited, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto) is the world’s sixth largest gold producer. It abstracts gold from the Luise Caldera, an extinct volcanic crater that is geothermally active, and holds one of the largest known gold deposits in the world.

Lihir Island has a population of about 8,000. This is about the size of one big Motuan village alone. One wonders why the rich gold mine operating on their island or group of islands provides for few and not all.  In fact, the Lihir mining agreement – which I wasn’t privileged to see a copy – covers for Kapit and Putput villages only all to the great disadvantage of the rest. Their landowner company – Lihir Mining Area Landowners Association or LMALA is currently under fraud investigations causing uncertainties among beneficiary villagers.

There isn’t a thing called ‘mine affected villages’ like in other resource development agreements in Papua New Guinea. Hence, villages in the West Coast and that of Londolovit situated in the bay miss out greatly.

To the left is the Lihir township and to the right is the mine wastes from both the town and mine impact on Londolovit. NML dumps waste rocks into the sea to reclaim land by some 200 metres so far and is still extending is prowess on reclamation. Land claimed is where the processing plant, incinerator, etc are built.

Whether land reclamation is in the mining agreement or not cannot be ascertained. The facts are that the beautiful shoreline between Londolovit, Kapit and Putput villages is gone forever. Their children now can only see photographs to imagine their once very beautiful coastline.

Villagers say fish and other marine lives are not as tasty like before and each day fear is mounting among villagers whether mine wastes (tailings) that are being dumped into the ocean do not affect marine lives which people feed on.

“In the past things were ok. Today mining has damage our natural environment.

“In the past we use salt water to cook with. Today, we are scared of using salt water because of mine wastes being dumped into the sea so we are forced to buy salt in shops with money.

“We use to wash and drink from fresh streams and creeks. Today there are no more fresh streams and creeks as the company gets all the water and later sends it back in taps which we now use to wash and drink from. This is not good water.

“This is the situation today. The company has spoilt our environment…I don’t know what the future holds for us”

Asked if their worries have been brought to the attention of their local Member of Parliament and Mining Minister, Byron Chan (Namatanai Open) and other leaders, Mrs. Wesparo said: “they know about our problem but can do little”.

At the time of my visit – Aug 9-11, 2015 – several coconut trees were uprooted as a result of high sea level and crushing waves which locals blamed on NML’s waste rock dumping activity. Coupled with climate change and sea level rise, Londolovit is destined for more trouble. Yet Londolovit and all other villages on the island are not covered under the mining agreement.

The next day visit to inland deep forested mountains of Londolovit passed through resettlement sites at Sepuk Bual, Kuanmakiat, Huonatunuo, and Lilitop finishing off at 228 dead-end. It holds settlers relocated from Kapit village, one of the two coastal villages in the Special Mining Lease (SML) area.

Firstly, the Kapi villagers lost their beautiful beach after the mine started its land reclamation activity. Secondly, their whole village was bulldozed and place taken for stockpiling of ores. NML has sighted more gold beneath their village and told them to relocate with cash incentives. Relocate to where?…into the mountains on land belonging to the Londolovit people. Again, there was no consultation. NML has no formal agreement with the Londolovit people for this repatriation exercise. If any, it would base on individual traditional landowners’ consents and not with the consent of the holistic community. This is dangerous which could result in serious repercussions in future.

Electricity and Water Cables: Pardon my limited technical knowledge but true water and electricity cables are connected parallel to each other through the main highway between the mine and the township. How safe are these connections come moments of disaster? How safe come moments of road maintenance works? Scary but true as this workmanship by NML shows.

Londolovit Dam or Weir: Newcrest is currently undertaking a major expansion of the Lihir process plant known as the Million Ounce Plant Upgrade (MOPU). The MOPU includes installation of a new crushing facility, and upgrades to the ore processing plant. Additional power generation capacity and water supply is therefore planned.

Londolovit is not getting paid for the use of their traditional water hole but the State through the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) because the agreement states that “water belongs to the State”.

NML formerly through Lihir Management Company (LMC) in a 1998 agreement pays Londolovit only for damages or “impact” on the Londolovit river environment and not for “usage” of water. The dam upstream caused decrease water level and lose of aquatic lives and other social inconveniences to the community. Payment is very minimal: K35,000 per annum then to K60,000 pa to K120,000 pa and currently at K300,000 pa.

“Yes, we’re receiving these payments but it is for environmental damages and not for actual usage of our water,” said Steven Massau, spokesman for the Londolovit impact community.

