PNG PRIME MINISTER DEFENDS NICKEL MINE OPERATION

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Ramu mine under fire for toxic waste

By Rosalyn Evara PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 11, 2010) - the people’s interest is paramount to government and it would not have given the Ramu nickel/cobalt project the nod had it thought it would be detrimental to their lives.

This came from Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare who traveled to Madang yesterday to meet landowners of the four mine impact areas and to address issues relating to the project.

The meeting had been organized by Madang Governor Sir Arnold Amet to allow Sir Michael to hear first hand the grievances of the landowners regarding the project particularly the Deep Sea Tailing Placement method, which is now being contested in court.

In what was a very packed and lengthy meeting which got under way after 1pm and lasted over three hours at the Madang Provincial Assembly hall, Sir Michael said Government had not blindly okayed the project but that it had considered all aspects before reaching such a decision.

He said with Highlands Pacific Limited unable to develop the project after they were given the permit, he took it on himself to travel to China and to invite them to come in and progress it.

He said he had done this with the people’s interest genuinely at heart. "No other country was interested in developing the project and so I went to China and asked them to because at the moment the Momase region does not have any big project.

"I wanted this to be progressed because I want the project to bring some tangible developments to the people, especially in places like Raicoast and Usino/Bundi where this has virtually been non-existent.

"Despite these efforts I have been accused by people who have gone to the media and not only questioned my purpose of bringing the Chinese here but stated I have done so to destroy this country," he said

Sir Michael said while the project might have been rushed and some things including awareness and public relation not properly addressed, it was Government’s intention to see these being fixed so that this development could be progressed. The provincial assembly was packed by landowners who had turned up in the droves.

Despite a no-show from the Department of Environment and Conservation, other leaders were present including Sir Arnold, Raicoast MP James Gau Gelak, Mineral Resources Authority managing director Kepas Wali and Mining Secretary Nellie James.

The general consensus, especially among the landowners association chairmen of the mine impact areas, was that the project was vital and should continue.

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