GREENPEACE TESTING CYANIDE SPILL CLEAN UP IN PNG

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GREENPEACE PACIFIC Suva, Fiji Islands

PRESS RELEASE March 27, 2000 Port Moresby/Suva

GREENPEACE TESTING CYANIDE SPILL CLEAN UP IN PNG

Greenpeace and Mineral Policy Institute activists and local landowners yesterday undertook sampling and assessed damage at the site of last week’s cyanide spill by gold mining company Dome Resources in Papua New Guinea.

At the request of Papua New Guinean landowners, sent two teams of activists to sample and test soil and water around the spill site, and interview villagers living along the Iaroga River.

"Only good luck stopped the poison from falling directly into a stream only 20 meters (66 feet) away," said Billie Strange, the chairperson of the Auga Dilava Development Association and principal landowner. "If it had landed in the creek, all of the poison would have gone down the river by the time the company had found the spill site a day later."

Billie Strange and Daniel Mona, representatives of the traditional landowners, are demanding independent testing of the waters and sediments of the Iaroga River, where some 150 kilograms (330 pounds) of cyanide pellets have been washed in by rain.

Activists found that the scale of clean up was very limited compared to the company’s claims.

"There has been considerable confusion between the different statements of the company," Greenpeace Toxics Campaigner Mark Oakwood said. "They said that they would remove soil from an area fifty by fifty meters (165 by 165 feet) down to a depth of 10 centimeters (about 4 inches). We found only three to four square meters (3.6 to 4.8 square yards) of soil had been removed from the immediate impact point."

"Dome Resources said that the cyanide had landed 50 meters (165 feet) from a waterway. Greenpeace has video evidence that the spill was just 20 meters (66 feet) up a steep slope from a creek."

Greenpeace is testing water and mud from different parts of the river for these slow poisons and will make the results public as soon as they are available. We are hoping for a clean bill of health but fear that the river may be more polluted than the company and government are admitting.

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