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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 3, 2000 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---The Papua New Guinea government has been urged not to give legal exemption to Australian mining giant BHP from its liabilities associated with the Ok Tedi copper mine project.

The Mineral Policy Institute (MPI) of Australia said that BHP has an ongoing legal responsibility for Ok Tedi.

The MPI comments follow BHP's announcement that "it will cut and run from the long-term damage at Ok Tedi.''

"The damage caused by BHP's Ok Tedi mine is a world-scale environmental disaster. The damage from this mine is continuing to get worse and will last for most of the 21st century,'' said Geoff Evans, director of MPI.

"It is totally irresponsible for BHP to walk away from the destruction caused by the Ok Tedi mine. MPI is urging the PNG government not to give legal exemption to BHP for its liabilities from the mine.

"Today, we know that the destruction from Ok Tedi is very serious. We also know that while the damage will continue to get worse, the full extent of the problems is unknown. We do not know when the environment in PNG will recover."

BHP chief executive Paul Anderson has made known his feeling about Ok Tedi publicly on several occasions, that BHP should never have been involved in the first place. Mr. Anderson told a luncheon in Australia on Monday that BHP was "not comfortable" with its role as the operator of the mine.

The company has spoken of its revision of its part in the mine, particularly because of its realization of the environmental costs to the area from the mine damage. It said it would have more to say on the matter in a month.

"BHP is not only trying to give a smoking gun away. They are trying to hand over a time bomb," Mr. Evans said. "BHP must be aware that the situation in PNG will become untenable for many people as the environmental damage increases. The company is desperately seeking to disassociate itself from a problem that it has created."

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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