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Judge allows Ramu nickel mine to dispose waste offshore

By Liam Fox MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, July 27, 2011) - A group of landowners in Papua New Guinea (PNG) say they will appeal against a court's decision not to ban a nickel mine from dumping waste into the sea.

The National Court has refused an application by a group of landowners to prevent the Ramu nickel mining dumping tailings into the sea off Madang.

The judge said it is likely the dumping would cause "serious environmental harm" but it isn't illegal and banning it at this late stage would have an adverse affect on the mine, its workers and investor confidence in PNG.

The landowners' lawyer, Tiffany Nongorr, says her clients will appeal.

"I guess there's a belief some people's livelihoods can be sacrificed for the greater good," she said.

Australian mining company Highlands Pacific is a minority shareholder in the mine and it welcomed the decision and urged the landowners not to appeal.

An environmental scientist says thousands of marine species in Papua New Guinea could be threatened by the court's decision.

Dr. Amanda Reichelt-Brushett, from Australia's Southern Cross University, is a scientist who gave evidence in the case.

She has told Pacific Beat the disposal of tailings from the mine could damage coral reefs and also pollute coastal waters, which people depend on for their food security.

"It is a very high-risk operation and unlike on land tailings, where you can have management in place and management reaction to spills and incidents, there is not much that can be done," she said.

Mining Minister John Pundari says the government is aware of locals' concerns that the toxic waste could pollute the sea and marine life along the Astrolabe and Basamuk bays.

Mr. Pundari assured them the government will monitor any pollution and inform locals of likely impacts every three months.

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