MAC: Mines and Communities

PNG: Chinese project brought to a grinding halt

Published by MAC on 2010-03-24
Source: Postcourier, AAP (2010-03-22)

Court rules in landowners' favour

A flagship Chinese-owned overseas mining project has suffered a body-blow - if not yet a fatal one.

Last Friday, a Papua New Guinea judge ruled that construction of the tailings disposal system, integral to Chinese Metallurgical Construction Company (MCC)'s nickel mine at Ramu, should be halted "pending determination of the substantive proceedings". [For earlier story, go to: http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=9952

MCC had planned to dump 5 million tons of hot tailings a year into Basamuk Bay, Madang province, and was about to start blasting coral reefs to allow laying of the tailings' pipeline.

Local landowners had already sued the company and the state for "gross public and private nuisance and breaches of the Environment Act". Two weeks ago they applied for interim injunctions to prevent further construction work on the tailings disposal system.

Now, the Judge has ordered that:

"The defendants and their associates, agents and employees and persons whom they are jointly or severally responsible shall CEASE ALL Preparatory OR Construction work on the Ramu Nickel Mine deep sea tailings placement system that involves directly or indirectly damage or disturbance to the offshore environment - including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, all coral blasting or popping of dead or live coral and laying of pipes - and shall NOT carry out directly or indirectly any such work, pending determination of the substantive proceedings."

See: http://ramumine.wordpress.com/

Background

MCC has been trying for over a decade to get the Ramu mine on-stream; an initial agreement with the Papua New Guinea government was finally signed in February 2004. See: http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=766

Local landowner grievances rapidly surfaced; the following year, a large number of them signed a public advertisement opposing the project on environmental and social grounds. See: http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=768

In February 2007 a government minister declared that the company had breached industrial law, in view of the unacceptable state of its relations with workers. See: http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=7077

Last June, a leading Papua New Guinean ecologist condemned the routing of the slurry pipeline, claiming it posed a strong risk to local peoples' livelihoods. See: http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=9292

Over the past month, long-standing concerns that the mine will jeopardise wildlife (some of it allegedly already destroyed) have been re-iterated (See article below).

The potential destruction of marine life by the tailings' pipelines is now uppermost in the minds of local villagers, along with the impacts of the company's encroachment on their land, and denial of their rights to ownership.

A fortnight ago MCC sought to answer recent criticisms, by issuing two statements to the national press. In the first, the company claimed that mining wastes, slurried through the proposed pipeline, was "non corrosive" and any breach in it would be monitored.

The statement signally failed to address two of the worst problems associated with STD (Submarine Tailings Disposal/Deposition). Regardless of their composition, tailings  can, and do, churn up from the seabed, causing havoc to marine biota. Moreover, pipeline ruptures will create considerable damage even before they can be located and repaired.

The company also vaunted its good relationship with the landowners (and the benefits resulting from its socio-economic programmes), while arguing that the legality of many land claims remains in contention. MCC is no doubt right  that similar situations prevail at other extractive projects in Papua New Guinea; and it is the government's responsibility to settle ownership disputes.

What now?

However, this argument is tendentious - if not spurious. For, it is clear that the Madang project has already severely disrupted much of the local economy, and threatens worse.

Does MCC genuinely want to "work with the governments and other stakeholders ...in addressing outstanding matters and challenges that will greatly impact us and the project communities"?

If so, it should bring all work on Ramu to an immediate halt, not recommencing its operations until the communities' grievances are unequivocally addressed.

Ramu Nico pipeline ‘risky'

MCC refutes claim saying there's no cause for alarm

By Rosalyn Evara

Postcourier

12 March 2010

WORRIES have been raised on the slurry pipeline to be used by Ramu NiCo (MCC) Limited and the kind of engineering work that goes into laying it but developers say there is no cause for concern.

A miner and a local from Basamuk claimed the pipeline had flaws and was a threat to workers and the environment and public.

George Chimi, a local from Masi village who also has a mining background, said it was standard safety practice for pipelines in any mining operation to be rubber lined. The material MCC would be piping was not only toxic but corrosive and without the rubber lining the pipe would not last long.

He said while the slurry would be pumped over a long distance there were only water pump stations and no air valves to push the material successfully. Mr Chimi claimed there were no joints along the pipeline for maintenance needs.

