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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, July 9) - Despite the fact that Ok Tedi Mining Limited has paid PGK1.01 billion [US$385 million] two weeks ago to villages affected by the mine's pollution, the mining company still admits that its waste disposal is one of its greatest challenges.

Departing OTML managing director Keith Faulkner said he would not like to see further environmental damage caused from the mine’s waste.

"One of Ok Tedi's greatest challenges is the well-documented impact of the mine wastes on the Ok Tedi and Fly River systems. The most concerning development in the past few years has been the increasing risk presented by Acid Rock Drainage, the result of oxidation of sulfide minerals in the waste materials, particularly the mill tailings. Exhaustive studies have resulted in a project for the removal of pyrite (iron sulfide mineral) from the tailings and the permanent safe storage of this material where it cannot oxidize and pose a risk to the river system," Mr. Faulkner said.

Consequently, Faulkner said, the mine has undertaken a US$150 million [PGK446 million] dredging project at Bige to store the waste.

[PIR editor’s note: Bige is a village near the mouth of the Fly River, downstream from the Ok Tedi mine, where the operation has been dredging the river bottom of impurities washed down from the mine since 1998. ]

"We are working with the Department of Environment and Conservation and mining to ensure that the design, operation and the long term security of the storage is well understood, and to alleviate any remaining concerns that the community and the regulators may have about this Mine Waste project," he added.

Last month, the mine paid K1.01 billion as compensation for environmental damage to six communities consisting of over 160 villages under a Community Mine Continuation Agreement (CMCA).

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