4 August 2014
Debate is erupting over plans by a constitutional body to push to a ban on deep sea and river tailings in resource projects in Papua New Guinea.
The ban idea came from the Constitutional and Law Reform Commission amid a report of 19 recommendations that have been drafted.
They will be presented to the Minister for Justice and Attorney General, Ano Pala, to be examined and presented to the National Executive Council for approval.
This follows a public seminar at the Hideaway Hotel in Port Moresby to make final recommendations for the Minister.
There are a total of eight mines in PNG. three of these are purely gold mines, three gold and silver mines, one copper and gold and one nickel and copper.
These facts make our country one of the world’s resource rich nations, and pumps about three quarters of revenue into the country’s economy.
However, the issue on management of mine tailings disposal is said to have been overlooked over the years by government, developers and stakeholders, causing a national threat on the health of future generations, particularly on populations in the special mining lease areas.
Today’s seminar discussed the Constitutional Law and Reform Commission’s 19 recommendations to review the Environment and Mining laws relating to management and disposal of mine tailings.
Amongst solutions was the ban of deep sea and river mine waste disposals by mines in PNG.
These recommendations have been drafted by the working committee made up of members from the Mineral Resource Authority, Departments of Mineral Policy and Geohazards management, environment and conservation, health, mines and petroleum, environment, research and development and the University of Papua New Guinea.
They strongly recommended that the national government seriously look at the health and social impacts of mine waste disposal, rather than concentrating more on revenue generation.
However, other experts present at the seminar this morning said otherwise.
The working committee found many flaws in the environment and mining laws relating to mine waste disposal.
One of them was the absence of a health impact assessment.
Similar to the environment impact assessment, the committee suggested that an independent body be established to oversee health and social impact assessments in all mine sites.
On Facebook, prominent lawyer Tiffany Nonggorr-Twivey said: “There are many things alive below 150m. even tuna goes down to 400m ! They found live things such as shrimp at the 7000 metre mark at the bottom of the Marianas Trench.
“The complaint about off shore mining is that at 1000 metres there are many living things that will be destroyed. It is the biggest con of all time that MCC got out to the community that nothing lives below 150m.
“The National Court rejected that evidence and accepted that there is prolific life deep in the sea and below 150m. The National Court also found it would be an environmental catastrophe – we actually won the case in nuisance at the National Court – but the judge said he could not give the relief we sought – an injunction – as the govt had given MCC a permit to dump with no damage – so until the actual damage was done, we couldn’t stop the dumping.
“We appealed this and Judge Davani agreed that we had proved nuisance and found that a permanent injunction on dumping should be given. Her decision was amazing – and if you are interested in environmental protection for PNG – you should read it – makes me cry every time I do – She was in the minority however – as the other two supreme court judges Hartshorn and Sawong JJ said a case in nuisance couldn’t be brought until there HAD been damage. so said as no damage yet, no case – and there was a permit to dump with no damage – so MCC could dump – but if damage was done in the future – the landowners could come back and sue in nuisance. Sigh – but with what funding ??? Litigation costs money.’’