“The legacy that we want to leave for our children, and for our grandchildren, is a simple one. We want them to be able to live in an environment that is clean, healthy and safe. We do not want them to suffer the consequences of choices we make today: to be left with an ocean full of toxic waste, sick from being exposed to heavy metals and unable to support their families. No! The ocean is our life, it is not a dumping ground, and neither are we.”
– REVEREND YASAM AIWARA, HEAD OF JABEM DISTRICT, EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA
On behalf of 2,596 community members across Papua New Guinea’s Lae district, Jubilee Australia Research Centre and the campaign group No Wafi Golpu DSTP filed a complaint with the OECD against Newcrest Mining and Harmony Gold.
The OECD guidelines oblige companies from signatory states to respect human rights in the course of foreign business operations: Newcrest Mining and Harmony Gold are Australian-based companies operating in PNG, and therefore responsible to the OECD’s Australian National Contact Point.
The communities living along the proposed pipeline and outfall area have vocally and strongly opposed the mine proposal across its lifecycle, with support from the wider PNG community base. As a key mechanism to highlight human and environmental rights violations, The No Wafi-Golpu DSTP campaign group submit an OECD complaint on behalf of these communities, in order to put pressure on the companies involved to operate within OECD guidelines.
What is the OECD?
The OECD is the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. It produces independent analysis and statistics that help to promote policies for countries that sign up to be a part of it: At the moment there are 38 member states, including Australia.
Together with governments, policy makers and citizens, the OECD work to establish international standards and find solutions to a range of social, economic and environmental challenges.
Most importantly, there are a set of OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises that provide guiding recommendations and standards for responsible business conduct for companies.
What is the OECD Complaint Process?
Anyone can make a complaint to the OECD through National Contact Points (NCPs) which are set up in every country that is a member of the OECD.
The No Wafi Golpu DSTP complaint was submitted to the OECD Australian National Contact Point because Harmony Gold (Australia) and Newcrest Mining are Australian-based companies operating in PNG. This complaint to the OECD has been submitted because we believe they breached, or broke, the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises.
The OECD complaint process is not a legal process, and it is not enforceable. It cannot stop the Wafi-Golpu mine from going ahead. What it can do is provide steps for mediation between the companies and the impacted communities, and an opportunity for negotiation.
This is how it works:
- A complaint is submitted, and the OECD NCP then investigates
- If accepted to the next stage, the OECD NCP conducts a deeper examination of the claims of misconduct
- A report or a set of recommendations for future mediation is developed
- Opportunity for dispute resolution procedures.
For more information, visit OECD Watch here.
Why make a complaint?
Making a complaint is a way that we can put pressure on the companies involved, from their base country. In the case of the Wafi-Golpu mine, this is in Australia.
It is also a key way to highlight failure to respect the environment and human rights that is not a court.
What are the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises?
The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises set out international standards for businesses operating across more than one country. They are a set of recommendations, agreed to by governments, on how businesses can operate responsibly. The Guidelines cover a range of topics including: Environment; Human rights; Labour rights; Corruption; Transparency; and Tax.
The Australian OECD National Contact Point, based in the Department of Treasury, has the power to investigate complaints made against Australian companies operating overseas, where those companies are alleged to have breached the Guidelines.
The National Contact Point can make findings on whether companies are in breach of their obligations under the Guidelines and also recommend actions to address any breaches that have occurred.15
13 available at https://theconversation.com/not-if-but-when-unless-papua-new-guinea-prepares-now-the-next-big-earthquake-could-wreak-havoc-in-lae-185708#:~:text=Lae%20sits%20adjacent%20to%20a,economic%20hub%20for%20the%20country.
14 page 10 of 81, https://static1.squarespace.com/static/576cc5cb4402430e8c118af2/t/5b5e5d58f950b7feeb84e474/1532911235078/Chapter-06-S.pdf
Who are the organisations involved in the OECD complaint process about Wafi-Golpu DSTP?
- Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea
- Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights (CELCOR Inc), a public interest environmental law firm based in Port Moresby
- Jubilee Australia Research Centre, an Australian non-government organisation that focuses on accountability in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific
We have been researching the companies’ Environmental Impact Statement’ and the way it has consulted with communities, and have submitted the complaint on Wednesday, 09 November, 2022.
What is the complaint saying?
The complaint is saying that Australian companies Newcrest Mining and Harmony Gold (Australia) have breached many of the OECD Guidelines, especially the guidelines regarding the Environment, but also those regarding Human Rights.
The complaint submitted argues that the proposed mine poses a serious risk for:
- Communities living along the coastline of the Huon Gulf, which includes communities living in floodplain zones
- Communities living within Lae, a growing urban city that is built along an earthquake-prone faultline area
- The future of Customary Land Rights and Free and Prior Informed Consent process in Papua New Guinea – legal and policy procedures of which are being undermined by the Australian-based companies involved.
Deep Dive into the NCP Complaint Filed
The complaint is 50+ pages long, and has detailed pieces of evidence and research as well as community testimony to back up the claims above.
In a snapshot, it also says:
- the opinions of Professor Ralph Mana, including his views that tailings will spread across the Gulf and will not land on the bottom of the ocean;
- the environmental problems linked with DSTP, including that it can cause serious and not reversible environmental damage;
- DSTP is not allowed in many nations of the world, and is only permitted for new mines in two countries: Norway and Papua New Guinea;
- the companies’ failure to provide adequate information to communities of the Huon Gulf, including regarding how toxic the tailings are, and about where tailings will go;
- our concerns about possible impacts on human health;
- failure to respect human rights;
- absence of free, prior and informed consent of communities before the companies decided to go ahead with DSTP;
- what we want companies to do – including for the companies to look at other ways that they can manage their mining waste that does not involve dumping it into the ocean near Wagang.