Last year, Londolovit commissioned an independent water usage investigation by a consultant and the report found gross extraction of water by LMC now NML “over and above” the permitted rates: 113,949,504,000 litres of water valued at K113, 949,504.

Currently, a delegation from Londolovit is in Port Moresby pursuing the K113 million claim.

After weeks of pursue, neither the DEC, Mineral Resources Authority, or NML owns up to pay the K113 million. They are paying marbles on them and keep passing the buck.

The last time gorgors are placed at the Londolovit weir/dam and at other mining sites was on June 6, 2015 forcing the mine to shut down for 36 hours. Collaborating with the State (MRA), NML flew in 17 heavily armed policemen who removed the gorgors and prevent further disruption by resource owners.

When the creature ‘State’ compromises with corporations the end result is political suppression and economic deprivation of fair benefits and opportunities. In addition, they leave massive and irreversible damages and destructions to our environment which holds our land and cultural heritage.

It seems an immutable trade off: the greater the right of corporations, the less the right of real person, we indigenous people.

The Ailaya rock is the only landmark left along the Lihir coastline to show where the original sea boundary was. Continuous land reclamation by NML currently is suspected of causing sea level rise and damage to marine lives to villages like Londolovit but without proof of scientific studies.

The Ailaya rock is the only landmark left along the Lihir coastline to show where the original sea boundary was. Continuous land reclamation by NML currently is suspected of causing sea level rise and damage to marine lives to villages like Londolovit but without proof of scientific studies.

That once was Kapit village is now bulldozed to the ground and people relocated to inland mountains of Londolovit without proper agreements in place. NML eyes the place because of promise of more gold deposits beneath. Pics by CYRIL GARE.

That once was Kapit village is now bulldozed to the ground and people relocated to inland mountains of Londolovit without proper agreements in place. NML eyes the place because of promise of more gold deposits beneath. Pics by CYRIL GARE.

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Presenting the Basamuk Red Sea

basumuk1

A lot has been said about the toxic chemical spills into ‘Beautiful Madang’s’ Basamuk Bay seawater, but have you pictured how it might look like from how the people described it? Brace yourselves and look no further than the pictures in this article that have surfaced, taken by the people themselves using their mobile phones, to show you what they are currently treading on and living with.

Red sea basamuk

This is how the sea looked in the last chemical spill in the month of March this year, and the Ramu Nickel Mine’s ‘Community Affairs’ officers bounced into the villages and told the people ‘Everything is ok’, and then left, the same way they arrived. Off course as you know, they’ve not produced any reports to back up their assurances – as usual.

The national government’s Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) workers are as useless in giving hope to the people, maybe far more worse than the Chinese Miners because as the people put it, ‘they are outright dumb’. They’ve been flying in and out of the province but as you may have already guessed, they’ve been residing at top hotels and when they are in Basamuk, they are stationed with the Chinese at the ever smoking processing site.

Now be reminded again that the DEC workers may be working for the government, meaning they’re getting paid with your tax money, but they’re also getting paid by ‘these toxic waste dumping’ Chinese, to ‘falsely’ attend to the problem, so long as they carry the ‘Department of Environment and Conservation’ name tag.

To be specific, one of the DEC representatives announced to a young girl he clearly admired, at Madang’s Krunget market that’s right in front of the Madang Resort last year, that the Chinese owned Ramu Nickel Mine is paying him K2000 a day, just for making his presence known. All he has to do is pretend to dive, then tell the villagers everything’s ok and then leave.  He was still at the resort in Madang, not gone to Port Moresby yet to file a report on his findings when a story ran on the daily newspapers said nothing is wrong, everything’s ok.

So you see, these department of environment SALES workers are being used to scare people that they are ‘the government’ and that the government today will use its power to get the police to beat the people up and arrest them and even take them to court, if they decide to go further in proclaiming their rights to a better sea and environment.

You see, after four chemical spills so far, the toxic sediments have been building up on the sea bed, and is fast spreading to the people’s coastline, according to the latest on the ground reports. As seen in this photograph, this toxic waste is still red-ish in color though it’s been under water for some time now.

Red substance build up
You see this is the sticky substance that gets stuck onto the people’s fishing lines and baits when they are dipped into the sea to catch fish. That being said, the best fish are said to be those that are usually on the seabed, attracted to the surface and caught using baits. Now what do you suggest these fish have been feeding on down there, before the people catch them and in turn consume them.

Their garden foods mysteriously drying up and getting sores all over, the reefs and fish are dying. Meanwhile the chemical spills are still happening and not investigated by anyone, not the government departments, and not even journalists, leaving these people in total isolation.

