PNG VILLAGERS CONCERNED ABOUT GOLD MINE IMPACTS

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Call on government to conduct environmental study on Hidden Valley

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 4, 2010) – In Papua New Guinea, the people of Labu-Buttu village near Lae have called on the Government to order an environmental impact study into the effects of the Hidden Valley gold mine on their lives.

[PIR editor’s note: The community of Labu-Buttu village is in Huon district, Morobe province. Morobe Province is a province on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea. The provincial capital, and largest city, is Lae. The province covers 34,500 square kilometers with a population of approximately 540,000. The province has nine administrative districts and 171 languages.]

At a New Year’s Day meeting, they expressed concern that their lives were seriously threatened by the mine and nothing was done by the national and Morobe provincial governments.

The villagers reported at the meeting that prawns, eels and cat fish, which used to be caught in abundance from the lower part of the Markham River, had completely disappeared during the past two years.

The fishermen, who normally fish at the mouth of the Markham River, had also reported that the fish they normally caught were no longer there.

Villagers making their gardens along the banks of the river had reported a rise in sediment at the bottom of the Markham River had forced the river to spill into their gardens.

They also reported finding dead fish floating in the water near the mouth of the Markham River and near the beaches at Labu-Buttu village.

Labu-Buttu fishermen told the meeting they were no longer catching the same numbers of fish as they used to in the past and that the seas now seemed empty of fish stocks.

Councillor Jeffery Tipi said the people wanted a comprehensive environmental impact study to determine the level of mine pollution in the Markham River and sea around the Huon Gulf.

They also wanted a proper study on the fish and other water resources which the people depended on.

At the meeting, they also stressed that they were not being properly informed about the effects of the Hidden Valley gold mine on their livelihood, especially the negative impacts.

They called on the provincial government, its administration and the Morobe Mining Joint Venture to go to the village and explain if any compensation would be paid for the loss of income and food sources as a result of the effects of the mine on the river and marine life.

At the meeting, the people also expressed concern that they were not included in the memorandum of agreement signed between the mining company and the provincial government on compensation for communities affected by the operations of the mine.

"The Markham Bridge, which is the lifeline to the Hidden Valley gold mine, passes through our land to Wau yet we are not included in the agreement as an affected community," Mr. Tipi said.

"There is something really wrong with this agreement and we call for amendments to include us," he said.

The villagers formed a committee to take their concerns up with the mining company and the provincial government.

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