PNG GOVERNMENT TUNED TO MINERS, NOT CITIZENS

Editorial

PNG Post-Courier PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 29, 2010) - Madang is fast losing its reputation as the delightful sleepy hollow that is welcoming to tourists with its peace and beauty.

Apart from an influx of outsiders seeking jobs or riches around the provincial capital, there is the massive nickel-cobalt mine being assembled in the Ramu area.

While the influx of people is the big worry for the local people and businesses with a perceived surge in crime and dirtiness, the mining project is the big worry at the upper level of society.

Big money and huge responsibility have been committed to the mining project, with the ore mining site in the hills and the processing plant on the coast and the headquarters in Madang town.

It is a huge investment by the Chinese majority partners and the substantial minority group, Highlands Pacific, plus the "investment’’ by the Papua New Guinea Government.

From the start, the Government has committed fully to this project which promises to be a major economic boon to Madang especially and to the nation.

Leaders from the Prime Minister down have beaten a path to Beijing to ensure it got going. Construction of the mining project is well advanced and the joint venture expects to start production soon.

But now a legal obstacle is being thrown across their path: a challenge to their intention to blast a small part of Basamuk Bay reef and to dump the mining wastes or tailings into the deep sea offshore.

The case has been taken before the court several times in the past month or so, with four landowners succeeding so far in getting an injunction against the reef blasting. The company is determined to press its case, insisting it has obtained all necessary approvals from the Government.

The legal case is one thing. But it is considered in Port Moresby circles that the mine must and will go ahead. They must find a compromise to prevent any more delays. Whether that involves another way of disposing of the tailings, or getting a change to the laws, it is not yet clear. But there is a rising groundswell of opinion against short cuts and riding roughshod over the landowners. The Government must take note of its people’s feelings

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