Proposed law to ban river tailings

A proposed law is before the government to ban all river mine tailings.

The proposal has been put forward by the Constitutional Law Reform Commission (CLRC) and awaiting government approval.

This follows the experience of the Ok Tedi Mine operations and the dumping of mine tailings which have polluted the Ok Tedi and Fly River systems.

International environmentalists say the damage will last for decades, if not centuries.

If passed by Government, the law will protect another of PNG major water systems, the Sepik River, from the proposed Frieda Mine project in West Sepik.

If Chinese-owned PanAust is granted a Special Mining Lease (SPL) to operate the Frieda Mine, a safe tailings dam will be required to be built.

First secretary to the Mining Minister Byron Chan, Katherine Karaya, tells Radio New Zealand that the government acknowledges the need to have sound environmental expertise incorporated before the mine is developed.

“Well let’s hope that the Chinese do a good thing, the right thing, to build a dam,” she said.

“Let’s keep our fingers crossed. They say they can do it, they’ve done it before in China, so let’s wait and see.

“Only time will tell whether they can prove they can do it, or if not there’s going to be another lawsuit like the Ok Tedi thing.”

A pre-requisite for an SPL is an environmental permit approved by PNG’s Conservation and Environment Protection Authority and satisfaction of environmental plans by the Minister for Environment and Climate Change, John Pundari.

The Mineral Resources Authority also says PanAust would build a damn that would be part of PNG’s largest land tailings storage facility, which could double up as a hydro power dam for generating electricity.

Local communities have expressed fears of potential pollution from the mine activities.

Picture credit:


Cedric Patjole