MINING operations are continuing at Ok Tedi Mining Ltd at Tabubil in the Western Province while river levels still allow shipments of concentrate to the coast, fuel supplies upriver to the mine and the provision of a reasonable level of hydro power.
But, having analysed the prevailing weather pattern, mine management believes that operations may have to be suspended in the next week or so as previously indicated.
Recent rainfall in critical catchment areas has been well below the historic average and the river is again approaching level which is non-trafficable. Hydro power generation is also dropping steadily.
Non-essential personnel and families are being repatriated in order to extend supplies of food and fuel and to even out demand for flights.
Once it becomes necessary to suspend operations a skeleton crew will remain to cover care, maintenance and security as well as work on priority projects.
The company says that while operations are suspended, in order to retain the workforce and allow for an efficient restart of operations, OTML personnel will be paid a retainer.
“This will represent a significant forward commitment of cash reserves should the suspension last for an extended period,” according to a company spokesman.
Government schools in Tabubil remain open for children from local villages and to allow students in Grades 10 and 12 prepare for and complete their year-end exams.
Students from OTML families who have been relocated from Tabubil are being assisted with enrolments elsewhere.
Discussions are progressing with community leaders and the Western Province Administration to prepare for the impacts of a potentially long dry period and the suspension of mining operations.
Essential services such as the hospital, clinics, supermarket and banks will continue to operate, but on a reduced basis.