LANDOWNERS in Madang have won a David-and-Goliath battle to freeze a Chinese nickel miner’s construction of a massive pipeline to dump waste into the sea.
The National Court in Madang last Friday ordered work to stop on the nickel mine’s previously approved submarine tailings disposal system.
The Ramu mine in Madang, operated by the Chinese Metallurgical Construction Group Co (MCC), plans to dump five million tonnes of slurry waste annually into Basamuk Bay.
The company was preparing to start blasting coral reefs for the tailings pipeline to be laid. The stop-work order is another setback for the Chinese project, which had suffered a series of problems with the mine’s construction and relations with local people.
Tiffany Nonggorr, the lawyer representing the Madang landowners, said MCC must find an alternative to dumping the mine waste into the bay.
“This injunction is a massive victory for us, definitely a David-and-Goliath struggle.
“Landowners have stopped the Chinese, who have spent US$1.4 billion (K3.8 billion) to build this mine,” she told AAP.
“The mine’s proposal is just too risky. There are grave environmental concerns,” she said.
Despite having Government and environmental approval, the proposed deep sea tailings pipeline would destroy the environment and local people’s livelihoods, Mrs Nonggorr said.
Judge David Cannings granted a temporary injunction forcing MCC to stop work “that involves directly or indirectly damage or disturbance to the offshore environment including all coral blasting or popping of dead or live coral and laying of pipes”.
MCC “shall not carry out directly or indirectly any such work, pending determination of the substantive proceedings” to be heard at a later date, he said.
Last July, construction of the mine was briefly stopped due to health and safety concerns, while in May outbreaks of violence exposed simmering tensions between Chinese management and PNG workers.
The Ramu mine is expected to yield 143 million tonnes of nickel over 20 years and, during construction, will employ 3,000 workers including 700 Chinese.
Revenue from the mine is expected to add to the country’s GDP growth, and forms part of PNG’s growth strategy under the National Government’s Vision 2050.
No Government or mineral resources authority officials were available for comments last night, but they are expected to join MCC in fighting the injunction.