Tag Archives: Submarine Tailings Disposal

Basamuk Spill Poisonous, Scientists Claim

Gorethy Kenneth | Post Courier | November 4, 2019

International scientists engaged by the Madang provincial government claimed last Friday that they have data to prove that the Basamuk spill was poisonous to the people of Madang.

And they further claimed that the chemical spill by miner Ramu Nico at Basamuk was dangerous and would take four to five years for the sea to get back to what it was. They have also claimed that their scientific laboratory results of a sample test of a dead dolphin in Rai Coast had confirmed the heavy presence of chemicals.

And that all fish species, algae and plants death, were due to the heavy metals laden slurry spill which included mercury, zinc, magnese, cromium and others were all dangerous heavy metals found in the tissues, soils and waters samples collected and tested in the Netherlands and Germany.

A team of 12 scientists, technicians and administration staff from the Swiss Association for Quality and Environment Management (SVQ), Scientific and Administrative team involved in the environmental assessment in regard of the RamuNiCo Mining and Processing Activities in Madang Province led by Dr Alex Mojon are now in Madang to further test new areas in the Basamuk Bay.

They are Dr Mojon as the head of the group, chief coordinator Maila Savaliuk, Professor Dr Peter Felix-Henningsen, Dr Daniel Weber, Dr Iwe Hiester, Dr Jurii Zavgorodney, Arnold Springer, Oleskly Kuwakin, Heinz Ihne, Chemist Thomas Henneberger, Dr Ueli Augsburger, Walter Knapp and Partner company of SVQ Sir Jimmy Francis Hinch, the CEO of CJI General Construction, Batangas.

On Thursday a Madang provincial team and the scientists met with the Minister for Mining Johnson Tuke and Minister for Environment Geoffery Kama to further cement their resolve to come up with solutions that can be addressed across all levels of government.

At a press conference with media in Port Moresby Dr Mojon, accompanied by Madang Governor Peter Yama and administrator Joseph Kunda presented results including data and facts on the spill.

Dr Mojon said the results and interpretations were scientific data which were not focusing on any non-indented, intended or legal accuses in confront of the RamuNiCo – but they were a data bank which shall be the base for a further mutual cooperation with the National Government, national authorities as well as with the RamuNiCo.

Dr Mojon said the reflected data were a summary of field sampling (accordingly to ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and to the European Norms and Standards of Environmental Assessments) for the period of May until October 2019 (3 Assessments), and of chemical-physical analysis, executed by the German Certified and Accredited Görtler Analytical laboratory.

“The interpretations are reflecting the actual stand of understanding and findings. We need additional research on punctual matters to fortify the final balance of the assumed Environmental Impacts,” he said.

RamuNico executives told the Post-Courier they will seek legal advice from their lawyers before making any comments but assured they are ready for roundtable meetings with all stakeholders, the national government, scientists and Madang provincial administration and the leaders.

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Wafi-Golpu selling idea marine waste dumping safe

Erebiri Zurenuoc | The National aka The Loggers Times | April 26, 2019

THE awareness on deep-sea tailing placement (DSTP) by the Wafi-Golpu Joint Venture team provided vital information for the people, says Labuta Local Level Government president Tups Waho.

Waho of Nawaeb district in Morobe said the awareness had been allowing people share their views on the project.

“The future of Labuta lies in the five-year development plan which must be captured in the proposed mining development plan,” Waho said.

“Two of the important impact projects covered in the five-year development plan are fisheries and eco-tourism because ward one to ward 13 are in the coast.

“There are a lot of fishing communities, and many locals use fishing as the means to generate income, and as a protein for their food.”

Labuta said people were still concerned about chemicals from the DSTP which might harm them.

DSTP engagement leader Andy Maie told Talec villagers tailings would only be harmful once it came into contact with air. “Our two-year study show that the deep-sea in the Huon Gulf peninsula is suitable for the proposed tailings displacement at depths of more than 200 metres,” he said.

“There is no risk of current upwelling and no fish life living beyond that 200-metre depth,” he said.

“The discharge will flow into the Markham canyon, to join the sediment discharge from the Markham and Busu rivers that flow towards the 9km deep New Britain trench.

“There are plans for monitoring stations to assess the sediment flows from rivers, monitoring of the ocean currents, fish sampling, water quality, and other studies.”

