By Morten Rønning
Last year, the legal system granted the land owners in the area by the Porgera mine 75 million NOK (app. 12 mill USD) in compensation for use of water and land, and pollution. However, the authorities withheld the payments when they claimed that the communication between the mine and the local population was insufficient.
15th August last year riots broke out, leading to the death of two people by the police (see newsletter 6 and 7/96).
According to Melanesian Environmental Foundation in Papua New Guinea, the majority of the compensation, more than 60 million NOKs, have not been paid.
Now the local population try to draw the mining company into court. In August, the land owners encouraged the authorities to withdraw the permission to use the river as a dumping site, in order to put pressure on the company with regard to the missing compensation.
The company on its side claims that the payments were stopped due to disagreements between the land owners. Yaliman Pawa, spokesman for the land owners, claims that the first payments mainly went to a minority of people who do not actually own land in the area.
This autumn, Papua New Guinea has been subject to the worst drought for many years. In addition, forest fires have raged the island, while frost in the highlands have destroyed many crops.
Due to water scarcity, the Porgera mine has been closed several times during the autumn. Already in September, it was reported that the water resources were down to less than 5% of normal levels. The mining company felt compelled to share its final water resources with the local population in November.
Recently, the co-ordinator for the drought in Papua New Guinea, Peter Barter, reported that studies show that 695.000 people are now threatened with hunger and disease due to the drought. Of these, 150.000 belong to the so-called categories 4 and 5, the most seriously stricken groups. Barter says to the New National 11th December that the recent investigations may lead to the establishment of category 6.
- Category 6 basically means that you can start counting bodies, Peter Barter says.
Norwatch Newsletter 18/97