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Landowners say ‘man-made disaster,’ Exxon Mobil claims ‘natural’

By Mal Taime

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 13, 2012) – The affected landowners of Tumbi Quarry landslip in Tari, Hela Province, have engaged an investigation team to establish the cause of the disaster.

The landslide which occurred three weeks ago was described as the worst in the country. It claimed 25 lives, damaged properties worth thousands of kina and cut of the road linking Tari and Komo.

The investigation team of engineers, surveyors, geologists, doctors, lawyers, environmental scientists, foresters and geographic scientists arrived in Tari last Wednesday and conducted two days investigations.

They will compile a final report together to find out the actual cause of Tumbi quarry landslip because the people did not experience such worse disasters in their lives since Oil and Gas were found in their area.

The landowners believe strongly that the landslide was a man-made disaster, while the Exxon Mobil maintains that it was a natural disaster.

It is understood that Exxon Mobil and the Government may engage their own investigation team to conduct investigation, but the landowners wasted no time in engaging their own team because it is important for the three parties to have their own teams representing them.

[PIR editor’s note: Former superintendent of the Tumbi quarry Kevin Munday says operations were "not unsafe," and the landslide occurred in an area the development team had not been using. "We always had geologists down there," Munday says. "We always had environmentalists down there looking at it." He also says at no time was he directed to rush or cut corners to complete the work more quickly. Meanwhile, academics in PNG have cautioned that the economic importance of the Exxon Mobil LNG project may trump the call for comprehensive investigations into the landslide tragedy.]

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