MAC: Mines and Communities

World Bank Backs Marine Dumping Of Mine Waste

Published by MAC on 2011-03-08
Source: Papua New Guinea Mine Watch (2011-03-23)

Papua New Guineans risks becoming toxic "guinea pigs"

The World Bank is reported to be backing a scientific study that might lead to toxic mine wastes being dumped into Papua New Guinea's marine waters from the Chinese-owned Ramu nickel mine.

This would be a shocking reversal of the Bank's existing policy which frowns on so-called "deep sea tailings disposal" (DSTD) .

It is a practice that has been widely condemned around the world and is also eschewed by the world's biggest mining company, BHP Billiton.

The Ramu study would be undertaken by a scientist who is on record as admitting that the impacts of the waste dumping cannot be accurately predicted.

However, she  supports the introduction of DSTD in this instance in order to assess those impacts.

On the face of it, this is an egregious example of violation of the Precautionary Principle and would sacrifice local people as "guinea pigs" to a wholly-unwarranted experiment.

For earlier story: Ramu fails to lift interim injunction on tailings disposal

Note response of the World Bank Group below.

World Bank Backs Marine Dumping Of Mine Waste In Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea Mine Watch

23 February 2011

The World Bank has stepped in to support the dumping of toxic waste from the Ramu nickel mine into the seas off Papua New Guinea after the European Union decided to pull its funding.

A World Bank review in 2003 said categorically that marine dumping should not be used in areas such as coral reefs that have important ecological functions or cultural significance or in coastal waters used for subsistence purposes, but that does not appear to be troubling the World Bank today.

The World Bank is funding the efforts of the chief scientist supporting the Ramu nickel mine's waste dumping plans, Tracy Schimmield, and is paying for oceangraphic studies, monitoring of the tailings as they pour out of the waste pipeline a review of the mine's Operational Environmental Plan and the training of local staff to monitor the dumping.

This funding from the World Bank, which will be directed through the Scottish Association of Marine Science, comes despite the fact indigenous landowners are challenging the Ramu nickel mine's waste dumping plans, which they say will cause inevitable harm to their seas, coral reefs and subsistence lifestyles.

The landowners application for a permanent injunction to stop the waste dumping is part-heard in the National court but this has not dissuaded the World Bank from intervening in support of the waste dumping.

The bank is also funding Schimmield and SAMS to draft site specific guidelines for the Ramu dumping and that at the Lihir gold mine.

Schimmield's work for the PNG government assessing the impacts of marine waste dumping at the Misima and Lihir mines in 2009/10 was funded by the European Union, but they have decided not to fund any on-going work specific to the Ramu nickel mine and its marine waste dumping.

Schimmield gave evidence in court this week, where she appeared as a witness for the mine owners, that while the impacts of the waste dumping could not be accurately predicted she supported the mine being allowed to dump its waste into the sea so the impacts could be assessed.

The World Bank has not offered any assistance to the indigenous landowners challenging the waste dumping plans, a fact reflected in the weight of lawyers in the courtroom for the waste dumping trial. While the mine owners and regulators had six lawyers at one end of the bench, including a Queens Council from Australia, another lawyer from Brisbane and four lawyers from Port Moresby, the landowners were represented by a single lawyer based in a Provincial town.


World Bank Mining Work in Papua New Guinea

http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/EASTASIAPACIFICEXT/PAPUANEWGUINEAEXTN/0,,contentMDK:22851271~menuPK:333773~pagePK:1497618~piPK:217854~theSitePK:333767,00.html

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the World Bank think of this blog post? (http://ramumine.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/world-bank-backs-marine-dumping-of-mine-waste-in-papua-new-guinea/)

We’re glad there is a lively debate on important matters, but we’re disappointed that this blog post is factually incorrect, and does not reflect the work that the World Bank is undertaking.

It contains a number of misleading and damaging statements that suggest the World Bank is supporting Ramu nickel mine’s marine ‘dumping’ plans and that the World Bank is funding a consultant to appear as a witness for the Ramu nickel mine. These suggestions are completely false.

The World Bank Group is not providing any financing for the Ramu nickel project – neither the World Bank nor the International Finance Corporation is involved in debt or equity roles.

The Bank’s funding is not being used to finance the testimony of expert witnesses, or to represent the interests of Government or the mine owners in court. The World Bank is not funding any field work associated with Government’s scientific program to determine if upwelling of water will cause tailings to rise to the surface.

The confusion may have occurred as one of the consultants contracted by the Government of Papua New Guinea is working on several different functions, only one of which is funded by the World Bank project.

The work being undertaken with World Bank financing strictly focuses on strengthening the regulatory framework to minimize potential environmental impacts in the mining sector. This is part of a comprehensive program of regulatory reform in the Mining Sector. This particular contract is for the development of site specific guidelines governing the operations and environmental impacts of Deep Sea Tailings Placement (DSTP). This is not endorsing DSTP but ensuring that if the Government chooses to permit a company to use this option that the necessary environmental regulations are in place.

The objective of the World Bank in financing the preparation of site specific environmental guidelines is to improve the environmental performance of existing and future mining operations which might be permitted by Government.

It has been suggested that marine dumping should not be undertaken in areas such as coral reefs that have important ecological functions or cultural significance, what is the World Bank’s view?

The World Bank does not financially support work that is damaging to critical areas of environmental or cultural significance. That means we would not fund activities that would threaten coral reefs that have important ecological functions or cultural significance.

As an independent multi-lateral organization we respect a sovereign government’s rights to make their own decisions and do not intervene in government’s decisions for or against specific plans, or in the associated administrative and legal processes.

For more information please contact Raymond Palangat or Laura Bailey in the Port Moresby Office (+675-321-7111) or Aleta Moriarty in the Sydney office (+61-2-9223-7773).

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