"When there is no air bleeding valves it becomes very dangerous. There is a risk of a buildup in pressure which will consequently damage the pipe. Should this happen there is a risk of chemical spillage causing serious environmental pollution. The blockage will require maintenance and that means they will have to remove the pipe by using oxy or a grinder to remove the pipe and replace it with a new one.

MCC responded saying that unlike the other copper and gold mines in the country there was no floatation circuit in this one. It said the slurry that would be piped was a mixture of natural soil and water and that the sulphur content in the mix would be very low.

"The slurry contains only laterite mud and water, without corrosive chemical. The corrosivity of slurry was tested in the laboratory of BRASS Engineering International Inc, USA. The test result shows the corrosion rate is low to carbon steel pipes and therefore no rubber lining is needed for this pipeline for corrosion consideration.

"Nevertheless, we have exerted extra caution in the engineering design of pipeline depth for erosion considerations, which allows the pipeline to be used for 20 years," it said. MCC said the pump station would be able to adequately pump the slurry all the way to Basamuk. The company said it had have pressure transducers along the pipeline and could detect the leakage or rupture of pipeline in an emergency situation.

 


Miner told to preserve wildlife

By Poreni Umau

Postcourier

12 March 2010

LANDOWNERS at the Ramu nickel and cobalt (Ramu NiCo) mine site in the Kurumbukari area have called on the developer to preserve wildlife in their area.

The call was made by Krumbukari Landowners Association chairman David Tigavu during the launch of the 2010 environmental impact awareness program by Ramu NiCo at the company's office in Madang early this week.

Mr Tigavu said with development gaining passage into the remote area, rare plants and animals were being disturbed.

He said the removal of forests to make way for the pipeline from the Krumbukari mine site to the refinery at Basamuk Bay was a threat to many endangered plant and animal species.

He did not provide details of the flora and fauna that would be affected but Mr Tigavu said that there were unique plants and animals living in these forests that needed to be preserved.

He said some of these wildlife were not found anywhere near the coastal or the highlands region and but were only found within the forests where the mine is situated.

He said it would be sad to lose these plants and animals and has appealed to the Ramu NiCo management to conserve the forests at Krumbukari and surrounding areas where such plants and animals live.

Mr Tigavu has also called on the developer to install environmental stations in the oceans, rivers and bushes to collect data for future references especially environmental impacts.

He said such instruments were used to record wind, rain, sedimentation, ocean currents and relevant information on the forces of nature invited by such development.

He said that with some instruments already damaged, there was a need to replace them and has appealed to the company to intervene.


Ramu - people homeless

By Scott Waide

Postcourier, Focus,

12 March 2010

Former TV journalist cum documentary producer Scott Waide highlights the homeless plight of some Kumbukari landowners at the hands of Ramu Ni-Co mining company MCC We came to Benny Mangua's village at about midday. This trip was for a story of how a foreign company allowed into the country by the government of Papua New Guinea was treating the local people - the original owners of the land.

I had packed a camera and several tapes, not expecting anything major apart from a few disgruntled landowners who had not been paid their dues. As I was going to discover, I'd come to Kurumbukari mine site quite unprepared mentally. Benny Mangua, an elderly man in his mid sixties, greeted a teammate of mine, Steven Sukot - quite warmly but then while I shot a few seconds of footage, the old man broke down and wept. Steven responded as any Papua New Guinean would - embracing the old man and tried to calm him down as best he could. "My tears keep falling. I've lost my land. I've lost my home."

He continued to weep as I brought the camcorder around to him and clumsily adjusted the audio settings. In 10 years of television this, to me, was truly a rare moment. I never dreamed that I would live to see the day when this happened.

This was a Papua New Guinean landowner who had been forced off his land by a foreign company. Benny Mangua of the Mauri clan was born and raised on this land on which his ancestors had settled many generations ago. In a matter of months, he had become a landless Papua New Guinean.

"I've become like a parasite. I have no place to stay."

He wasn't exaggerating when he said it. For Benny Mangua's entire clan's land area contains some of the richest nickel deposits in the Southern Hemisphere. It is here that the Chinese owned company - MCC - will begin the controversial $US1.4 billion nickel mining project.

About 50 of his clan members left for a temporary resettlement area - a forbidden, sacred site where Benny Mangua's ancestral spirits dwell. It was a kilometre from where we were. But sacred as it was to the Mauri clan of Kurumbukari, the site has been designated as a stockpile area for nickel ore.

