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.