MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Meet on cyanide compensation claim set

Published by MAC on 2004-09-21

Meet on cyanide compensation claim set

By Geraldina Warre, The National (Papua New Guinea)

21 September 2004

MICROBAL Ltd, an environmental organisation, is hosting a conference to discuss the impact of a sodium cyanide spill in Goilala, Central province four years ago.

Microbal manager David Mol said the conference is a “result of the neglected impact and damage of the spillage four years ago”.

He said, “The sodium-cyanide spill occurred in 2000 … it has been four years now and the company (Tolukuma Gold Mine) has done nothing to compensate the people who have been affected by this issue.”

Mr Mol claimed that TGM has only done about two months of the residual detoxination of the sodium-cyanide spillage after the incident on March 16, 2000.

The incident occurred on Tuesday, the 16th of March, 2000 during a routine delivery flight from Veimauri Base to the Tolukuma Mine Site about 50 kilometers North West of Veimauri. Veimauri is about 70 kilometres North West of Port Moresby.

In a statement, Mr Mol said a Hevi Lift Helicopter was hauling two tonnes of sodium cyanide rigged on a pallet suspended under it when a container holding a tonne of the chemical fell off about 20kms south of the mine site at about 3,500 feet above sea level.

He said upon impact with the water, the container burst open, setting off the chemical to leak out. Mr Mol said this has resulted “in physical damages, injuries, social inconvenience caused to the inhabitants of the affected villages”.

He added that eight deaths occurred within days after the spill.

Reports from TGM suggest that about 20% of the cyanide escaped upon impact. However, the TGM claim has never been verified.

Mr Mol said the conference is aimed at getting the people involved in the incident in 2000 to make a decision on the course of action to be taken to compensate the damage.

“I want the appropriate authorities who can answer questions upfront and not say they don’t have the authority to comment or decide.”

Microbal has already sent an advice to the chairman of Orica Australia, Durban Rooderpoort Deep and the HSBC Holdings Ltd for them to attend.

Microbal has also engaged the services of Naru Lawyers to look into the legal side of the issue.

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