Pundari not confortable with BHP’s re-entry

National, Normal

The National – Thursday, June 23, 2011

AUSTRALIAN mining giant BHP Billiton, which left Ok Tedi mine because of environmental concerns, has shown renewed interest in undertaking mineral exploration and mining development in the country, Mining Minister John Pundari confirmed yesterday.
“I personally find it difficult to allow the return of BHP Billiton into this country given its past legacy with the Ok Tedi project,” he said.
“I will take this issue up with the economic ministerial committee and NEC for further deliberations.”
Pundari was answering questions from North Fly MP Boka Kondra in parliament to confirm whether BHP Billiton had shown interest in exploration and had lodged an application with the Mineral Resource Authority for exploration.
Pundari said BHP had shown interest and had lodged applications with the authority for some interesting explorations tenements around the country. 
He said in 2001, BHP Billiton decided to leave following the release of environmental studies in 1999 reporting that environmental damages had exceeded levels previously contemplated.
“The environmental problems of the Ok Tedi River system were real and huge and the company should have looked for remedial solutions instead of making a decision to walk away.”
Pundari said it was unfortunate that the Morauta government saw fit to allow the company to go in return for little economic benefits for the impacted communities.