The National –Thursday, January 6, 2011
BULOLO MP Sam Basil has taken legal proceedings against the owners of the Hidden Valley gold mine in PNG, seeking damages on behalf of more than 100 indigenous families for environmental damage to the Watut River system.
The legal claim alleged that Morobe Mining Joint Venture (MMJV) had negligently caused toxic pollution, which had poisoned the river, killing fish and other aquatic life and vegetation and further caused injuries to people using the water for bathing and drinking.
Basil said he had been trying to negotiate with MMJV, which is jointly owned by Newcrest Mining and Harmony Gold, to avoid a lengthy and costly court battle, but the miners had not honoured an agreement to stop inducing landowners to sign statutory declarations that could affect their future legal rights to compensation.
“I am disappointed that the company has broken its word and is still inducing landowners to sign agreements without giving them the benefit of an independent legal advice and without them understanding what they are doing.
“The company is abusing its position and not affording the landowners their constitutional rights.
“I still hope we can avoid a courtroom battle, but the company must understand that it cannot treat the landowners and affected communities as third-class citizens,” Basil said.
“The mining company could have avoided the toxic pollution of the river system, but chose profits ahead of people and the environment.
“Similarly, it could have avoided being served with these court papers, but it chose to breach its agreement with me,” Basil said.