Monday, October 17, 2011

Miner fails local firm, says leader.

The National- Tuesday, October 18, 2011
By Pisai Guma
The Morobe Mining Joint Venture and the Landowner Company, NKW Ltd, have failed to support other landowners companies in the Hidden Valley Mine, it has been claimed.

Naiyyo Kwamio, the deputy chairman of Nakuwi Association and Nauti Youths Pressure Group in Watut, Bulolo District, Morobe, said under the agreement signed in 2005 the priority for spin-off opportunities should have been given to the local companies. But he said this was not done.
Kwamio and 10 leaders from the group support the call by Nakuwi Landowner Association’s Rex Mauri to shut down the mine if the conditions were not met.
They said the MMJV had failed to comply with the provisions in the agreement while the NKW Ltd was “very arrogant to the landowners’ demands”.
They have sent separate petitions and a letter to the National Planning and Monitoring Minister Sam Basil saying the NKW had set up three major landowner companies representing Nauti, Kuembu and Winima.
But no contracts were awarded while the groups were “given between K100 and K200, 000 as dividends only once”. “How the figures were determined as dividends and paid out remains a mystery. The MKW Ltd receives K60 Million contracts per year from MMJV but there is no impact whatsoever on the lives of our people.” The leaders claimed.
“We as shareholders to NKW Ltd are kept in total darkness. We don’t know who benefits from it. To make matters worse, MMJV and NKW Ltd deny youths and the Bulolo district employment opportunities.”
Last July 5, Morobe Governor Luther Wenge also wrote to the general manager for sustainability and external affairs, Davis Wissink, requesting that small contracts below K10 million be awarded to the landowner companies.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Nakuwis call for Hidden Valley mine closure

NAKUWI landowners from Hidden Valley are demanding the gold mine be shut down alleging that the Morobe Mining Joint Venture (MMJV)Company had not complied with the memorandum of agreement signed in 2009, reports The National.

In a two-page petition, executives of Nakuwi Association Inc, on behalf of Hidden Valley and Hamata landowners, gave a two-week u...ltimatum for the company to address demands it had failed to comply with over the past two years.

The demands include:

Awarding of contracts;
Benefits-sharing ag­reement trust (BSA);
Relocation of offices;
Relocation of staff housing;
Employment conditions;
Abolishing of community affairs department;
Removing the general manager sustainability and external relations.
The petition said company offices including human resource, community

Monday, August 8, 2011

Thanking the O'Niell Namah Government.

By Watut Reporter

The Union of Watut River Communities Inc (UoWRC Inc.)has thank the O,Neil Namah Government in overthrowing the former Abal Government in making changes. They also thank the government for not giving a Ministerial portfolio to Mr Benny Allan, former Environment and Conservation Minister.

UoWRC Inc also pledge to work close with the new Mining and Environment and Conservation Minister to see concerns of the Middle Watut Communities along the Watut River over Hidden Valley Mining Joint Venture is redress and thank Hon Bron Chan an Thomson Harokaqveh respectively.

UoWRC Inc has brassed aside comments that UoWRC Members have been accepting compensation payment from the Morobe Mining Joint Venture (MMJV) over its damage to the Watut River and would bring their plight to the new Government.

Mr Reuben Mete, who is President of UoWRC is now in Port Moresby aiming to resort the Middle Watut communities of Mumeng LLG concerns once and for all.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Watut River Communities support Madang locals to appeal National Court Decision.

By Watut Reporter

While many of the rural communities around Papua New Guinea are discussing and wondering about the National Court decisions to allow foreign owned MCC to dump its tailings into Bismarc sea, the Watut River Communities led by its Environmental Campaign Group, the Union of Watut River Communities (UoWRC) has thrown its support behind its colleagues in Madang as they appeal the Decisions in the highest court.

UoWRC President Mr Reuben Mete delivered this note to its members over the weekend. Watut River Communities under UoWRC will also sue Hidden Valley Operator - Newcrest Mining and Harmony Gold; also on Environmental Damage and loss of economy for rural communities. The case is expected to be registered next month at the National Court in Lae.

UoWRC has currently engage a Lae base lawyer to deal with all its criminal charges laid against them in the district court and will also appeal some of the district court decisions in Lae. It is now confirm that all criminal case charges against UoWRC will begun next Monday. Mr Mete describe the following months starting from August as the beginning of a new chapter for the Watut River Communities.

UoWRC is yet to confirm weather Tiffany Nonggorr will represent them in the National Court Case on Environmental Damage. Tiffany was mention often by the Bulolo District led by the local MP Hon Sam Basil but was later put into criticisms as the District now wants to divert its attention to other Land ownership issue involving both Hidden Valley and Waffi Mining. A meeting with the local MP and Lawyer Tiffany Nonggorr is expected next week to iron out all misunderstandings.

UoWRC is now supporting the call of a National Union of Landowners and will eyeing to push their Litigation to international Laws.

Friday, July 15, 2011

In response to the release of the SMEC report by DEC & MMJV regarding the Watut River Sedimentation.

