Thursday, March 8, 2012
People's Concerns Over Mining Issues In PNG
Environment Minister’s advert on Hidden Valley ignores the facts
The Environment Minister’s expensive full page newspaper adverts on the dead fish in the Markham river ignore a number of important facts and misrepresents the truth.
Here are the facts. There were a large number of fish and eels that died as a result of an unusual event. Mr. Philemon, as a responsible member of the community was asking the questions that should be asked. He also highlighting points that would have otherwise been covered up by MMJV’s spin doctor David Wissink. Mr. Minister, are you calling the people’s concerns over the high number of dead fish and eels “unnecessary anxiety?”
There was never any INDEPENDENT preliminary investigations done by the Mineral Resources Authority, Department of Morobe and the Department of Environment and Conservation. The MRA, DEC and MPG simply don’t have the capacity to conduct independent scientific investigations. The “preliminary investigations” stated by the Minister was a helicopter flyover on an MMJV sponsored chopper. And the “facts” collected were provided by MMJV which USED officers from the DEC as mere company mouthpieces. Mr. Minister, we also understand that you can’t think for yourself and you depend on briefs from your officers. It is unfortunate that the information contained in those briefs come from MMJV and you don’t question its validity.
The Minister keeps referring to the MMJV’s reports as the “state’s preliminary findings.” Who is he serving? MMJV or the people of PNG? The government explanation, was nothing more than regurgitated information and a press release found on the MMJV website which MMJV spin doctor, David Wissink, was directing Facebook users to hours before the “official government statement.”
While the Minister appears so sure, he admits that he doesn’t know if the fish and eel deaths MAY be related to the mine operations. He is clearly not sure himself. So the people could be right and he doesn’t have the means to independently assess the event and prove otherwise.
Minister for the Environment sounding like a mining industry puppet
Locals unhappy with Minister’s response on Hidden Valley pollution
The Labu people of Morobe Province are very unhappy with the Environment Minister’s response to their complaints over dead fish in the Markham river – deaths local people feel sure are linked to the operations of the Hidden Valley mine upstream.
The locals say the Minister, despite his full colour advertisements in the daily newspapers, still hasn’t explained to them why his department has failed to do a proper investigation and test on the fish (both live fish and dead fish) along the Markham River and at the mouth of the river and the coastline of Labu and Huon Gulf.
The Labu people say they are still waiting for someone – some credible, independent scientist – or scientists to do a proper test on the fish, the kina shells from the Labu Lakes and mangroves and the waters to ascertain whether these are now safe.
The Labu people say they still don’t know if they can eat the fish and kina shells and whether they can drink water from the village wells. Or even if their children can swim in the sea without contacting skin rashes and other skin diseases.
Morobe Governor Luther Wenge has promised to bringing scientists to conduct independent tests but there is no word on when are they arriving.
The Minister for Environment and Conservation is mandated by his Oath of Office under the National constitution to uphold the laws of PNG and protect the interests of the people of PNG. In this case the people of Labu are asking – is he really protecting our interests?
It seems the Labu people have been left to fend for themselves as no one in authority is concerned about their survival, their well being and their problems.
The people of Labu just want the Minister for Environment and conservation to tell them if:
1. The fish are fine to catch and eat;
2. The water is safe to drink and wash;
3. The level of any chemicals found in the fishes and kina shells etc…are safe for human consumption and that there are no threats of diseases later on in life.
People are also asking the Minister to explain why he and his department are wholly and totally dependent on mining companies to provide them with data on the quality of water being discharged from the mine site without ever doing their own independent scientific tests to verify the information they receive from the mines.
Local people say they are concerned the Minister is not speaking with authority if he only relies on information supplied to him and his department by mining companies like Morobe Mining Joint Venture (MMJV).
This means the Minister is not independent at all and cannot be trusted to speak with authority and on behalf of little Papua New Guineans whose livelihoods are affected by giant international mining corporations.
The people are calling on the Government to deal with this issue as a matter of urgency as the Minister and his department cannot be trusted by any PNG group affected by any environmental issues because they first thing they will do is run to big companies to provide them the information they should release to the public.
Malaysians show PNG how to protest against Australian miners
THOUSANDS of people rallied yesterday in Malaysia against an Australian miner’s rare earths plant in the biggest protest yet over fears it will produce radioactive waste harmful to them and the environment.
Lynas has almost completed building the plant near the seaside town of Kuantan in eastern Pahang state to process rare earth ores imported from Australia.
China currently supplies about 95 percent of world demand for rare earths, which are used in high-tech equipment from iPods to missiles and have seen prices soar in recent years.
Lynas hopes to begin operations within months, producing an initial 11,000 tonnes of rare earths a year and effectively breaking the Chinese stranglehold on the materials.
But more than 5,000 people, many wearing green and holding banners reading “Stop pollution, stop corruption, stop Lynas”, gathered in Kuantan to call for the plant to shut down, chanting: “We want Lynas to close down”.
Lee Tan, an activist who helped organise the rally, said: “The plant is dangerous because it produces huge amounts of waste that is radioactive”, adding residents were worried the waste could leak into the ground and water.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim also attended the protest and his colleague Fuziah Salleh said the plant should be relocated “in the middle of the desert”.
“The green rally is in support of sustainable development and Lynas is definitely not a sustainable development,” she told AFP.
Police often intervene at rallies in Malaysia but did not do so on this occasion, although they were on standby.
Hundreds gathered elsewhere in Malaysia, including in Kuala Lumpur.
