PNG Communities Rally Against Ok Tedi Mine Extension

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PM called to form commission to investigate ‘Ok Tedi saga’

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 5, 2013) – More than 100,000 people from 165 villages along the Fly River impacted by Ok Tedi mine have thrown their support behind Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill on the issue of mine extension.

The landowners, who are members of Ok Tedi Mine Impacted Area Association (OTMIAA), made their position know in a press statement signed and released by their president Nick Bunn.

"OTMIIA fully agrees and supports the stand by the Prime Minister not to be pushed by either BHP or PNG Sustainable Development Program into extending the mine life for Ok Tedi Mine to 2025 until all the issues affecting the people and Community Mine Continuation Agreements (CMCA) are sorted out," Mr. Bunn said.

He said 16 association leaders have pledged to work together with the government to ensure that all outstanding issues relating to environmental damage impacting on the people’s health and social welfare are addressed before the issue of mine extension can be considered.

Mr. Bun said OTML, OK Tedi Development foundation, PNGSDP and BHP "rushed" mine life extension negotiation, adding he has received numerous written complaints from CMCA regional delegates about the manner they were treated and allegedly forced to sign for mine life extension.

Mr. Bunn has also called on PM O’Neill to set up a commission of inquiry made up of eminent scientists and jurists to investigate "the whole Ok Tedi saga" and report back to the government for action.

He highlighted eight issues for consideration, including:

Mr. Bunn also highlighted an independent environmental review done by a Dr. Allan Tingay in 2007.

He said the report’s findings have not been taken into account, saying what Dr. Tingay wrote about in 2007 "have been occurring since 2001."

According to Mr. Bunn, Dr. Tingay predicted "that the most serious implication of these mine waste is on impacts on food availability and nutrition in many villages due to impacts on key food items such as sago and fish, increased potential for biological contamination of water supplies due to increased flooding and a potential increase in mosquito population and therefore mosquito borne diseases."

"An effective response to these present and future health issues is fundamental to the success of all other development programs," according to Dr. Tingay.

Mr. Bunn said: "Dr. Tingay’s advice has fallen on deaf ears as none of these issues have been addressed by PNGSDP, OTML and OTDF. This is a matter of life and death for my people and enough is enough"

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