By Samuel H. Basil on Wednesday, July 13, 2011 at 8:51pm
Honourable Sam Basil, MP Bulolo & Deputy Opposition Leader.
July 13, 2011
Thank you fellow leaders, Ministers, Mine-affected community reps, MMJV reps, chairman, ladies and gentlemen.
As the Member for Bulolo, I am pleased that the Department of Environment and Conservation through the Inter-Agency Environmental Expert Committee (IAEAC) are willing to come down to the level of the Provincial and Local Level Government and even to where my people live to engage with us on the issues affecting us.
That positive step took almost 22 months. I personally delivered the petition prepared by the local people through the UoWRC to the DEC in September 2009.
Naturally Chair, I am not very impressed with the duration and time it took for DEC to finally comedown to us as IAEAC. The Government through the bureaucracy must be seen to be responsive to the people’s concerns.
The longer DEC takes, the more my local people along the Upper/Middle and even the lower reaches of Watut who access and use the Watut River will suffer from all the negative and maybe even dangerous byproducts that MMJV Mine is producing and discharging daily into the river system.
I believe this committee was solely formed as a result of the September 2009 petition to DEC. What I also understand is that DEC, after the September 2009, engaged an independent consultancy firm, SMEC to carry out an Independent Environmental Performance Audit of Hidden Valley Gold Mine. That Audit also involved an Assessment of the Mine Derived Sediment. It took the entire 2010 for DEC to work with MMJV to get their act together before this face-to-face meeting with the people. I believe DEC would not have responded to the issues or formed the Expert Committee if there was no petition from us.
Chair, I was given a copy of the SMEC reports just last week Friday and had a quick look at the reports.
 Let me highlight some observations from the report.
The Report was first prepared on June 6, 2010, then went through a total of 3 revisions with resulting in the finalized version on November 19, 2010. The main key objectives of the audit were:
 a) To assess mine performance with regard to permitting compliance and Environmental Management
b) To assess offsite impacts due to historic and current mine activities;
c) Therefore, enhance DEC’s capacity to effectively monitor and regulate the future operation of the mine as well as provide the basis for the formulation of an appropriate response to the Watut River Community
Chair, the SMEC report confirmed that from the two Permits (Waste Discharge & Water Extraction) issued in April 2006 to March 2010, there were a total of 10 non-compliances and 30 partial compliance conditions out of the total 73 conditions. This is 54.8% non or partial compliance to the permits issued by DEC.
Not only that, the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) which was granted with 11 conditions in April 2006 was not updated by March 2010 audit. The EMP did not significantly meet ISO 14000. This is an international standard on Environmental Management aspect.
The report confirmed that the environmental management is not properly coordinated and there has been generally poor response in resolving permit non-compliances.
What I and my people fail to understand is how despite the EMP for MMJV project not being compliant to ISO 14000, DEC saw fit to allow the project to go ahead. Permit No. WD-L3 (50) was also not followed.
The EMP was said to have been updated since August 2009. Coincidently, that might have been triggered again by the petition put in by the UoWRC (Sept 2009).