Lynas’ website was also hacked with a Malaysian flag and the slogan “Stop Lynas, Save Malaysia” replacing the usual site.
Lynas has insisted the plant is safe and that any radioactive waste it will produce will only be low-level and not harmful to human health.
It is receiving a 10-year tax break for the plant, and has said having it in Malaysia offers better economics than Australia.
The government has said it is monitoring the plant closely to ensure its safety.
On Tuesday the Kuala Lumpur high court will start hearing an activist challenge to block the plant.
Opponents point to a similar rare earths plant in Malaysia’s northern Perak state which was forced to shut down in 1992 over protests from residents who blamed it for birth defects in nearby populations.
The Markham river petition
Return of Shell and other discredited companies queried
GULF Governor Havila Kavo said companies which had discredited Papua New Guinea by calling it a failed state should be banned from the country.
He was referring to the return by Shell and other mining and petroleum companies after leaving the country.
“Ten years ago, Shell described PNG as a failed state, gave up its operations, sold it to InterOil and left. Now they have decided to come back,” he said.
He said the government had compromised with the companies which had returned to take over InterOil who, at bad times, remained operating in the country.
“I call on the prime minister and the minister for petroleum and energy to explain to the people of PNG and, especially, the people of Gulf why the company was allowed to come and take over the Gulf LNG project,” he said.
“They ripped off the country and left. What infrastructure have they left and what positive development have they left before departing?
“Such companies had no confidence in the country. Why allow them back?”
He also urged the government to tell the people of Gulf and PNG when a petroleum development licence would be issued for the project as they had been waiting for too long.
Kavo also said there was a need to change the oil and gas laws to ensure developers improved the lives of the people and infrastructure. He said the 22.5% they gave back was nothing compared with the 72% the developers took home.
“Nothing is there to show for it. There are no towns and the lives of the people have not changed,” he said.
“There are no millionaires with private jets. Why give away everything to the foreigners while the legitimate landowners suffer with the little they are given?”
Namah wants laws on mining reviewed
THE Mining Act will be reviewed to increase landowner participation in mining projects, Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah said according to The National.
Namah was speaking at a meeting in parliament on Wednesday where Mining Department officials highlighted impediments the industry would face if the Boka Kondra Bill became law.
Namah and MPs called for increased landowner participation.
He said he would support the bill and called on proponents and cri¬tics of the bill to work together so that the final form was acceptable to all.
“A review of the Mining Act is long overdue. Landowners should not be mere rent and royalty takers.
“They should be a major partner in the extraction of resources from their land.
“This can be achieved through the production sharing arrangement that is working well in many countries.”
Namah urged Kondra to look at a 49/51 production sharing arrangement, with landowners taking up 49% with the support of the government.
He said the issue of exploration and sunk costs should not be considered impediments, as that would be shared by all partners.
Namah, who is minister for forest and climate change, said similar change to increase landowner participation would be brought to the forest industry.
Basil final speaks and warns against river pollution allegations
A Papua New Guinea cabinet minister says more assessment needs to be done before the cause of dead fish in a key river system in Morobe Province can be ascertained.
The Department of Environment and Conservation sent a team to Morobe after Labu people complained about a build-up of dead marine life in the Markham river.
The Labu community blames discharge from the Hidden Valley Gold Mine but the team concluded the Mine did not cause the problem.
The National Planning Minister and local Bulolo MP, Sam Basil, says there are a lot of activities on this river system.
“We also have iron mines like the new Minco mine and thousands of other alluvial miners including recently there was a huge dam that was naturally built up during the floods since December which has been dynamited by the Defence Force, and the dam has since burst. And also we do have sedimentation coming down from Kumalu river. So at this stage I would not point fingers at any activities because I would be wrong.”
More images of the dead fish locals blame on Hidden Valley mine
Hidden Valley locals condemn assessment reports on dead fish
Dept of Environment a puppet for the mining industry
By Oseah Philemon
The Department of Environment and conservation (DEC) yesterday came under more attack from leaders of the Labu people in Lae over the dead fish issue.
And Labu leaders are asking that the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill orders a full investigation into the matter but more so look at the effects of this problem on the lives of the Labu people.
A group of leaders representing the three Labu villages – Labu-Buttu, Labu- Mitti and Labu-Talie – held a news conference on the Lae waterfront to express their concern over what they described as a lack of concern by the department over the seriousness of the problem they now face.
Their spokesman Mondo Siga Dunusu said the attitude shown by the DEC and the Minister for Environment and conservation Thompson Harokaqveh towards the dead fish problem leaves a lot to be desired.
Mr Siga Dunusu said DEC and their minister have shown their true colours by their close association with mining giant Morobe Mining Joint Venture (MMJV).
“DEC receives its weekly reports from MMJV and does not conduct their own independent tests.
“The department is a puppet of MMJV that dances to the tune of big companies and cannot stand on its own two feet to deal with the concerns o little people,” Mr Siga Dunusu said.
The Labu leaders at the news conference condemned the DEC for failing to conduct independent tests and assessment of the sea, fish and marine life around the mouth of the Markham River and the Labu coastline as well as the river itself to ascertain the actual level of any toxic or poison material that may be present.
“Our people are now helpless. We cannot fish to earn an income for their daily needs because we fear that the sea may still be full of poison,” he said.
Mr Siga Dunusu said the Labu people demand an urgent, independent test of its waters to verify that all is safe for them.
“Right now we cannot do anything. We cannot catch and sell fish, we cannot go to the mangroves to look for crabs, fish and shells because of the presence of toxic materials in the water….we are simply sitting in the villages hungry,” Mr Siga Dunusu said.
