As bilong ripot

Dispela em i ripot blong we maining bin bagarapim sindaun bilong ol lain blong Wara Watut long Morobe Provins, Papua Niugini. Olsem i gat wankian ripot i stap long planti ol arapela main displa bai stap olosem ripot tu blong maining industri blong Papua Niugini. Ol efeks blong main blong Watut i no bikpla wankaim olsem Porgera, Ok Tedi o Panguna main, tasol em i bikpela asua tu.. Em i asua bikos long ol bagarap em mekim ol ples lain, na tu mekim wankain asua olsem bipo em i soim klia piksa olsem senis i kamap isi isi tru long maining indastri.

As blong displa ripot i kam olsem wok Mineral Policy Institute, long 1995 i kamap long nau, long kainkain mein blong Papua Niuguinea. Ol lain blong Wara Watut i bin gat wari long asua i kamap long wara long taim displa main i stat, na askim helpim blong MPI klostu long pinis blong yia 2010. Behain long dispel, long stat blong yia 2012, Lutheran Sious blong Papua Niugini, wantaim Mission EineWelt blong Germany, bin givim tok orait long MPI long wokim displa painimaut.

We bilong wokim painimaut

We bilong wokim dispela wokpainimaut i bin isi. Oli bin sapos long kisim olgeta ripot i bin kamap pinis long Hidden Valley, na bungim wantain sampla toktok na komplein i kam long ol ples lain long wara. Tasol wankain olsem ol narapela hap long wol long maining indastri we ok kain infomesen i save stap hait, kamapani i bin haitim planti ripot long kominitis na stekholdas. Planti taim ol i rekwes long ol infomesen blong asua blong Hidden Valley mine na hau long manesim ol dispel asua i no go aut long pablik yet.

Tasol sampla ‘data’stap long ‘Environmental Impact Statement’ blong Morobe Mining Joint Venture, na oli wanwan ripot bilong environmen i kamap pinis olgeta yia long wanpela komiti. Na ol environmen ripot blong Depatmen long Environmen na Consevasen blong 2010 [ol SMEC Ripot] i bin helivim mipla kisim save long we bilong waitsan i kamp bikpla long Wara Watut. I no olgeta toksave stap op, tasol ol DEC ripot makim trabel i stap long konstrasen blong mine, operasen blong mine, na ripot blong environmin blong mine.

Olsem, dispela ripot kamap long glasim saiens long ol toksave i stap pablik, wantaim sampla intavu blong ol mamapapagraun, na sampela tingting blong MPI blong ol kastom blong industri. Dispela samtin ol i kolim ‘Standards and Practices’—mining olsem ol lo blong wokim wok—mas i kamap gutpela nau na larim olgeta ripot stap long han blong pablik olsem kirapim ‘transparency’ blong indastri.

Ol painimaut na efeks

Plenti efek istap yet long mining blong Morobe Provins blong bipo, wantaim ol efeks i wok long kamap yet long Hidden Valley mine nau. Tu bai gat bikpla efeks moa yet kamap sapos ol i opim Wafi-Golpu long mining. Papa bilong tupla wantaim em Morobe Mining Joint Venture, tasol MMJV gat tupla papa, em Harmony Gold blong South Africa na Newcrest Mining blong Australia. Na i gat sanis long efeks i bung go na kamap bikpla moa sapos ol i painim na divelopim sampla moa gol insait long dispela hap.

Tupla Newcrest Mining na Harmony Gold i bin kisim sampla asua pinis long ol waitsan i kamap long sait sait long Wara Watut, na ol efeks i bin kamap long peles kain olsem gaden na kastam hap; ol man i lusim peles sindaun long niupela hap ; na bagarap blong wara na ol samting stap long . Tasol ol i no putim displa infomesen i go aut long pablik peles, na tu dispela ripot i hat long lukluk long ol kain infomesen olsem stap pinis wantaim kampani.

Tasol evidens i stap long we kamapani abrusim ol kastom blong lukautim environment taim oli workim mine—na hau ol i lukautim ‘waste rock’ (rabis ston), i bin kamapim bagarap long long Wara Watut, na kain dabolim waitsan long Wara i go-kam long sip long Wara Watut.

Long 2006 i go long 2009 waitsan blong main sait i kamap olsem 20 igo long 30 milion ton long Wara Watut. Bipo kamapani bin tok olsem Upper Wara Watut na Wara Bululo bai skelim gut displa waitsan i kam, tasol taim i kamap samting olsem 90 persen i bin go daun long Wara Watut.

Planti deti long Wara Watut i kamap pinis long displa waitsan, tasol tui igat sampla kemikol i stap insait long wara nau ol save kolim ‘sulfate,’ ‘aluminum’ na ‘arsenic’. Tasol bikos kamapani ino luksave long ol gut, yumi nogat save long hamaspela long displa kain kemikol nogut i stap nau. Ol ripot bilong environment blong 2011 na 2012, na ripot bilong sait bilong 2012, soim hau ol i bin wok long kamapim wara klin moa yet, tasol dispel saiens ino gutpela tumas.

Sampela wara stop long tripla kain stekholda yet: (1) Ol komuniti wait yet long kampani long klinim wara na garun gut, na ol i gat wari yet long bagarap moa yet bai kamap; (2) Ol MMJV, Harmony Gold na Newcrest Mining kamapani wari long nem bilong ol i bagarap pinis; (3) Lokal, Provinsol na Nesinol Gavamen bai gat nid nau long glasim na lukautim bagaparap blo mine; na (4) ol bikpla manmeri blong mining indastri gat wari nau long stretim lo bilong wokim mine, na stretim nem bilong indastri tu, nogut ol i lusim moni na nem bilong displa.

