PNG landowners protest over deep sea tailings waste plan for K18b project

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Wafi-Golpu tailings protest
Lanowner groups from the special mining lease, pipelined and deep sea tailings areas in the Wafi-Golpu project hold a pubic protest rally. Image: Jimmy Kalebe/The National

By Jimmy Kalebe in Lae

Landowners are unwavering in their opposition to the deep sea tailings placement (DSTP) method for waste from Papua New Guinea’s proposed K18 billion (NZ$7.7 billion) Wafi-Golpu mine project.

They travelled to Lae yesterday from various areas of Morobe which will be affected by the project.

It is awaiting approval by the government.

The two methods being discussed to dispose mine waste are the DSTP which the government is leaning towards and the on-shore dam which the landowners prefer.

Prime Minister James Marape has given stakeholders until the end of this week to agree on a tailings placement method otherwise he will make a ruling himself.

Yesterday’s meeting was organised by Morobe Governor Ginson Saonu for landowners of the special mining lease, pipeline and DSTP areas.

United Morobe Voice Against DSTP chairman and former Huon Gulf MP Sasa Zibe said the dumping of mine waste at sea could impact marine life and ecosystem.

‘We depend on the sea’
“We depend on the sea and the marine environment to sustain our livelihoods,” Zibe said.

“Our communities should not be disturbed as a result of DSTP.

“So we say no to DSTP.”

Saonu backed their call saying other options needed to be considered.

“We have to look at all the options available and make sure we employ the one that best suits the developer, the Government and most importantly, the landowners,” Saonu said.

He described the DSTP as a cheap method of disposing mine tailings which had the potential to permanently damage the environment.

Saonu said despite the significant revenue expected to be generated by the mine, the people’s concerns must be respected.

He said PNG had seen environmental damage caused by mine waste and did not want Wafi-Golpu to suffer the same.

“For any disposal of mining waste on land or sea, we have to be convinced fully before the Wafi-Golpu project is to start,” he said.

The Pacific Media Centre publishes The National articles with permission.

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