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MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 9, 1999 - Radio Australia)---An independent report estimates closing the Ok Tedi copper mine in Papua New Guinea could cost one of its owners, resources company BHP, more than 250-Million dollars.

Ok Tedi Mining, BHP is the major shareholder, is considering closing the mine because of its detrimental environmental impact on the surrounding land and waterways.

Merrill Lynch analyst Jock McKinlay, who prepared the report, says the economic of keeping the mine open will be weighed against the extra cost involved in protecting the environment.

"Well the Ok Tedi mine is in BHP's books for, very roughly about $250 million on a written-down basis, but in addition to that, there could well be some additional closure costs, and also perhaps some rehabilitation costs around the mine area, if in fact the mine were to close," said McKinlay.



PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 8, 1999 - PACNEWS/Pacific Beat)---Papua New Guinea’s Ok Tedi Mining Limited (OTML) has admitted landowners were partly right with their concerns of environmental damage due to mining.

More than 10 years ago, Ok Tedi Mining’s parent company and major shareholder, BHP, fought a lengthy court battle with landowners, who allege pollution of the Fly river.

Now, Ok Tedi Mining says the environmental impact might be much greater than earlier thought and the mine may have to be closed despite the social and economic consequences for PNG.

OTML’s Managing Director, Dr. Roger Higgins told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat the environmental study also looked at the effect the alleged pollution had on the people.

"The people who live on the banks of the river don’t know what’s going on down there, they know the river well but not perhaps the same way as environmental scientists know. They see what’s happening and they are affected somewhat by having to use the river for water and the gardens as in the past."

"They also benefit from the project in many ways. For them it is a dilemma and that is why we need to act," Doctor Higgins said.

"Most importantly, it is a dilemma for the people in Papua New Guinea because Ok Tedi mine is an important project for the country and the people in the area who are employed. We need to resolve this and we want to keep working with the people and they want to keep working for us."

Dr. Higgins said the option to close the mine as a result of the new findings would have to come from the people who are most severely affected.

More than 30,000 landowners from the Ok Tedi region engaged a Melbourne law firm to act for them and won a settlement of $85.5 million in compensation from BHP.

The Papua New Guinea Government owns 30 per cent of the Ok Tedi mine, while the majority interest is owned by Australia’s BHP.

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