Ol ripot bilong SMEC tokautim long Hidden Valley abrusim majoriti (43 bilong 73 total) kastom bilong wokim dispela mai. Na tu ol i abrusim pinis sampla bikpla lo bilong indastri, olsem oli (1) abrusim kampani polisi bilong Newcrest Mining na Harmonry Gold, (2) ol i no komplitim olgeta ripot blong ICMM na GRI, (3) ol i no sindaun na toktok gut wantaim ol manmeri peles, (4) abrusim plenti inap lo blong OECD blong multi-nesinol kamapanis i luk olsem wanpela komplein bai kamap long Australia, (5) abrusim ‘Equator Principles,’ na wanpela promis blong bung wanbel wantaim ol memba bliong ‘Equator Princples’—ANZ, HSBC, Credit Suisee, Barclays, JP Morgan Chase, Westpac na National Australia Bank.

Tokaut stronpela moa yet i kam long ol kominiti bilong Wara Watut, husat i les pinis long pasin blong kamapani, na singautim nid long senis. Ol i nidim senses we ol lain bilong peles bai gat pawa bilong wokim disisin blong laif na divelopmin blong ol yet. Oli les long kamapani na manmeri bilong narapela kantri stap longwe bai mekim disison tasol. Nek na tinging bilong ol istap long piksa (video) stap wantaim displa riport. Em bai givim gutpla stori long ples lain.


Displa ripot i gat stori blong ol pasin nogut na bagarap i bin kamap long Hidden Valley kampani. Ol ino go pas long stori nogut long mining long PNG. Tasol ol i kamap long taim bilong ol pablik, NGO, lotu na gavamen blong PNG tu wok long wari na komplein long mining indastri bilong ol I no lukautim gut ol graun o pipol bilong peles. Olsem, ol tingting long displa ripot ol i stap piksa long olgeta industri bilong mining blong PNG.

Hidden Valley Mining no ken wokim hait pasin long efeks ol i bin wokim or senis ol i save bai kamap long graun na environmen. Displa kain pasin we ol manmeri bilong ples ol in o kisim save o pawa, emi pasin nogut na emi abrusim ol rait bilong manmeri long peles. Sapos yumi no stretim dispel problem na pasin bai stap, planti ol birua bai kamap yet namel long ol ples manmeri na Hidden Valley, Wafi-Golpu na ol arapea mine long Morobe na PNG. Sapos PNG laik kisim benefit long dispel kain mining, ol boslain blong kampani na govamen tu mas sinduan gut na harim wari bilong ol komuniti.



Hidden Valley (documentary) from Mineral Policy Institute on Vimeo.

A people speak out for their river, and for their future The Hidden Valley gold and silver mine in the Morobe Province is affecting communities living along the Watut River, a long and fast-flowing river in the lush mountains of Papua New Guinea. In this evocative and beautifully shot short documentary…

For more information, report, photographs see

State Crime – on the Margins of Empire, RIO Tinto, the War on Bougainville and Resistance to mining

Author: Kristian Lasslett, Pub: Pluto Press, paperback, 2014, 256 p.9780745335049

Book Review: Charles Roche, Mineral Policy Institute

Dr Lasslett, a criminology academic from the University of Ulster, has provided a new and thought provoking analysis of mining and the Bougainville War in State Crime – on the Margins of Empire, subtitled, Rio Tinto, the War on Bougainville and Resistance to Mining. While both themes are valuable to those interested in either state crime or Bougainville, it is the connection between the two, supported by new and original data sources, that brings the theory alive and applies a novel approach to examining the contributing stresses and causes of the Bougainville rebellion.

Readers more familiar with mining and/or interested in Bougainville might prefer to start with chapters two (p.28) through to six that focus primarily on Papua New Guinea and Bougainville, before coming back to Marx and Capital which Laslett introduces to in the very first sentence. While starting with the theory of state crime and the empire of capital may be challenging for those outside the field, Laslett manages to present a fairly brief overview of how the interactions of state, market and empire in Melanesia resulted in state crime on the margins of empire.

Building on a concise history, Lasslett discusses the trajectory and impact of PNG capitalist development at the hands of England, Germany and Australia. Describing a process of ‘neotribalisation’, which reinforced the tribal nature of PNG society and produced a ‘very different form of democracy’ than was envisaged by the colonial administrators, perhaps caused by the difference between the bicameral system based on political party alliances as in Australia or England; and PNG with it’s unicameral parliament and the ever-changing tribally divided politics. The result was a political system that has little capacity to check the growing abuses of patronage that have grown out of the traditional wantok system of reciprocity. This, according to Lasslett, has lead to a process whereby marginal interests have disproportionate influence over government policy and natural resource development, with governments seeking to impose conditions that suit the market. The end result has been the poor delivery of services and an unshakeable belief that large scale transnational delivered resource extraction is the only viable option for fiscal dependence.