The report confirmed that the soil and surface water and erosion management requirements were not fully implemented across the site. There were significant erosion issues associated with unstable slopes and waste dumps. There is no permit limit or adopted target for suspended solids concentration in water drainage off the site.
DEC has again failed to establish clearly the target for suspended solid concentration in water drainage off the site. That alone should result in disallowing MMJV to discharge waste excessively off site.
The report also pointed out that the waste management was not done in accordance with the Waste Management Plan. There was no waste register or evidence that waste minimization and re-use programs were fully implemented across the site.
The landfill was poorly located and managed, and posed an ongoing environmental risk.
This significantly throws away the principle of sustainable mining practice. So where have all the hazardous and toxic mine wastes generated over the years gone to? Where were they disposed? It does not take a rocket scientist to work out they were disposed into the Watut River! There was no thorough ground water monitoring done to assess the bioavailability of hydrocarbons, VOC, PCB, and other environmental persistent chemicals.
Chair, the SMEC report confirmed that these waste treatment systems appear to be overloaded and unable to treat wastewater to permit standards. There was potential for downstream pathogenic and nutrient contamination, which poses a health threat to downstream inhabitants.
This indicates high potential of raw wastewater discharge downstream. Riverine communities and alluvial miners can and may still be easily be affected. Highly raw pathogenic contamination of the river system which can easily affect/influence the river health balance. That in turn is highly unhygienic and harmful, especially when the river communities use the river for drinking, laundry and washing cooking utensils daily.
This also has the potential of aggravating skin irritation and affects small sores or cuts on the epidermal layer of the skin especially on the foot or below the waist line. Issues raised by pregnant women bathing or crossing the river resulting in other health concerns can also be clearly linked to this.
It was also reported that there have been a number of recent studies examining ecological impacts. These include undertaking flora and fauna monitoring. A wide range of recommendations have been proposed, however, there was no consolidated program to implement recommendations and monitor their effectiveness.
I wonder what the extent of the ecological monitoring program is. Ok Tedi Mining undertakes studies even to the Mount of the Fly River and the nearby Kiwai Island. Although, MMJV is not permitted to dump their waste tailings onto the Watut River, the extent of the mined sedimentation that is already end up in the river system will obviously reach the junction of Watut/Markham River and ends up at the Huon Gulf. As the duty of care to the environment and also in line with the principle of best sustainable mining practice, that should be the extent of their ecological monitoring program.
The report revealed that MMJV’s monitoring program includes fortnightly air quality monitoring at three monitoring stations located at Manki, Upanda and Hikinagowe villages. None of the monitoring stations were operational during the time of the audit due to local disputes. Monitoring data collected at Manki village station was sighted – and this indicated no monitoring program since January 2009.
The report also mentioned that the hydro-Meteorology monitoring data was last reported in the April-June 2009 Environment Monitoring Report. This included river gauging and stream flow data for Pihema creek off take site for the second quarter of 2009. It also reported meteorological data including rainfall, humidity, barometric pressure, solar radiation, wind speed and direction, and evaporation. Monitoring data has not been reported since June, reportedly due to the resignation of the site Hydrologist.
The audit found that monitoring, quality assurance and training procedures have been poorly implemented. The data management system is not effectively monitored and controlled, with no data recorded since June 2009. There have been a number of reported non-compliances with Permit conditions; however there was no evidence to indicate that appropriate remedial actions have been undertaken. This is a clear non-compliance to this very important monitoring program.
It seems most of the non-compliance happened in 2009 prior to the submission of the UoWRC petition. Again the question of, if the petition was not submitted, would MMJV continue with its non-compliance? This is a seriously poor practice that has been allowed without any penalty being imposed.
This might possibly mean MMJV management can still report non-compliant data convincingly to DEC and they can still accept non-compliant annual reports without checking.
A major issue is the monitoring and management of sediment discharges. Historic data indicates high concentrations of sediment in receiving waters. There is currently no Permit requirement or management targets adopted for suspended solids.
DEC has not clearly established a permit limit for suspended solids. How can they impose control and compliance if they don’t have a benchmark to work with? Does that still mean that we can use WHO criteria or Australian guideline?
Chair, even the water samples taken during the audit showed elevated levels of arsenic, cobalt, lead, manganese, iron, mercury and free cyanide in excess of Permit requirements. That is normally the case, when wastes are discharged into the stream continually. They can easily be traced immediately downstream and near the source of discharge. As you move further downstream, due to dilution and buffering capacity of the flowing river, the traces disappear.
That evidence alone indicates the sub-standard method of waste management being practiced by MMJV where Toxic chemicals being discharged directly into Watut River. What is DEC doing?
 Offsite Impacts/Issues
Based on a review of relevant documentation, including MMJV’s annual and quarterly compliance reports, it is likely that mine activities have significantly contributed to high sediment loads in the Watut river, particularly in the Upper and Middle sections of the river. Major sources of sediment relate to pre-stripping/sidecasting activities, un-engineered waste dumps and landslides. A recent study (Pickup and Hargreaves 2009) concluded that approximately 20-30 metric tonnes of waste rock material have entered the Watut River system as a direct result of mine activities. The study also found that mine derived debris moving down the Kaveroi and Upper Watut channels has severely scoured the valley walls, resulting in increased risks for slumping of additional sediment and rock into the channel, and generation of mudflows during large rainfall events.
This confirms all the concerns about river sedimentation. It is a very sad fact and I believe DEC should squarely be liable as well for not responding immediately. Sedimentation has resulted in mass starvation of vegetation and plants along the river bank and aquatic life.
The report also indicated that suspended solid levels in the Watut river began to increase in mid 2007, which coincides with the timing of intensified mine construction. Up to late 2009 suspended solids concentrations were consistently in the range 5,000mg/L to 12,000 mg/L. This trend reversed in around mid 2009 when dumping (side casting) to the Eastern Dump ceased, leading to less, but still significant (>2,000 mg/L) sediment discharges to the river.
Obviously, mining activity at the upstream was the prime contributor to high level of sedimentation and as a result elevated suspended solid levels as indicated. Results greater than 2000mg/L is still significantly high. Water samples taken during the audit showed elevated levels of arsenic, cobalt, lead, manganese, iron, mercury and free cyanide in excess of Permit requirements.
Consequently there is potential for ecological and health related impacts on downstream inhabitants. No doubt, and again, mining activity at the upstream was the prime contributor to high level of sedimentation including elevated levels of arsenic, cobalt, lead, manganese, iron, mercury and free cyanide. The levels exceeded the limits specified in the Permit.
Now, the operation was NOT suspended by DEC, WHY? There were inconsistency observed within the internal systems of MMJV and yet the mine was allowed to operate. What standard are we using?
Also, due to elevated BOD and nitrogen levels in sewage effluent there was a high potential for pathogenic contamination of downstream waterways. This poses a serious health threat to downstream inhabitants. High nitrogen levels found in the effluent can cause algal blooms, oxygen depletion and degradation of waterways. Not sure whether DEC has notified the Health Dept about this. The Health Dept. should immediately engage an independent assessment on this issue. Obviously, the Health minister should explain this to his people at Lower Watut and Huon Gulf himself.
Chair, a number of studies have been undertaken to assess biodiversity impacts from mine related operations. Generally all studies conclude that biodiversity has been affected to varying degrees by high sediment loads and metal accumulation. The most recent study (Hidden Valley Aquatic Biology Gap Survey, 2010: Hydrobiology Pty Ltd (Environmental Services, DRAFT) confirmed that the biodiversity of the upper Watut River has been severely impacted by elevated sedimentation levels, with increased metals availability also a possible contributory factor to these changes in the river during the mine construction phase.
The study has clearly indicated the impact to biodiversity due to high sedimentation with increased metal bioavailability to plants and aquatic life. Has DEC impose any penalty yet to MMJV? Delay tactic and yes, of course, leave the environment to recover itself over time!
Didn’t the mine operator mentioned in their approved EMP that they will as much as possible minimize any damage to the environment, in this case, the biodiversity?SMEC report also highlighted that other than some anecdotal data and the claim made by the Union of Watut River Community in the petition, there was no report or data available to confirm that mine-derived sediment has caused reduction in income of the river communities.
In contrast a decline in fish population is, however, evident from the study conducted by Hydrobiology. This may not have had any impact on the people’s income as there is no evidence of commercial fishing in the Watut River. There is no evidence of reduction in crop production due to high sediment in the river.
To manage this, MMJV has engaged Dr John Burton to carry-out the socio-economic survey in order for them to understand that knowledge gap.
The report also mentioned that other than a few anecdotal records there were no data on mine-related health issues in the Watut River communities available during the SMEC study. However, based on audit findings the mine may be impacting on river communities in the following ways:
- Depletion of fish resources and a source of protein rich food;
- Some metals released into the waterway can cause skin related diseases.
- Consumption of fishes with elevated level of metals may also pose threats to human health; and poorly treated sewage effluent can potentially result in a range of health related issues such as diarrhoea, dysentery and stomach ache, and in some cases more serious diseases.
SMEC may not have the data/report or the statement may have been told to them by mine operator. The fact is they haven’t done any study on this. That is why to manage this; they have engaged Dr Keith Bentley to do a market basket survey as part of the Health Risk Assessment in order for them to appreciate that knowledge gap.
SMEC confirmed in the report that the Environmental Impact Statement prepared for the MMJV was undertaken based on the sediment load being distributed equally between the Bulolo and the Watut River systems. However as part of the works and the placement of the mine sites this has been amended to show that there is now a 90/10 split between the Watut and Bulolo Rivers. This increase in potential sediment load to the Watut River and potential environmental and social impacts were not assessed prior to construction of the mine.
That leaves us to still question, why the DEC Minister had a secret flight to meet with MMJV management and to see the issues first hand without notifying Morobe Provincial Government, Bulolo District or me the local MP.
Chair, this are very serious – and dangerous flaws. Their impact and implications are long-lasting on the water source health and even lives of the people. They signal a lack of confidence in MMJV as a trustworthy development partner and investor. But worse of all, the attitude of the Department of Environment and Conservation together with the Minister involved, to these issues completely goes against the democratic idea of governance. Instead of democratic governance being for the people – this is completely against the people.
This is the reason why there is growing pressure for the Government to relinquish its option on equity in mining projects to landowners, LLGs and the districts and assume the role of being regulator and tax collector more.
I hope my presentation based on the hard work of many experts and professionals will cause all stakeholders to do the right thing – for all our collective benefit – and especially the people living along the riverine areas from near the mine site all the way to the coast of Huon Gulf.
Thank you very much.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


