Thanks Chief, PNG now needs new leadership
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Ramu waste impacts were unknown to govt


ITS OFFICIAL - the Deputy Prime Minister has confirmed that, when it approved the process, the PNG government had no idea what the effects of the waste disposal arrangements from the Ramu nickel mine would be.

The Environment Minister stood by while Sir Puka Temu admitted to people of the Rai Coast that the government was now undertaking 'awareness on the process of deep sea tailings'.

Both ministers received a petition calling for an immediate stop to work on the waste disposal site and the funding of an independent scientific study into the project.

The government has been given 21 days to respond before local people take further action.

Had the local residents not obtained an earlier court injunction on mine construction work, it is clear that the PNG government and Ramu Nickel would have gone ahead with the planned underwater tailings disposal: a process that many people have serious concerns about.

This admission by the government begs the question of what else about this particular mining project has not been fully investigated, prior to government approval.

A similar mine in New Caledonia had significant problems with its waste disposal arrangements.

A qualified mining engineer has previously claimed the PNG government agreed to a vastly undervalued deal with Ramu Nickel.

If this is true, the PNG people have been sold out by their own government. Perhaps the local landowners should be insisting that the government now examine all aspects of the mine before any further action is allowed.


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A bit late in the day, but OK Tedi are looking at better ways of disposing of mine tailings to reduce pollution if the life of the mine is extended.

MD Alan Breen says, "As part of the study though, we are looking at designing and constructing a stable waste rock dump at the mine which would prevent that waste flowing into the river system so quite a substantial change from our current practices."

Paul Oates

With all due respect to 'Manki Rai Coast', a lapun might suggest a few thoughts about 'cherry picking' in general and more specifically this
project in particular.

1. While the PNG government apparently requested the Report by the Scottish Association of Marine Science it reportedly, 'has not been considered by responsible authorities'.

So exactly who are these 'responsible authorities' and why haven't they been shown the Report?

The government, as reported in the media, has had the Report for some time and even took a copy of it to the meeting with landowners, although it didn't show it too them, yet strangely claimed if had not yet received the Report. A misunderstanding or what?

2. Traditional PNG landowners are the custodians of not only the land and local coastal waters, they have a real responsibility to their people and those of future generations that have nowhere else to live or obtain their
food and resources.

Once a mine has extracted all the available minerals, the miners move on. The environment they then leave behind is not their problem any more.

If indeed there is no immediate and ongoing impact by disposing of the mine tailings, why hasn't this been effectively explained to the landowners?

3. If the mine tailings are no different from the river silt that discharges into the Bay, why undertake such an expensive operation to discharge the tailings into the sea.

Why not just include the tailings as part of the river's discharge?

Could it be that there might actually be some discernible toxic effect that would instantly be apparent like the effects from OK Tedi, and this effect might not be revealed for some time if the tailings were discharged under the sea?

Reports in the media indicate that in fact the mine tailings are toxic. Are these reports incorrect?

4. If a bigger problem exists with 'shore based operations' then logic suggests the operation of the mine be halted until this factor is examined in detail and a satisfactory solution to all sides found?

What are these similar effects that have been in your own words, "experienced in Lihir"?

Manki Rai Coast, there just a few other aspects that could perhaps you could help with:

-- Do you support the reported violence and intimidation of those who have obtained the injunction?

-- Do you support the apparent removal of the three litigants and them not being allowed to attend the Court in person?

-- Do you defend the landowners rights to be concerned about their own environment and to ensure there is no ongoing degradation to it?

-- Exactly where do you come from and how do you obtain your livelihood? How come you don't identify yourself?

-- Do you support the rammed through changes to the Environment Protection Act that apparently give a free hand to the Director to decide what can be allowed and what can't. Obviously no conflict of interest there?

So if indeed "none of the tailings disposal options currently available to the mining industry come without some risk of environmental impact" why doesn't the mining industry investigate better disposal methods?