Panguna was, in some ways, seen as the solution to PNG’s need for development – as long as development was defines by a classical liberalism and the free market definition, rather than small scale locally controlled development. The answer was Panguna, a large-scale project by international standards containing almost one billion tonnes of ore. Some 40-50 years later, the industry is acutely aware that bringing large-scale accelerated development to largely subsistence communities is fraught with danger, if not doomed to failure. At the time, however, the impacts and implications from the fracturing of community, the destruction of the environment and radical changes to the Island’s political economy were either underestimated or ignored. In Bougainville this resulted in flow-on impacts from environmental disturbance; overburden and mine waste; and increased social tension between those able to capitalize on mining’s economic benefits and those who could not.

In Chapter Three, from landowner crisis to industrial sabotage, Lasslett examines Bougainville Copper Limited’s (BCL) response to the social rupture caused by and surrounding the mine, in terms of temperament, structure, institutional culture and class. Ironically, or perhaps perpetually, one of the pressures on BCL was the falling and low copper price. Ironic in the sense that the mining industry today, is once again shedding social and environmental staff and programs as it seeks to drive down costs and increase profits with the subsequent and predictable tensions, that arise from such a strategy, evident around the world. The struggle for control and evolution of the Panguna Landowners Association (PLA) makes for interesting reading as BCL and the PNG state try to respond to a rapidly deteriorating situation, bereft of the cultural understanding, governance and communication skills that could have ameliorated rather than exacerbated the rising tensions on Bougainville.

The middle section presents a detailed account of the events leading up to the shutdown of the mine, the ensuing troubles and finally the civil war and military blockade that caused the death of 16000-2000 people. For some readers it will be a familiar story, albeit supported with new primary sources that Lasslett interviewed as research for the book and the PhD that underpins it. For those unfamiliar with the war on Bougainville, how it was fought, the intentional brutality and the deliberate targeting of civilians via the military blockade, it will be a shocking story.

The complicity, in what Lasslett accurately describes as a state and corporate crime, of the PNG Government together with representatives of BCL and parent company Rio Tinto are laid bare. The active political, military and economic role of the Australian Government is one Australians, including the then Prime Minister Bob Hawke, might prefer to forget. Unfortunately, Bougainvillians do not have the same luxury as they try to come to terms with impact of the war and respond to the aggressive push to reopen Panguna.

Chapter seven, State crime and really existing capitalism: the lessons of Bougainville, re-examines the events in previous chapters through the criminological lens. Providing evidence “…that a highly coordinated, international campaign of state violence was organized by the PNG state, in collaboration with their Australian counterparts and BCL.” While evidence of war-time atrocities is always shocking, perhaps more shocking, is the documentation of Australia’s complicity in a war they have conveniently forgot, even as the current Australian government actively supports the re-opening of the Panguna mine.

In the afterward, Lasslett identifes a number of PNG commentators and academics, among them Dorney, Callick, Ona and Regan. While acknowledging their experience, knowledge, and earned respect, Lasslett disagrees with them on key facts, seeing the as them as critical of the BRA and very much pro the BCL and accepting, if not supporting the neo-liberal extractive agenda that many see as the only option for Bougainville to ‘develop’ and achieve independence. It would be interesting if they responded to Lasslett’s book, allowing readers to hear the reasoning behind their views and to make up their own minds.

Lasslett presents an interesting and challenging view of the role and impacts of mining on the Bougainville Crisis, a view at odds with some academics, and the pro-mining and investment media that dominates mainstream coverage in Australia, PNG and Bougainville.  Hopefully by continuing to examine the events of Bougainville, we can avoid the looming disaster of a rush back to dependency on large scale mining. The Bougainville Crisis’ had lessons for all of PNG and the mining industry, perhaps Bougainville needs to examine the impact of post Panguna mines (Ok Tedi, Porgera, Misima) before it rushes back to the past.

But the last word should go to Lasslett, who cites the research behind Jubilee Australia’s 2014 report, Voices of Bougainville in making this statement;

“…while quite triumphant overtures are being made with respect to the mine reopening, simmering in the background, is enduring discontent over injustices and grievances associated with the war. These are explicitly articulated by community members… [who] …demonstrate a strong desire to pursue an alternative model of development, which gives communities a greater sense of self reliance, stability, security and sustainability.”






The impact of mining is often obvious. Examples of positive benefits and the negative impacts are repeatedly demonstrated. In Western Australia we have see the rapid bust following the spectacular boom of the mining industry, and in Papua New Guinea (PNG) the expatriation of profits and associated impact from riverine tailings disposal at the Porgera and Ok Tedi mines.

There are also less obvious impacts from what the West calls development, such as increases in domestic violence and HIV Aids often associated with mining in PNG. Perhaps even more disturbing is the fundamental way that development, the assumptions it’s based on, and the values that underpin in it undermine the relationships and connectivity between communities and land. Where development is accompanied by, or perhaps built on, a loss of agency (capacity for free thought and action) and autonomy from the very communities it purports to assist.

In two companion articles, Professor James Leach, Director of Research for the Centre de Recherche et de Documentation sur l’Océanie and an ARC Future Fellow at the University of Western Australia, explores the indirect impact of mining-led development on the Reite Village in the Madang Province of PNG. In an engaging narrative that presents the lived reality of the communities to the reader, the articles challenge basic assumptions about customary land, property and development.

This article is part summary, part review and part discussion. It’s impossible in a short article to understand the Reite Community or do justice to Leach’s three years of participant-based observation there. Rather, the aim is to understand mining-development in PNG; seeking a path than contributes to healthy and just societies supported by ecological well-being.