By Watut Reporter.

Minister for Environment and Conservation Hon Benny Allen, MP anounced the formation of the Inter-Agency Environmental Advisory Committee(IAEAC), as it has already met and held its first meetings on O9th of June 2011. In that meeting, a formal visit of the State Team into Morobe Province and Hidden Valley Mine is schedule from 11th -15th of July 2011. The visit will be consistent with National Governments commitments made to address issues arising from the operation of the Hidden Valley Mine.

On 12th of May 2011, a consultation meeting with various stake holders including executives of the Union of Watut River Communities (UoWRC) Association Inc raises many of these which one of them was the release of the findings of the audit report by the Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation (SMEC) entitled "Environment Performance Audit of Hidden Valley Gold Mine and Assesment of Downstream Impacts of Mine Derived Sediment".

The exercise will engage various stake holders and creat awareness relating to the issues highlighted in the Audit Report by SMEC especially in relation to environmental management issues, impacts of mine derived sediment on biodiversity, human health, food security/safety and other related concerns expressed by the communities.

Mr Allan also mantion that Morobe Mining Joint Venture (MMJV) has responded positively to the findings of the Audit Report by implementing a comprehensive program of work. These work programs were contained in the Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP) submitted by MMJV, which was approved by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) in April 2011.

The Minister also stresses that Hidden Valley EIP will be assessed and evaluated by DEC assistance from Environmental Auditors to ensure that important issues raised in the Audit Report and addressed accordingly. The IAEAC will also have opportunity to oversee implementation of this program when they visit the mine site.

The Tentitive Program for IAEAC engagement commencing on 12th July to 16th July 2011 includes;
session briefing with Morobe Provincial Government and MMJV, Workshop engagement with stake holders, visit Hidden Valley Mine Presenting Police Vehicle and engagement with impacted communities. The hosting responsibilities will include Morobe Governor Luther Wenge, DEC, MMJV, MRA and Hon Sam Basil.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Three more Watut Leaders Arrested.

By Papua New Guinea Mine Watch

Three leaders from the Union of Watut River Communities have been arrested in Bulolo this morning and charged with criminal damage, apparently in relation to an attack on a Hidden Valley mine vehicle.
The Union of Watut River Communities is leading a campaign against the Hidden Valley mine over its pollution of the Watut river with acid forming rocks which has disrupted the lives of thousands of people who rely on the river for food, transport and cash incomes.
The alleged damage to the mine vehicle occurred when mine employees, accompanied by local police who were acting as security guards, illegally entered community land to collect river water samples two weeks ago. In contrast, the mine owners has refused permission for scientists engaged by local people to enter the mine site to collect water samples for independent testing.
Two other Watut Union leaders, Reuben Mete and Phillip Yalamo, were released from prison this week after spending the long-weekend in jail for the non payment of fines relating to the damage of another Hidden Valley mine vehicle last year.
The Hidden Valley mine is jointly owned and operated by Newcrest Mining and Harmony Gold.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

ANU academics for hire in danger of ignoring indigenous rights.

The hiring of a team of academics from the Australian National University by two mining companies operating in Papua New Guinea has raised concerns among indigenous groups fighting environmental damage from the mining operations.

The local people say the scientists don’t seem to understand some basic issues surrounding the the mining companies’ operations and are not welcome in local communities as they appear to be trampling all over the people’s rights.

The ANU academics have been hired by Newcrest Mining and Harmony Gold who jointly own the Hidden Valley mine and the proposed Wafi-Golupu prospect.

The Hidden Valley mine has caused large quantities of acid-forming sediments to pollute the huge Watut river system in Morobe Province and some local landholders have initiated legal proceedings seeking compensation for what they claim was negligence on the part of the mining companies.

