MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Widen Porgera mine deaths investigations

Published by MAC on 2005-05-30

Widen Porgera mine deaths investigations

The National – 30 May 2005

Letters to the Editor

I resond to the articles published in the print media for the Government to investigate the deaths of 29 people at the PJV Porgera mine in Enga province.

Wabag MP Sam Abal queried the deaths of 29 Porgerans and was supported by Morobe Governor Luther Wenge and Opposition Leader Peter O'Neill.

An investigation must take place however any State-commissioned investigation should be broadened to include all deaths resulting from all mine-related activities in Porgera since mechanised mining started in 1989.

The scope of any investigation, for instance, must include the deaths of four people in the compensation-related riot in Porgera in 1996, the alleged deaths of many Lower Porgerans from environmental pollution, and those suffering silently from the general impacts of mining. The deaths represent just one significant issue regarding the Porgera Mine.

I hope that an investigation into these deaths will open the way for similar investigations into other mine-related issues in Porgera including environmental pollution, economic loss resulting from loss of access to alluvial gold, the ad hoc manner involving the extension of mine life, water use permits, and the general behaviour of the PJV on all these matters.

It is paramount that the behaviour of mine developers' be strictly regulated to ensure that people's lives and their home environments are not sacrificed for economic gains.

Dr Albert Nita,
UPNG Environmental Science,
Port Moresby

Identify the real cause

I support the call by Opposition Leader Peter O'Neill, Governor for Morobe Luther Wenge, and Wabag MP Sam Abal for a commission of inquiry into the killings at the Porgera gold mine. The inquiry is necessary to investigate and identify the real cause of deaths.

An impartial enquiry should be appointed without delay. Apart from people dying at the hands of heavily armed security, there have been so many other deaths as a direct result of the mining operations.

For instance, in 1994 an explosive blast killed two people, the underground and open cut mining operations continue to claim lives. There are also alarming reports that hundreds of people living along the Porgera, Lagaip and Strickland river systems are dying from mysterious diseases. These river systems are used by the mine as its tailings and waste neutralizing plants.

What is also worrying is that Placer Dome's style of paying cash compensation to people of its own choice without complying with the 1996 Ministerial Determination continues to claim lives of innocent people.

The Somare Government should not treat this matter lightly. Hence, the Government's decision to allow a committee to look into Porgera mine deaths instead of a royal commission of inquiry is totally unacceptable.

The Government must establish an independent commission of inquiry to do a proper investigation and present its finding without fear or favour.

Opis Papo,
Kairik Village,
Porgera, Enga province

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