By YEHIURA HRIEHWAZI
SWISS mining giant Xstrata Plc says it will not dump mine waste into the Sepik River system from its Frieda River gold and copper mine when it begins production in 2017.
This announcement is a big shift away from the traditional riverine tailings and waste disposal systems by mining companies in PNG.
Ok Tedi, Porgera and Tolukuma dump treated tailings into river systems much to the dislike of impacted communities and environmental groups.
However, such dumping has been supported by the PNG Government that monitors and ensures WHO standards of toxicity, or otherwise, are maintained in river systems where the wastes are neutralised before disposal.
Being a Swiss company where its government and people are totally opposed to environmental degradation, Xstrata will not go down that path.
The Swiss and the Scandinavian countries like Finland, Norway and Sweden are so stringent on adhering to such principles and ethics that only last year, Norway expelled Barrick Gold from one of its large financial institutions because it operates the Porgera gold mine which dumps treated tailings into the Strickland River system.
Xstrata and junior partner Highlands Gold Ltd last week announced a big increase in their gold and copper deposits at Frieda River licence in Sandaun province.
They said a pre-feasibility study is expected to be completed by the third quarter of this year with construction to begin in 2012 and production in 2017.
This is good news for the 3,500 Ok Tedi employees who could be easily absorbed into Frieda when the Mt Fubilan operation just south of Frieda closes in 2013, if it’s not extended to 2020.
Frieda’s general manager Dugie Wilson told a Radio Australia (ABC) programme that Frieda’s expected mine life is 20 years and will almost double the amount of ore intake in the processing mills.
Ok Tedi crushes 23 million tonnes of ore annually while Frieda will process 40 million tonnes.
Mr Wilson said that makes Frieda River project one of the top 10 greenfield mines in the world.
“We have done a lot of additional drilling which has then not only lifted the size of the resource, but I have confidence in how the copper mineralisation is actually distributed,” he said.