I HAVE BOTH the final and draft copies of the Scottish Association for Marine Science report for the PNG government of expected impacts of the Ramu Deep Sea Tailings Disposal (DSTP) plan for Basamuk Bay.
In part, it also looks at the impacts of other DSTP sites, like Lihir and Misima.
In short, Lihir mine disposes of approximately 3.5-4.5 million tonnes of tailings to the marine environment each year.
The material being discharged (at a depth of 128 metres) is a mixture of tailing solids (about 5% clay, 93% silt and 2% fine sand), heavy metals, zinc, copper, cadmium, lead and mercury, together with arsenic, all at a temperature of 34 degrees C.
The report states that the tailings contain “a significant amount of heavy metals with the finer particulate material having higher specific concentrations of metals.”
Subsurface plumes of this crap vary in thickness from 10 to 200 metres and occur to depths of 700 metres with deposition of tailings found up to 4.4 km north of the discharge point.
It states “the presence and dispersion of subsurface plumes will increase the tailings deposition area from that initially predicted.”
The report concludes the tailings are contributing a significant amount of material to the immediate marine environment and as far afield as Masahet Island. “The results show clearly that mine tailings deposition east of Lihir has a significant impact on macrofaunal communities at all three sampled depths.”
In addition, approximately 0.5-3 km offshore are two sediment mounds 35 and 55 metres high from barge-dumped waste.
That DSTP is allowed anywhere is shocking. That the majority of DSTP operations occur in PNG is nothing short of a travesty.
Here is a primordial environment - the closest to creation there is.
It is blessed (due to late colonisation) with still pristine, ancient rainforests with a multitude of unique flora and fauna, with the vast bulk yet to be discovered.
PNG is already reputed to have the highest and most valuable biodiversity of marine life in the world, and yet so little research has been done.
The value of this to the PNG people is inestimable in terms of biological and pharmaceutical research, wildlife research, diving and eco-tourism, health and lifestyle.
It is in ecological terms, perhaps the richest nation in the world. Yet it continues to squander this wealth for… for what exactly?
The PNG government can bluster on all it likes about the economic value of these mining projects to PNG, but after decades of such projects operating in the country, PNG remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with the poorest health record in the Pacific, and can boast increasingly and irrevocably damaged environments from end-to-end.
If the Ramu project is allowed to proceed, it will be followed by the Yandera copper mine which will dump it appears, five times the volume of toxic waste into the same bay.
With the environmental disasters of Lihir, Misima, Ok Tedi, Porgera, and Panguna already on record, I sincerely despair for the people of PNG.