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By Jack Metta

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 17, 2000 – The National)---There is no law to make mining companies responsible for the rehabilitation of a mine site after mining ceases nor are there financial or penal provisions to compel a mining company to provide for the rehabilitation of their mine site, according to Environment and Conservation Minister Herowa Agiwa.

He said the only option open to the State at the moment is to rely on the mining companies' consent on environment rehabilitation.

He said approval conditions are subject to variation from project to project, but mining companies are often able to bring a great deal of pressure on the government to ensure that they are given the most favorable conditions.

"Conditions that companies don't like are often weakened or even left out," Mr. Agiwa said.

The Minister was closing a weeklong PNG Mining Closure Policy Workshop in Madang last Friday.

He said that there are no penal provisions to impose on mines for failing to rehabilitate sites.

Mr. Agiwa referred to the Ok Tedi situation as an example.

"Even if OTML were to breach their consent conditions, there is no penalty. I am sure this is not accidental," Mr. Agiwa said.

"Lack of forward planning is also a hindrance as there has been no consistent policy on mine closures.

"Ok Tedi has to do one thing, Porgera another, Misima, a third and so on."

He said a legal framework was needed for proper rehabilitation management, including penalties for non-compliance, forward planning, inclusion of self-insurance in environmental and mining consents and reliance upon a security bond to cover any shortfalls in performance.

He said these procedures would give the OEC the ability to manage its responsibilities for mine rehabilitation.

"It should be noted that rehabilitation should begin on day one, not commence after 30 years of operations," said Mr. Agiwa.

"Security bonds cannot sensibly be used to cover the full range of mine closure expenses. The cost would be prohibitive to individual mining companies but we will need to take into account the potential for failure to achieve a satisfactory mine closure when we set security bond levels."

The Mine Closure Policy Workshop attracted about 100 participants from government, the mining industry, institutions and landowner organizations.

The outcome of the workshop will be a draft policy framework, which seeks to highlight that mine closure planning was an integral component of mine planning in PNG.

According to the co-chairman of the Mine Closure Policy Committee, James Wanjik, the policy framework provides a sound basis for specific details or guidelines to be developed.

"Consultations with stakeholders will be held to refine the policy," he said.

"It is expected that final policy will be submitted to the National Executive Council for its approval in September of this year."

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

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