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Newcrest looking at marine waste dumping for Wafi-Golpu

Newcrest focusing on Wafi-Golpu

The National aka The Loggers Times | November 16, 2017

NEWCREST hopes to complete an update of Wafi-Golpu feasibility study by end of the March quarter next year, chairman Pater Hay says.
Hay said during the company’s annual general meeting on Tuesday that the company’s most advanced exploration project was the Wafi-Golpu project which he described as a “world-class copper-gold deposit in Papua New Guinea”.
Wafi-Golpu is an advanced exploration project located in Morobe and is owned by the Wafi-Golpu Joint Venture, one of three unincorporated joint ventures between Newcrest (50 per cent) and Harmony Gold (50 per cent), formed in 2008.
Hay said Newcrest continued to progress work at Wafi-Golpu, with focus on:

  • Assessing external and internal generated power options, in the company’s search for greater reliability and lower operating costs;
  • Comparing deep-sea tailing placements options to terrestrial tailings storage options; and,
  • Re-assessing block cave panels, size and processing capacity due to increased knowledge as a result of ongoing drilling.

“We are targeting completion of an update of the Wafi-Golpu feasibility study by the end of the March 2018 quarter. We will likely submit an amendment to the special mining lease application depending on the outcome of the study update,” he said.
“The timing of the first production is dependent on study outcomes and grating of the special mining lease.
“More broadly, brownfield exploration, brownfield expansions and de-bottlenecking offers some of the lowest-cost, lowest-risk and highest-return growth opportunities in our business.
“As has been stated in our annual report, we are currently pursuing initiatives and projects to add extra process capacity at Cadia and to increase mill throughput at Lihir.”

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MCC says no problems with Ramu mine tailings disposal


Tailings disposal pipeline intact

Post Courier | July 21,2016

The deep sea tailings placement pipes (DSTP)  which Ramu NiCo Management uses at Basamuk Bay in Rai Coast, Madang Province is in good condition according to inspections. The visual images of the placement pipes were captured by a remote operating vehicle (RVO) during a recent inspection. A report by Ramu NiCo’s Health Safety and Environment Department following the ROV inspection stated that there was no sign of structural disintegration such as leakage of tailings observed. As a result the Deep Sea Tailings Placement (DSTP) pipeline maintained its design integrity for safe disposal of tailings. The inspection and diving was conducted on the first week of June by Australian ROV specialists and RNML’s Corporate Environment personnel with assistance from Basamuk based Environment Officers. According to the report visual images also showed marine ecology along the pipeline transects were unaffected. Marine life was abundant and signs of stress not notable. The ROV inspection on RNML’s DSTP submarine pipeline is a mandatory or is an obligatory activity stipulated in the company’s operational environmental management plan (OEMP) carried out annually with a specific purpose to check the integrity of the pipeline. The inspection involves driving a ROV along the entire length of DSTP pipeline which captures a visual of the route with high powered cameras and displayed on LCD screen installed on-board a working vessel or boat and observatory inspections are done on the display. DSTP inspection for this year was slightly altered to the extent of involving divers to clean the seawater intake pipeline which is only 20m below sea level. The cleaning was done by scuba divers hired from Madang Resort’s Dive Shop to ensure that correct volume of seawater is taken into the mixing tank to mix with tailing before being discharged via the DSTP.

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Ramu landowner asks MRA to relax cease order

basamuk mcc ramu mine

Post Courier | May 24,2016

THE Mineral Resources Authority has been asked to relax its cease order for the operations of the Ramu nickel and cobalt mine in Madang. Mathew Dengua, the principal landowner of Kurumbukari mine area in the Bundi LLG made this call following the ongoing month long cessation of operations since investigations commenced into the tragic accident that killed one employee and injured others there.

Mr Denguo said the cease order issued on April 15 is discriminatory, too harsh and causes unnecessary financial burden to the already volatile nickel and cobalt developer and its financiers.

“The order is totally discriminatory and we the landowners ask MRA to relax the order by allowing two HPAL to operate after necessary rectification,” Mr Denguo said.

He said incidents and fatalities do happen in any industries and asked the Mines Inspectorate to understand the economic repercussion of the cease order, not only on the project but its negative ripple effects on those that depend on it.