Tell me that you will touch the sea as red as it is in the photographs or eat fish caught from it. Tell me you will gladly swim and splash around in it. You have not the faintest idea of how these people, the people of Madang Papua New Guinea are coping with these toxic Chinese men-made changes. You may say it the Basamuk’s or the Madang people’s problem but it’s definitely coming your way with a different name and face, as the Chinese Developers.

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Government admits agencies failed in Sinivit disaster

Papua New Guinea government agencies prove once again they lack the resources and skills and professionalism needed to manage large-scale mining. As a result foreign mining companies are able to operate with complete impunity and local communities suffer the consequences…

Call for action on mine issue

The National aka The Loggers Times

DEPUTY Prime Minister Leo Dion has admitted the failure of provincial authorities and relevant national line agencies to prevent environmental damage at the abandoned Sinivit gold mine in East New Britain.

Dion, the East New Britain regional MP, said rather than just talking about the issue, all responsible authorities must take action to protect people’s lives while at the same time ensure that the responsible company was held accountable for its actions.

He said it was believed the ENB provincial government has requested K5 million from the National Government to address the situation.

He  believed that if there was an existing technical committee, with an agreement between the developer – Niugini Gold and the provincial government, as well as routine inspections done, then the company would have been prevented from going  overboard or not complying with the agreement.

And because of this failure, the province was now asking the national government for another K5 million to correct something that was supposed to have been amended in the past.

He further stated that he was convinced that if the state agencies and line departments carried out their mandated responsibilities, the affected people would not be suffering like this. However, he said that rather than playing blame games, he would be taking up the issue with the  Mining Minister to ensure that people’s lives were protected, and urged government officers to learn from mistakes and become more proactive by planning ahead for disasters.

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PNG Mine Waste woes an indictment of 30 years of mining and the double standards of the mining industry

Thirty years of mining by the world’s largest mining companies but PNG still needs foreign aid because it can’t manage mine waste. The mining industry dares to describe PNG laws and regulations as ‘world class’ while indigenous people struggle with the impacts of the environmental destruction they cause. BHP, Rio Tinto, Barrick, Newcrest, Harmony Gold and the rest would not dare to pollute and destroy in their home countries but they are happy to shit all over PNG…

Deal to improve mine waste management

The National aka The Loggers Times

THE Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is partnering with PNG to control mine waste management in the country.

The deal was signed between JICA, the Mineral Resources Authority, Department of Mineral Policy and Geohazard Management (DMPGM) and Conservation and the Environment Protection Authority in Port Moresby last Friday.
Reviews from DMPGM showed that PNG lacked comprehensive policies and regulation frameworks to control increasing mining activities within the country in last decade resulting in considerable amount of mine pollution affecting surrounding environments where mine activities were present.

MRA managing director Philip Samar said: “PNG currently has nine operating mines and these mines have their fair share of contribution in terms of mine wastes whether it’s generated from the mine, industrial waste from fuel; all of those are waste from mine.

“Look at the next ten years, four next world class mines are set to come on stream … Wafi, bigger than Ok Tedi, Frieda, Yandera and Mt Kare plus two others. If we are not able to manage the wastage, that put out by the existing nine then we are simply playing a catch up game. Mine waste is something that needs to be managed and managed well.”

JICA chief representative Shigeru Sugiyama said technical cooperation between the agency (JICA) and PNG would ensure that development of the country’s mining sector was economically stable and at same time environmentally responsible.

“This cooperation will improve the strategic framework of environmental management focused on waste from mines across the country,” he said.

“Parallel with framework its output is set to come up with data collection analysis of mine waste. This output is expected to assist the PNG Government in the mining sector, to elevate the capacity of capturing and monitoring the overall impact of mining activity and contribute to improve the transparency in the sector.”

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‘Lives at risk’ at Sinivit mine

location map

Officer urges bodies to fast-track processes on environmental issues 

The National aka The Loggers Times

STATE agencies dealing with environmental issues from the Sinivit Mine in East New Britain are urged to fast-track processes and address them promptly as people’s lives were at risk.

Provincial environment and conservation officer Florence Paisparea, giving an update by a technical working committee on disasters in the province, said the provincial government was only waiting on State agencies such as the Department of Environment and Conservation and Mineral Resources Authority to carry out the next step to  rectify chemical pollution from the abandoned mine.

These included detoxicating the contaminated Warangoi River and outflow at Ganai seafront in the Bitapaka LLG.

Paisparea said tests conducted recently on samples from the river system showed that the treatment pond for cyanide and other chemicals used at the mine contained 20 parts per million of chemicals, while the vats contained 20 parts per million as well.

