LAE - As a Singaporean company with Chinese interests works to get approval to mine sand along the north coast of Madang, many Papua New Guineans are unaware of the impacts of this multibillion dollar global industry.
Sand mining remains largely under the radar in Papua New Guinea.
The lack of understanding of the environmental and social impacts of sand mining puts communities at risk of bad decisions that could cause widespread destruction.
Discussions are now underway between the Papua New Guinea government and the Singaporean registered company, Niugini Sands Limited.
I have not been able to speak to the Mineral Resources Authority about the details of the proposal and have sent a request including a list of questions for its input. I hope it may respond this week.
I do know that there were a series of Mining Warden hearings along Madang’s north coast within the Sumgilbar local level government area.
A group of landowners protested. There were others who supported the sand mining proposal. The sand is used in construction.
While it is the right of landowners to decide what they want to do with their land, there are several things they should consider.
I write this with the Ramu nickel mine in mind. Ultimately, it is the papagraun (landowners) who decide who destroys their land.
The government supports the foreign company and pretends to follow ‘procedure’. No need to get sensitive, we know that happens every time. Things have not changed.
The problem with sand mining is that there appears to be an absence of legislation or regulations governing it in PNG. Somebody can correct me, if I’m wrong.
At this stage, I don’t see the government agency tasked with managing the mining industry having full oversight of this project. (This is an opinion; it may be contestable.)
In the absence of legislation who enforces the law? And what laws do they enforce?
This situation opens up the proposed Madang project to widespread abuse.
The company wants to take control of a 50 kilometer stretch of beaches. It will most probably force villages to move inland.
There is no limit to how much sand it will take. How much should it take? Do we know?
What is the recommended limit? Or will the company stop only when the beach front is totally destroyed? Is there a buffer zone of some sort? How is that determined?
Who makes the rules?
The absence of clear guidelines simply paves the way for anyone to steal whole beaches with impunity. It will give rise to violence.
Sensible landowners frustrated with not having access to traditional fishing and hunting grounds will protest.
We have not seen the worst of it and we should not allow it to happen.
If we allow sand mining, we will make way for organised crime and thieves to profit.
They will steal because our people simply do not have the ability to stop them from raping the land.