“The contractors to Ramu NiCo project are affected now with cuts in employment. Procurements of goods and services in the province and country are slowing down. “Taxes by employees and other benefits to the Government are cut and this is an economic concern,” he said.

“This project brought a lot of benefits to us and we are supportive of it. “The current problem needs all parties to solve and will take some time but we ask for the operation of two HPAL to commence soon so benefits to the landowners keep flowing.

“We must ensure this project operates soon. It is very important for the economy, our bilateral relationship with China and importantly demonstrating to foreign investors our acceptable and flexible standards or legal requirements and procedures for future investors.

“MRA must demonstrate some common sense and wisdom. There are mines and industries throughout the world that killed hundreds. With Ramu NiCo, we must minimise any fatality to the best of our abilities,” Mr  Denguo said.

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Foreign miners don’t want changes to PNG laws

ramu mine highlands pacific

Highlands Pacific is the company behind the marine dumping of waste from the Ramu mine

‘New acts can be risky for mines’

Post Courier | May 20, 2016

NOW is not the time to introduce more risks tampering with the legislative regime governing PNG’s mining industry.

This warning by Chairman of Highland’s Pacific Limited Ken MacDonald is in light of pressure already being imposed onto the industry by depreciating prices.

He noted legislative reform among external challenges which posed the potential impact on companies operating in PNG.

“I refer in particular to the MRA Amending Act 2015 and proposals for a new Mining Act.

“The amendments to the MRA Act include doubling the rate of a production levy, giving the MRA control over the proceeds of that levy and removing the industry from any representation on the MRA Board.

“Perhaps more importantly a review of the Mining Act is being contemplated and while the situation remains fluid, it is important that care be taken to ensure that the new Act does not, because of lack of full consultation with industry and a full appreciation of the issues and ramifications of proposed changes, end up with legislation that discourages further investment in PNG,” he said at the annual general meeting yesterday.

Mr MacDonald noted that in the last year the Papua New Guinea Chamber of Mines and Petroleum reported a number of major players in the industry pulling out of joint venture farm-in deals and relinquishing of many exploration tenements.

Further the Chamber reported that grass roots or preliminary exploration had declined markedly since 2011 and it expects that further contraction will take place this year.

“In any reforms of the existing legislative scheme, it is vital that the PNG Government makes sure that whatever is done we set the scene for growing the pie, for it profits no one to be bickering over shares of a pie that is diminishing as we argue,” he said.


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The Hidden Costs of ‘Mining Development’: A View from the Rai Coast of Papua New Guinea

“proximity to the Basamuk processing plant is changing the Reite’s relationships to land, degrading the Reite’s way of life, and undermining the health of their local environments”

Mineral Policy Institute, April 11, 2016

This article explores how a large-scale mining development located upon the Rai Coast of Papua New Guinea is transforming how a local community value their land. Throughout history, different cultures have ascribed different meanings and values to their local environments. These values are important, as they shape personal and collective behaviours – behaviours that largely determine the long-term sustainability of communities and societies (Diamond, 2005). It is a grim fact of the modern condition, however, that there remains little opportunity for people to express the value of land beyond simple economic measures. Indeed, much has been written about the universalising qualities of neoliberal globalisation and how it affects peoples’ attitudes and values towards land (e.g. Plumwood, 2002; Shiva, 1993). To be ‘rational’ human beings in the neoliberal age is to conform to the logic of the market. To do so, we are required to think of land as ‘property’ and to view ‘value’ purely within economic terms. In the process, the intangible value of land – as a place of home, identity, spirit and culture – is silenced, or lost.

Over the last twenty years, neoliberal-styled globalisation has spread to all corners of the Earth. Even in the most remote places, conflicts between industrialised and traditional modes of valuing land now exist. This is evident in research conducted by Professor James Leach: Directeur de Recherche at the Centre for Research and Documentation on Oceania (CREDO) and ARC Fellow with the University of Western Australia. Over the course of two papers (2011, 2014) Leach examines how a modern mining venture is impacting relationships between people and land in Reite, a small community located on the Rai Coast of Papua New Guinea (PNG).

rai coast taro

Like many communities throughout PNG, the Reite are mostly subsistence farmers who depend upon locally sourced tubers and vegetables, hunting, and some small-scale cash crops. In a very direct sense, the Reite are dependent upon the land for their nourishment, shelter, livelihoods and wellbeing. The most striking feature of Leach’s writing, however, is his ability to portray the centrality of land for the Reite’s way of life. The Reite’s relationship to land, and to each other, is one of mutual interdependence and reciprocity. It is a way of life in which the boundaries between self, other and land blur. As Leach observes:

“The Reite social world is one in which land and people are explicitly and consciously interwoven in the processes of social formation, production, and reproduction […] Kinship is rooted in particular places; land underwrites the social relationships it nurtures” (2011, p. 310).

