Papua New Guinea landowners say enough is enough
PORT MORESBY (PAPUA NEW GUINEA) – Landowners from mining affected regions in Papua New Guinea (PNG) have declared their fierce opposition against public funding for new mining projects. They stated that their clans are committed to defend their customary rights.
“Decades of mineral mining have left a legacy of environmental degradation and uprooted the social fabric of many communities in PNG, while the revenues have not been equally redistributed,” said Matilda Koma from the PNG Environmental Watch Group (NEWG).”Human rights violations, alcoholism, prostitution and AIDS are on the rise at mine sites around the country.”
Added Francis Warum, leader from the Watarais community near the proposed Kainantu mine: “We urge anyone intending to support the Kainantu project not to take the risk involved. We are not willing to see the mine go ahead or welcome it on our land.”
The statements were made at a historical gathering on Motupore Island, PNG where landowners of mining affected areas and potential new mines came together to share experiences of mining and strategise how to deal with its impacts.
All who gathered at Motupore witnessed and experienced that mining operations from Ok Tedi to Bougainville, have similar disruptive environmental, social and economic impacts, in some cases leading to violent conflicts.
Augustine Hala, from the affected community around the Tolukuma Gold Mine stated, “We rely very heavily on the land for all of our needs. We have seen the mine’s negative impacts on the environment, social, spiritual and cultural life of our people.” Continued Hala: “The financial institutions that are thinking of financing new mining projects in PNG should understand that they are contributing more to poverty. We have fought for our land and we can also fight to protect our land again. We are hoping that all the financial institutions will listen to us.”
“Landowners are in a unique position in PNG where they own 97% of the land according to the PNG Constitution. It is the landowners that have the power to veto projects,” said Damien Ase from the PNG Center for Environmental Law and Community Rights Inc (CELCOR). “They have sent a clear message to both investors and public financiers like the World Bank and the Australian export credit agency EFIC that enough is enough.”
Kate Walsh from Australian NGO AID/WATCH commented “Australian taxpayers money, through EFIC – the Australian Export Agency, has financed a swathe of controversial projects in PNG. The era of the Australian government support for destructive projects has to cease immediately.”
Janneke Bruil from Friends of the Earth International added, “support for the mining sector is a direct contradiction with the World Bank’s claim to alleviate poverty. It must not finance any new mining operations nor continue to promote further weakening of national mining laws. It is time to recognise people’s right to self-determination.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Damien Ase CELCOR / Friends of the Earth PNG,
Kate Walsh AID/WATCH +61 2 955 8944
Janneke Bruil, Friends of the Earth International : 31 20 6221369
Interviews with landowners and photos of the mines can be arranged
through Matilda Koma, NGO Environmental Watch Group PNG