MAC: Mines and Communities

Landowners up the stakes on the Ramu Nickel Mine

Published by MAC on 2005-09-26

Media Release: Landowners up the stakes on the Ramu Nickel Mine

September 26th 2005

Mineral Policy Institute (MPI) Press Release

“We are not going to sit here and let this mine proceed”….

Increasingly landowner opposition is raising questions about Highland Pacific’s deal with Chinese Metallurgical Company to develop the controversial Ramu Nickel mine in Papua New Guinea

Concerns over the economic, environmental and social impacts of the Ramu Nickel mine, which first surfaced in late 1999 and were seen as a major factor in the project’s inability to secure financing for over 5 years have brought landowners from across Madang together to express their concerns in a statement of opposition to the mine.

An advertisement signed by hundreds of individuals and families within the impact zone for the project ran in the major national daily newspaper, the Post Courier and in the tok pidgin language newspaper, the Wantok in recent weeks, and stated:

“We the landowners of the Rai Coast and Lower Ramu strongly oppose the Ramu Nickel Mine because of its predicted impact on our land, environment and sustainable livelihoods.”

The PNG papers have also received letters from school children from the region concerned about the project:

‘ We don’t want resources to be affected by mining, such as the contamination of water and the destruction of life in the river. Our growing population today and tomorrow depends on the river. The chemicals from the mines will destroy much of our marine life as well as our lives. How would we preserve our resources and environment for our future lives?’ July 27th 2005

MPI spoke to clan leaders, who confirmed their position:

“We don’t want disposal into our sea, and we do not want the pipeline on our land.

When our river gets flooded it could break the pipeline and then this waste will destroy our land, our land is our life. If that pipeline bursts then that is our graveyard. We come to sell our garden products in Madang, we can make around 100K a day to sell our produce, our vegetables and our chickens in town, and if our land is polluted our economy will be destroyed. If the company comes we will retaliate on our own terms, we will not let the pipe come onto our land.” Clan leader from Erima village

Some of the strongest opposition has arisen from the proposal to utilise submarine tailings disposal, an increasingly controversial technique that has seen Newmont directors facing criminal prosecution for its use in Indonesia, and has lead to the World’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton developing a policy against the use of the practice.

It is unclear from public disclosure whether the companies and PNG have finalised the agreements. Public reports suggest that the Chinese company has yet to sign binding agreements to develop the project, but is still seeking to secure bank loans to fulfil their side of the agreement which includes a commitment to finance 100% of the capital costs of the mine’s development.

The growing landowner opposition, together with controversy over environmental impacts, and questions over the economic feasibility of the project and the unproven nature of the technology needed to process the lateritic nickel deposit has made it difficult for Highlands Pacific to secure a partner or financier amongst the international financial markets and the major nickel mining companies. Whether or not these issues will inhibit the ability of the Chinese company to secure financing for the project is unknown.

MPI has produced a briefing which examines some of the major risks and areas of concern

The landowners advertisement petition run in the PNG papers can be read here, as can a background briefing paper.

For further details contact: Techa Beaumont, Mineral Policy Institute 0409 318 406

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