Tax mining companies, not PNG people
Totally Taxed Out, Lihir Island
FOREIGN mining companies in PNG earn US$500 million and do not have to pay taxes. Yet, Papua New Gui¬nean workers are paying almost as high as 40% wage taxes each fortnight.
Why are we ripping ourselves off? Our government’s tax priorities are all wrong.
If this government is really for the people, then please give us a meaningful tax break and let us take home more from our own hard-earned pay.
It seems we are paying for the sealing of roads and other infrastructures while foreign companies such as Newcrest, extract tonnes of our resources without paying taxes. They have not even sealed the Lihir’s Kunaye Airport or the Londolovit town roads.
These companies and their executives do not need any more encou¬ragement to make money. We give them such enormous tax breaks in the name of encouraging foreign investment.
But what is the point of having them here if, when they leave, roads remain unsealed and we have no schools, hospitals or businesses to run afterwards?
Tax the miners, not the PNG people.
Hidden Valley pollution is ‘ecological genocide’ – Councillor
By Oseah Philemon
LABU people in Lae have removed the road block at the Markham Bridge to allow Morobe Mining Joint Venture vehicles to pass through. But they warned the road block could be set up again depending on the outcome of an address by Morobe Governor Luther Wenge near the lifeline bridge today.
On Friday, their leaders converged on the Morobe administration offices to petition the company and Government for urgent attention to the fish poisoning crisis which has crippled their subsistence livelihood. Two separate petitions were presented to the acting Morobe Provincial Administrator Patilias Gamato on Friday.
The first, from the main villages of Labu-Buttu, Labu-Mitti and Labu Talie, asked for fresh water supply – water containers and fuel for boats to travel far inland to fetch water for drinking and cooking. The petition also called for financial assistance especially for children returning to school as the fishing grounds which families depended on for their weekly income has now been destroyed by the poisoning of the Markham River which flows into the vast Huon Gulf.
The people of Labu said in their petition that unless they received help, the future of their children in school was at stake. The petition called for compensation for the permanent loss of their fish and marine life which they had depended on for generations and royalties from the Hidden Valley mine to be extended to their people. The petition also demanded K1 million to be made available for an independent investigation into the poisoning of the river system which has extended as far as the entire Labu Lakes and its huge swampland.
Labu-Buttu councillor Jeffrey Tipi warned that his people faced starvation because their only means of survival has now been poisoned.
“Our fishing ground is gone, our mangrove and our traditional eco-system has been taken away from us. We are dead people because we have no means of sustaining our daily needs,” Mr Tipi said.
He added: “What we are now faced with is an environmental disaster of a grand scale. This is environmental and ecological genocide on a grand scale…’’
Governor of PNG’s Morobe Province meets protestors over polluted river concerns
Radio New Zealand
The Governor of Papua New Guinea’s Morobe province is today hosting a meeting between scientists and Labu people whose community is upset over the loss of marine life in local riverways.
Labu people last week set up a road block at the Markham bridge near the confluence of the Markham and the Watut rivers where they have been protesting about the build-up of dead fish and eels.
Blaming the Hidden Valley Gold Mine operations for polluting the rivers, the Labu people presented dead fish and a petition to Morobe’s GoveRnor demanding an investigation into the issue.
The Governor, Luther Wenge, says it is premature to blame the mine.
“We have to make sure that scientists investigate this thoroughly and we need to get a scientific opinion and find out the cause of this thing. So I’ve made pleas to their understanding and I think they understand that now. So today’s meeting is going ahead and I don’t expect any confrontation to occur.”
Scientists brought in to determine cause of dead fish in key PNG river system
Scientists have descended on Papua New Guinea’s Morobe province to investigate a buildup of dead marine life in local riverways, reports Radio New Zealand.
The people of Labu last week set up a road block at the Markham bridge near the confluence of the Markham River and the Watut River where they have been protesting about losing their prime source of food and livelihood.
Johnny Blades reports:
The Labu community has blamed the Hidden Valley Gold Mine operations of the Morobe Mining Joint Venture for the dead fish.
Labu people last week presented dead fish and a petition to Morobe’s Govenor demanding an investigation into the issue.
Our correspondent Oseah Philemon, himself a Labu local, says the community feels very strongly that the build-up of dead marine life is the result of chemicals discharged into the riverways by the mine.
“That was the allegation they made and led to them blocking the Markham Bridge and preventing vehicles either going up to the mine or coming down from passing the Markham Bridge. They also demanded ten million kina compensation, they demanded resettlement, they demanded fresh water, food supplies and whole lot of other things because of that.”
The Morobe Governor, Luther Wenge, says it is premature to blame the mine, especially as the Watut, which the mine discharges into, is one of many tributaries feeding the Markham.
He says he has made pleas to the Labu people for understanding and patience while the issue is investigated.
“And as I say, we don’t know exactly what’s caused that. What we have done is to talk to the University of Technology to ask them if they can assist with scientists who can investigate this and tell us what the cause is, what caused the deaths of those river animals. So we’ve contacted scientists there and secondly, we’ve engaged the Department of Environment and Conservation, they’ve sent some scientists. We have to make sure that scientists investigate this thoroughly.”
In a press statement, MMJV – a joint venture between Australian company Newcrest and Harmony Gold of South Africa – claims there’s nothing to indicate the mine’s involvement.
