MAC: Mines and Communities

PNG: Ok Tedi mine a curse

Published by MAC on 2013-03-19
Source: The National (PNG)

Pundari: Ok Tedi mine a curse

By Sonia Kenu

The National (PNG)

12 March 2013

MINISTER for Environment and Conservation John Pundari yesterday broke his silence on the Ok Tedi mining pollution issue, describing it as a "curse" on the Fly River people of Western.

He says he plans a visit to all impacted areas along the Ok Tedi and Fly River areas and intends to take along a contingent of international and national media to see for themselves the scale of damage

"The mine has been operating in the country for some 27 years, and while it has made a significant contribution to the development of our country, it has also brought a curse upon the people of Western in terms of the enormous environmental damage caused to the Fly River system," Pundari said.

"The Ok Tedi mine has been using the riverine disposal of waste rock and mine tailings and has caused considerable environmental degradation.

"This has had a major impact on the lives and livelihood of the Fly River people.

"The benefits to the people in the impacted area, in my view, are far less than the impact the operation of the mining has done to the health of the environment.

"The damaged environment will remain long after the mine has shut down and continue to affect the lives and health of our people for many generations."

Pundari said Ok Tedi mine had been operating under the Mining (Ok Tedi Agreement) Act of 1978, followed by various supplementary agreements, which were amended over the years until the recent one in 2001 -- the Mining (Ok Tedi Mine Continuation) Agreement Act 2001.

"These agreements give indemnity against prosecution to BHP, the original developer of the mine," he said.

"Excluding the mine from regulations under the Environment Act has prevented my department from taking an active role in its management."

Pundari said BHP walked away from the mine and left PNG to deal with the damage caused to the environment, which would remain long after the mine was closed and would become a burden to the government.

"Our people of the Fly River and Western have suffered in silence for a very long time in their own God-given land from activities of the mine and the wastes generated in it," he said.

"I, as the minister responsible for the environmental matters, and our government, would not be able to fix the wrong done by these large multi-national corporations to our environment and our people.

"It hurts me greatly to hear the cry of our people in the Fly River area about the irrepressible damage done to the environment and their lives.

"It even hurts me to go and talk about the kind of benefit the Ok Tedi mine has brought in, when their suffering outweighs the benefit the mine brings in."

Marriage over, says PM

By Jeffrey Elapa

The National (PNG)

21 March 2013

THE partnership between the government and Ok Tedi Mining Ltd is over, Prime Minister Peter O'Neill told parliament yesterday.

He said the government would take over the running of the mine when OTML's licence expired at the end of this year and turn it into a model operation for the benefit of the people.

OTML has been seeking to extend the mine's life and wanted to continue operating it from 2015 to 2025.

O'Neill told parliament yesterday during question time that the government would not renew the licences of the mine developer and would not be part of any agreement for an extension to the life of the mine.

"The marriage is not working," he said.

"The government will break its partnership or marriage with OTML," he said.

He said the state would own and operate the mine through PNG Sustainable Development Program Ltd (PNGSDP).

He said he had written to OTML informing it that the government could not support or allow the company to extend the life of the mine.

"When the lease expires, this government, as a partner and director, will not allow or grant an extension.

"The marriage is not working.

"Like all marriages, we have to break it if it does not work. BHP has to move on.

"I will not apologise to anyone, not even to BHP," the prime minister said.

The government would operate the mine for the people of Western and address the ongoing problems in the province such as poor health facilities, education and other development needs.

O'Neill said the government, a trustee through PNGSDP, would take over the operation of the mine and make it a model for others in PNG.

"We will restructure the board of PNGSDP with our own people managing it, not by strange people who live beyond and do not know our needs."

Locals welcome decision on Ok Tedi

The National

21 March 2013

OK Tedi Mine Impacted Area Association president Nick Bunn has welcomed the government's decision not to allow mine life extension.

PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP) and Ok Tedi Mining Ltd (OTML) chairman Sir Mekere Morauta declined to comment.

OTML managing director and chief executive Nigel Parker told The National he was aware of the prime minister's statement in parliament "but was unable to make further comment at this stage as it was a matter concerning the state of Papua New Guinea and PNG Sustainable Development Program Ltd, as the shareholders of Ok Tedi Mining Ltd".

"This is a blessing for the people of Western," Bunn said. "This is exactly what we have been advocating."

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