Only two houses now stand on Mauri clan land. Both belong to Benny Mangua's two sons - Peter Kepma and his younger brother, John. They've refused to leave.

"There is a permanent relocation area. But the land belongs to another person... another clan, says Peter Kepma. "If we go and live on the blocks of land there, we won't be able to plant food gardens or hunt."

MCC began issuing food rations to the Mauri clan when the relocation began. But the clan members say the food rations can only last them a few days.

"The company is annoyed that we made gardens here," John Kepma says, pointing to cassava and taro growing on the stockpile area. "Even where the forest is... they don't allow us to plant food.

"But we have to. If we don't, we'll starve to death."

John Kepma chuckles as he tells me about the company's attitude towards local people.

"If we have a problem and we try to bring it to the company's attention, they treat it like a criminal matter."

Police have come to his elder brother's house eight times already. Peter Kepma is the more serious type. Quiet, undemanding yet stubborn.

"They tried to intimidate me," he says. "They came well dressed in their uniforms and carrying their weapons. But I told them: "You're not from China. You all own land just like me... I'm here because of my land. This isn't State land. This is my land and I've still got it."

To say "the Mauri clan faces a difficult future" is a gross understatement. As I filmed along the track leading to the temporary settlement, a five-year-old girl, walks ahead of me. She is in the (film) shot, nimbly picking her way through the kunai grass. I can see the audio levels on my camcorder peaking to the patter of her tiny feet on the yellow nickel-rich earth. I wondered if she understood why the old man had wept in front of total strangers about half an hour earlier.

He understood very well that she would not have the pleasure of learning the ways of old on her grandfather's land nor gather eggs from the forest like her mother's mother did many years ago.

The old man understood that unlike other Papua New Guineans, she was leaving the land that sustained her ancestors for generations. She was leaving her past and future.

- Scott Waide was a senior journalist for EMTV and producer for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He currently works in Madang as a documentary producer.


Mining company wants to work with landowners

Postcourier, Focus

15 March 2010

"We are fully aware that land is a matter of significance in PNG and as you probably know better than I do, at resource projects the title can be a quite fluid issue as well. In this regard, we're in a similar situation faced by other mining companies'' . . .Ramu nickel company responds to critics LAST WEEK, Focus published an article by Madang-based journalist Scott Waide on the dilemma facing some landowners because of relocation from the Ramu nickel mine site.

Today, the mine owners put their side of the dispute and it comes from Wu Xuefeng, general manager corporate office at Ramu NiCo Management (MCC) Limited.

"First we would stress that our overall relationship with local communities, including landowners are healthy and constructive. Otherwise without their continuous support, it is unthinkable that the progresses we have so far are achieved in a relatively short time span.

"The company has carried out an economic and social development assistance program extensively in the project affected areas to fulfil the commitments.

"Here are a few figures: up to 2009, spin-off businesses worth K80 million have been contracted to landowner companies and over K5.1 million as environment and land compensation paid to landowners. In 2009 alone, six community assistance projects under project MoA have been completed and donated, including primary school and health centre upgrading and construction. Goods worth more than K120,000 have been donated for various social events. Agricultural assistance has been progressing well and two model farms have been set up as training centres for the passing of agricultural skills to local landowners.

"On the subject matter, we do not try to underestimate the importance and sensitivity of land matters in Papua New Guinea. While we should all be aware that mining development will inevitably have an impact on people's lives. Saving the argument on the great positives that a mining development could bring to affected stakeholders, it is still a less straightforward issue than some might believe.

"We are fully aware that land is a matter of significance in PNG and as you probably know better than I do, at resources projects the land title can be quite a fluid issue as well. In this regard, we are in a similar kind of situation as faced by other mining companies in Papua New Guinea.

"Now in the KBK mine site, there are over 50 land title disputes registered at the PNG Lands Title Commissions pending for hearing and decisions. Many have been accumulating since the late 1990s.

"In other words, before the decision is made by the LTC, the plaintiffs (supposing Mr Peter Kepma and John Kepma have also filed the application) are not legally recognised as landowners (and therefore not eligible for the landowner benefits under the Mining Act including compensation and relocation houses).

"We understand the frustrations that can be caused over a lengthy and sometimes overly slow process. However, the immediate danger for the project to cater to everyone's request will be creating tension and conflict between the ‘real' and ‘self-claimed' landowners, let alone we do not have any authority to do so.