The ANU team has been contracted by the miners to conduct socio-economic studies but the local people, headed by the Union of Watut River Communities, say the scientists don’t seem to understand that:

Many of the communities affected by the pollution of the Watut river are not in the mining lease area and have no contractual relationship with the mining companies

The mining companies are not authorized to speak on behalf of the Watut communities and cannot make decisions on their behalf

The mining companies cannot give the ANU scientists a legal right to enter the Watut communities

The Watut communities are not bound by any agreement between the mining companies and ANU

The mining company (and ANU) have no rights to set the rules or the agenda for the Watut communities

It is the people of the Watut communities who have the right to set the rules

The Watut communities have not granted any licence to the mining companies or ANU to enter their land and do social mapping or development studies

The Watut communities have not consented or given their permission for the ANU studies and have not been consulted and therefore feel their rights are being trampled all over.

Barrick Gold Facing more International Criticism.

Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold, owner of the controversial Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea and a major investor in the Solwara 1 deep-sea mine, is in the media again as more allegations of serious human rights abuses and collusion with a corrupt and brutal police force emerge at one of its African mines.

In an African mine, the lust for gold sparks a deadly clash

Geoffrey York*

The morning of May 16 began like many others. Carrying hammers and rucksacks, hundreds of Tanzanian villagers trudged to the mountain of waste rock at dawn expecting to make another illicit deal with the heavily armed police who protect it.

Two hours later, at least five villagers were dead and many others wounded – gunned down by police at the gold mine owned by a subsidiary of Barrick Gold Corporation of Toronto.

The shooting, the latest in a series of deadly incidents at the mine over the past several years, raises troubling questions about Barrick’s security agreement with a notoriously corrupt police force that routinely extracts bribes from the villagers who enter the North Mara mine to scavenge for traces of gold.

It also provokes questions about Barrick’s decision to keep operating in the anarchic conditions around its mining site, where violent confrontations are common, allegations of police abuses are frequent and deaths are inevitable.

During a five-day visit to the North Mara Mine and the surrounding villages, The Globe and Mail witnessed an atmosphere of conflict and intimidation. Interviews with injured survivors of the May 16 shootings and other witnesses suggest that most of the villagers were unarmed or carrying only stones when they were shot. The witnesses, along with the local police commander, have contradicted the company’s assertion that hundreds of people attacked the police with machetes, hammers and rocks.

The interviews also documented the widespread corruption of police at the mine, which the company is now investigating. African Barrick Gold, which is 74-per-cent owned by Barrick Gold Corp., confirmed to The Globe and Mail that it is investigating “whether employees and police have participated in a fraudulent scheme of accepting money for access to the site by illegal miners.” It said it has “provided these allegations to the police.”

According to police, there were 800 to 1,200 villagers at the mine on May 16. The number of scavengers was larger than usual because of information that the waste rock on that day would include high-quality rocks – information that is routinely passed on to the scavengers by mine employees and by the police themselves, according to the villagers and the Tanzanian media.

Normally, villagers say, the police accept bribes of up to several dollars a person in exchange for allowing them onto the mine site, but the bribes can be paid only when the villagers enter in small groups – so on May 16 the police were trying to break the scavengers into small groups. When they refused, the police fired into the air, and then began shooting directly at the villagers, witnesses said.

The police are investigating whether their officers were justified in opening fire on May 16, and in a series of earlier shootings at the mine. Barrick is also asking the police to investigate allegations of sexual assault by about a dozen police and security guards at the mine.

In every case, however, the police will be investigating themselves – something that is unlikely to reassure the 68,000 people in the villages around the mine, who see the police as corrupt and dishonest.

The facts of the May 16 shootings – and even the casualty numbers – are still in dispute. The police say five people were killed and three injured. The company initially said seven were killed and 12 injured but now says only five were killed. The survivors say the numbers were much higher.

Regardless of the numbers, there is evidence that at least some of the victims were shot from behind as they were fleeing. Tundu Lissu, an opposition member of the Tanzanian Parliament and a longtime critic of Barrick, says the unofficial autopsies on four shooting victims show they were shot from behind.

Two injured survivors say the same. Nelson Charles, a 22-year-old who has scavenged rocks from North Mara for the past three years, is hiding from the police because of rumours that they will arrest anyone who was injured in the May 16 shooting. But when he is tracked down for a long interview, he lifts his arm to reveal his gunshot wound. The bullet entered the back of his arm and exited through the front, supporting his story that he was shot by police as he ran for his life. On that morning, he says, he was carrying only the tools of his trade: a hammer and a bottle of water to wash the waste rocks as he searched for traces of gold.

Maulidi Issa, who has made a living from the waste rocks for the past 11 years, was shot in the hand in the same incident. He says he was unarmed and fleeing when the bullet hit him. Two other witnesses agree that they saw no weapons among the intruders.

Barrick will not comment on details of the shooting, except to say that the police were under fierce attack when they opened fire. “We are aware that the police have highly unimpeachable evidence establishing that masses of intruders invaded the area from many directions, that the police attempted to repel them using gas while coming under sustained attack, that police attempted to retreat from oncoming invaders, and again used gas to attempt to halt the attack, before they were overwhelmed and forced to defend themselves with live ammunition,” the company said in a statement to The Globe and Mail.

The company continues to insist that machetes and other weapons were used against the police. But it would not give any estimate of the number.

Constantine Massawe, the regional police commander in Tarime, the region where the mine is located, gave a different account. Nobody attacked the police with machetes, and the seven injuries among the police were all caused by stones, he said.

Mr. Massawe said the police opened fire on the villagers because they were throwing stones at police vehicles when the police tried to disperse them. In the past, he said, the police would retreat when stones were thrown, but this time they decided to shoot. He said the police are now investigating “whether there was a necessity for shooting or not.”