“The quality of the water discharged from the Hidden Valley mine operations is monitored on a daily basis and is reported to the Department of Environment and Conservationweekly and monthly. There are no abnormalities in the Hidden valley water quality data as it is well within compliance parameters. The greatest impact on the river system in the area at the moment is the Kumalu mudslide where cubic kilometres of sediment have entered the river system due to the heavy rain.”
MMJV has pledged support for efforts to identify the cause, and has provided data on its discharge quality.
However Oseah Philemon says the investigating team may need to rely on more independent data if they are to appease local concerns.
“Just putting my other hat on as a villager from Labu, I said to them Labu people will not believe anything that comes from the mine, so you should actually do independent tests. If it means sending the tests to Australia for independent verification and independent tests, then perhaps you should do that, to reassure the people that everything is okay. Right now, as far as they’re concerned, the mine is responsible.”
Dept of Environment says dead fish ‘just natural’
By Oseah Philemon
A Department of Environment and Conservation team which conducted investigations into the Markham River dead fish report says the Hidden Valley gold mine is not responsible for the death of fish species found along the Markham River and the Labu area last week.
The department’s technical adviser Goro Asigau who is leading the two – man team with departmental lawyer Benjamin Passingan told the Post-Courier yesterday their investigations over the weekend confirmed that there was no chemical spill or discharge from the mine into the river system that could have led to the dead fish being found along the Markham River as reported by the Labu people. Mr Asigau said the department receives weekly reports from the mine which shows that the quality of water discharged from the mine is within the required PNG standards.
The DEC does not conduct its own independent assessment of the water condition from the mine and relies entirely on the mining company to provide it with information on a weekly basis.
The department has issued two different permits to the mine – the Water Discharge Permit which specifies the accepted standards of water quality being discharged from the mine and the Water Extraction Permit which specifies the amount of water the mine can get for its usage.
Mr Asigau said the team – having confirmed that the source of the deaths of the fish was not the mine – then conducted an aerial survey of other areas in the Bulolo District. The hired helicopter was paid for by the mining company.
The team flew over the Kumalu River where there were heavy mud flows as well as the Banir and Langimar rivers where at least 10 different landslips had been observed in the catchments of the two rivers.
He said their preliminary conclusions were that the landslips may have caused dams in the area to burst and empty material into the river systems which may have been responsible for the deaths of the fish.
Why you can’t trust the mining industry and its PR spin
Papua New Guinea’s newspapers are notorious for republishing the gushing media spin of the mining and gas industries and pretending it is news, but as Dr Denniss reveals much of what the mining industry says is untrue Dr Richard Denniss*
Mining’s PR machine fails to mention how Australia’s rising dollar and wages are driving manufacturing jobs overseas
The New York Times recently asked its online readers a simple question: should the newspaper check the claims made by politicians before it reports them? The response was a torrent of bemused hostility. What, the readers wanted to know, did the newspaper think its job was?
Much has been written in recent years about the difficulty that the media seems to have sorting fact from fiction and distinguishing balance from barracking but the mining industry provides a clear example of the difficulties that all our media seem to have dealing with – an industry that spends more on public relations than some industries spend on research and development.
The full extent of the mining industry’s persuasive power over the media was revealed in an exchange between the Greens’ Senator Larissa Waters and Dr David Gruen, executive director of the Macroeconomic Group at Treasury. After years of hearing how the mining industry creates three indirect jobs for every person directly employed the Senator asked Dr Gruen whether this was indeed the case. His answer was as simple as it is heretical. According to Dr Gruen, ”In a well-functioning economy like ours, with unemployment close to its lowest sustainable rate, it is not the case that individual industries are creating jobs, they are simply re-distributing them … there really isn’t a multiplier.”
Late last year the Australian Mines and Metals Association issued the ironically titled press release ”Mining critics should address the hard facts” in which the director of the AMMA stated that ”ABS statistics show 213,200 people are directly employed in mining, oil and gas operations in Australia, with an additional 639,600 indirect jobs created by the resource industry.”
That is, the AMMA repeated the standard mining industry claim that every mining job creates three extra jobs elsewhere in the economy. Unfortunately, like the New York Times, they didn’t check their facts.
A letter from Senator Waters to the Australian Bureau of Statistics elicited the following response from Australia’s Assistant Statistician: ”I can confirm that the ABS has not measured the number of indirect jobs created by mining, oil and gas operations”. Whoops.
So, how can this be? Everyone knows that miners earn lots of money and create lots of jobs in retail. And everyone knows that building mines creates jobs in construction. The problem is that everyone is half right.
The mining industry spends tens of millions of dollars on advertising and countless millions more on PR talking up benefits such as those discussed above. But while they are desperate to take credit for any potential indirect benefits they refuse to take responsibility for any of the indirect costs. And as anyone in the manufacturing industry knows, there are plenty of those.
The mining boom has driven the dollar to record levels, and if the massive new mines currently on the books are all approved the dollar will likely rise much further in coming years. Alcoa, Qantas, Bonds, Toyota and Holden have all blamed the rising dollar for their shrinking exports and employment. The mining industry ads don’t talk about those jobs.
In addition to the rising dollar the mining boom is also driving wages for some skilled employees much higher as well. And while the high wages are great for those willing to leave their families and live on remote mine sites, they have major impacts on the viability of many other industries. Indeed, according to economic modelling commissioned by Clive Palmer, the billionaire proposing to build the world’s biggest coal mine in Queensland, if his mine were to go ahead the impact on wages would contribute to more than 2000 jobs being lost in manufacturing. Strangely those figures don’t make it into the mining industry ads either.