Put simply, the Reite are “land made mobile” (Leach, 2011, p. 312).

The importance of taro in Reite culture demonstrates the interrelatedness that exists between land, family and self. Taro is a staple food source gardened in the forests surrounding the community. In addition to nourishing bodies, Leach observes:

“taro gardening provides form and structure to people’s activities, to their interactions, and to the landscape in which it has played a part” (2015, p. 59).

Young people gain knowledge of the taro and of its gardening as part of their initiation into the Reite community. Once completed, the young person becomes a full member of a social structure whose origins, present and future is bound to taro and to the land from which it is grown. Here, the notion that the self can exist independently of land cannot occur, for the Reite see themselves as people whose existence is contingent upon, and emergent from, the taro deity. The land is thus animated, nurtured and valued by the Reite as the basis and source of all things.

The sense of interconnectedness and reciprocity the Reite feel towards the land is, perhaps, difficult to apprehend for those of us who have been taught to view land as mere “property”. It is testament to the strength of Leach’s writing, however, that we are invited to see the land as the Reite do. And it is from this position of empathy for the Reite’s worldview that Leach’s work gives us insight into the paradoxes that exist for the Reite in their relationships with mining specifically, and neoliberal ways of valuing land more generally.

Located 20 kilometres from the Reite community is Ramu Nickel’s Basamuk processing plant. The facility has been a source of great consternation for the Reite people since construction began in 2006. Much of the community concern relates to potential impacts on the regions’ flora, fauna and fisheries, as well to the livelihoods of those located near and around the processing plant. Of particular concern to the wider Rai Coast community was Ramu’s proposal to dispose of mine tailings using a method known as ‘Deep Sea Tailings Disposal’ – a controversial practice banned in many countries, including the United States and Australia – and the lack of environmental oversight provided by PNG’s pro-development government.

Stories about local communities fighting mining developments and complicit governments are all too common (think Ok Tedi, Panguna, Porgera, Misima and Tolukuma to name a few). Where Leach’s research departs from the usual analysis of community-development conflict, however, is to examine how proximity to the Basamuk processing plant is changing the Reite’s relationships to land, degrading the Reite’s way of life, and undermining the health of their local environments. This is a transformation that is familiar and symptomatic of broader development changes in PNG. To understand this process, it is first necessary to provide some context.

Since gaining independence in 1975, PNG has protected the rights of its citizens to uphold traditional land practices through the mechanism of ‘customary tenure’. Customary land tenure has its basis in customary law, the content of which is reflective of the societal customs, values and beliefs of those to whom it applies. In the case of the Reite and other landowners throughout PNG, customary land tenure has allowed these people to maintain control over their lands and to participate in forms of land management consistent with their cultural beliefs. According to Leach, however, customary landowner rights have been eroded throughout PNG over recent years by ‘neo-liberal’ economic advisers based in Australia who argue that the economic value ‘locked away’ in customary land should be realised and re-invested in Western-styled ‘development’ (2015, p. 55). In part due to these pressures, the PNG Government passed new legislation in 2009 that allows ‘Incorporated Land Groups’ to lease land under customary tenure for the purposes of deriving compensation from mining activities that use or destroy land (Independent State of Papua New Guinea, 2009 as cited in Leach, 2015).

rai coast water

Although the leasing of customary land via Incorporated Land Groups is an entirely voluntary process, Leach argues that these amendments to customary title arrangements play on the Reite’s fears of losing autonomy over their land. As the Reite see it, either they will lose their land to extractors, or they will miss out on the perceived benefits of mining development (e.g. money, education, employment opportunities) if they fail to join an Incorporated Land Group. This has resulted in many people paying significant amounts of money to join land groups in the attempt to protect their claim to the economic benefits that are assumed to come with mining development. Not only has this process caused much social division as individuals fight each other’s claims over land, the situation is also accelerating a transition from traditional modes of relating to land to one based upon private property rights and economic exploitation.

