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Recapping Ramu: SGX, lies and videotapes

In the latest Reputation Report ALEX HARRIS scrutinises the facts, spin and half-truths surrounding the way in which the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) was informed about the implications of the Ramu Nickel deep sea tailings court case. “To have the facts and the behaviour of the miners whitewashed, cleansed, sanitised and sprayed with fragrance for the ASX and Australian investors is a compliance issue to which the ASX refuses to respond,” she writes. You can read Alex’s expose in full here, but first an extract….

IN OCTOBER, opposition Member of Parliament Belden Namah, took a full page advertisement in Papua New Guinea newspapers questioning the economic benefit of the [Ramu Nickel] mine and changes to the law to protect the project.

But ‘the mouse that roared’ moment was on 4 March 2010, when landowners from the Rai Coast filed and ultimately won a motion for injunction against the construction and use of DSTP, on 21 April winning an appeal against the injunction.

The response from Highlands Pacific on 21 April was adamant that the project had support:

However it is important to note that this claim is not supported by the legally recognised landowners at the mine site, on the inland and coastal pipeline route, or at the process plant site. These landowners have recently shown their strong support for the Ramu project by placing full page advertisements in the PNG national newspapers.

The fact is, there are currently no ‘legally recognised landowners’ on any land impacted by this project, only disputing claimants as to the ownership of the land – with 60 registered land disputes sitting at the Land Titles Commission over the mining tenement alone, with 360 landowner groups contesting ownership.

Despite the Mining Act requiring a compensation agreement be signed by the legally recognised owners of customary land prior to any commencement of mine construction, the project has proceeded at full speed. The 360 clans remain with the legal status of ‘disputing claimants’; some have been forcibly removed from their land.

Frustrated by the delays and ongoing public criticism of the project, the miners put pressure on the PNG government to resolve the situation in their favour. The government complied, rewriting the Environment Act to allow these companies to cause serious environmental degradation throughout the country, with impunity.

The Environment Act Amendment Bill removes the rights of landowners to mount any legal challenge against any mining or development application approved by the government; it infers that environmental damage will happen in the course of doing business as an inevitable consequence of business, and explicitly excuses corporations from damage, removing any responsibility or obligation for clean-up and restoration, or recompense.

The aim of this new law was specifically to obviate the injunction and pending appeal or any further legal action.

The Environment Act Amendment Bill was read in Parliament but never ratified as Parliament was dissolved almost immediately to avoid a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare.

When the second appeal was lost in July, Highlands Pacific released the following statement to the market on 16 July:

In June, the PNG Government passed an Environmental Regulation reaffirming the validity of the Ramu project’s permit and how the permits transition from the previous Environment Act to the new Act…

No, actually it does not.

Again, Highlands Pacific stated:

It is important to note that this claim is not supported by the legally recognised landowners at the mine site, on the inland and coastal pipeline route, or at the process plant site. These landowners have consistently shown their strong support for the Ramu project and for the tailings disposal method.

It is important to note that there remains no legally recognised landowners, only 360 clans legally recognised as disputing claimants. It is equally important to note that there has been no show of strong support for the tailings disposal method.

Read the complete article here


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Alex Harris

Thanks Barbara, I agree. On catching up with all that happened in PNG this week I couldn't help but think to myself, thank God for the judiciary.

Barbara Short

Many thanks to Alex Harris and Scott Waide for trying to stop Madang turning into another Bougainville.

I was re-reading Brian Jink's book, "New Guinea Government - An Introduction" (Angus and Robertson, 1971).

This book needs to be updated into a simple book on PNG government to be issued in class sets for all schools.

The people must be able to see the way the law courts, Ombudsman, proposed ICAC and so on work to check and balance the role of the elected representatives in the National Parliament.

The story of the Ramu nickel scheme is the perfect example.

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