Australia’s newspapers, along with Australia’s hansards, are full of demonstrably flawed claims that the mining industry creates hundreds of thousands of jobs in other industries. What they meant to say was that it doesn’t. It’s true that when miners spend their wages it creates retail jobs. But when nurses, teachers and public servants spend their wages the same is also true.
The problem is that the public sector unions don’t spend as much on economists as the mining industry so the media never gets around to reporting the other side of the miners’ multiplier argument, that is, that public sector job cuts would have devastating impacts on retail and other private sector industries.
The mining boom is fundamentally transforming the Australian economy. Most economists would probably agree that it’s nice that the rest of the world wants to pay us a lot more for our raw materials. But there are good economic reasons to question that building as many new mines as quickly as we can is good for the economy, the environment, or our society.
Amazingly, while we have had what passes for a ”national debate” about assistance for the car industry recently there has been virtually no discussion of why it is that taxpayers continue to provide more than $10 billion per year in subsidies and tax concessions to the mining industry. If they can’t stand on their own two feet in the middle of a boom when might we expect them to wean themselves off the public purse?
The hundreds of millions of dollars we give the car industry are trivial compared to the tens of billions we give to the miners, but the bipartisan support for all things mining means that it’s just not considered polite to talk about such issues. The mining industry plays an important role in the Australian economy. It employs almost as many people as Woolworths do and it does a great job of driving the dollar high and our manufacturing offshore.
Anyone interested in restoring the budget surplus, keeping manufacturing jobs in Australia or reducing the rate at which the world burns fossil fuels should be concerned about the incredible scale of the proposed mining projects that are currently on the drawing board and the incredible generosity of the taxpayer that is underwriting that growth.
Just because Coke spends a fortune on advertising that links its sugar drinks to fit and attractive people doesn’t make it true. Just because the mining industry spends a fortune linking their rising profits with our improved wellbeing doesn’t make it true. And if you don’t believe that growth in the mining industry just crowds out employment in other industries just do what Senator Waters did and ask an economist who doesn’t work for the mining industry.
*Dr Richard Denniss is executive director of The Australia Institute, a Canberra think tank. www.tai.org.au
Cartoon says it all about where our mineral wealth is ending up…
Hidden Valley locals demand probe into death of eels, fish in Papua New Guinea
By Pisai Gumar
A GROUP of villagers have found dead fish and eels floating on the Markham River and want authorities to investigate. And they have blocked off the Markham Bridge pending the investigation.
Community leader Michael Poane said they had been raising the river pollution problem with the government and the Morobe Mining Joint Venture but no action was taken.
A petition was presented to Morobe Governor Luther Wenge and the company two years ago, he said.
The dead fish have polluted the river and its banks.
Poane said the people depended on the river for fish but now they had been denied this food source.
He blamed chemicals dumped in the river for the problem.
People alleged that a vehicle recently overturned near Wampet village spilling its cargo, including battery acids and fuel, into the river.
The people have used empty drums to block both sides of the bridge and displayed the dead fish on the drums.
Only PMV trucks and private vehicles are allowed to pass while MMJV company vehicles are stopped.
“The source of our livelihood which we also use for drinking, washing and cooking is destroyed,” said Poane.
When the news reached Wenge’s office, a delegation went to the site to confirm the blockade.
They were chased away by angry residents armed with bush knives and told to go and bring back Wenge to come and witness the dead fish.
Poane said Wenge and Huon Gulf MP Sasa Zibe had earlier promised the people that they would engage toxicologists to find out the cause of the pollution. None turned up.
The affected communities are from Wampet, Omsis, Potsie, Markham Bridge and the three Labu villages.
Provincial programme adviser for mining and environment Taikone Gwakoro could not be reached for comment.
Police escorted company and provincial mining and environment representatives to the site in the evening to address the people.
They suggested that the community select 10 representatives to discuss the matter with government and company officials.
NGOs warn that deep sea mining could impact on marine life and Pacific Islanders' livelihoods.
Pacific deep sea mining framework under fire :: Papua New Guinea Issues in Perspective
Johnny Mortel This may be a deep problem if it destroys marine life. About scientific studies of origins of life, that's interesting, because Png holds the destiny of the endings of life, I mean, the Word of God would have rested lastly in Png, now we have the key to origins of life in our sea beds?
15 hours ago via mobile • Like
Jessica Malyam Never had it bin döne anywhere else in d world. We r d guinea pigs wt solwara 1 project currently undrtaken by nautilus in d bismark sea.
15 hours ago via mobile • Like • 1
Glenda Pomaleu Thanks for all the info, Kiribati are in the process and as such one of the research officers would like information from PNG.
15 hours ago • Like • 2
Wenceslaus Magun Is PNG truly desperate for MONEY to go down this path. This mining resource should be reserved for rainy days and ONLY ONLY until ALL research are carried out to prove that it is SAFE, HEALTH, AND FRIENDLY....We say one thing in our Constitution, and Vision 2050 and do just the opposite. No wonder the world treats us the way we do to ourselves.
6 hours ago • Like • 2
Glenda Pomaleu Yes and is anyone out there with the deep sea mining perspective. It would be good to have both.
Nathan Dingu Do we need Deep See mining? I think not!
5 hours ago • Like • 2
Lydia Nenai Bobola Please reserve some for the generations to come. Diving at every available resource is selfish.
5 hours ago • Like • 4
Natasha Panta ... and foolish, Lydia Nenai Bobola
5 hours ago • Like • 2
Nathan Dingu I couldn't have said it any better Lydia Nenai Bobola! Are we so desperate that we need to mine things all at once?