Partly as a result of this milieu of legislative and social change, traditional ways of according value to land have come under immense pressure. According to Leach, many people in the Reite community consider themselves to be living in the ‘time of money’ as opposed to the ‘time of taro and yam.’ Broadly defined, this speaks to the Reite’s perception of themselves as people who now accord more importance to ‘money’ than to traditional and customary values. As a consequence, people are increasingly realising the economic value of their land by transitioning from subsistence horticulture to a ‘market-orientated’ agriculture. In the case of the Reite, the transformation is exacerbated by the existence of Ramu NiCo’s Basamuk processing plant. Desperate to participate in the money economy but having no direct access to the benefits of the mine (the mine neither employs nor pays compensation to the Reite), community members have taken to growing cash crops to sell to the catering companies that service the mine workers. In this sense, not only does the processing plant act as a powerful symbol of the perceived virtues of Western-styled development, it also creates the markets that incentivise the growth of market-agriculture.

It is an intriguing aspect of Leach’s analysis that the Reite’s shift from traditional land-use relationships to a market-based agriculture is motivated not so much by economic necessity, but by the imaged power of money to deliver a future of wealth and ease. Indeed, as Leach’s analysis clearly demonstrates, Reite farmers receive such poor prices for their cash crops that market-based agriculture exists only to the extent that it is supported by subsistence farming. In the pursuit of cash-cropping, however, not only is the area left for traditional taro gardening and hunting diminishing, in many instances the land itself has become degraded as individuals seek to maximise their economic return. When challenged about their over-exploitative behaviour, Leach notes many individuals reply with a stock answer: “now is the time of money, and the land is their land to do with as they wish” (p. 58). It is therefore a terrible irony that the more the Reite pursue market-based agriculture and the more they destroy the land required for subsistence farming, the more likely the Reite will be left without a viable version for either mode of food production. And in the process, the Reite people are caught in a paradox in which the fear of losing their land motivates them to participate in a process that further alienates from the land they fear to lose, the cultural and familial bonds they wish to retain, and the wealth they so desire.

We can hardly blame the Reite for wanting to better their situation. As a people who lack access to even the most basic conveniences of modern living the pursuit of wealth via market agriculture is understandable. However, like so many marginalised people unwittingly or unwillingly brought into the fold of the global money economy, the Reite are subject to the full force of its unequal machinations.

The themes raised in Leach’s research have broader implications for global society in the 21st century. An increasing number of scholars have argued that there is something very wrong with how dominant modes of economic thought value land, people and places. Not only does the dominate mode of economic thought tend to disappear alternative modes of land valuation (Shiva, 1993), it also encourages a particular way of perceiving land that allows people to justify its exploitation (Berry, 1995). In the process, cultural and ecological diversity becomes diminished as communities reimagine themselves as market actors rather than members of an ecological community. It is this cultural transition, perhaps more so than any other factor, which underpins the non-sustainability of our global society. In this sense, if the Reite way of life were to fade away – subsumed into the folds of the globalised money economy – we should all mourn its passing, for gone will be another unique expression of the human mind that could teach us how to live in harmony with the world neoliberalism is so desperate to sacrifice in the name of ‘rational’ economic development.

Author: Neville Ellis – first appeared in the Mining Monitor, Vol.6. March 2016
The hidden costs of ‘mining development’: a view from the Rai Coast of Papua New Guinea
Berry, W. (1995). Another turn of the crank: essays by Wendell Berry. Washington D. C.: Counterpoint.
Diamond, J. (2005). Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking.
Leach, J. (2011). “Twenty toea has no power now”: property, customary tenure, and pressure on land near the Ramu Nickel project area, Madang, Papua New Guinea. Pacific Studies, 34(2), 295-322.
Leach, J. (2014). “The time of money”: property and sovereignty as alternative narratives of land and value near the Ramu NiCo mining project (Madang, PNG). Journal de al Societe des Oceanistes, 1, 53-62.
Plumwood, V. (2002). Environmental culture: the ecological crisis of reason. London: Routledge.
Shiva, V. (1993). Monocultures of the mind: biodiversity, biotechnology and the third world. Penang, Malaysia: Third World Network.

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