MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Demand for Ramu review

Published by MAC on 2007-02-05


Demand for Ramu review

5th February 2007

What started as a trickle of concern about minerals "rents" a couple of years is rapidly turning into a fast flow of denunciations of deals forged (primarily during the 1990s) between complaisant governments and rapacious mining companies over the heads - and sometimes bodies - of mining-affected communities.

Added to last week's critiques from Australia and a Tanzanian NGO (weakly backed by the government) the main opposition party in Papua New Guinea has condemend the terms of the Ramu nickel agreement.

And, on January 5, Papua New Guinea's Labour and Industrial Relations Secretary blasted the Chinese company behind the project for innumerable breaches of working standards which, he said, were "far below human standards."


Ramu project 'needs review'

Postcourier (Papua New Guinea)

31st January 2007

THE Ramu nickel/cobalt mining agreement will be reviewed if the People's Party enters government. Party leader and Enga Governor Peter Ipatas told reporters at the Parliament House yesterday the agreement was signed by the National Alliance government in China and favours the developers.

Mr Ipatas said this was one thing he was willing to do and put his "life on the line" for the country as part of his fight against corruption.

Mr Ipatas said the agreement was done in such a way the State of Papua New Guinea and the landowners were mere observers on their own land while the developer got about 85 per cent of the takings.

Mr Ipatas said his party was for the people and he would fight for the people and ensure the Ramu people benefited from the project.

He said if it meant having the mining stopped, it would be done to ensure the people of Papua New Guinea, through the government and the landowners, received the maximum benefit.

Mr Ipatas said there was no rush and the minerals would remain here for as long as no one mined it and there was no rush if the people were going to be mere onlookers.

Post-Courier also understands the Government signed an agreement with the developer to exempt them from paying taxes for the next 10 years.

Despite advice from the bureaucracy, the government went ahead to exempt the developer.

Mr Ipatas was also supported by party president Wera Mori who said this was one way of aggressively addressing corruption.

Both men told the reporters their party would aggressively address corruption and would be disturbing comfort zones and thus putting lives at risk.

They said good governance was based on getting things done correctly and fighting corruption was part of good governance.

An officer of the party later told the Post-Courier if the need arose a Royal Commission of Inquiry would be established to satisfy that international standards were followed in this deal.

He also said the party had observed Labour laws may have been breached in the many Chinese who had been brought into work iat the mine.

He said these were issues the party would also address if it got into power and if the people gave it the mandate to run the country.

Meanwhile, Mr Ipatas told reporters PNG was a Christian country but there was no legislation to support that.

He also said his party would not stop people from other religions entering the country but would not recognise any infrastructure that was not Christian and was for the worshipping of other gods by other religions.

Mr Ipatas said this was one of many issues his party would implement if it was in government.


Ramu mine breaches PNG industrial law

Postcourier

5th Februar y2007

LABOUR and Industrial Relations Secretary David Tibu is prepared to shut the operations of the Ramu nickel/cobalt mine if the Chinese developer fails to follow certain directives.

Mr Tibu told the Post-Courier on Saturday if the company did not implement within 21 days his five-page directive, he would shut down the project until the directives are followed.

He said the working and living conditions of the local employees at the Basamuk camp was far below human standards and he directed they be addressed within 21 days from January 17.

Mr Tibu said the conditions were not that of the country’s biggest project ever undertaken and was far below any minimum human standard.

“I will only be administrating the laws I am empowered (to) … I am the chief inspector of the occupational health and safety standards.”

The 21 days will lapse on Wednesday and Mr Tibu said he would make another visit to make sure his directives were being implemented.

A disappointed Secretary said both China and Papua New Guinea were members of the International Labour Organisation and the Chinese Government must respect the international labour laws.

Among the directives, Mr Tibu, through his delegate in Madang, wants the company to establish a wage structure which will meet the requirements of workers who are in the semi-skilled, skilled, supervisors, foreman, administration and executive positions.

He also directed the company cease to pay employees across the board, K10 per day irrespective of what they do. He said the mine employees were being forced to work in excess of minimum legal hours of work and overtime was not being paid.

Other directives are that:

* THE management is required to immediately construct national workers living quarters at the present company staff quarters. These living quarters should be permanent buildings with power, adequate beds and other necessities.

* THE company is also directed to construct a permanent messing facility with all the other equipment including proper drinking water.

*l ABLUTION facilities should be provided for male and female and hold adequate number of shower blocks and toilets with a ratio of 10 to one. The toilet blocks be septic and should be roomed to provide privacy.

* RELOCATE rubbish dumping grounds.

* TRANSPORT should be provided to and from work for local employees who travel four hours each day from the village and back after work.

* WORKERS must be protected with insurance cover.

* THE non-citizen supervisors are to immediately stop forcing workers from undertaking unsafe or tasks considered as high risk.

* THE company is to engage a recognised catering contractor to provide catering services.

Wages paid in tinned fish

Employees at the Ramu nickel/cobalt mine are being paid tinned fish and rice in lieu of overtime payment.

And they have open pit toilets without roofs and walls for privacy with faeces exposed, causing a health hazard, Secretary for Labour and Industrial Relations David Tibu said at the weekend.

Mr Tibu has given the developer 21 days to address these and other issues which he said were far below human decency standards.

He had made a surprise visit to the Basamuk campsite. He, said both male and female local employees were expected to squat on a higher platform made of coconut trees and excrete through the trunks and into an open pit.

He said employees, out of embarrassment, were using the nearby bushes and that was even worse for the country’s biggest project.

Mr Tibu said the Chinese developer did not seem to have any standards and he would not allow his countrymen and women to be used as slaves.

 

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