Even your own cherry picking of details from the Report specifies the responsibility of all parties to 'make the decision', not just the government and the mine owners who obviously have a vested interest.

Sorry, Manki, your logic and message appear to fall well short of whatever point you were trying to make.

In fact your message only further substantiates the stated concerns of those who brought the injunction in the first place.

PNG's future might therefore be better off in some one else's hands than yours. I'll bet your bosses aren't so happy with you now?

Manki Raicoast

The Scottish Association of Marine Science draft report sponsored by the European Union is not a broad study of the impact of the Basamuk DSTP on the environment.

It is a specific and comprehensive study of the impact of Deep Submarine Tailings Placement (DSTP) on deep sea (benthic, or sea-bed) life at depths of 900-2000m for Lihir, 1000-1500m for Misima, and 1000-1400m for the Basamuk project.

The improper use of the Report by self claimed landowners and NGOs’ to mislead the general public and the government that appeared in the Post-Courier of 27 May 2010 [p. 34] as evidence that the Basamuk DSTP will be an environmental hazard is a distorted reading and absolutely false.

Though the report is still in draft form and has not been considered by responsible authorities, certain elements went ahead distorting the essence of the report by telling fat lies. We feel obliged to clarify those:

1. The implication that there will be a general wide dispersal of tailings is dishonest because the actual quotation used by the report - “…it can become subsequently resedimented by the strong contour currents present in the Vitiaz Strait” - refers specifically to near bottom flows, not surface or shallow impact.

In fact, the writers have doctored the quotation by substituting “resuspended” for “resedimented”!

2. The next quotation used by the writers referring to an unambiguous demonstration that DSTP has major impacts on life at very deep sea levels, is exactly that.

It refers to deep sea benthic communities by cheaply assessing Lihir and Misima. Did the writers go to the very next page of the report and consider this?

“5.3 Plumes of particles from DSTP: how far can they travel and can we detect any ecological impacts?

"• The intensity of stratification in the WEP is so great that it is inconceivable that suspended material released below the thermocline (say 100 m) could diffuse back to the surface anywhere in the vicinity of a DSTP.

"• The strength of this stratification, coupled to the relative weakness of the Coriolis parameter and wind stress suggests that if any upwelling takes place it must involve only the surface 80 m at most (the depth of the thermally mixed layer) and not those depths at which the mine tailings come to rest.

"• The bottom line here is that it is simply not possible for waters of intermediate depth to return to the surface (say below 300 m).

"• A bigger problem (as evidenced from Lihir) is the impact of surface runoff in the vicinity of port operations. In fact it could be argued that discussion about the problems with a properly regulated DSTP is a bit of a red herring from an environmental point of view (once the tailings have safely dropped beneath the surface waters, however defined) and that the real focus should centre on shore based operations.”

The Report states openly here that, in terms of environmental impact, what happens on shore may be more important than what happens deep-sea.

3. In fact, the DSTP will behave in the same way as the 80 million tons per annum of natural river sediment entering the basin and settle on the sea floor at depths of around 1500m. Like the natural sediment, it will have no effect on the surrounding reefs and fisheries of the basin.

4. With respect to the writers’ claim that the waste “will not go to the bottom of the sea and stay there”, the report says the opposite.

Water of intermediate depth will not return to the surface; reefs and reef populations will not be adversely affected; like the river silt, the tailings will remain at deep sea levels, “most of the deep sea tailing material will quickly end up in the deep water of Astrolabe Bay” and will not affect outer islands and reefs.

5. Like the eighty million tons of river sediment per annum (compared to the five million tons per annum of the mine), the tailings will enter the Basin through one of the V-shaped undersea canyons (the Basamuk Canyon) to a depth of 800m and then continue in flat floor turbidity channels into the Vitiaz Basin.

“It has been estimated that the Vitiaz Basin contains deep-water sediments of approximately 2 km thick” at depths of 1000-1600m; the tailings will form an insignificant portion of this sediment.

