MAC: Mines and Communities

Court stops completion of PNG's Ramu mine

Published by MAC on 2010-04-24
Source: The PNG National, Postcourier

Legal battles, to stop submarine tailings disposal (STD) at the Ramu mine in Papua New Guinea, grind on through the courts. (For most recent MAC coverage see -

An immediate injunction was sought to stop the destruction by blasting of a coral reef for the STD pipe - which the company was going to instal before the main case was decided.

But the Chinese company behind the project returned to court, seeking permission to start building the pipeline (floating it over the sea above the reefs). Although granted this permission, it now appears that blasting the corals has been suspended until the larger case is resolved.

One of the project's parent companies, Highlands Pacific, has complained about the delays, claiming backing from landowners in the mining area (although they live some 135kms from the mine).

According to, Highlands' managing director John Gooding says: "It would become critical to the project timetable if it is not resolved by the end of the year, as deepsea tailings was the only viable solution for Ramu, given the high rainfall in that part of the world and the steep terrain."

Meanwhile, the Attorney-General and Justice Minister, Dr Allan Marat, has cast doubt over the neutrality of advice being offered to the Government on the risks of STD.

Nickel mine banned from completion



19 April 2010

THE RAMU nickel cobalt project will continue to be banned from completing the construction of the $US1.5 billion (K4.22 billion) deep sea tailings placement system (DSTP) approved by the State.

This comes after the National Court last Wednesday the latest bid by dismissed mine developer, Ramu NiCo (MCC) Management Limited to set aside interim injunction orders against it.

The injunction stems from a legal proceedings started by four individuals of the Rai coast community in Madang Province. It is an association that say it will be affected by the tailings discharged into the sea. They claim these deep sea tailings will cause irrevocable damage to their lives and lifestyle and that it is better for the mine project not to start until a proper environmental report is in place to assess the potential risks this will pose on their environment. They claim they have credible and significant evidence of scientific biological effects on their lives and lifestyle. They have taken the mine, Mineral Resource Authority, the Director of Environment and Conservancy and the State to court in a writ of summons proceeding at the National Court to get the government and the mine developer to comply with the required laws.

They question why the Government allowed it as there had been no indication of any consultants enquiring into the environmental impact.

Highlands Pacific unhappy with claim



22 April 2010

RAMU Ni-Co project mining partner Highlands Pacific have alleged that an interim court injunction filed last month arose from a claim that was not supported by legally recognised landowners.

However the activities at the mine continue to face steep opposition from groups claiming to represent villagers from the Rai coast area in the Madang Province after it had been advised of the interim injunction by project manager Ramu NiCo (MCC) Management Limited.

The mining company said the interim injunction only prevented work on the placement of the deep sea tailing displacement (DSTP) facilities while other construction and commissioning activities at the project would continue.

Highlands Pacific said it was advised by MCC that the project had complied with all the statutory requirements in obtaining and maintaining of environmental approvals including those for the DSTP. "MCC (as operator and manager), the Mineral Resource Authority of PNG, the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, who are all defendants in the claim, are reviewing the situation in order to decide the next step in overturning the injunction," managing director of Highlands Pacific John Gooding said.

Landowners from the Ramu mine area have pledged their support for the mine according to the statement from Highlands Pacific. The interim injunction was upheld at the National Court in Madang last Wednesday which refused to grant the MCC application to set the injunction aside.

Court allows Ramu NiCo to lay pipe

The PNG National

9 April 2010

THE National Court has allowed Ramu NiCo Management (MCC) Ltd to commence fabrication and floating of pipes work for the Ramu nickel mine project in Madang province.

The proposed deep sea tailings placement project involves laying a 1km off-shore pipeline along the sea bed to pump mine wastes into the ocean.

Aggrieved parties Eddie Tarsie and others from the ward 3 Saidor local level government went to court and successfully took out an interim injunction on March 19.

They had argued that the planned deep sea tailings placement system would affect the offshore environment and, inevitably, be an environmental hazard.

However, on April 1, Ramu NiCo returned to court to seek clarification on the effect of the March 19 decision.

It argued that it had to start preparatory work immediately in order to mitigate the losses incurred daily because of the court order.

Ramu NiCo also said work would not involve any damage or disturbance to the offshore environment, therefore, not breaching the March 19 court order.

After going through the submission, Justice David Cannings said he was satisfied that the activity proposed by Ramu NiCo would not amount to a breach of the court order and, therefore, it was appropriate to make a declaration to that effect.

"For the avoidance of doubt, if Ramu NiCo, in the course of undertaking the propose activity, does any work that directly or indirectly damages or disturbs the offshore environment, then it may expose itself to contempt of court," Justice Cannings said.

