Watut union members walk out of meeting

Lae News, Normal


MEMBERS of the Union Watut River Community in Bulolo walked out of a meeting with the Morobe Mining Joint Venture at the Melanesian Hotel in Lae yesterday.
The union which represents people living along the Watut River in Bulolo had claimed that work at the mining site had contributed to environmental damages and pollution of the Watut River.
The meeting was held to further discuss the issue and for the MMJV and other relevant authorities to respond to the union’s concerns raised in a petition last Sep 11.
The petition had included a 21-day ultimatum for the Department of Environment and Conservation and MMJV to pay a compensation of K1.5 million for the damages.
The petition had claimed widespread damages to the Watut River, destroying the river systems, marine life and food gardens.
The petition also claimed chemicals from the mine sites in the rivers resulting in health problems and a decline in income from alluvial gold mining.
However, the ultimatum was extended to last Oct 5 for the company to carry out an independent assessment and investigations to confirm the claims.
The extended 21-day ultimatum lapsed yesterday with no report from the MMJV interim president of the union and a Middle Watut committee Reuben Mete said after the meeting.
Mr Mete said just last week, MMJV engaged an organisation, Tamorama Network, who were currently conducting awareness to the Watut communities before a social survey was conducted.
“This was too late because the environmental damages had already been done,” Mr Mete said.
He said the union was now opting to close down the mine until their demands were met.
Mining executive from MMJV David Hume, however, said the company would be delivering K2.5 million worth of benefits to the people.
He said they had already initiated a proposal to the National Government and the MRA for the requirement of a transparent mechanism to deliver these benefits.  
The meeting was also attended by representatives from the Mineral Resource Authority, Morobe Governor Luther Wenge, Deputy provincial administrator Bart Ipambonj and Huon District Administrator Tony Ase.