6. The report does state generally that: “None of the tailings disposal options currently available to the mining industry come without some risk of environmental impact” but this is a decision to be made by the traditional land owners and clan leaders and the relevant Government authorities. It is not a decision for migrant landowner groups (only one of the 13 signatories is from the Basamuk area), non-government organizations and other vicarious groups.

We condemn in our strongest words possible the nature of distorted and false information sent out by elements claiming to be landowners and supported by NGO’s. The Report they continuously rely on is still a draft and does not stand any credibility to be relied on.

However, we are thankful that the good God has given wisdom to our Government to see our plea and made compulsory changes to the Environment Act to cater for our needs.

We thank the Somare-Temu government and assure that we will support the developer, MCC to ensure Ramu Project is not unnecessarily disturbed.

I do not know what it is with defenders of the Ramu nickel project that they never feel able to use their real names. Readers should take this into account when evaluating the claims made in this comment - KJ

Paul Oates

Robin - Testing for residues in that manner is a good suggestion but that methodology rests on the premise that the activity has already commenced.

The essence of the issue as I understand it, is that while no one can prove the operation of this mine is unsafe for the people of the region, those promoting the mine therefore maintain there is no proof it isn't safe.

That begs the question: The only way one could prove the mine's waste disposal methods are unsafe is to let the mine start operations.

Now if the mine's waste disposal method is subsequently found to be injurious to people, of course the owners will then promise stop production, clean up the environment, pay restitution to everyone affected and the medical bills of those who sustain injury over the long term.

Anyone who believes that will actually happen could probably start looking for fairies at the end of their garden.

Robin Lillicrapp

A similar disturbance re mining outcomes upon local populus areas arose in Mt Isa. The people believed, rightly, that lead etc was affecting them.

The Queensland government was drawn into the fray to investigate the matters and provide some remedy for the affected people.

Blood test were conducted with varying results both negative and positive.

The problem with data compounded from normal blood test results in toxicity testing is that results are determined upon testing benchmarks set within ranges that don't always drill deep enough to gauge the levels of toxicity in the body.

Toxins are not stored in the bloodstream but in the subcutaneous fatty tissues.

I would suggest that concerned action groups in the PNG mining areas insist upon sampling being done prior to, during, and after mining operations.

I would say however that the better testing methodology be forensic hair analysis which actually tests for and reveals the levels of toxins in the fatty tissues out of which it (the hair) grows.

Simple, non invasive, and very easily administered, I believe this method to be the most revealing way for the populous to gain an enduring insight as to the existing and ongoing community health.

Paul Oates

Thanks for that, Phillip. I don't claim to be an authority on this matter and only wish to draw attention to what has been reported.

My experience of reports is that they usually say what those who commissioned the report want them to say.

Notwithstanding the obvious emotive overtones this issue might engender, I'm very glad I don't have to live with what is reportedly a very dubious pipeline and a dumping process that no one except the mining company seems to have any control over.

Who would want to eat fish or shellfish caught near the outlet or where the currents might take eventually the tailings?

And if the sludge is indeed harmless to the environment, why dispose of it in this manner?

Phillip Powrie

Paul - Comments about the "secret government report” need to be understood against what is actually stated in the SAMS report.

There is a considerable body of evidence that demonstrates the simple marine tailing disposal (MTD) is inherently a bad practice.

The concept of Deep Sea Tailings Placement (DSTP as opposed to MTP) is not controversial because what is known about the process, or that it is comparable to MTS (it is utterly different in concept and practice), but rather what is not known in a given environment in which DSTP is proposed.

The impact of DSTP at both Lihir and Misima has been the subject of extensive studies which have not indicated any adverse effect on the pelagic stratum of marine life outside the very limited mixing zone.

Much has been said about "secret government report” (the SAMS report confirming that the proposed DSTP is fatally flawed. The report makes not such finding.

Indeed, the SAMS report makes no real and/or definitive findings at all.