Mr. Lissu, one of several politicians and journalists arrested by police in Tarime in the days after the shooting, said that while in jail he met more than 20 villagers who had also been arrested. They were charged only with theft of waste rocks, and none was charged with any weapons offences, he said.

Mr. Charles, the injured survivor, said he personally saw two people shot dead near him on May 16. One of them was a bystander who wasn’t even involved in rock scavenging, he said. “He was just wondering what was going on.”

He said he had been running away for several minutes when he was hit by the police bullet. “Everyone was running and shouting and trying to save their lives. It was a massacre. I was shocked – normally the police only shoot in the air.”

Figures provided by Barrick show that an average of about 800 people trespass on the mine site every day, and 70 stoning incidents were recorded in the first five months of this year alone. The company notes that it has signed an agreement with the Tanzanian police requiring its officers to use “only the minimum force necessary to control any violent situation” and requiring them to follow international human-rights standards.

In the past, the company erected a fence to keep out trespassers, but it was torn down by the villagers. Now it is planning to spend $14-million to build a three-metre-high concrete wall for 12 kilometres around all of the mine pits and waste heaps – topped by electrified razor wire.

The villagers predict that the concrete wall, too, will soon be breached. In this impoverished and remote region of East Africa, they believe that Barrick’s massive mountain of waste rocks is their only hope of economic survival – and they will do anything to keep it open.

* Globe and Mai

Newcrest Mining cuts Production in Lihir.


Gold miner Newcrest Mining has downgraded its full year gold production guidance due to a power malfunction at its Lihir operation in Papua New Guinea.

The company said it now expects production of around 2.7 million ounces (oz) of gold in calendar 2011, down from the previously advised 2.82 million oz.

Newcrest said there had been a high voltage switchgear failure in the power station at Lihir that had interrupted production.

The processing plant is currently operating at reduced capacity as a result.

Repair work on the power station had begun, and a phased return to full operating capacity was planned over the next three weeks, Newcrest said.

There also had been minor production delays at other sites, it said.

Copper production and cost forecasts remain unchanged.

Thursday’s production downgrade follows a downgrade in April due to abnormal weather in Australia and PNG and political unrest in West Africa’s Ivory Coast.

[Newcrest also owns a 50% stake in the Hidden Valley gold mine in Papua New Guinea]

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Local PNG NGO making use of latest technology.

By Anthropologist John Burton.
From: Oceanic Anthropology Discussion Group.

We have been dealing with the Union of Watut River Communities, an
environmental NGO in Papua New Guinea. and at the same time Morobe Mining,
which operates the Hidden Valley mine, where I did a social impact
assessment ten years ago. These two are in dispute and our job is to try and
collect information that will throw light on the situation, in much the same
way that colleagues and I did at Ok Tedi 1991-94
One of a new wave of NGOs in the country, UoWRC makes very clever use of
blogs and the internet, including mobile internet, to get its message
across. For example, we had our picture taken by Blackberry at our first
meeting with the NGO and they had us posted on facebook before we could say
Jack Robinson.

We were initially taken into the communities where the NGO is active by its
leader, but in the last two weeks the relationship between UoWRC and the
mining company has soured over issues between them, and his position has now
altered. Hence the following post earlier today:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Intending candidates for Watut and Wampar LLG President warned to back off from Watut River issues.

By Watut Reporter

President of the Union of Watut River Communities(UoWRC) Association 
Incorporated Mr Reuben Mete has brushed aside criticism made against his 
organization (UoWRC) and warned recycle politicians intending to contest the 
Watut and Wampar LLG President seat not to used Watut River Issues as a campaign 
platform to lure peoples support for the next years Local Level Government 
Council Election.      

Mr Mete made this known today when addressing the members of the UoWRC in Middle 
Watut Region, The President of UoWRC was responding Mr Gewisa Tukwund of Leklu 
village and Markham Bridge Councilor Douglas Gedisa statement published on the 
National Newspaper earlier this week. Mr Mete has claimed that both Tukwund and 
Gedisa have recently formed and are heading two new organization duplicating the 
work of the Union of Watut River Communities Association Inc and 
warned communities of Watut and Wampar to be careful of other political 
leaders establishing organizations after organization and should study well the 
person they are following. Mr Tukwund is the Chairman of the recent launched 
Upper Watut Impact Association and Mr Gedisa is the Chairman of the newly formed 
Wampar Union. 

"The Middle Watut communities are very much affected by these mining operations 
in Hidden Valley and I invite Mr Tukwund and Mr Gedisa to visit the place 
themselves before making unsubstantial statement to the media.  The UoWRC has 
initially trying to work hand in hand to assist the Wampar Union faction to see 
its establishment however this shall no continue anymore" Mete said. 

In addition to that, Mr Mete has thank Hon Pundari in trying to address mining 
related issues around the country including the Watut River Pollution  and 
assures the representative to the recent meeting were Executive Members of the 
UoWRC organization and not for any family affairs. He also thank 
the Mineral Resources Authorities and the print media to publicize the meeting 
resolutions so that transparency and honesty will prevail and that self centered 
leaders cannot have rooms for misleading the people.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Poor call by Wenge

By Studor, Lae

Why is Morobe Governor Luther Wenge wasting time and people's money by suing a fellow politician? He should start serving the people of Morobe as a true songan. The people of Morobe are tired of his empty promises. I salute Bulolo MP Sam Basil for showing good leadership.

Monday May 09, 2011 - The National

Bad Taste, Governor Wenge.

By The Drum.

