Submarine tailings is not the answer

Letters, Normal

I REFER to the proposed mine tailings disposal plan by Marengo Mining Limited.
My concern, and I believe also the untold fear of many Papua New Guineans and Madang citizens, is the choice of disposal – submarine tailings disposal.
Why should the Astrolabe Bay be sacrificed twice by two mining projects?
First, it was the Ramu nickel project – already approved (blindly) by the Department of Environment – and now the proposal by Marengo.
Its last quarterly report clearly shows that it has no intention of abandoning that plan.
To date, I am still not convinced that the safety of marine species and the migrating tuna stock that passes through that area as they head for the Bismarck Sea, will not be affected.
Can we be convinced beyond reasonable doubt that there are no other options or alternatives?
Marengo, Ramu NiCo Management and the National Government (through Mineral Resource Authority and DEC) need to examine all the long term socio-environmental risks.
The reason given for proposing submarine tailings is that any
other option (which I presume is a tailings dam) is not possible due to the high rainfall and seismic activity in that part of the region (I presume the Ramu Valley) which may make a tailings storage dam unviable.
The Ramu nickel project has used that excuse to lower the cost of operations.
Hang on, isn’t Harmony gold building a tailings dam in its Hidden Valley project even though it also is in a region with a high rainfall?
Going back some 20 years, another Australian company (BHP) actually built a tailings dam in a region known for an annual rainfall of some 10m, which eventually was abandoned.
Are Ramu nickel and Marengo saying that an annual rainfall of 3m to 5m cannot be contained?
Have all the engineering and scientific knowledge in the world been exhausted?
If man can walk on the moon and in space, and trains travel underwater in tunnels, if skyscrapers can be built almost 1km high to withstand earthquakes, then why can’t we have tailings dams to contain tailings?
Will this rainfall excuse be used or allowed to be used in Australia or Canada to have a submarine tailings disposal solution?
The Fly River is now completely suffocated and stripped bare from bad engineering and scientific assumptions fuelled by the greed of BHP (with some arm twisting) and the ignorance and lack of an experienced PNG Government at the time to accept the sacrifice of the Ok Tedi River.
They said that the Fly River would never fill up and that the system had the capacity to clean it self up.
All these assumptions are now a myth.
If a tailings dam is not feasible, I believe that Marengo should seriously consider tailings burial, which in the hindsight, is now considered the best option for the Ok Tedi mine.
Dig those pits, bury the tailings and rehabilitate the filled pits with rainforest or forest farms, which is a win-win proposition.
I urge all Marengo shareholders to seriously consider about the environmental consequences of your decisions and to preserve the pristine rivers and lakes, and marine resources.


Tonuab Matanan
Townsville, Australia