The Reite village is twenty kilometers from the Basamuk Bay processing plant that is connected to the Kurumbukari nickel mine by a 130 kilometre pipeline. The ore is processed at Basamuk Bay and shipped overseas with the mine waste disposed of via a 150 meter deep pipe into the 1500 meter deep Basamuk Bay canyons.

The values and belief systems of the Reite communities is illustrated by their bark-fibre skirts which have named patterns in the skirts and are owned by, and deeply connected with, particular kin groups and places. The skirt pictured below, carries the design Tupon sarrung, which means ‘waterfall,’ and brings together the movement of the waterfall and the person as one, enhanced by the swish and flow of the dance. Even in this basic description, the interconnectedness between land and people is apparent.

Leach writes of the reproductive power of community, experiencing people who”…are, in a very real sense land made mobile, containing as they do the power, substance, knowledge and history of specific lands.” (Leach, 2011, 312) Here, land is not institutionalised through ownership or state sanction but is collectively held and nourished through interconnected life and ritual. The design on your skirt tells others where you are from – a place of shared land and exchange as the basis of cultural life and kinship, a place where the relationship between land and people is complex, multifaceted and interwoven across time.

Tariak waering bark fibre skirt (naie) - James Leach

Tariak waering bark fibre skirt (naie) – James Leach

The change in communities is captured by Leach’s description of a ‘time of taro and yam’ and a ‘time of money’. Like many communities in PNG, Reite people rely on starchy crops (like taro, banana, sweet potato, sago and yams) as their staple food, and in their case it’s taro. But as the skirts are more than clothes, taro is much more than food. Professor Leach describes a centrality of taro, with the subsistence role of taro indistinguishable from taro as form and structure in social life. There are specific ways of growing taro, which is passed down in initiation rights by maternal kinsman, tracing the history of how they came to grow taro. The history of taro and people is connected to land and ancestral entities in a myth of taro called Samat Matakaring Patuki.

Now though is the ‘time of money’, with communities wanting to capitalize on the opportunities brought by development to make money, to counter the fact that twenty toea, has no power, that is twenty toea does not buy much. Indeed, this is seen as the right, moral way, of realising value from the land. Which, without direct development from the mine, is sought through resource intensification. Effectively resulting in a marked increase in the commodification of agriculture as communities seek to sell more produce to those in and around the processing plant as they pursue the opportunityor ‘time of money’.

Unfortunately the ‘time of money’ is both dependent on, and at the same erodes, the ‘time of taro and yam’. While communities seek opportunities to earn additional income, the communities remain subsistence-based. A life where people still use shifting cultivation for gardening and the raising of domestic animals, supplemented by hunting in the forest. Leach writes that the “…Reite could not be sustained without the foundation of the subsistence regime; the social organization, mutual support, and kind based exchange (including labour) that are integral to taro and yam cultivation.” (2014, p.58).

Far from being an abstract notion, Leach writes that the system is on the edge of collapse with the forest being cut far too rapidly to maintain fertility and allow regeneration to occur. So rather than gaining from this ‘time of money’ it “…is unsustainable in a very immediate sense, and worse it is destroying the foundation for an existence based on the cultivation of tubers.” (2014, p.58).

This is not written as a criticism of a community for seeking development, but in recognition of the unintended consequences of industrial development. Startlingly, this time it’s not a community resettled, or living on a river filled with mine waste, but a community on the fringes, just seeking a better life.

While the impacts on the future of subsistence agriculture are easily seen in increased land-clearing, less apparent is the flow-on effects on social and cultural life and the strong food/land ties that bind them together. Both the skirt and taro examples relate to the strong, indistinguishable connections that subsistence and clothing have with the culture, history and the land. So by this point, hopefully we can see that ‘land is life’ (a much heard PNG saying) in a far deeper multifaceted sense than development based on western liberal traditions would have us believe.

Basamuk Bay Village - photo by Charles Roche

Basamuk Bay Village – photo by Charles Roche

Leach refers the reader to J.G.A Pockock (1992) in both articles as he explains how western ideas of property reduces land from a vital relationship, to a simple ‘right to use and dispose of’. Essentially saying that the Reite relationship to land and the western tenured system are different, perhaps, I would say, incommensurable. Again, rather than an abstraction, this understanding is crucial to the debate, as the PNG legislative process for deciding who is, or are, the customary owners, is grounded in a reductive system that favours clean lines and outright tenure of instead of complex interactions and shared ownership. Or, as Leach writes, where the fundamental relationship with land is changed as economic value takes precedence over other values.

The proximity and possibility of development brings a range of stresses alongside opportunities, including the fear of losing their land to external development, or of missing what seems like the only chance for development. The fear that Palota expressed of losing his relationship with the land he was named from without his knowledge (2011, p.296). Leach describes a “…shift in assumptions from when customary ownership tenure was a mode of autonomy to one in which customary ownership is a kind of property ownership.” (2014, p.58)

Separated by time and space, it seems unbelievable that post-enlightenment western liberal views on the centrality of property ownership, could now impact on the Reite and customary land ownership in PNG. A history with shared land interwoven with social activity and cultural values; exchanged for a single alienable asset that must be capitalised on to be of value. A change where complex interactions with the land are compressed into a singular notion of land as property in a process perhaps best described as legal colonialism.

