“The Minister has ill-informed the parliament and the government.
Take home message is Wagang is not a good spot for DSTP. Period.”
– DR RALPH MANA, INDEPENDENT RESEARCHER.
The Wagang and Yanga communities are the most at risk by the Wafi-Golpu mine proposal. They have not had the opportunity to provide or withhold their consent, and are particularly concerned about the risk to their livelihoods, water sources, homes, and lives because the mining proposal includes dumping toxic mining waste into the ocean of the Huon Gulf.
The companies running the mine are obliged to provide communities with adequate and accessible information in relation to developments that affect them.
Why are Wagang and Yanga most at risk?
The Wagang and Yanga communities have not been provided with current, accessible, or transparent information about the risks of the mine’s waste pipeline going straight through their village, their agricultural land, or the ocean that they subsist from.
The mine proposal includes a 103km pipeline that will transport 360 million tonnes of toxic waste directly into the villages, and end up being dumped as tailings into the Huon Gulf ocean in a method known as ‘Deep Sea Tailings Placement’, or ‘DSTP’. The use of Deep Sea Tailings Placement (DSTP) is not legal in Australia, where the companies are based, and is used by only 15 mines in the world. Read more about the dangers of the pipeline here.
Any failure of this 103 km pipeline will cause environmental destruction and chemical contamination of rivers, food and water sources, agricultural sites, and sacred sites. It can result in loss of human life. With ample research confirming this risk, the companies are still proposing to build the pipeline and use DSTP to dump waste into the ocean.
Who will be impacted?
The campaign group No Wafi-Golpu DSTP estimates that more than 400,000 people along the Huon Gulf could suffer the impacts of DSTP, as well as future generations who also would have depended upon the Huon Gulf.
The mining waste will be dumped under 2km from Wagang village, and less than 1km from the shoreline.
People living along the 103km pipeline could also be affected if the pipeline were to crack or spill.
This could happen, given that PNG is seismically active.
The importance of Wagang and Yanga
Wafi-Golpu is going to be one of the biggest projects using DSTP in PNG, and this is being approved at a time when all nations around the world – except PNG – have stopped using DSTP for new mines.
The people of Wagang and Yanga are powerful guardians of the Gulf. They are the only coastal villages assessed in the companies’ Environmental Impact Statement. They can stand up to protect their village, Lae, people of the Huon Gulf, and future generations, from the suffering that will come from having their environment damaged.
The people of Wagang and Yanga have an important power, at an important moment, to stop the use of DSTP in Papua New Guinea: It is these communities who can set a precedent for protecting water and life in Papua New Guinea and ensuring that DSTP is no longer an option for any company operating in the country.
What happens if there is environmental damage after DSTP?
There are no laws in PNG about DSTP, which means that people really are unprotected if something happens to the pipeline, or if the waste does not settle deep enough in the ocean.
It is also more difficult to do investigations in the deep sea to determine the short or long term impacts of the mining waste on biodiversity and water quality, making it difficult to contribute any damage to the mine itself.
If communities are not protected by laws around DSTP, and there is no available baseline research to refer to if there are problems and impacts from the mine, then the company should not be allowed to proceed with the project.
What does the company say about how the project will affect Wagang and Yanga?
The companies put together an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
They have stated just some of these as impacts of the construction of the Infrastructure Corridor and outfall system:
- The outfall system will take up approximately 2.1 hectares;
- Some people living in Yanga may have to move from their houses;
- People from both villages may lose or have damage to gardens, cash crops, water courses and springs;
Impacts for the life of the mine - at least 28 years, but could be more than 50 years.
Where the Infrastructure Corridor is, no gardens or houses will be allowed.
The land where the mix/de-aeration tank will be located.
Where individuals seek to grow gardens or build houses over the Infrastructure Corridor, which would not be allowed, and if individuals refused to stop, security personnel may become involved and use inappropriate levels of force.
Impacts during the construction phase (at least 1.5 years)
Impact on water use and water-based livelihoods
Springs and creeks used for collecting drinking water, washing and bathing in the immediate area of the Infrastructure Corridor may be disrupted temporarily during construction
People would not be allowed to walk on the Infrastructure Corridor and Outfall System site, so people will need to walk around it for everything that they need to do.
Access to Wagang Beach
Minor impacts on access to schools during construction, with students needing to travel a little further to detour around construction activities. In particular, elementary and primary school students from Wagang village would have to cross the Infrastructure Corridor to reach schools at Yanga and Bowali (near Yanga). Elementary and primary school students from Yanga would not be impacted.
The ‘Project may threaten community cohesion and could likely lead to law and order issues.
The Project could exacerbate alcohol use, drug use, domestic violence, land conflicts and public disturbances;
- The Project may exacerbate a concern that existing land and water resources would not be able to support future generations. Wagang village leaders stated that land availability for future generations was the principal concern of the village, as the land is currently constrained by Busu River to the east, the coastline to the south, and existing land uses to the north and west. The potential Wagang Fisheries Wharf project less than 500m to the west adds to this concern.
- People being concerned about DSTP affecting fish and water quality may reduce the amount of fresh fish caught and eaten (or gifted to family members), the amount of time spent fishing and swimming recreationally, and the amount of revenue earned from selling market goods and beer to recreational visitors to Wagang beach.
- Affected land owners will receive compensation for loss or damage to land, arising from the construction of the Infrastructure Corridor and the Outfall System.
- This is specific to land owners, and not all villagers who are impacted. The companies say that ‘disputes may arise as to landownership, where landownership influences the amount of compensation payable to individuals’.
- Workers from elsewhere ‘from a range of different cultural backgrounds can be a source of animosity within the workforce and between the workforce and local communities’.