MAC: Mines and Communities

Papua New Guinea's Ramu battle may not be at an end

Published by MAC on 2010-10-04
Source: ABC News, The National (PNG) , others

Virtually no mining project in Papua New Guinea has proceeded smoothly, or failed to provoke mixed reactions among the country's indigenous landowners.

Now, in regard to the legal battle to forestall the Ramu nickel mining company piping its mine tailings into the ocean, confusion seems added to complexity.

Over the past fortnight a group of landowners, who had previously gained a court injunction to halt this plan, apparently abandoned their suit.

The articles below include one from the plaintiffs' lawyer, Tiffany Nonggorr, alleging that threats made against her and her clients before they abruptly dropped the case; one from the judge, expressing concern over this sudden withdrawal; and another from the PNG government, positively crowing that the court had "recognized national interest".

However, on September 27, Radio New Zealand reported that Ms Nonggorr would file a further application against the tailings' pipeline proposal - possibly on behalf of another group of landowners.

See also previous story: Goliath fights back against David in PNG mine battle

Mine given green light to dump waste into ocean

By Liam Fox, PNG correspondent

ABC News

25 September 2010

A mine can now proceed to dump millions of tonnes of waste into the sea in Papua New Guinea after a legal battle to stop it was abandoned.

A temporary injunction had been preventing the Ramu nickel mine from building a deep-sea tailings pipeline in Astrolabe Bay, near Madang.

But this week the landowners who won the injunction dumped their lawyer and abandoned the legal battle to make it a permanent ban.

National court Justice David Cannings approved their request to discontinue the proceedings, but said their change of heart was "suspicious".

He said people would legitimately wonder if the landowners had been threatened, intimidated or paid off.

The decision means the majority Chinese-owned mine can proceed with plans to dump 5 million tonnes of tailings a year into a deep-sea trench.

The true story of the Ramu mine litigation

By Tiffany Nonggorr

27 September 2010

Editorial comment: this statement comes from a blog where Ms Nonggorr is responding to another post, which has not been copied here, but the platform clearly allows her to state at least some of the facts around the dubious withdrawal of the legal case by the original plaintiffs.

IT IS GOOD to see the issues concerning litigation around the Ramu nickel project being debated but I enter this discussion for the sole purpose of correcting the false information concerning both the existing plaintiffs and the parties who attempted to be joined to the now discontinued proceedings.

Mr ‘Dexter Bland' uses a false name to defame me often on this website, to which I generally do not respond. But spreading incorrect information about the people I represent is another matter.

He alleges that instead of acceding to clients wishes I went in search of another landowner to be the face of rich international environmental purists.These are complete and utter lies.

The parties seeking to be joined as additional plaintiffs were Mr Louis Medaing and the Tong and Ongeg clans. They approached me at the Madang National Court on 7 September, after Mr Mellambo had pulled out the day before and after it was reported in the newspapers that I had been threatened.

Mr Medaing stated he and his clans wished to join the proceedings and asked me to represent them and gave me many documents to set out his position. I discussed the matter with the plaintiffs and, on 13 September, the existing plaintiffs filed a motion to join Mr Medaing and his clans.

That motion was to be heard on 15 September 2010 but was adjourned to 21 September on the grounds of short service. Last week I wrote to the Provincial Police Commander seeking a police escort for the plaintiffs to come from the Rai Coast to Madang as there had been numerous threats against them.

On Saturday 18 September we sent a boat to collect the plaintiffs, who I was in mobile phone contact with, and who were in hiding in the bush on the Rai Coast due to the numerous threats to force them to stop the proceedings. When the boat neared the coast it was ambushed by two other boats carrying men with guns and knives who then threatened the occupants of the boat and told them they could not get the plaintiffs and they must return to Madang. On their return to Madang, they contacted me and told me what happened and I rang the Provincial Police Commander who provided Task Force Police members to accompany three boats back to the Rai Coast to collect the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs came out of hiding and boarded the boats, and they arrived in Madang on Saturday night at about 7 pm. All this is in affidavit material that was filed in court.

The next day, Sunday 19 September, the plaintiffs attended a meeting, that went from 11 am to 2 pm, with elders from the Minderi area (near Basamuk) who had travelled to Madang to hear the plaintiffs' position on the court case as they had heard rumours of the threats and did not know whether the plaintiffs would continue or not. The plaintiffs at the meeting told the elders that they were 100% going ahead with the court case which was to start on Tuesday. An affidavit by Terry Kunning, one of the elders present at the meeting, was filed in the court proceedings confirming this.

That was the last we heard from the plaintiffs until Tuesday morning at court, when a fax was sent from Stevens Lawyers in Port Moresby stating that they had instructions to represent the plaintiffs and the plaintiffs wished to discontinue. I had arrived in Madang only on Monday and had previously tried to contact the plaintiffs from Sunday night to Monday evening, but their phones were switched off and, as I was concerned for their safety, I reported them missing to the Provincial Police Commander at 6.20 pm Monday evening.

Apparently in the 36 hours between Sunday afternoon 19 September and Tuesday morning 21 September, someone had flown the three plaintiffs to Moresby, had hired them new lawyers, and they had decided to discontinue.

In their brief affidavits filed later on Tuesday as ordered by the court, they stated that they had been happy with the case, that they did not want DSTP and that they were concerned about the trouble that the case had caused and they were concerned for their safety so they wanted the case to discontinue.

Mr Medaing and his clans' applications were due to be heard - so the judge adjourned the applications until Wednesday afternoon to be heard, as well as ordering the plaintiffs to appear.