5 hours ago • Like • 3
I asked an esteemed professor his views on the resource boom in PNG and he said if I was your govt I would slow down on mining and resource extraction. He said all the developed nations like the US are only interested in exploiting your re...See More
5 hours ago • Like • 10
Well said Natasha Panta. That has been my private view all along. We should put a complete halt on the development of most of our mines and allow two or 3 major ones operating. If we generate just enough....I am sure we will be more account...See More
4 hours ago • Like • 2
ギセ バロ the ocean bed is a home to vast amount of sulfur...and imagine if you disturb it....it will be a disaster.
4 hours ago • Like • 3
Johnny Mortel The way we are going, not only the first sea bed mining, but the first country to have all her resources exploited.
Statistically speaking, the value of our resources would be higher 100 years from now. Why the Gold Rush ?
4 hours ago via mobile • Like • 2
Johnny Mortel Don't listen to foreign advise, listen to our people .
4 hours ago via mobile • Like • 2
Raymond Sekagu Unasi The most reckless environmental country in the world
3 hours ago • Like • 1
Dead fish in Markham River
Frank Rai and Oseah Philemon
LABU people living near the Markham Bridge outside Lae are demanding K10 million compensation from mining company Morobe Mining Joint Venture (MMJV) for loss of fish and other food sources from the Markham River.
They are also demanding that the company provide all affected people in area with food supplies as the pollution in the Markham River has now destroyed their only means of growing food along the banks of the river as well the fish from the river.
They have drawn up a petition as the result of the people finding dead fish including eels, cat fish and prawns floating on the surface of the Markham River yesterday. The villagers are using that to support their claim for compensation from the mine.
However, despite the dead fish being found and the demands of the Labu people against MMJV, no official scientific tests have yet been done to determine the actual cause of the deaths or the source from which any poisonous chemicals may have emanated resulting in the fish and prawns being killed.
The Labu people drew up a petition which their representatives will present to representatives of MMJV and the Morobe Provincial Government in Lae today. In the petition the Labu people are also demanding that the company provides water tanks and build them water supplies to give them fresh water.
The petition also calls for resettlement of people living near the banks of the Markham River who are affected by pollution as well as royalty payments to the Labu people who are affected by the mine.
Yesterday afternoon a group of noisy Labu people met with an environmental team from MMJV near the Markham Bridge where they demanded immediate help from the company and the Morobe Provincial Government.
Speakers also accused Morobe Governor Luther Wenge of failing to act on a petition they gave him demanding help for the Labu people affected by the mine.
The Markham Bridge community collected dead fish and eels among others and heaped them on drums they used to block the bridge to stop MMJV vehicles passing through. The road block was still being manned last night.
Meanwhile at Labu-Buttu village on the mouth of the Markham River, Councilor Jeffrey Tipi reported that dead fish have also been picked up at the mouth of the river and along the Labu-Buttu coastline.
Councilor Tipi called a meeting of the villagers last night to discuss the problem and for a delegation of community leaders to take the matter to the Morobe Provincial Government today. Councilor Titpi expressed grave concern about the matter saying the livelihood of the Labu people was now serious jeopardy.
“Our only fishing ground is around the mouth of the Markham River, the Labu lakes and the waters of the Huon Gulf not far from Lae.
“If the fish are dead because of poisoning then our entire livelihood is now in grave danger,” Councilor Tipi said.
“I urge the Morobe Provincial Government and the national government to immediately investigate this matter. It is a very serious environmental issue.”
Yesterday morning reports surfaced of dead fish, prawns and eels being found by locals from the mouth of the Watut River and the Markham River down to Labu villages along the Huon Gulf coast of Morobe Province. Dead fish were found along the mouth of the Watut River and the Markham River from there to Zifasing village and down the Markham River to the mouth of the river near Labu villages not far from Lae.
More than 5, 000 people live along both rivers and the coast of the Wampar Local Level Government (LLG) council area whose livelihood depends very much on fish, prawns and eels caught from the rivers.
Yesterday, disgruntled locals blocked the Markham Bridge section of the Wau/Bulolo Highway to show their frustrations to both the government and Hidden Valley gold mine developer, Morobe Mining Joint Venture (MMJV). They told reporters at the site that they wanted Morobe Governor Luther Wenge and MMJV to respond to a petition that they had presented regarding the river systems three months ago or MMJV vehicles would not have access to the mine.
Spokesman Michael Poane said the issue of the Markham River was a longtime issue but it has been falling on deaf ears. Mr Poane said the livelihood of the people depended on the river for income and personal use, noting such indication of dead fish, prawns and eels were sign of environmental destruction.
He said villages starting from Lower Watut, Mare, Timinini, Wampit, Gabensis Labu One, Labu Two and Labu Three depended on the river and the fish.
The spokesman claimed that there were signs of pollution in the river system and had called on the Governor Wenge to send in an independent investigator to test the river.
Meanwhile, MMJV General Manager Sustainability and External Relations David Wissink said the mine was alerted yesterday by locals from Chiatz village near the confluence of the Watut and Markham Rivers of approximately 500 dead fish and prawns. Mr Wissink said the quality of the water discharged from the Hidden Valley mine operations was monitored on a daily basis.
