Indemnity unfair for Ok Tedi says MPPublished by MAC on 2001-04-23
BHP indemnity unfair: MP
Source: Papua New Guinea Post Courier, September 6-8 2002
The Government has been asked to consider removing the indemnity clausesecured by BHP Billiton in the ninth Supplemental Agreement passed by the last PNG Parliament in December.
If successful, BHP Billiton is likely to face more environmental damage-related lawsuits related to the Ok Tedi Mining Ltd. There are now two cases in the Port Moresby Court and a third in the Victorian courts. Western Governor Dr Bob Danaya, who raised the question, has also called for an independent commission of inquiry into pollution from the Porgera Mine flowing into the Strickland and Fly Rivers.
This was adding further damage to the Middle Fly and South Fly which had affected the people, down-river sago and barramundi fisheries in Torres Straits and Gulf, and the Great Barrier Reef.
Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare said he would consult with Mining Minister Sam Akoitai and answer that question and other queries raised by Dr Danaya. Dr Danaya, during Question Time in Parliament, had asked the Somare-Marat government what its position was on the agreement, and whether there would be a review of the agreement that had "caused great division and inequities among the Western Province people".He had specifically asked for the removal of the inequities and the indemnity, backing his questions with concerns that environmental pollution was worsening.
He backed this with information that there were three BHP-Billiton directors in the PNG trust company based in Singapore that oversees the former BHP-Billiton 52 per cent share holding in OTML.
The stake was left as a parting gift, although critics see this as an attempt to appease the Western Province people over the pollution of the Fly River and subsequent environmental damage. "Their gift continues to pour 100,000 tonnes of pollution daily into PNG's biggest river," Dr Danaya said. "South Fly now receives as little as K27 per head each month from the mine, and this will reduce in future. Although OTML sells copper in US dollars, Western Province is paid a set kina value so while the kina devalues, so does the value of our compensation."
Dr Danaya also asked the Prime Minister to:
- table the World Bank report and KPMG report on the Ok Tedi mine and its future respectively;
- explain how the Government was using the K984 million lending facility to correct the mine's environmental damage; and
- state the Government's position on concerns of pollution raised by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park authorities on the park originating in Ok Tedi.