PNG – Full of Kokodas but Where the Bloody Hell are Australians?

An indigenous campaign by the Mineral Policy Institute:

All over Papua New Guinea mining companies, many of which have Australian connections, are destroying sites of cultural, economic and spiritual significance to local people.

Traditional burial sites hunting and fishing grounds, subsistence gardens, waterways and forests are often destroyed by the construction of mine sites and the disposal of wastes containing a cocktail of heavy metals and processing chemicals.

A Min warrior in full arms and bilas looks like a dwarf in front of a 190 t mining truck on a picture taken 1983

A Min warrior in full arms and bilas looks like a dwarf in front of a 190 tonne mining truck in a photo taken at Ok Tedi in 1983.

Australia is silent while communities in our near Pacific neighbour lose their livelihoods, their social fabric and their environment.

According to Ms. Techa Beaumont, Executive Director of the Mineral Policy Institute, “It is hypocritical for Australians to ask for the protection of sites meaningful to us, while at the same time an Australian dominated mining industry destroys not just historic sites but the very basis of people’s survival.

Rather than coercing the PNG government into a decision about the Kokoda mine proposal that prioritises the interests of a small group of Australians, the Federal Government could play a constructive role in promoting sustainable development.

The Government could support programs that enable community members and community organizations to assess the range of development options and make informed decisions that assure them a sustainable future”.

Some Facts About Australian Mining Companies in PNG:

The Ok Tedi mine in Western Province: majority owned for more than 15 years by the big Australian, BHP has desecrated the once sacred Mt Fublian. For almost 25 years the mine has discharged its metal laden waste directly into the Ok Tedi – Fly River system at about 115 tonnes per minute. It has rendered much of the 1000km Fly River system biologically dead with impacts felt as far away as Indonesia and the Torres Strait. Local people along the Fly and Ok Tedi river are experiencing malnutrition due to the destruction of their food sources. Coastal Papua New Guineans and Toress Strait Islanders may slowly be being poisoned.

Every day the Tolukuma mine in Central Province, until last month majority owned by Australian company Emperor Gold disposes of 430 tonnes tailings into the Angabanga River. Tailings and drainage from the mine introduce heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, chromium, arsenic, nickel and lead to the waterway. Due to the impact of this on the environment and the health of local peoples, the world’s second largest pension fund, the Norwegian Government Pension Fund – Global, divested from the Emperor Gold’s owner, DRD Gold, last April.

[NOTE: Petromin PNG Holdings Limited acquired Emperor Golds’ stake in Tolukuma Gold Mine in February of this year].

Porgera Gold Mine - Open Pit

The Porgera mine in Enga Province has destroyed the food gardens and alienated the land of the traditional landowners. Deprived of their means of livelihood, local people fossick for gold amongst the mine’s operations and waste dumps where they have been shot and killed by the mine’s security forces. Villagers living adjacent to toxic mine waste stockpiles are still awaiting relocation. The mine’s waste erodes directly into the river system, impacting communities for hundreds of kilometres downstream.

Over its expected 37 year life, the Lihir Mine on Lihir Island will dump 89 million tonnes of cyanide contaminated tailings and 330 million tonnes of waste rock into an area of ocean rich in marine biodiversity and seafood resources. Fish kills as far away as Bougainville have been attributed by islanders to the mine.

Lihir Gold Mine

Lihir Gold Mine

The Misima Mine, which closed in 2004 disposed of 50 million tonnes of tailings waste onto a near shore coral reef. It pumped fresh water from the small island’s aquifers, depleting the islands drinking water resources. It was majority owned by Barrick Resources and managed out of its Perth Australia-Pacific Offices.

Misima Mine

Misima Mine

The proposed Ramu Nickel mine has been the subject of considerable controversy due to its intention to dump mine waste into the ocean. The proposal to dump the mine’s waste into Astrolabe Bay was developed by Australian consultants. The Bay supports a thriving tuna fishery as well as innumerable small scale fishers. It is also a centre for PNG’s tourism industry. The mine has already destroyed sacred sites of local people.

NOTE: For further information:

Dr. Helen Rosenbaum
Research and Campaigns Coordinator
Mineral Policy Institute

Ms. Techa Beaumont
Executive Director
Mineral Policy Institute

~ by Tavurvur on August 29, 2008.

2 Responses to “PNG – Full of Kokodas but Where the Bloody Hell are Australians?”

  1. The PNG government is weak, they allow this to happen, same with illegal logging/fishing. Somara and likes just want money.

  2. What bothers me the most is not the fact that the PNG Government is “weak”, its that we don’t seem to learn from our mistakes.

    We make a mistake. Fair enough. We make the same mistake twice, thrice? Not good enough!

    And now the Government is hurriedly pushing forth the PNG LNG and Petroleum deals – and what about sea-bed mining?

    Should a country so economically “fragile” be taking on-board so much risk?

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