Owners of the Hidden Valley gold mine in Morobe province, Papua New Guinea, have tried to silence critics of the environmental damage created during the mine’s construction, Little Green Palai said on October 25.
Members of campaign group Union of Watut River Communities (UoWRC) have been issued restraining orders by owners Morobe Mining Joint Venture (MMJV). The owners demanded they stop spreading information about the mine's impact on the community and environment, the article said.
The MMJV is jointly owned by Newcrest Mining of Australia and South African company Harmony Gold.
The Hidden Valley mine sits at the headwaters of the Watut River. The river is a crucial source of food, water, transport and recreation for local people.
The Minerals Policy Institute said many complaints have been issued against MMJV over heavy sedimentation along the river as a result of mine construction. People have complained of damage to food gardens and tree crops, as well as erosion and siltation, reaching areas well beyond the established mine impact zone.
Large areas of vegetation dieback stretch along the river banks and shallows.
Morobe governor Luther Wenge told a recent launch of the Bulolo Watut River Association that the community should not fight the company, but wait for him to start an Environment Impact Study (EIS), LGP said.
UoWRC chairperson Ruben Mete said Wenge had first promised an EIS last year, but nothing has happened.
Bulolo parliamentarian Sam Basil attacked government agencies for not protecting the interests of local landowners and being on the side of the mining companies, Ramu Nickel Mine Watch (RNMW) said on October 27.
Basil said he was forced to fight institutions set up by the government to monitor and safeguard the landowners' interests.
“None of these authorities or agencies are willing to help attend to the landowners concerns of environmental destruction to the Watut River system”, he said.
He accused Morobe Provincial Mining Department officers of working so closely with MMJV that they were often seen wearing company uniforms.
He also accused the environment department of failing to monitor the river system since MMJV started excavation, instead relying on environmental reports produced by MMJV.
MMJV has also been accused of forcing local landowners receiving payments for environmental damage caused by the mine to sign statutory declarations that stop them from filing future lawsuits against the mine, RNMW said.