MAC: Mines and Communities

Very little said about tailings dumping

Published by MAC on 2005-12-21

Very little said about tailings dumping

by William Julmat

21st December 2005

Letter to the Editor, the National (Papua New Guinea)

As a New Irelander I applaud the achievement of Lihir Gold Limited in successfully harnessing geothermal energy to provide electricity for it operations receiving recognition from the international mining community which is province's potential, hopefully other sectors such as tourism, fisheries and agriculture can take advantage of this.

The challenge for my provincial government is to convert this positive international publicity into tangible benefits for the majority of the people.

Though I welcome all the good things that Lihir Gold has brought to the island and to al lesser extent to the mainland New Ireland in general, I am saddened by the fact that very little is being said about the extent of the environmental damage being caused by the dumping of the mine tailings in the ocean.

As a coastal dweller on the eastern coast of mainland New Ireland, I have observed in recent years the dwindling stock of reef fish and other marine resources with some concern. In the past our waters teeming with marine resources, the coral growth looked healthy, seaweeds and likes were plentiful.
Now it seems these things are slowly dying a disappearing which makes me wonder if there is any linkage in the disappearance of these marine resources to the mining development on Lihir Island.

I understand from media reports that mining on Simberi Island in the Tabar group will begin next year, and later, the mining development on Anir Island will come on steam.

Though I welcome these two new mining developments, I am also concerned over the future potential damage to the marine resources which have sustained our livelihood from time immemorial.

I urge the elected leaders at all levels of government in the Province to put aside their political differences, defer their election campaigning or better still "suspend" it in 2006 to 2007 and start asking some tough questions about the environmental impact of off-shore mining on our marine resources by the dumping of the mine tailings in the ocean. The New Ireland people need to know the true situation before the Simberi and Anir mines become fully operational.

I specially urge the governor to show his true leadership and concern for the future generation of New Irelanders, to put aside his political bickering and difference with the Chan family, and to lead the charge in this matter. New Ireland is sitting on a potential environmental time-bomb and the elected leaders of the province must do something now before it is too late.

Remember the old adage prevention is better than cure.

William Kulmat

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