PNG GOVERNMENT TRIES TO PLACATE RAMU OPPONENTS

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Landowners sued to stop China-owned mine dumping

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Aug. 18, 2010) – In Papua New Guinea (PNG), a team of government scientists will be in Madang next week to meet with landowners living along the Ramu nickel mine project.

The scientists will conduct awareness of the deep sea tailings placement (DSTP) and its impact to ensure landowners understand the DSTP programme to be used by Ramu NiCo at its Basamuk refinery plant.

[PIR editor’s note: The Deep Sea Tailings Placement (DSTP) scheme proposed by the China-owned Ramu nickel mining project, would dump waste material from the mine into Basamuk Bay in Madang province. Landowners previously obtained a court order to delay Ramu Nickel from constructing a waste pipeline. See story.]

Minister for Mining John Pundari gave the undertaking on Monday during a visit to Bongu village along the Rai Coast electorate of Madang.

Given that the matter was currently before court, Pundari said the aim of the meeting was for landowners to get first-hand information from qualified scientists and later from other interested individuals and non-governmental organizations.

He was accompanied to Bongu by Madang Governor Sir Arnold Amet, Rai Coast MP James Gau and Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) managing director Kepas Wali, provincial representatives and MRA officials.

"We must find a way to move forward.

"We can’t sit down and just talk. I will ask our scientists to come and explain to you on DSTP," Pundari said.

He said Ramu NiCo remained his top priority and he would ensure qualified scientists were in Madang to conduct proper awareness.

Coastal pipeline chairman Charles Okori also urged the government to revisit the memorandum of agreement and the social economic development programme and speed up the Lands Title Commission hearing to identify genuine landowners.

Okori said these were outstanding issues that directly concerned the landowners.

He also assured Pundari and MRA officials that he would organize all village leaders along the coastal pipeline areas to attend the meeting next week.

Many villagers and community leaders who spoke during the gathering assured the government team that they needed development and supported the project, but they still opposed the DSTP programme.

They said if the DSTP programme was safe, then the government must send its qualified scientists to their villages to explain and convince them that their environment would be safe during tailings disposal.

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