Marat doubts tailings advice from consultants

The National

23 April 2010

ATTORNEY-General and Justice Minister Dr Allan Marat has cast doubt over the truthfulness of scientific advice to the National Government regarding the disposal of tailings into the ocean by major mining companies currently operating in the country.

Dr Marat said in a statement that PNG lacked scientists or experts in the disposal of tailings into the seabed so mining companies engaged foreign consultants and experts to conduct research and provide scientific advice.

"I doubt the truthfulness of the scientific advice by foreign consultants and experts relating to the tailings discharged into the sea," he added.

Dr Marat said while major mining developments were currently in operation, the Government should now engage an independent team of scientists or experts in deep sea mining disposal to research for the Government.

"According to scientific advice provided by the mining companies to the Government, dumping of tailings into the ocean would not damage marine environment and marine life," he said.

He was referring to tailings from the rich Lihir gold mine in New Ireland, Ramu nickel/cobalt in Madang and soon-to-be developed Solwara One project in the Bismarck Sea.

Dr Marat said the undersea mining of Solwara One had progressed to an advanced stage without his involvement.

"The developer of Solwara One, Nautilus Minerals Inc, plans to have its stockpiles in my electorate.

"As Rabaul MP, I have never been invited by the department of mineral policy and geo-hazards management and the Mineral Resource Authority to all the meetings and discussions relating to the undersea mining project.

"The stockpiles in my electorate will be later processed but where and how will they dispose off the tailings?" Dr Marat asked.

Nautilus Minerals proposes to use a modified submarine tailings disposal (STD) method back down to depths below 1,500m.

Dr Marat said this method was used by the Lihir gold mine - its waste disposal had been viewed by environmentalists as highly damaging.

"Tailings can be conveyed using a pipeline or special vessels, then discharged so as to eventually descend into the depths."

Ramu Nico's environmental plan doubtful

Letter to the Editor


28 April 2010

Can the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) clarify if "submarine tailing disposal" (STD) is the only option available.

Are there other options that the DEC has considered? If there is, then why is STD the only option? Recently, the Minister for DEC, Benny Allen made a response by advertisement to a proposed suit by Gulf Provincial Government against Exxon Mobil over the undersea pipeline construction. Why isn't the Minister doing the same for Ramu Nico. Do we have different standards for the Chinese and the Americans?

Highland Pacific may have the support of the special mining lease, mining lease or inland easement landowners, but I do not suppose they have the support of the coastal landowners. As is the case, benefits diminish the more you are away from the project area. It's "bones to the dogs". The landowners who are affected by proposed STD are entitled to claim equal or half of the benefit sharing of the entire project in order to compensate them properly.

I doubt this is the case with the benefit sharing arrangements. It's not the benefits, it's the environment for future generation. Putting environment first is the greatest benefit one can have for themselves and their future generations. I have travelled a number of occasions from Madang to Lae and have observed the standard demonstrated in the construction of the pipeline. You can't build a pipeline without building the best access road in any weather. It's the worst environmental plan a Government can allow! It's like building a cart before a horse. It's been publicised in the media about the road conditions from Bundi to Madang. If there is a burst pipeline and if conditions of the road are pathetic, how long will it take for a tailing spill to be contained? You need to have world standard roads so the equipment is dispensed on time. Sadly, this isn't the case. If the demonstration by Ramu Nico along the highway has anything to say about world standard environmental plan, then I don't have confidence in the submarine tailings disposal. I suggest Justice Cannings and anyone travel along the highway and feel for themselves. We should applaud Tiffany Nonggorr and coastal landowners for taking on corporate creed and corruption in Government.

Jimmy Apo

More awareness on deep sea tailing needed



28 April 2010

MADANG Governor Sir Arnold Amet is insisting there not only be greater awareness especially on the impact of the Deep Sea Tailing Placement but also that these exercises involve all relevant community leaders.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference in Madang yesterday Sir Arnold said these were the views that he had impressed strongly on senior officers from Ramu NiCo (MCC) Limited, and state agencies including Mineral Resources Authority (MRA), Mineral Resources Development Authority (MRDC) and the Department of Environment and Conservation during a meeting he had convened with them yesterday morning.

Sir Arnold said the team arrived from Port Moresby on Monday afternoon and were enroute to the mine impact communities to carry out their awareness.

He said he had requested an urgent meeting with them to discuss the continued responsibilities of the company, state agencies and respective governments in relation to the whole project and especially the DSTP which the National Court has placed an injunction over.

He said he had advised that before the state and company representatives take to the communities that they ensure that the messages they intend on relaying are presented in the most simple and appropriate forms and content to the leaders on the ground. He said it was vital for this group of people to first understand the issues and basis on which the government had issued the environmental permits so that they too could then advise the people whom they live with daily accordingly.

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