The riots started around 8 o’clock in the morning, and seven vehicles were burned, both outside the offices of the local authorities, at the airport, and in the mining area. Rebecca Kuala of Porgera’s Development Office tells the newspaper The National that the demonstrators were wielding axes at the airport, and several people were killed. More than 100 indigenous people were arrested by the police and the mine’s own security personnel, but the demonstrators later stormed the jail and released over 50 of those detained. Two of the demonstrators were shot as they tried to flee from the jail.
On August 31, more than 200 police officers searched the homes along the Porgera River looking for equipment stolen during the riots against the mine. The chairman of PRAMA, Opis Papo, claims that the mine’s own security personnel took part in the action. His own files and computer were confiscated, and he says that their opponents now have all PRAMA’s data relating to the dispute concerning compensation to the indigenous people. According to the newspaper The National, September 2 this year, Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) says it had nothing to do with the searches.
An assistant at the Porgera District Office, who was to monitor the payments, resigned from his job the week before, after receiving death threats from the local population. PRAMA members have for some time discussed the tailings with the mine management. The judicial system in the country recently awarded the indigenous people 15.2 million kina (K), almost USD 10 million, as compensation for the mine’s use of the river as a dump site. The Minister of the Environment Paul Mambel stopped a payment of 2.4 million K, citing poor communication among the parties concerned. According to The National, PRAMA demands payment of the entire amount, so that those concerned can decide what to do with the money.
“We are not involved in political activities in the countries in which we operate,” said vice president communications Brad Larson of Dyno Industrier, Oslo to NorWatch 6/96, as a comment to the mine’s negative impact on the environment.
The Porgera mine is among the worst mines in the world when it comes to pollution, and discharges thousands of tons of waste in the Strickland and Fly rivers daily (see NorWatch Newsletter 6/96). More than 7,000 indigenous people are affected by these discharges. The concentration of heavy metals and other toxic substances are in some cases thousands of times higher than what is allowed in, for example, Australia. The mine is owned by the Australian companies Placer Pacific, Highlands Gold, Renison Goldfields and the state of Papua New Guinea.
The local authorities have confirmed a number of unnatural deaths in the area in recent years, probably due to the mine poisoning pigs and sago. The national authorities, however, have imposed few restrictions on discharges. The upper 140-kilometer stretch of the Strickland River has been declared a “sacrifice zone”, and in this stretch of the river no measurements of discharges are carried out. An accident at the DWL’s plant in August 1994, killing 11 workers, is presently subject to a public hearing in Papua New Guinea. The mining authorities’ report after the accident blamed the DWL, but the company says it is not to blame for the explosion.
Dyno in Papua New Guinea
Dyno Industrier owns 50% of Dyno Wesfarmers Ltd., headquartered in Australia. Partner is the Australian company Wesfarmers. Dyno Wesfarmers Ltd. has a number of production units in Asia, and is a major supplier for the mining industry in Southeast Asia, with its own factory at the mining site in Porgera.
Norwatch Newsletter 7/96