Leach, supported by questions by Palota, (2011, p.296) describes this process as a loss of autonomy. Not a denial of sovereignty by force, but by an ill-balanced and thoughtless process resulting in the drastic and sudden narrowing of the value of land that sees communities sacrifice much in the pursuit of the chimera of development. Where “…(F)far from giving greater sovereignty. ‘The time of money’ and its underlying mechanism of the individual exploitation of property amounts to the ceding of sovereignty to the state, and the interests of the corporations it relies on for its income.” (2011, p.58)

The fact that communities actively seek this development does not lessen the impacts, but should remind us that communities need all the facts and a clear understanding of the impacts of development in order to make informed decisions. This perhaps is the biggest challenge. Unfortunately, rather than slowing down, mining companies and advisors from Australia, continue to promote a system that brings destruction to communities in the pursuit of western development.

Leach is not anti-development, nor am I, but we both I believe, seek an honest discussion of what ‘development’ means and how it could be better done in PNG – for the benefit of the people, rather than the developers or miners. As one who focuses on the direct impacts from mining, Leach’s work, detailing off-site or fringe impacts has disturbed me.   For while already aware of, and seeking to, reduce cultural fragmentation from mining projects, the story of Reite brings that impact to life. It is also a call for help and a stark warning to other communities in PNG seeking development, the proponents of such ‘development’ and even for those who seek to lesson the impacts.

For those who want to follow up on the Reite or Professor Leach then start here


Leach, J. (2014). ‘The time of money’: property and sovereignty as alternative narratives of land and value near the Ramu NiCo mining project (Madang, PNG). Journal de la Société des Océanistes, 138-139.

Leach, J. (2011). “Twenty Toea Has No Power Now”: Property, Customary Tenure, and pressure on Land Near the Ramu Nickel Project Area, Madang, Papua New Guinea. Pacific Studies, 34 (2/3 Aug/Dec).




Deep Sea Mining Webinar from DEEP-DOSI and MESPIndustrial Mining in the Deep Sea: Social and Environmental Considerations
Samantha Smith, Director of Blue Globe Solutions and former VP of Corporate Social Responsibility for Nautilus Minerals, and Charles Roche, the Executive Director of the Mineral Policy Institute.
Webinar available here (69 minutes duration)
Charles’ presentation available here (warning 4mb pdf)

May DSM pres cover


In February’s Mining Monitor, MPI outlined a proposed and potentially damaging mine on Woodlark Island in Papua New Guinea, highlighting a number of potential ecological and social impacts. Part of MPI’s work is to make information about such projects available and accessible, recognising that freely available information is critical to engendering both transparency and equity in mining developments. Unfortunately, a paucity of information and a lack of transparency by Kula Gold Limited make it difficult for interested parties to access information about the project.

To highlight potential impacts and encourage more, MPI has assisted in publishing two webpages on the proposed mine at Woodlark Island, one focusing on environmental and social justice issues and the other concerned with the responsible financing of the project.

The first of these is The Environmental Justice Atlas ( a database of teaching, networking and advocacy resources. The website is accessed through a geographical interface which directs users to global database of conflicts over resource extraction. The database includes specific details of environmental and social impacts and is an effective teaching, networking and advocacy resource which is particularly useful to strategists, activist organizers, scholars, and teachers as well as citizens wanting to learn more about the often invisible conflicts taking place around the globe. The database is a product of a project called the Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade which will run from 2011-2015 and is supported by the European Commission.

EJAtlas Woodlark

The EJAtlas is not only an important communication and information dissemination tool for Woodlark Island, but is also useful resource in the sense that it supports the work of Environmental Justice Organisations such as MPI. Central themes of the website are Ecological Debts (or Environmental Liabilities) and Ecologically Unequal Exchange. These are issues of fundamental importance to MPI’s work in Papua New Guinea. MPI’s work on Woodlark Island has been added to the Environmental Justice Atlas and other work will added throughout the year.

The second website ( is a website created by BankTrack, an NGO which focuses on the responsible financing of projects, which MPI has been a member of for many years. Kula Gold is seeking financiers to establish their controversial mine; in doing so exposing the operations and investments of private sector banks is integral to transparency. BankTrack is a particularly powerful website because it provides a cross-referencing platform for banks, deals, companies and a whole range of projects that impact negatively upon the ecological well-being of the planet and compromise the chances a decent life free of poverty and injustice for all people.

BankTrack - Woodlark island

Even after the 2008 global financial crisis, private sector banks still represent a crucial source of finance for companies and governments, exerting great influence on the operations of their clients and on society as a whole. The aim of BankTrack is to make private sector banks become fully transparent and accountable for their activities to all their stakeholders and to society at large. The website is an important tool in promoting fundamental changes in the banks and in the informing them on the expectations of global civil society regarding environmentally sound and socially just business practices. The structure of the website and its capacity to show clear relationships between various companies, banks, projects and financial deals makes it a powerful resource.

By working with, or alternatively, holding these banks to account, projects such as Woodlark Island can be assessed for their impact and operations, for example against the Equator Principles.

The question is whether or not the mine can be operated responsibly. Will it contribute to sustaining healthy and just societies and ecological well-being or will it be just another mining legacy? Real concerns about the proposed mine include: resettlement of communities, the dumping of mine waste at sea, and enduring social and environmental impacts that will affect the communities long after the mine has gone. The proposed mine’s marginal financial viability multiplies the chance of interrupted or abandoned operations, increasing the risk of poor social, economic and environmental outcomes.

Both of the websites strengthen civil society’s capacity to monitor mining activity, and influence private sector banks and the capacity for NGOs, to undertake their work and provide direct support for mining affected communities.

