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.

Watut River Forum Resolutions - the 21 day Ultumatum

The 21 day ultimatum to the Papua New Guinea National Government and the Morobe Provincial Government to act before the communities resolve as to their next cause of action which will come after May 11, 2011.

The demands include:

1. That the Morobe Governor meets all its outstanding commitments made to the concerned communities since 2009 which have never been fulfilled;

2. That Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), Mining Department and Mineral Resource Authority (MRA) come down to the communities and address their outstanding problems and explained to them fully their commitments in establishing a state team and their engagement of SMEC into the Watut River issue.

3. That the National Court action taken by the Union of Watut River Communities be continued and shall include the Huon Gulf mining impacted communities;

4. That Morobe Mining Joint Venture should not visit the impacted communities outside of the Hidden Valley MOA area;

5. Authorities, including Bulolo District JDBPPC and Government of PNG to look into the outstanding 471 garden compensation payments and respond ASAP.

We urge the National and provincial authorities to address these demands no later than 11 May, 2011.

Failure will result in further action by landowners.

Authorized by:

Reuben Mete
Union of Watut River Communities Association Inc.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Newcrest Mining and Harmony Gold Mining Companies pays Lousy Compensation

 Union cites flaws in compo to Watuts
Many of the rural villages received K100 – K300 compensation with the lowest cheque payment done by the mining company being K4.

RECENT COMPENSATION described as “nuisance” payments by the Hidden Valley mine to communities along the Watut River were not conducted properly.
The Union of Watut River Communities (UoWRC) president Reuben Mete has claimed this is because the mine’s community liaison officers allegedly failed to explain the ‘Statutory Declaration Form’ that they forced the communities to sign with a sworn statement, fearing that they might sell their individual rights to the foreign mining companies.
UoWRC further criticised HVJV of allegedly bullying the local community along the Watut River over the recent compensation payments for food gardens, cash crops, houses (improvements) and riverside alluvial gold mining backdated since 2007.
Mr Mete said the payments were a nuisance with many human rights violations and serious breach to the mining and regulation principles of compensation.
He alleged there was a serious misconduct by the HVJV community liaison officers with false pretence claims that needed to be seriously looked into under the relevant mining and environmental regulations of the State.
He was responding to a letter UoWRC received from the Mining Minister, Environment and Conservation Minister and the Mineral Resource Authority informing them about the nuisance practices by the Newcrest Mining Limited, one of South East Asian biggest mining company and the Harmony Gold Mine company, the world’s fifth largest gold mining company and their alleged bullying techniques to downplay the rural communities of Watut River. Hidden Valley Joint Venture (HVJV) is a 50-50 joint venture between Newcrest of Australia and HGM.
Mr Mete confirmed that 471 ardent claimants along the Widipos, Samsam-Plenkwa and Baiune in Mumeng LLG constituency in the Bulolo District have refused to participate in the HVJV payments as community liaison officers with provincial and LLG officers assisting the mining companies, have failed to explain the ‘Statutory Declaration Form’.
The union’s newly appointed secretary, Chris Wena also alleged that the officers were bullying certain communities to sign those HVJV legal documents which could jeopardise any further compensation claims.
According to Mr Wena, he was present when the final batch of HVJV compensation payments were made early last month, and claimed that he witnessed certain individuals walking off with K200-K300 cheques. This was believed that was because of their alleged association with the individual leaders that were being used that time or with the HVJV community liaisons officers. It was because many of them lived and worked in Lae and had no garden for assessment. However the manner in which they walked away with cheque payments of even over K10,000 was highly suspicious of misconduct by the staff of mining companies.
Many of the rural villages received K100 – K300 compensation with the lowest cheque payment done by the mining company being K4.
The union is now a waiting the response from the relevant mining and environmental regulators as 471 of its member’s claims were still waiting release by HVJV. Mr Mete confirmed that certain communities along the Upper, Middle, Lower Watut areas have refused to participate in the assessment carried out by HVJV.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

HVJV and District Government Officers accused in Middle Watut.

Picture: Galawo Community School in Middle Watut.

By: Watut Reporter

Bulolo District government officers assisting the Hidden Valley Joint Venture (HVJV), owned by Newcrest Mining of Australia and Harmony Gold of South Africa, have yesterday receive warning in the Middle Watut area. The government officers from Bulolo District who have been going around with the Mining officers to lure local support for the interest of the company were issued this challenge and are told not to be seen again in the area especially with the HVJV companies. 

It was believe that the communities were frustrated about the nuisance compensation payment that were being carried out by both the government officers and the HVJV and other media publications from the Newcrest Mining company that they have implement Sustainable Development projects in that area which was all lies by these multi million Kina mining companies.HVJV general manager David Wissink has made media statements that they have implement projects such as Water Supply, Foot bridge, Classrooms, inland fish-farming, and many others but to this date, nothing has been implemented.

Bulolo MP Hon Sam Basil who is schedule to visit the area last week has cancelled his visit and is reported to reconsidered all his commitments due to the yesterdays incidents.

Watut River Forum set to be stage in Lae.

By: Watut Reporter

A public forum is expected to be stage in the heart of Morobe Province - Lae City; to deal with issues related to the pollution of the Watut River System. The date set for the Forum is Friday the 15th April 2011 at the Sir Ignatius Kilage Stadium. This was made known by the organization responsible for the Watut River fight the Union of Watut River Communities (UoWRC) today.  

Mr Reuben Mete, the President of the UoWRC in confirming this says that his organization is very keen to see  that all the communities along the Watut River within the two Electorate boundaries namely the Huon and Bulolo shall come, stand united to find amicable solutions to deal with the foreign mining companies operating the Hidden Valley Joint Venture - the Australia's Newcrest and the Harmony Gold of South Africa. 

Communities in Labu, Markham Bridge and Wampar with villages in the Lower Watut, Middle Watut, Latukatop and Upper Watut are expected to turn out in numbers. Invitations have been sent to Bulolo MP, Huon Gulf MP and Morobe Governor Luther Wenge with other relevant Government Agencies to present to be answerable to their outstanding commitments. Hidden Valley Joint Venture will also be invited to present at the Forum. Preparations for the staging of the event are a all well in advance.

Union of Watut River Communities (UoWRC) Executives in Madang to Learn.

Left to Right: Chris Wena, George Paul, Peter Mathew, Henry Givisa, Reuben Mete and Maria Miti infront of the NBC Madang - Maus blo Garamut.

By: Watut Reporter

Common experiences in Morobe and Madang have drawn together members of the  Morobeen bases Union of Watut River Communities (UoWRC)  affected by large-scale mining operation in the Hidden Valley Mine and today they visited the studios of Radio Madang to air their grievances about the Hidden Valley and Ramu mines.
The Union has been campaigning against environmental damage by Australia’s Newcrest Mining and South Africa’s Harmony Gold, owners and operators of the Hidden Valley gold mine in the Bulolo District of Morobe Province.  Reuben Mete, the President of the UoWRC  is calling for government recognition of the pollution problems in the Watut river and for a proper scientific assessment and compensation package be done to benefits future generations of communities living along the Watut River.
The team also were given information on how Papua New Guinea government has been ignoring the rural communities in bringing in foreign developers who does not respect the rights of the rural communities hence, leads to problems such as in Panguna, Ok Tedi, Misima, Ramu Nickel and now Watut River. The purpose of our visit is about exposure and learning. 
The team is expected to arriving in Lae  to run the Watut River Forum to be stage this Month at the Sir Ignatius Kilage Stadium.