More than 100 landowners from the Madang Province of Papua New Guinea have said they want to join a court battle to stop millions of tonnes of mine waste being dumped into the sea, the Ramu Nickel Mine Watch website said on October 17.
The challenge was launched by 37 landowners, with others indicating their intent to join the case.
A previous case collapsed after plaintiffs were threatened and intimidated by people connected to the mine. Ramu Nickel Mine Watch said on October 14 that a number of those accused of violent intimidation have admitted in court they were acting under instruction from the government.
The Ramu nickel mine is run by Chinese company Metallurgical Construction Corp, with Australian company Highlands Pacific holding a minority stake.
PNG anti-mining group, Act Now!, complained to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission that Highlands Pacific had misled investors about the court case, ABC Online said on October 20.
Mine-owners agreed to stop the construction of a pipe that is set to dump 100 million tonnes of mine tailings into the pristine Basamuk Bay until the case is heard.
The proposed Yandera gold and copper mine, owned by Australian company Marengo Mining, has also applied to dump waste in the bay.
However, the Ramu mine-owners and their supporters in the PNG government have allegedly threatened the new plaintiffs and others in the Madang area.
Ramu Nickel Mine Watch said on October 4 that mine staff had tried to force people to sign prepared legal statements that said “they don’t want to be part of the court action and know marine dumping is the ‘safest way’”.
The mine allegedly threatened to sack workers whose relatives did not sign the statement.
The plan to dump mine tailings into the sea — known as “deep sea tailings placement” — would devastate the marine environment and deplete fish stocks that locals depend on, the Minerals Policy Institute website said.
MPI said local people have been displaced from their ancestral lands due to the Ramu mine, and gambling, prostitution and alcohol consumption were on the rise. Tensions have been reported between locals and Chinese immigrant workers.
On October 18, Ramu Nickel Mine Watch published information revealed in court that showed the PNG government “gave substantial tax benefits that are unprecedented in the history of PNG” to the Ramu mine-owners, to such a degree that there will be almost no public benefit from the mine.
The PNG government had previously refused to release information about the deal. The mine is estimated to make profits of up to $40 billion over its 20 year lifespan.
The Ramu mine is just one case of systemic pillaging of PNG by foreign corporations.
A new proposal to help facilitate the plunder of the country is the creation of “special economic zones” (SEZ) under the supervision of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private business arm of the World Bank.
SEZs are areas where local industrial and tax laws are suspended, allowing corporations to maximise profit at the expense of local people and environmental protection.
Before the issue of SEZs had even been discussed by the PNG parliament, the IFC published an advertisement in the September 9 National newspaper seeking a lawyer to draft the legislation for SEZs, the PNG Exposed website said on September 9.
PNG Exposed said the IFC was “apparently oblivious to the blatant colonial implications and completely contemptuous of Papua New Guinea’s own democratic procedures … The World Bank ... is happy to run a bulldozer through notions of independence and national sovereignty in its pursuit of the economic interests of the transnational corporations.”
The first planned SEZ is the Basamuk Bay dump-site for waste from the Ramu and Yandera mines.
The PNG government has recently approved a licence for the world's first deep-sea mine, Ramu Nickel Mine Watch said on October 20.
The Solwara 1 mine, owned by Canadian company, Nautilus Minerals, will mine for copper and gold in the Bismark Sea off New Ireland.
MPI said the project will “severely damage” the unique and largely unexplored ecosystem that contains many species found nowhere else on the planet.