The National- Friday, January 21, 2011
By JASON GIMA WURI
AS Hidden Valley gold mine goes into mine commissioning and its operation phase, the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) has become more aware of public concern over allegations that the mines construction activities are causing to Watut River.
However, after returning from a visit to the mine in Morobe this week, Environment and Conservation Minister Benny Allan, who was accompanied by Secretary Dr Wari Iamo and a team of experts, confirmed that the recent build up of sediments in Watut River was from natural causes besides mining activites.
“As a result of the public allegations, DEC has taken steps over the last 18 months to address these concerns in a proactive and diligent manner,” Allan said.
“On our visit to the mine in July 2009, during the construction phase, there was an open cut where amounts of gravel were causing a build up of sediments in the river as is the case for mines.
“While visiting the mine and the two villages of Leklu in the upper Watut and Sambio in the lower Watut areas, I and my contingent realised that the sedimentation had disrupted the flow of fish life in the river, the quality of water from the river and also food gardens for cash crops.
“In relation to these damages, the company had paid K3 million in compensation to the villages affected without DEC’s knowledge,” Allan said.
However, he said both villages expressed satisfaction that he and his team had visited them to hear first hand about the health and environmental issues experienced regarding the mine.
“The company is doing everything to stabilise the situation in which they have an excellent rehabilitation programme and measures to alleviate revegetation, replanting and soil erosion plans.
“Sedimentation right now is from natural processes as the mine disposals go directly into a pond for recycling which safeguards the river.”