Newcrest Mining released their 2014 Sustainability Report earlier in April. As a large Australian gold mining company, Newcrest operate a number of mining and exploration sites in Australia, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. These include both the Hidden Valley mine and Wafi-Golpu exploration/development site in the Morobe Province of Papua New Guinea, which are operated with Harmony Gold.

The Mineral Policy Institute (MPI) is a little skeptical of the value of sustainability reports, as they are often a defense of the status quo rather than a tool for improvement. A typical report makes the company sound responsible, but omits any real challenges and uncomfortable truths. Hoping for change, from the company that wants to be seen as the ‘miner of choice’ MPI had a look.

Important background is that in October 2014 at Newcrest’s AGM, MPI formally presented copies of the Hidden Valley documentary and the accompanying report Mining in Morobe, Papua New Guinea: Impacts from mining along the Watut River to Newcrest Board Chair Peter Hay and CEO Sandeep Biswas. Hidden Valley contained strong feedback from communities about the need to change the approach to mining development, giving communities the right to ‘choose their own future’. The Mining in Morobe Report supported this with an assessment and analysis of Newcrest and Harmony Gold’s reporting. Multiple breaches were found in convention of the ICMM Principles, the OCED Guidelines and the Equator Principles with further problems relating to company policies, sustainability reporting and assurance.

We are pleased to acknowledge once again that Newcrest became a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights during 2014. Both provide opportunities for Newcrest to improve their performance and set a good example for other companies.

We note that Newcrest gave their own work a tick of approval in relation to stakeholder engagement and the International Council of Metals and Mining (ICMM) and Global Reporting Index (GRI) Principles. Unfortunately they never mentioned the Watut River, let alone the ongoing impacts on community and environment caused by sedimentation from the Hidden Valley mine.

It is useful to compare that self-assessment with the number of (unacknowledged in the report) sustainability issues at Hidden Valley and Wafi-Golpu. Table 1, from the Mining in Morobe Report assesses Newcrest and Harmony’s (and the Morobe Mining Joint Venture, MMJV) activities against a number of OECD Guidelines finding numerous breaches. MPI is yet to receive a response to these specific findings or a general response to Hidden Valley and Mining in Morobe Report.

Interestingly, despite being employed by Newcrest and guided by their criteria, the assurer, Ernst and Young made a number of interesting statements (p.52) alongside their limited assurance statement. In brief these included: (1) the benefits from strengthening engagement with NGO’s at a corporate level; (2) additional direct engagement with external stakeholders regarding reporting criteria; (3) additional case studies of interest to specific interest groups to demonstrate Newcrest’s response to challenges (ie Watut River); (4) improving the timeliness of the report as a means of identifying onsite issues and responding to stakeholder interests.

Despite having fundamental concerns about sustainability reporting and largely obscure assurance assessments, MPI supports these observations by Ernst and Young. While not addressing the fundamental power inequality between community and company, or the reducing the impacts on people and place, the recommendations could, if adopted by Newcrest, at least result in some improvements in reporting and acknowledgement of stakeholders concerns.

Table 1. Assessment of MMJV:Newcrest Activities against OCED Guidelines  Table 1. Assessment of MMJV:Newcrest Activities against OCED Guidelines


This edition of the MM takes us around the globe again; with the first stop being Tasmania. MPI chair Dr. Gavin Mudd attended and opened the mining legacies exhibition Entropy 1, which we featured in February’s edition of the MM. Dr. Mudd gives us an insight in to the impacts and resonances of the work that Isla MacGregor presented to a state in the midst of a mining conundrum, whether to boom or bust, ignoring the legacies of previous mines that still tarnish the landscape.

MPI’s director, Charles Roche takes a detailed look into two articles on the impacts of mining on culture and life for the Reite Communities in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The articles, written by Professor James Leach discuss the implications for enforced development such as mining on remote and traditional communities, enabling outsiders to gain an insight into how complex the issues. Charles then has a quick look at Newcrest Mining’s 2014 Sustainability Report.

In our video this month, Dr Brian Brunton widens our focus to another community impacted by mining developments in PNG, and looks at the Milne Bay Province that has seen mining on Misima Island, which ended in 2001, and future projects underway such as the Woodlark Island project, and a potential Deep Sea Mining project. Mining in PNG is one of MPI’s main foci, and we will continue to bring readers of the MM in depth articles about developments there, but we are also looking for more contributions from those who also have interest in PNG.

In this day and age, information is disseminated at lightening speed, making it difficult to digest much of what is going around, but luckily for us, in this edition, Simon Judd reports on two different websites that expose and make transparent mining companies activities, economically and socially all around the world. Judd takes us through the functionality and purpose of websites Bank Track and EJ Atlas with a particular focus on how both websites are increasing transparency and accountability for Woodlark Island.


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Since fossicking through war debris when she was a child living on Manus Island as the daughter of a Royal Australian Navy doctor, Isla MacGregor has since carried with her a deep interest in geology and minerals.

Originally from Scotland, the MacGregor family came to Australia in the post-war period of mass-migration and landed in South Australia. Upon deciding that the ongoing pollution of the Murray River was getting too appalling to live with, Isla moved to the green state of Tasmania in the late 1970s as an environmental refugee.

ENTROPY 1 – Photographic exhibition 19-25 March – The Hawker Centre, All Saints Church 339 Macquarie St, Hobart, Tasmania



Interested in drinking better water and living in a climate that was better for growing food, Isla moved to Rosebury on the West Coast. Her initial time there was spent riding her motorbike around the old mine sites and “checking them out”. Since then Isla has been a keen ecologist, geologist, gardener, artist and public health advocate for people affected by mining.

