The National – Monday, December 20, 2010
AT one mine, the dumping of tailings into a river is seen as environmentally unsafe and socially unacceptable while at another, it is claimed marine dumping is completely safe.
The Australian-based Highlands Pacific mining company has put itself in a completely contradictory and hypocritical position with its involvement in the two mines in PNG.
While it is pushing ahead, against the wishes of local communities, with the marine dumping of toxic mine tailings at the Ramu nickel mine, it is also a partner in the Frieda River copper and gold mine, just a few hundred kilometres away from the Ramu mine.
At the Frieda mine, river dumping of mine tailings has been completely ruled out by project partner Xstrata, a Swiss company, because of its potential environmental and social impacts.
Highlands Pacific claims it operates with “honesty, integrity and high ethical standards” but that is clearly nonsense when it is involved in two mining operations in the same country where at one mine site, it is happy to dump 175 million tonnes of tailings into the sea but, at the other site, it says good environmental management means that river dumping cannot be used.
To add irony to the hypocrisy, Highlands Pacific head office is located on a river-front in Brisbane, Queensland.
Here, its staff and directors enjoy the famous laid back lifestyle of the Sunshine state whose economy is dependent on tourists drawn to the highly protected Great Barrier Reef.
Needless to say, the marine dumping of mine tailing would never be allowed in Australia.
Yet Highlands Pacific is happy to live in a protected environment while it takes risks with the livelihoods of local people in another country.
Highlands Pacific managing director, John Gooding, and its board, led by Ken MacDonald, need to make a clear decision on whether or not it is environmentally and socially acceptable to dispose of mine tailings into rivers and the sea.
They cannot be allowed to have it both ways.
Diesel garage doctor