Group to study mine impact: MP
By CALDRON LAEPA
THE Department of Environment and Conservation will set up a committee to address environmental issues relating to Australian mining company Newcrest’s Hidden Valley mine in Morobe Province.
Minister for Environment and Conservation Benny Allen said this yesterday after returning from a visit to the mine site on Wednesday.
Mr Allen and his delegation visited the mine and villagers in Likwue in Upper Watut and Sambio in the middle Watut area.
He said various unions and NGOs had tried to address the issues of alleged mine pollution into the Watut River but these attempts never turned into tangible fruition.
He said the body would be called the Environmental Advisory Committee to be effective once Cabinet gave its approval.
The committee would be chaired by Secretary for Environment and Conservation and various government departments such as Health, Mineral Resource Authority.
Mr Allen said after paying a second visit – the last being during the constructional phase – he had consulted his technical team in the department which agreed that much of the damages to the Watut River was a result of sedimentation.
He said Watut was a high altitude area, thus when a lot of rocks and soil was removed during the constructional phase of the open pit mine, a lot of the sediment got into the river system. He admitted that the level of sedimentation that took place was way out of what was provided in the Environment Impact Studies (EIS), therefore the company would have to compensate the people who were affected.
Mr Allen said the company had compensated about 3000 people and was yet to pay 300 more which had cost the company about K3 million.
But he said he adviced the company not go ahead with the compensation payment but rather follow proper Government procedures.
He said from meeting with the company, Newcrest had built stone walls to prevent sediments from getting into the river system. He said the mine tailings were not dumped in the river system but were kept in a large pool and recycled and cleaned so it was environmental-friendly.
Mr Allen said what got into the river was acid from the rocks that were removed in the mining process.
However, he said this was not harmful to the river and fish because the Watut area had a high level of alkaline. He said the acid from the rocks only neutralises the acid level to a rate of that was within the acid compliance level.
Despite this Mr Allen said there was still a need to have proper water acid measurement of the river to confirm the cause of death of fish.
He admitted that the river colour had changed.
Mr Allen said they were putting an environment plan together to mitigate the harm caused by the mining activity.
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