MacGregor’s exhibition of photographs called Entropy explores the “conflicted zone between the romanticised imagery of artists and historians, the deep connection to place felt by mining folk, and the severe degradation of the environment that follows mining activity. The evocative images of the roaster at The Tasmanian Smelters at Zeehan, set against the flayed hills, are nostalgic reminders of the hardships endured by many early mining families on the west coast.”

This is a conversation between MPI’s Jessie Boylan and Isla MacGregor about the issues that are explored in Entropy for this edition of the Mining Monitor.

JB: Your exhibition Entropy is coming up at the Hawker Centre in Hobart in March, could you tell us a little about the work, what your photographs are of, and what issues they are raising?

IM: The inspiration for these photographs I’ve used in my exhibition largely stemmed from a couple of things that happened last year, the mine legacy sites tour with Gavin Mudd [and others] in Zeehan, and also because of my previous work on the impacts of historical mines in Tasmania, particularly on Tasmanian waterways, [my work] on contaminated land [and] the contamination on the landscape.

I’ve been a volunteer with a couple of organisations, including the Tasmanian Public and Environmental Health Network up until last year and the focus of my work there was mining and contaminated waterways.

So I think the inspiration also comes from the absolutely astonishing environment that many of these mines exist in. Also, I think there is a major challenge for people who are artists and writers, historians in particular, to actually tell the truth about the history of degradation and contamination from mining in Tasmania. This is not something that we’ve seen.

So the dominant imagery that is projected from Tasmania about our landscape is the ‘wilderness imagery product’, and this only tells half the story, if that, about what has happened since the European Invasion of this island.

 JB: So how does your work actually to talk to these issues?

 IM: Through the medium of photography, and I’m not talking about just documentary photography, there’s a high-level of what you would call ‘aesthetic engagement’ for me as a photographer with the mining landscapes. There are some astonishing images in terms of beautiful colours, raw juxtapositions between the human-made world and the natural environment.

So I think that these iconic images are the iconic images that haven’t really been promoted. We aren’t really being honest about the landscape, and I think that it’s time that Tasmanian artists, particularly photographers, lift their game a bit and try to be more honest about presenting Tasmania to the outside world.

JB: I like what you’re saying about the dishonesty in the way that Tasmania is being promoted, where do you think this outside world is that Tasmania is being promoted to, and how do you think that your kind of work would counter this?

IM: What the tourism product does with wilderness photography is it excites people to come to see and experience this very vibrant sensual landscape that we have here. This ‘wildness’ – I don’t refer to it as ‘wilderness’ because I don’t agree with that concept as such, but it is a wild place, and there are reasons why I don’t agree with that concept which you would understand in relation to indigenous issues.

I think that it’s really important when resource extraction is something that we are constantly having to deal with in terms of development applications to government, whether it’s for newer big mines in Tasmania, it’s expansion of existing mines, it’s mines that have recently opened up like Nelson Bay and then been closed because of market fluctuations or whatever.

Also the additional problem is that we’re at a time, politically since self-regulation burst upon the political landscape in Australia in the 1980s, where the capacity for government agencies to regulate is virtually negligible now. Self-regulation is a really problematic issue when it comes to mining companies conduct and lack of ethics, in terms of how they deal with these issues.

We know from experience, from my work with the Tasmanian Public and Environmental Health Network, that mining companies are not being ethical in terms of compliance with mine license agreements, environmental protection notices… We’ve done that community based auditing of that process and they’re not coming up squeaky clean at all, and there is no political will from any side of government, with exception from minor parties or independents to bring back this concept that there are some aspects of big government that we must have back and we must regain control of.

JB: You mentioned before that people aren’t really being honest about what the images are that are coming out of Tasmania, but we do see a lot of environmental photography and work related to logging and deforestation in Tasmania, and there has been a lot from groups like The Wilderness Society for example, and a lot of films about clearfelling; I wonder how do your mining-landscapes imagery differ from this kind of work, because I’ve been looking at them and I’m very intrigued about the way that you are using your camera to tell this story?

IM: Well this is very important because is my photography is challenging the mainstream non-governmental environmental organisations here to take a bigger picture look at what’s going on with this landscape, and I’m challenging them also by saying “what is it about your policy agenda that stops at Mount Arrowsmith? – Mt. Arrowsmith is where the major geology of Tasmania changes and it’s an area just west of the Cradle Mountain/Lake St. Claire reserve, it’s still part of the world heritage area. Once you get into the west coast and you get into these historical mining areas, the general understanding that I have is that people, including many environmentalists, [is that] mines [are] just shut down, there’s like an iron curtain over the mining areas, and it’s sort of a fait accompli, it’s been, it’s done and that’s the end of it, except when it comes to forests.

Most of the forestry actions have occurred in areas where people are living in communities on the borders of agricultural zones. So whether it’s the Southern Forests area or the Jackeys Marsh area, or it’s the North West area near the North-Western rainforest, you’ve got people who’ve gone and lived there, whether they’re farmers or whether they’re people who want to have an alternative life-style, so they’ve got a real interest, but in areas where there is mining there isn’t a large population of people living [there]. So there are multiple reasons why people don’t generally concern themselves with these things, other than the fact that you’ve got your tourist icon areas, which people just focus on, and we know that they are exploited for their tourism potential, and these are still some quite wild areas. But on the whole there is a vast area in western Tasmania that is still open to mining.