Have to assume the good Morobe Governor gave his PR staff the weekend off? His agitated performance bouncing around in front of the camera on last night news didn't look good. Sit down next time, Governor. That performance just raised all the poor stereotypes we have come to expect of pollies. And the subject of the story, the Watut River Pollution, would only harden the affected people attitude when they saw the belligerence with which he addressed them rather than the conciliation they Probably expected from their leader.

Post Courier April 27, 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mining Minister to invites Watut Union for talks.

By Watut Reporter

Members of the campaign group the Union of Watut River Communities (UoWRC) have been invited by the Mining Minister Hon John Pundari to a dialogue meeting with other Governments Departmental heads including the Department of Environment and Conservation, Mineral Resources Authorities and Mining Department in Port Moresby on the 11th May, 2011. The Minister make this known yesterday at the recent launching of the new bulldozer for Mumeng LLG yesterday. President of the UoWRC Mr Reuben Mete in confirming this today says the issues that will be discussed will only includes those many outstanding issues made by the Papua New Guinea National Government Departments and nothing on the current litigation court case as UoWRC is looking forward to sue the developer of the Hidden Valley Mining the Australia based Newcrest Mining and South Africa's Harmony Gold on its nuisance sedimentation and chemical with toxic pollution on the Watut River causing serious environmental damages that affects thousands of communities downstream with their ecosystem.

The outstanding Government commitments including the appointment of a state team and an environmental audit into Watut River.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Union of Watut River Communities Executives to meet.

By: Watut Reporter

The Union of Watut River Communities is expected to meet early next week to strategies on its plan to hold the Papua New Guinea Nation Government responsible for ignoring the concerns raised by the Hidden Valley mine affected communities. Secretary for the organization Mr Chris Wena confirm the meeting saying every executive members are looking forward to attend. Mr Wena also confirm that resolutions for the recent forum held in Lae was already prepared and would be presented to the Department of Environment and Conservation, the Department of Mining and the Mineral Resources Authorities soon.

The General Secretary Mr George Paul says their next cause of action would not be discussed at this stage as they have been preparing to take the Government of Papua New Guinea and the foreign mining companies by surprise. Attempt to reach PNG Government Officials and Morobe Provincial Governor Luther Wenge for comments were unsuccessful. The Watut Reporter believe this was because of the festive session.
 The Bulolo National Highway Road Block in October 02, 2009 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

DEC failing to regulate the mining industry, says Basil.

By Watut Reporter.

MP Sam Basil has criticized the Department of Conservation (DEC) for failing to
regulate the mining industry in Papua New Guinea and ensure its operations are
environmentally safe.
"DEC has a responsibility on behalf of the Nation to ensure that mining operations
are safe and will not damage the environment. Yet time after time the mines end up
causing massive problems while DEC sits by and watches", says the MP.
"We have already had massive pollution from Bougainville, Ok Tedi, Tolukuma and
Porgera mines and sadly now it is the same with the Hidden Valley project. The PNG
Government through DEC is telling the world that mining with pollution is normal in
PNG and the people must accept that fact".
Mr Basil has recently filed legal proceedings against the Hidden Valley mine in his
constituency over its pollution of the Watut river.
"It is not good enough for Minister Benny Allen to say DEC received an
environmental audit report on the Hidden Valley mine in May this year and will be
working on an environmental improvement plan."
If the Minister's sponsored report audit says the river is safe then I will invite the
minister to Watut River to consume a litre of Watut River to prove to me that the
rivers is safe.
"Where is the report? Why have I not been given a copy? Why don't the landowners
who are suffering the impacts of the pollution have a copy? Is DEC trying to cover
up things for the mining company? The report should be released immediately".
Mr Basil says DEC should also explain why it gave the Hidden Valley mine an
environmental permit in the first place and how it is the company was able to pollute
the Watut river without DEC noticing anything was wrong.
"DEC, like MRA, is supposed to be protecting landowners and our environment,
not facilitating mining on the cheap".
Mr Basil says he has instructed his lawyers to look into whether DEC and the
Minister could be legally held liable for the damage the mine has caused.

Watut Union Refuted Comments.