She said this was “very high concentration.”

The permitted environmental safe content was five parts per million.

Paisparea emphasised that the public was not to use or go near the river until tests cleared it.

She appealed to national agencies responsible to fast-track processes required to get specialists in and also the neutralisers needed to detoxicate the chemicals that included cyanide and other metals like copper, mercury and zinc.

Pollution from the mine was blamed for dead eels and fish discovered along the river system.

That prompted officials to warn people to keep away from the river until tests were done.

Govt warns of possible spillage

EAST New Britain provincial administrator Akuila Tubal is warning people living near the Warangoi River not to eat dead fish, eels or any other form of life in the river.

Tubal, who is the chairman of the provincial disaster committee, is concerned with cyanide spillage from vats at the Sinivat Mine site that could have found its way into the river system.

A report by the provincial disaster technical team that had been working on the containment and awareness programme on the spillage said that down-flow of heavy rain water from the ranges where the mine was located had increased.

Tubal said the team was also asking people living both upstream and downstream not to use river water for drinking or washing until tests were carried done by Department of Environment and Conservation.

He urged fishermen not to fish in the Ganai area of the Bitapaka LLG or the mouth of the Warangoi River until further notice.

He appealed to the public to have proof of dead marine and aquatic life before making reports to the provincial disaster technical team.

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Watut Union wants more time for Environment Consultation

DEC only allowing 28 days for community submissions

DEC has not given communities copies of the proposed environmental plan

Previous payments for environmental damage as low as K4 and K11 per family 

Sylvester Gawi | EMTV

The Union of Watut River communities in Morobe province have expressed concerns over the environmental damages that may happen when the Wafi mine comes into operation.

They claimed that damages done by mine tailings from the Hidden Valley mine in previous years were not compensated well by the Morobe Mining Joint Venture.

They are now calling on the Department of Environment and conservation to give enough time for the impacted communities to be consulted before an Environmental permit is approved.

The Union is saying that the 20 days given by the Department of Environment and Conservation to review Wafi mine’s environmental permit is inadequate.

They are now asking for the timeframe to be extended until the end of this month, to give enough time for them to consult the communities in the impacted areas of the mine.

President of the Union of Watut River communities, Reuben Mete, says they cant allow the permit to be approved without consulting the people.

“We want an expension of time so that the people of Upper Watut, Mumeng, Wampar and Salamaua LLGs be given ample time for discussions on issues that will be affecting them regarding the Wafi gold mine,” says Mete.

The union claimed that in previous years, communities affected by tailings from the Hidden Valley mine were not compensated well.

Payment documents from previous incidents revealed that locals were paid as low as K4 and K11 for damages done to their plants and food gardens.

What the union wants to see is impacted areas; especially riverine communities are consulted and fully informed on compensation methods before a permit is approved.

Chairman of Mining in the Morobe Provincial Executive Council, Okam Paton, has denied being consulted by the Department of Environment and Conservation.

He is expected to bring this matter to Tutumang’s attention when they convene this Thursday.

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No transparency on Ramu mine dumping impacts

Department of Environment and MCC are happy to tell people the marine tailings dumping is having no adverse impacts – but they refuse to give local people a copy of their ‘independent study’. 

What are they trying to hide?

DEC officials explain DSTP finding to Basamuk villagers

Jack Lapauve Jr | EMTV

The Department of Environment and Conservation officials spent two days in villages adjacent to the Ramu NiCo Basamuk Refinery site to communicate the important findings of the deep sea tailings placement (DSTP).

The team, comprising Dr Lemas Pangum, Mining Advisor with DEC and Gabriel Luluaki, were accompanied by Ramu NiCo Health, Safety and Environment officers, as well as an observer team from the Madang provincial government.

The awareness at Mindre and Ganglau villages conforms to a National Court Order whereby the state and the developer (Ramu NiCo) would conduct awareness on the DSTP on quarterly bases to inform the villagers and stakeholders on the operation of the DSTP.

Two main agendas were discussed; namely findings of DEC investigations in June 2014 and key outcomes from an independent consultants study of the marine environment by Ian Hargreaves and associates of Australia.

Key findings from the independent audit of the marine environment carried out by Ian Hargreaves & Associates were also conveyed to the communities.

Ian Hargreaves and Associates is an independent consultant company from Australia, engaged by Ramu NiCo as required by the environment permit to undertake two-yearly audits of the marine environment.

He clarified to the villagers that the survey by the independent consultant concluded that no significant differences were found between results of the 2007 baseline survey and 2013 post-operational survey.

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