Civil strife serious possibility in PNG due to vulture capitalism
The story led the busi¬ness pages in Papua New Guinea’s Post-Courier in early Feb¬ru¬ary. “An¬a¬lyst: PNG on verge of change” screamed the head¬line. British-based mar¬ket an¬a¬lysts Bdaily Busi¬ness Net¬work praised the $US17.3 bil¬lion Exxon-Mo¬bil led LNG pro¬ject. “[It] is the most im¬por¬tant sin-gle de¬vel¬op¬ment in the his¬tory of PNG”, it stated, com¬ing on¬line for over¬seas mar¬kets in 2014.
But the re¬al¬ity away from cor¬po¬rate spin is a sim¬mer¬ing con¬flict. A source close to the South¬ern High¬lands land own¬ers, the site of the major LNG pro¬ject, pre¬dicts civil strife in the com¬ing years. Lo¬cals are start¬ing to col¬lect weapons and grenades for the com¬ing fight. Sab¬o¬tage and at¬tacks on pipelines are likely. Weapons are being smug¬gled in from In¬done¬sia, in¬clud¬ing West Papua and Thurs¬day Is¬land near Aus¬tralia.
“I fear what is com¬ing un¬less some¬thing changes soon,” he says at a local Chi¬nese restau¬rant cov-ered in Coke-coloured wall¬pa¬per. “We are not being heard and feel we have no choice. We know we will be out-gunned, and Exxon, being an Amer¬i¬can com¬pany, may re¬ceive US gov¬ern¬ment sup-port, but this is about dig¬nity and our rights.”
Stan¬ley Mamu, ed¬i¬tor of the LNG Watch blog, fears a Bougainville-style war over re¬sources. It is al¬most in¬evitable, he ar¬gues, un¬less Exxon and the gov¬ern¬ment lis¬ten to the griev¬ances of the local peo¬ple. Ten¬sions are al¬ready high after a deadly land¬slide in Jan¬u¬ary was blamed on nearby min¬ing blasts.
LNG pro¬ject man¬ag¬ing di¬rec¬tor Peter Gra¬ham told Radio Aus¬tralia last year he was sat¬is¬fied with the “ex¬tra¬or¬di¬nar¬ily con¬sul¬ta¬tive process” with the landown¬ers. That would be news to most of them.
A story in PNG’s Sun¬day Chron¬i¬cle in mid-Feb¬ru¬ary high¬lights their anger. Two landowner chiefs de¬manded Exxon “ful¬fil re¬lo¬ca¬tion” plans pre¬vi¬ously agreed to. They com¬plain about Exxon-hired pri¬vate se¬cu¬rity firm G4S — the com¬pany has im¬planted it¬self in the high¬est ech¬e¬lons of the na¬tional gov¬ern¬ment, I am told by count¬less NGOs — and local po¬lice using ex¬ces¬sive force to re-open a key ac¬cess road to the LNG pro¬ject. They warn that other res¬i¬dents will heed a call to join them in re¬sist¬ing the de¬vel¬op¬ment.
A for¬mer com¬man¬der in the PNG army dur¬ing the Bougainville “cri¬sis” of the 1990s warned in 2010 that the pres¬ence of a for¬eign mili¬tia com¬pany such as G4S height¬ened the chances of an¬other con-flict:
“They [G4S] have no ap¬pre¬ci¬a¬tion of the local cus¬toms, cul¬ture and the peo¬ple.”
I re¬cently trav¬elled to Papa Lea-Lea, about 30 min¬utes from down¬town Port Moresby, to in¬ves¬ti-gate a key LNG hub of the pro¬ject. Dri¬ving through im¬pov¬er¬ished com¬mu¬ni¬ties liv¬ing along¬side the shore, we pass small vil¬lages along the cracked road — small houses built of stilts to keep them from sink¬ing. “They would have to move if a cy¬clone hit,” an Oxfam PNG staff mem¬ber who ac¬com¬pa-nied me says mat¬ter-of-factly.
Pass¬ing a road¬block — our dri¬ver is forced to pay a small bribe to a po¬lice¬man be¬cause he doesn’t hold a dri¬ver’s li¬cence — we soon see kilo¬me¬tres of high fences be¬hind which sit LNG fa¬cil¬i¬ties in var¬i¬ous stages of com¬ple¬tion. Se¬cu¬rity guards watch us drive past. On one side of the road is the beaten-up land of the pro¬ject, the other is lush, rolling hills. Oxfam tells me some landown¬ers have done deals with Exxon for the use of their prop¬erty while oth¬ers com¬plain they aren’t prop¬erly con-sulted be¬fore work has begun.
Oxfam re¬cently re¬leased a re¬port on the LNG’s im¬pacts in the area after en¬gag¬ing an LNG Im¬pact Lis¬ten¬ing Pro¬ject. The re¬sults were de¬cid¬edly mixed and ex¬plained how al¬co¬hol abuse by men and women was lead¬ing to a spike in HIV in¬fec¬tion, do¬mes¬tic as¬sault and in¬fi¬delity. One woman from Pore¬bada said that road con¬struc¬tion caused ex¬ces¬sive dust that af¬fected the growth of ba¬nanas, man¬goes and paw paws:
“Every time we go to find our gar¬dens pol¬luted.”
The cur¬rent Peter O’Neill gov¬ern¬ment sup¬ports the LNG pro¬ject as strongly as Michael So¬mare’s. Aus¬tralian bil¬lion¬aire Clive Palmer re¬cently an¬nounced his likely entry into the LNG race, say¬ing: “If we find gas, we de¬velop it and make bil¬lions of dol¬lars out of it.” Dur¬ing my visit the re-en¬try of Shell into PNG was also warmly em¬braced as a key dri¬ver of LNG op¬por¬tu¬ni¬ties.