The SAMS report was never commissioned to make findings of the nature referred to by the many critics of DSTP.

Rather, it was commissioned to set out the baseline parameters to determine what regulatory framework was required to effectively manage DSTP at Ramu so that any possibility of environmental damage would be mitigated.

A practical analogy to DSTP can be found in air travel.
There are from time to time tragic aircraft accidents where a plane crashes from the sky and all passengers and crew on board are killed.

Those who object to DSTP continue (no doubt) to fly in planes notwithstanding the potential for disaster. However, if the critics of DSTP followed the same logic they would not fly on airplanes.

The critics of DSTP continue to fly because they believe there are regulatory processes and controls that they can rely on which will ensure that the plane they fly on will not simply fall from the sky.

The whole point of the SAMS report was to determine just what was required by way of regulation to ensure that environmental damage would be avoided.

The plaintiffs in the Ramu case present the argument that because of what is not known about DSTP it is therefore inherently destructive.

This argument is fatally flawed as it presupposes that the will be no regulatory monitoring or framework in which such practices will occur.

It’s a bit like saying that planes don’t have pilots therefore its dangerous to fly. Most people would agree with this proposition. However planes do have highly trained pilots.

What is proposed by the SAMS report is a foundation for a complex monitoring and regulatory process that would ensure there could be no significant if any damage to the marine environment in the Ramu case.

Having said all of the above, one might not be unduly cynical of a government who, when faced with a simple issue of conflict arising from a lack of dissemination of information, responds by purporting to change the goal posts to legislate away litigation brought by its citizens in such circumstances.

The problem for the public when reading the extraordinarily emotional and often quite deceptive and misleading statements about what the SAMS report says is that the public is simply unable to ascertain where the truth lies.

Cynthia Shinna Wangama

As one of the local people of Rai Coast District in Madang Province, I suggest better awareness must be carried out to inform the people about the issue which is going to affect the life of the people in the near future.

People of Rai Coast are lost and not aware of the danger coming. Most of the coast people living near the coastline of Rai Coast Bay use the sea as their garden and as an ancesterial fishing zone.

As a concerned villager,I know my people will be relocated and the major concerned is the sea bed side.

Matt Clarke

It's heartening to see the PNG people successfully challenge their government on this issue. It might also give some miners a wake-up call.

Environmental impact studies must be able to stand up to real independent scrutiny. Otherwise potentially billions of sunk development dollars are at risk.

Just because you're in a developing country, doesn't justify short-cuts that wouldn't be accepted elsewhere. I sincerely hope the industry and govenment learn from this.

Paul Oates

Based on information on the website below, it now appears the PNG government knew about the effects of the waste disposal process of the Ramu mine yet chose not to release the report.

Exactly what does that say about the PNG government?

Ramu Nickel Mine Watch
May 13, 2010

Secret government report says mine dumping flawed

An unpublished report commissioned by the PNG government from the Scottish Association of Marine Science, states that the submarine tailings disposal by the Ramu nickel mine could have widespread environmental impacts.

The PNG government has refused to release the report findings, but a copy was given to a surprised Deputy Prime Minister, Puka Temu, by Rai Coast landowners on Monday when they also presented him with a 7,500 signature petition against the marine dumping.

The SAMS report says the mine waste will not lie dormant on the sea floor, as claimed by the Chinese State owned Ramu mine, but will be widely dispersed in the Vitiaz Strait, notably towards Madang and Kakar Island and across Astrolobe Bay

The publication of these findings will also come as a serious embarrassment to Madang governor, Arnold Amet, whose home village is on Kakar Island.

The Report also assesses the environmental impact of marine waste dumping at two other PNG mines, Lihir and Misima, and finds there has been significant damage.

For Lihir the report finds “an unambiguous demonstration that ongoing DSTP has major impacts on the abundance and community structure of meio- and macrofauna, extending to water depths of at least 2020 m”.

While at Misima, “significant tailings impacts are still apparent 13 years after the cessation of DSTP”.

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