"We have been pushing forward the progress on this matter through actively coordinating with the national and provincial governments. The recent good news was that the National Government has allocated special funds and appointed three commissioners for Ramu cases who are supposed to start work shortly.

"Also like some other mines, with Ramu getting developed, there has been an influx of outsiders to the mine site. Most of them are looking for jobs while others are invited by the landowners because they are relatives or there are unresolved financial obligations between them.

"They come and stay, competing with locals for the resources, adding to the confusion and in some circumstances creating social problems with the local communities.

"This concerns us very much as the developer and we understand these matters have also caught the attention of the Madang Provincial Government."

"Ramu NiCo will continue to work with the governments and other stakeholders and assist in whatever way it can in addressing outstanding matters and challenges that will greatly impact us and the project communities like the decision of land title ownership and managing the outsiders.''


PNG landowners stop mine's waste dump

Ilya Gridneff

AAP

21 March 2010

Papua New Guinea landowners have won a David and Goliath battle to freeze a Chinese nickel miner's construction of a massive pipeline to dump waste into the sea.

The national court in Madang on Friday ordered work to stop on the nickel mine's previously approved submarine tailings disposal system.

The Ramu mine in Madang Province, on PNG's northwest coast, operated by the Chinese Metallurgical Construction Group Co (MCC), plans to dump five million tonnes of slurry waste annually into Basamuk Bay.

The company was preparing to start blasting coral reefs for the tailings pipeline to be laid.

The stop-work order is another setback for the Chinese project, which has suffered a series of problems with the mine's construction and relations with local people.
Tiffany Nonggorr, the lawyer representing the Madang landowners, said MCC must find an alternative to dumping the mine waste into the bay.

"This injunction is a massive victory for us, definitely a David and Goliath struggle. Landowners have stopped the Chinese, who have spent
$US1.4 billion ($A1.52 billion) to build this mine," she said.

"The mine's proposal is just too risky. There are grave environmental concerns," she said.

Despite having government and environmental approval, the proposed deep sea tailings pipeline would destroy the environment and local people's livelihoods, Mrs Nonggorr said.

Judge David Cannings granted a temporary injunction forcing MCC to stop work "that involves directly or indirectly damage or disturbance to the offshore environment including all coral blasting or popping of dead or live coral and laying of pipes.

MCC "shall not carry out directly or indirectly any such work, pending determination of the substantive proceedings" to be heard at a later date, he said.

In July last year, construction of the mine was briefly stopped due to health and safety concerns, while in May outbreaks of violence exposed simmering tensions between Chinese management and PNG workers.

The Ramu mine is expected to yield 143 million tonnes of nickel over 20 years and during construction will employ 3,000 workers including 700 Chinese.


Ramu mine work halted

Postcourier

24 March 2010

Highlands Pacific has been advised by the operator of the Ramu nickel cobalt project that the National Court in Madang made an interim injunction on the construction of the deep sea tailings displacement (DSTP) facilities being constructed at the Basamuk process plant site.

The interim orders arose out of a claim in the court by individuals and groups who claim to have an interest in customary land in and around Basamuk Bay.

Highlands is not a party to the injunction however the Ramu NiCo (MCC) Management Limited (as operator and manager), the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA), the Department of Environmental Conservation and The Independent State of Papua New Guinea are defendants.

The DSTP processes have been the subject of extensive technical and investigative work over many years by world experts and are regarded as being the safest and most appropriate method for the Ramu project, a statement said.

Ramu NiCo (MCC) Management Limited has advised Highlands that the project has complied with all the statutory requirements in obtaining and maintaining of the environmental approvals including those for the DSTP.

Managing director of Highlands Pacific, John Gooding, said that "while this is frustrating and not the first time the project has had to overcome obstacles, final construction work and commissioning activities will continue on the remainder of the project.

"It is important to note that the four landowner groups that have been involved in the project since its inception continue to fully support the project as they recognise the positive benefits that will flow through to the region and the country.

"Any prolonged delays associated with this latest action can only harm all the stakeholders at a time when PNG is starting to attract large investment on a number of important fronts.

"It is imperative that investors continue to have confidence in the PNG Government and the country as a whole.

The operator and manager Ramu NiCo (MCC) Management Limited together with the MRA and the State will be acting expeditiously to ensure that this matter will have minimal impact on the project.

"Whilst this action commenced in early March Highlands was not made aware of the action until over the weekend."

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