Aus¬tralia still pours mil¬lions into the coun¬try as a sup¬posed in¬sur¬ance pol¬icy against im¬mi¬nent col-lapse. For¬mer for¬eign min¬is¬ter Alexan¬der Downer re¬cently wrote in The Na¬tional that his gov¬ern-ment “re¬built PNG’s econ¬omy” and “helped end the Bougainville cri¬sis” when in re¬al¬ity — as Crikey has re¬ported — the Howard years en¬trenched the rot that has con¬tin¬ued under the ex-panded Labor aid pro¬gram (much of which goes on “boomerang aid”).
My time in Madang with the pro¬gres¬sive NGO Bis¬marck Ramu Group (BRG) was a wel¬come change, one of the few or¬gan¬i¬sa¬tions in the coun¬try that be¬lieves the only sus¬tain¬able way for¬ward for PNG is to re¬ject all Aus¬tralian sup¬port and find al¬ter¬na¬tives to min¬ing and forestry pro¬jects, such as agri¬cul¬ture.
BRG’s Rosa Koian tells me there were count¬less ex¬am¬ples just in her province — a pol¬lut¬ing Chi-nese-owned Ramu Nickel mine and an equally pol¬lut¬ing Fil¬ipino-run can¬nery — that show how cor-po¬rate gi¬ants can mis¬lead lo¬cals. Poor com¬mu¬ni¬ca¬tion was a fac¬tor so BRG’s com¬mu¬nity work¬ers take lo¬cals being ro¬manced by cor¬po¬ra¬tions to areas where such firms have set up. “We have had 250 years of failed cap¬i¬tal¬ism here,” Rosa says.
Terry is a key los¬ing lit¬i¬gant in a re¬cently com¬pleted case by landown¬ers against the Chi¬nese-owned MCC, which runs the Ramu Nickel mine in Madang. He claims vi¬o¬lent in¬tim¬i¬da¬tion by the com¬pany and has wit¬nessed pol¬lu¬tion in the water near his vil¬lage.
“Every day I hope the world comes to an end,” he says to me in de¬spair. The top courts, min¬is¬ters and fed¬eral gov¬ern¬ment are all col¬lud¬ing to sup¬port the mine, he says.
MCC ad¬ver¬tis¬ing in the local press claims the com¬pany is “ready to de¬liver”. But per¬haps not for the peo¬ple in Madang.
*Antony Loewen¬stein is an in¬de¬pen¬dent jour¬nal¬ist cur¬rently work¬ing on a book about vul¬ture cap¬i¬tal¬ism.
Australian land councils reconsider experimental seabed mining
Aboriginal groups in Northern Australia are again looking at a contentious proposal to mine the seabed near Groote Eylandt, which is rich in manganese, reports Sky News.
In a joint statement the Northern Land Council (NLC) and the Anindilyakwa Land Council (ALC), which represent the interest of indigenous people in Groote Eylandt and Northern Australia, confirmed they were re-examining the issue.
‘At a meeting of the two councils yesterday, it was decided a taskforce would be formed using resources from both organisations to implement the most effective plan for the protection of these waters,’ the statement said.
Groote Eylandt boasts the world’s largest manganese mine, which produces about 15 per cent of the world’s high-grade ore.
More of the precious resource is thought to exist in the shallow seabed around the island in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Manganese is used as a component to make high-tensile steel.
The ALC’s chairman, Tony Wurramarrba, said traditional owners would oppose any mining that had ‘significant cultural, environment and social impacts’ on Aboriginal people in the Gulf.
This is not the first time the issue has been considered by his group.
In 2010, Mr Wurramarrba there was ‘complete opposition by everyone who has a traditional relationship with this country to any proposal to mine the seas around Groote Eylandt’.
The NLC’s chairman, Wali Wunungmurra, said on Thursday cultural integrity was paramount to both land councils.
‘Protecting the songlines, dreamings and traditional values of our TOs (traditional owners) will always come before anything else,’ Mr Wunungmurra said.
Mining company Northern Manganese Ltd holds exploration rights for eight of shallow marine terrain and two islands near Groote Eylandt.
Watut communities find dead fish floating in their river
By Elaine Vaina
Communities along the Watut River in Morobe province had a rare experienced Wednesday night following alleged river pollution by (MMJV) the Morobe Mining Joint Venture Company.
Locals told PNGFM news that fresh-water eel and fish from the river were found lying dead on the river banks since 7pm on Wednesday night which resulted in a protest by locals today blocking off the main highway for MMJV vehicles from traveling in and out of the site.
10 locals will be meeting with the company representatives tomorrow to resolve the matter.
Meantime the locals are demanding that the government and the company must attend to their previous petition needs for proper water supply and attend to their needs.
Roger James (friends with Almah Tararia) also commented on Almah Tararia's link.
Roger wrote: "Gosh Almah, that photo gets to me ... I've just been reviewing economic indicators around the Pacific, and its clear that simply extracting resources and shipping them off without added-value processing/manufacturing is part of the problem of decreasing per-capita GDP (as well as the exponential birth rates). Round log export, tuna export, mineral export etc without domestic industry built around it is just throwing the country's future away for the quick and easy bucks. When I see photos like that I just sigh ... I mean there's such a rush this generation to rip everythng out of and off of the ground and out of the sea as quickly as possible, what does the next generation do? When I see this photo, I don't think so much about the legal wrangle about the profits from the logs, but why they were cut and stuck on a barge in the first place ... and what does the bush look like now where they came from? Sometimes the bigger picture is lost in the arguments over cash ..."