Mr Medaing and the clans' applications were heard, and on Friday the judge determined, as a result of affidavit material filed by Louis Medaing and intensive cross examination by the miner's QC, that Mr Medaing was a genuine claimant in nuisance with sufficient standing to sue, but that he would not join Louis Medaing and the clans to the current proceedings because there were no proceedings left as the plaintiffs had discontinued.

His Honour said of course Mr Medaing and the clans could file fresh proceedings, which they did at 9.40 am on Friday morning 24 September, along with a motion for an injunction to prevent the construction of the DSTP system. That motion will be heard on Friday 1 October 2010.

For Mr Bland to state that I go looking for landowner plaintiffs to be puppets for some unnamed rich environmentalist is not only completely false but it is offensive to Mr Medaing and the clans and also racist in the extreme. Mr Bland fails to understand that PNGeans are capable of thinking for themselves and are capable of determining that they want the mine but they do not want their marine environment destroyed, particularly when there are safer land based tailings alternatives.

Yes there was an affidavit from a mine waste expert (not a mine paid for consultant) which set out alternatives and further that no nickel laterite project in any tropical area in the world used riverine or deep dea tailings disposal systems.

PNGeans run many court proceedings with or without lawyers and can hire lawyers if they determine to. Mr Louis Medaing and his clans successfully completed a judicial review proceedings in February this year wherein they had sought to quash the decision of the Minister for Lands to award the title over the land at the refinery when the land was subject to a dispute in the Lands Title Commission.

Mr Medaing conducted the case by himself all the way to the final hearing and then hired a lawyer to do the trial.

Mr Bland owes Mr Louis Medaing and his clans an apology.

Mr Bland chooses to make his false statements under cover of anonymity and takes aim at those that seek to protect their land through proper court processes and those who are not so cowardly to have their true names revealed.

It is one thing to have a point of view under an anonymous name; it is a whole other situation to make false and defamatory statements under the cloak of anonymity.It smacks of bad faith and maliciousness.

Fresh legal application to halt waste pipeline from PNG's Ramu mine

Radio Newzealand International

27 September 2010

Landowner efforts to halt construction of a pipeline to dump waste into the sea off Papua New Guinea's northeast coast will continue despite last week's lifting of an injunction on the project.

Judge David Cannings on Friday lifted the injunction which prevented Metallurgical Corporation of China from building a marine tailings pipe from the proposed 1 billion US dollar Ramu nickel mine in Madang Province.

This followed the sudden withdrawal from the case of the plaintiffs, representatives of three local Rai Coast landowners groups, who were earlier seeking to make the injunction permanent.

However their former lawyer, Tiffany Nonggorr, has filed a fresh application for a new injunction.

She's indicated that there are more landowner groups with an interest in stopping the pipeline.

The Madang court is scheduled to hear the new application on Friday.

Concerns over late withdrawal

By Jayne Safihao

The National (PNG)

28 September 2010

JUSTICE David Cannings is clearly not impressed with the three plaintiffs constituting proceedings against the Ramu NiCo (MCC) company and pulling out at the eleventh hour last week.

He made this known when lifting the interim injunction on the deep sea tailings placement (DSTP) system construction at the Ramu NiCo Basamuk refinery brought about by Rai Coast landowners Farina Siga, Peter Sel and Eddie Tarsie.

Cannings said he hoped others would not use their example as a precedent in withdrawing their court litigation days before the Sept 20 hearing.

"This is a very late application and the court has been greatly inconvenienced by it.

"Eight sitting days were set aside for the trial. Other important cases have been pushed aside to make way for this case.

"A considerable amount of court time has been devoted to preparing for the trial."

He noted that the circumstances surrounding the withdrawal were unusual, special, exceptional and to a degree suspicious.

Cannings hoped that in future this kind of practice would not occur "out of habit".

After lifting the March interim injunction last Friday, the judge heard a motion by Tiffany Nonggorr of Nonggorr William Lawyers to have an urgent ex- parte hearing where motions by her client Louis Medaing and other environmental concerns raised in the current proceedings could be presented.

Nonggorr argued that it should be heard ex-parte as all parties to the proceedings had "all left, not even caring to stay back".

Cannings allowed for the hearing at 1pm on Friday.

Polye pleased with court's ruling on mine

The National (PNG)

28 September 2010

ACTING Prime Minister Don Polye yesterday welcomed the decision by the National Court in Madang to allow operations at the Ramu nickel mine to resume.

Operations at the mine had been halted since March 19 as a result of a court action by villagers relating to possible damages to the environment through the deep sea tailings disposal.

The operator, Ramu NiCo of China, said the stop work had caused them hundreds of millions of kina.

Plaintiffs to the proceeding changed their mind about the case and withdrew, prompting the court to lift the injunction last Friday.

Polye said yesterday the court decision had created a win-win situation for all stakeholders, including government and landowners.

"I commend the judiciary for being mindful of national interest when determining the merits of the issues brought by the parties involved in the case," Polye said.

"I commend the plaintiffs for their bold decision in withdrawing their case.

"I am glad they now fully appreciate the facts about this project, and are prepared to work with the developer and the government to achieve our goals.

"This project will benefit all of us."

The acting prime minister commended Works and Transport vice-minister and Rai Coast MP James Gau, Madang Governor Sir Arnold Amet and Mining Minister John Pundari for their efforts in resolving this issue.

"This action by the plaintiffs show one thing, which I have said all along, and that is the failure to raise sufficient awareness on this issue.

"There has been a lot of misinformation about this project. People are twisting facts. Certain people took advantage of this by trying to portray the government as being corrupt in pushing this project," he said.

"With proper awareness, we now know what the facts are, and the plaintiffs are taking the correct and necessary steps so this project can proceed."

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