Govt queries amendments to water permit on mining island

The Government has expressed grave concern over “sudden and unknown amendments” made to a water use permit currently held by Newcrest Mining Limited (NML), operator of the Lihir gold mine on Aniolam Island, New Ireland province.

In a letter dated Aug 23, 2016, Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari wrote to the Conservation & Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) Managing Director, Gunther Joku, asking why there were “sudden and unknown amendments to the Water Use Permit (WUP) that allows Lihir Gold Ltd to extract 4,400 cubic metres of water per hour…” instead of the permitted rate of 3,800 cubic metres per hour.  

CEPA is tasked with the job of issuing various water usage and water disposal permits to major resource projects in the country, including mining companies like Lihir Gold Ltd.

According to CEPA records, these amendment were fixed on Sep 26, 2014, just months after the Londolovit community instigated an environmental audit (investigation).

The Chief Secretary said the Londolovit people, who are traditional owners of Londolovit River, where the mine extracts water from for its operations, have lodged a complaint at his Office and are claiming K113 million in compensation for water extracted “over and above” permitted rates.

“However, they (Londolovit people) demonstrated dissatisfaction in a separate letter and expressed disappointment that CEPA, as the State Agency responsible, has not perused the matter appropriately as per their initial demand.

“They have been initially demanding compensation for non-permitted extraction periods and durations which means the river has been over extracted beyond the permitted extraction volume (38,016,000 cubic metres per year) that had consequential negative impacts on the livelihood of the people and ecological environment.

“It was noted the permitted low flow level is 200 litres per second however, to date, it has been below the permitted low flow level,” said Lupari.

“Environment Permit requires that a minimum flow level of 200 litres per second be maintained in the Londolovit river weir. The Environment Audit Report confirms and identifies instances of the breach of low flow compliance (from April 2000 to April 2015) that shows less than 200 litres per second.

“Sudden and unknown amendments to the Water Use Permit (WUP) that allows LGL to extract 4,400 cubic metres of water per hour is the principal cause of the negative impacts.

“As the State Authority responsible for such matters, you are therefore requested to assess the situation and provide an update that can be deliberated to avoid such recurrence on the same matter in future.”

(The weir at Londolovit River where Newcrest Mining extracts water from.)

Cyril Gare