 By: Watut Reporter

The Union of Watut River Communities (UoWRC) Association Incorporated President Mr Reuben Mete has refuted the statement made by the Burum Kuat and Wampar LLG President Dick Iwong and Peter Namus respectively as baseless. Mr Mete made this known in a statement yesterday saying that the early media reports made during the public forum to air the communities grievances due to continuous ignorance of political leaders and Government Authorities has substantial facts to support it due to long overdue outstanding commitments made by the Morobe Provincial Governor Luther Wenge and that the issues concern is of a life or death situation that going to also affects the future generation of the concern communities. He further challenge Mr Namus that the Watut River pollution issue is a national issue and not just for the Watut Communities as precedence is needed to be set in Papua New Guinea when it comes to the Environmental Destruction by foreign companies operating in Papua New Guinea and what was being said at the Forum related to the Issues – Hidden Valley Mining causing Environmental Damage to Watut River; is to be accepted by the concern leaders.
Mr Mete emphases on into the commons saying which stated as ‘Absolute Power Corrupt Absolutely’ and further   elaborate that leaders of Morobe Province should not only make public commitments but they should also implement them. It is their own failure that has leads to concern community leaders calling them with names. Mr Wenge was making commitments to the Watut River Communities since 29th November 2009 in a UoWRC Forum held in Kapin, Middle Watut and later again on the 21st January 2010 in Markham Bridge saying that Morobe Provincial Government would fund scientist at around K100, 000.00 to study Watut River and also would be ready to pay the court bills for the Court against the Hidden Valley mining operated by the Australia’s Newcrest Mining and South Africa’s Harmony Gold which to this date was still outstanding.
Mr Mete further stress that the Impact statements and the Environment Statements by Hidden Valley Mine are  crucial in the case of the Watut River Communities, where sediment levels and no doubt high levels of acid forming material have been allowed to flood and inundate the floodplains of the lower Watut. The people in these areas fall outside the mine impact area and therefore receive no compensation for the damage done to their native environment. The developer in the first instance said this was not possible as their environment impact models don't show the phenomenon as possible. They have since fallen silent on that line because their experts have been proven to be wrong, as all the other experts have been in other resource projects in PNG, and have left the onus of proof to be the responsibility of the peoples along the Watut River and the Bulolo District JDBPPC. All except the people have followed the dollar signs offered by the developer and so it is now up to the people to take the fight to the developer.
Dr Wari Iamo, Sasa Zibe and Luther Wenge should be held to account for this mess and Hidden Valley should be shut till the matter is mutually resolved with all the peoples that will be affected/ impacted by the project. The developer should show why they got it so wrong and compensate those impacted appropriately.
Attachments 1
Thursday 11th February, 2010
Scientist to study river systems
MOROBE Governor Luther Wenge announced yesterday that a scientist will be engaged to study the Markham and Watut river systems for any pollution by mining activities upstream.
Governor Wenge said the Provincial Executive Council (PEC) met last Friday and approved K100,000 for a scientist to study the composition of the Markham and Watut rivers where all waste from the mine is discharged into the two rivers by the Morobe Mining Joint Venture (MMJV) at Hidden Valley.
He said the scientist will collect samples from the two rivers to identify any substance of danger that poses threat to life for people living along there and those who come into contact with the two rivers. He said this has come about after he made a commitment to villagers at Markham bridge and also villagers at Mumeng to bring a scientist to study the amount of substance concentration in the two rivers.
Mr Wenge did not verify if the specialist will be a national or an expatriate, citing that it was up to the provincial administrator who was the Provincial Supply and Tenders Board (PSTB) chairman.
He said the applicants will have to bid through the PSTB when tenders are put out and will undergo a screening process before they could be engaged in investigating the amount of pollution in the two rivers.
Meanwhile, he also urged women at the markets throughout Lae city and the province to prepare food and water sold at the markets through safe and healthy food preparation practices.
He said with cholera still around, mothers should be mindful of their food preparation habits and make sure the food sold to their customers were prepared using clean water sources.
He also appealed to the customers to make sure they follow simple rules in washing their hands before they eat their food.
Mr Wenge said he understood the economic burdens brought on by the start of the academic year and did not want to stop women, who were trying to make ends meet to feed their families and pay their children’s school fees.
He said he did not want to take these opportunities away from the women and urged them to be responsible for the products they sold.
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Attachment 2
Thursday 10th February, 2011
Morobe sets to discuss mining issues through forum
PREPARATIONS are well underway to stage a Morobe Mining Forum in Lae later this month to discuss mining issues affecting the province.
The forum is organised by the Morobe provincial government and is planned to be staged at the PNG University of Technology’s Duncanson Hall.
Morobe MPs including Governor Luther Wenge, government officials, mining officials, company executives, local community members, leaders, scientific organisations and stakeholders will participate.
The purpose of the forum is to gauge views by way of debating and discussing issues concerning mining operations in the province.
Many issues have been raised currently on the operations undertaken by Morobe Mining Joint Venture (MMJV) by affected communities with their outspoken Bulolo MP Sam Basil.
Huon Gulf MP and Minister for Health Sasa Zibe said yesterday that all Morobean MPs, local leaders and interested parties should come together and debate issues ranging from landowners, conservation and environment and benefit sharing agreement.
Mr Zibe said other issues in relation to mining practices employed by developers, regulations and legal frame work would also be discussed at the forum.
“The outcome of this forum is to bring all known and perceived problems and issues to the table and encourage mediation process between all parties through which solutions would be found that concern local landowners, national and provincial government and the developer,” Mr Zibe said.
He added that he decided to propose the forum because he believed that there were workable partnership with investors rather than going through court battles.
“Morobe people and leaders must stand together on this issue. Mining is here to stay but we as a province must lay the ground rules for companies to come and operate,” the minister said.
Mr Zibe said that his people were set to be affected once the Wafi mining which shares the electorate with Bulolo electorate operates.
The minister said he was hopeful that amicable solutions would be found for current dispute between all parties involved in the Morobe Mining Joint Venture (MMJV) through mediation after the debate and forum.
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

New Zealand Adventurers Kayaking Watut River.

THREE young adventurers from New Zealand have pledged to the mine impacted communities along the Watut River that they will assist in giving international exposure to destruction of the river from water pollution.
Barney Young, Shannon Mask, Jordan Searle from New Zealand’s South Island were on a kayaking expedition around Morobe province and joined forces with the Watuts, Labu and Markham people who converged at a public forum last Friday in Lae after kayaking down the Watut river, to voice their concern against lack of political support to their suffering.
Barney was given the opportunity to address a packed Sir Ignatius Kilage stadium, where he promised on behalf of his countrymen to spread the word back in New Zealand and online.
They aim to get as much people to know about the destruction to the Watut river which is one of the best white water rafting river in the Southern Hemisphere.
In a separate interview after the forum, Barney, Shannon and Jordan described the Watut river as an amazing river which its tourist attraction.
Apart from their stance against the Watut river destruction, they also spoke of the friendliness of the locals which was contradicting to the advice they got from foreigners and travel agents.
Another interesting thing they noticed is the high costs of services in towns, especially the use of internet. The trio are currently tackling the fast flowing Busu river in Nawaeb district, starting upstream at a point where there is no record of kayaking taking place there, with no guide which makes it more interesting.