Graves are storehouses for feeble dreams
The perils of a democracy gone off the boil

I invite Minister to drink from polluted river


The Department of Conservation (DEC) has failed to regulate the mining industry in PNG and ensure its operations are environmentally safe.

DEC has a responsibility on behalf of the nation to ensure that mining operations are safe and will not damage the environment. Yet time after time the mines end up causing massive problems while DEC sits by and watches.

We have already had massive pollution from Bougainville, Ok Tedi, Tolukuma and Porgera mines and, sadly, now it is the same with the Hidden Valley project.

The government through DEC is telling the world that mining with pollution is normal in PNG and the people must accept that fact".

I recently filed legal proceedings against the Hidden Valley mine, which is in my constituency, over its pollution of the Watut River.

It is not good enough for Minister Benny Allen to say DEC received an environmental audit report on the Hidden Valley mine in May this year and will be working on an environmental improvement plan.

If the Minister's audit report says the river is safe then I invite the Minister to Watut River to consume a litre of water to prove to me that is the case.

Where is the report? Why have I not been given a copy? Why don't the landowners who are suffering the impacts of the pollution have a copy? Is DEC trying to cover up for the mining company? The report should be released immediately.

DEC should also explain why it gave the Hidden Valley mine an environmental permit in the first place and how it is the company was able to pollute the Watut River without DEC noticing anything was wrong.

DEC is supposed to be protecting landowners and our environment, not facilitating mining on the cheap.

I have instructed my lawyers to look into whether DEC and the Minister could be legally held liable for the damage the mine has caused.


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Henry Sims

Go for it, Sam! We hear the crying, but do not have the power, individually, to stop the tears.

But as the word spreads even further, the world waits to see what PNG does about this problem.

Provide the facts, gather evidence of pollution and on polluters, publish this extensively and seek help internationally, as it seems there are too many snouts in the trough to get the required action locally.

World opinion stopped the building of a second dam on the Gordon River (below the junction with the Franklin River) in Tasmania and created an interest group, the Greens. This is now a political party in Australia and holds some sway in our Senate (Upper House).

Erin Brokovitch won great battles "for the little people" in America and she has taken interest in a case in Australia.
Google her!

Alex Harris

Or any major river in PNG now Sam. I dare them to drink from the Fly, or Ok Tedi, from Jaba or Watut. Water is the most precious of commodities.

Fresh water makes up less than 3% of the earth’s surface, and we are utterly dependent on it for life. We can live days without food; not without water.

What the miners do to the rivers in Papua New Guinea is heinous.

In April, Highlands Pacific managing director John Gooding told that Submarine Tailings Disposal (STD) or Deep Sea Tailings Placement (DSTP) disposal was the only viable solution for Ramu, and if Highlands Pacific were forced to move to another tailings option, it would “probably break the project”.

Submarine Tailings Disposal/Deep Sea Tailings Disposal (ocean dumping of mine waste) and riverine tailings disposal (dumping mine waste into rivers) are practices banned in North America, Western Europe and Australia. DSTP is even banned in China.

Mining is one of the strongest sectors of the Australian economy, despite our stringent environmental protections.

Mines for the most part only have a productive life of around 15 years. The deposits in PNG are of such significant value, miners are now modelling 20, 30, 40 and even more years of operating value. This is why Rio Tinto wants to reopen Panguna, why Ok Tedi will remain open and Lihir will increase production.

Despite the cyclic nature of commodities, these mines are worth tens of billions of dollars each - to the miners.

And when done, having taken everything they can from under the surface in PNG, having destroyed the rainforest and removed entire mountains of earth, upset social cohesion and made a mockery of traditional landownership and human rights, they go.

What they leave behind is unforgivable.

Yet, PNG is in a unique position of strength to call the shots - to hold the miners to at least as high a standard with which they must and do comply in Australia.

The miners may huff and puff about pulling out of PNG, about their projects not being viable if they can’t do it on the cheap, inflicting the damage that will inevitably ensue to generations of indigenous landowners. But they won’t.

Asking for them to make the investment of a few million dollars in proper facilities to house and treat the waste is surely not so great an ask?

We expect nothing less in Australia. Why not in PNG?

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