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Campaign Update: Conflict over Mine in Papua New Guinea Intensifies

While Indigenous land owners prepare for their day in court, hoping to prevent the Chinese mining company CMCC from dumping waste from its nickel mine and refinery into the sea, the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government keeps changing its laws to remove legal barriers to the Ramu mine.

On July 16, PNG’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Indigenous Rai Coast landowners of Madang Province, upholding a previous injunction it had issued that barred the Ramu Nickel Mine from dumping toxic mine and refinery waste into the sea. The Indigenous landowners cite scientific studies that warn that “deep sea tailings placement” would threaten not only the marine environment but livelihood and health of the Indigenous coastal peoples who depend on the sea.  The case is scheduled for trial later this month. Until then, CMCC is constrained from building the pipeline that would carry its mine waste into the sea off the Rai coast.

The Chinese government and the mining company have complained loudly about the injunction, saying that the delay in construction is costing them millions of dollars. In response to pressure from the Chinese, this week the PNG government altered its laws for the second time, paving the way for the Ramu project to proceed.

In May this year, PNG’s prime minister Michael Somare forced through Parliament amendments to the Environment Act that gave foreign companies immunity from liability for environmental damage and deprived landowners of their right to seek compensation for damages to their property or livelihoods from projects that were approved under the Environment Act 2000. But this change did not get the Ramu nickel mine totally off the hook, since some of the permits for the mine were granted BEFORE the Environment Act 2000 came into effect. So this week the government made new changes that extend the provisions of the May amendment to permits granted before the 2000 Act came into effect. Under the new laws, the Ramu nickel mine will never be held liable for any environmental damage caused by its operations.


If you have already sent letters to PNG government officials, thank you! If not, please send letters, emails or faxes today.

John Chitoa, a local leader in the fight to prevent CMCC from contaminating PNG’s coastal waters, sent Cultural Survival this note: “Without your support we could not have come this far, so thanks so much. We should celebrate our small victories but the struggle still continues - stay tuned for the next update.”. Read more.