Minister queried on mechanisms against slurry spills

The Government has been questioned on mechanisms that will be implemented to address spillage by mining firms.

In his supplementary question in Parliament today, Jiwaka Governor, Dr William Tongamp, asked the Minister for Environment, Conservation & Climate Change, Wera Mori, on the point of origin of the Ramu NiCo slurry spill.

Dr Tongamp said there should have been a containment pond to prevent toxic tailings from getting discharged into the environment.

“From reports we are getting, in the past there were a couple of spillages of similar magnitude but they were not reported properly,” Dr Tongamp said.

“In the event that there is another spillage, is there any guarantee, or commitment made by the company, to contain similar spillages in future and double or triple the (pond) sizes? What is the Government’s stance if we get another spillage in the near future?”

In response, Mori said: “What had actually happened was one of the pumps broke down and unfortunately, it could not control where the control mechanism was to allow the slurry to go into the feed for them to be treated.

“So as a consequence of that, yes it spilled and 80,000L of that (tailings) spilled into the sea.

“In terms of future mechanisms to put in place, the mine safety division of MRA (Mineral Resources Authority) had actually conducted an audit with the MCC and they had basically addressed that,” Mori added.

“And that’s one of the things that’s going to come up of which CEPA (Conservation and Environment Protection Authority) will also – which is under my custody – be bringing to the attention of MCC as to how we could contain future spillages.”

Meantime, Parliament was told that a team of competent, independent scientists is now in Madang to assess the outcome of the August 24th Basamuk spillage.

Whilst giving his assurance to the people of Madang, Minister Mori said he has assembled the team, which left for Madang this morning.

“And what I have done is basically, we have asked CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) from Australia, which is one of the most renowned and prominent scientific organisations in the world, to basically supervise and ensure that the correct protocols are in place. This is so that when the results are obtained, it cannot be disputed,” Mori stated.

The Minister further repeated his assurance of the safety of the Basamuk Bay waters.

“As far as I am concerned, it is safe for the people of Madang to go back and live their normal lives,” he told Parliament.

“What actually happened was you had a spillage of 80,000L of slurry ore which instantaneously, when it hit the waters, it reacted and normalised back to its natural standards. There was a survey done by CEPA, the samples were sent down to Australia and when they analysed it, the analysis showed that the impact that it had, the readings were below what was allowable on the permit.

“So what it basically means is that it was below what could have been a cause for concern. And to this day, there had been no change to that.”

Mori further said the National Government had given the permit to Ramu NiCo to operate, hence the Government has taken ownership of whatever that has happened.

(File picture of Minister for Environment, Conservation & Climate Change, Wera Mori)

Carmella Gware