 JB: So your images are focused mainly in the Western Areas?

IM: My images are all taken in the western area, like Zeehan, with the exception of one in Queenstown. That site would have to be the most toxic, contaminated site from mining in the state.

JB: I was looking at your images, and I love the way in which you have abstractified the landscapes with man-made objects, as well as abstractified the impacts of mining in what looks like water sources, but could very well be a large aerial photograph- I wonder if you could talk a little about your aesthetic decisions when you’re making these images and how that speaks to your deep political and environmental agenda?

IM: Well I think that when you walk through these landscapes and you’re really being saturated by images of the natural environment, and your senses are being saturated by the sounds that you’re hearing, you’re constantly hearing some wind, and you’re also hearing sounds of metal moving, and squeaking… it’s how these metal structures frame the sky, how you’re always looking from both inside yourself at what you’re seeing, but you’re also looking from inside those metal structures at the landscape beyond to see the degradation that has occurred, but you’re also seeing those metal structures degrading too.

There’s multiple layers of degradation going on here, of disorder […] so in that sense the concept of entropy, the state of disorder, you also have the fact that even within this structure that is disintegrating there is order being created, and that’s the source minerals from which the mining started from.

There were 111 lead mines in the Zeehan area…by the 1960s the mines had closed down. Up until about 1920, the last of the major mines had been mined out.

JB: Ok, I’m going to go back to the beginning a bit: when/how did you become interested in mining issues and when did you start photographing sites?

IM: I used to be an artist, a painter, as a young person, and I’ve had a long-term interest in mineralogy and geomorphology because I’m also a gardener – I grow food, and one of the inspirations for geomorphology is, and of course being an ecologist, you want to understand where you can grow food, why you can grow food there, why the trees grow here and not there, where things happen why they do, but they don’t two kilometers away, because the geology changes – so it’s an essential part of being a geologist, understanding geomorphology, and an essential part of being an environmentalist, because you’re wanting to understand how to preserve and maintain some sense of sustainability for your communities, so it’s a very big-picture sweep really.

I’ve been doing photography on and off since the mid 1980s, I did win an award back in 1986 for colour photography, when I did live in the west of the state. It was a feminist piece, it wasn’t a pretty sunset or a landscape. I am a feminist, a radical feminist, so that’s why I feel that the issues of mining and social justice cannot be separated, particularly when you’re looking at Indigenous communities or the vulnerability of women and children.

JB: What are your plans once the exhibition finishes in Hobart?

IM: I hope to take the exhibition to schools, as well as the 2017 Queenstown Arts Festival, and I have already had interest from another Hobart Gallery.

I also want to do a documentary on contaminated waterways in Tasmania, which we will need to get funding for. The island state of Tasmania has over 4,000 mine sites. There are 682 abandoned mines, 215 of which are polluting over 75 waterways known to be contaminated with acid mine drainage and some with a noxious cocktail of heavy metals, 6 major estuaries are contaminated, including the Derwent, which Hobart sits on, – they are a poisonous legacy for future generations.

When you have a think about it, it’s a big issue that nobody’s talking about, nobody’s showing. So it’s really about knowing the imagery […] I know the areas and I know how to see things.

The thing about the work that I’ve done is I’m showing people how to look. So when you’re passing through look closer, look closer.

By: Jessie Boylan


Villagers collect water, Kayelekera Village, Malawi, 2009. Photo by Jessie Boylan

Villagers collect water, Kayelekera Village, Malawi, 2009. Photo by Jessie Boylan

Jessie Boylan for The Mining Monitor, February 2015

In the rolling hills 575 kilometres north of Malawi’s capital city Lilongwe, lies Paladin’s Kayelekera uranium mine, the first major mining development in Malawi that began operations in 2008, it was to be the standard on which future mines would be based.

“The mine is located in the catchment area of a river that flows directly into Lake Malawi,” said Reinford Mwangonde from Citizens for Justice Malawi (CFJ) in a Greenleft article in 2006, “one of the most pristine freshwater bodies remaining in the world and a vital source of food for the Malawian people.”

When I travelled to the village at the base of the Kayelekera mine in 2009, the road was narrow, winding and mostly unsealed, but like many major mining developments the roads were being sealed at a rapid pace. As we crossed the North Rukuru and Sere Rivers we passed numerous scattered villages that hugged the edges of the road, women and children carried water and their belongings on their head and small shops made from mud bricks and thatched structures sold sweets and supplies to the villagers.

It was at this time that I began to understand the ways in which Australian and international companies can operate out of view of the so-called ‘developed world’. Paladin is an ASX listed company based in Perth, in Western Australia. In 2007 they were granted a mining lease and in 2008 they commenced mining at the Kayelekera uranium Mine (KM). This came shortly after they failed to develop the Angela-Pamela uranium project in the Northern Territory, Australia. In 2014 Kaylekera went into ‘extended care and maintenance’, Paladin estimates that they have 4-5 years left of mining at the KM, based on current reserves, though mine life could be extended if exploration confirms additional resources.

So what happened during Paladin’s time in Malawi? According to locals this is a story of big promises and few returns, a story of a junior mining company turning communities and waterways in a small east African country inside out. A story of empty promises, rather than broken ones, as good intentions were never there. Paladin’s Director John Borshoff is on the record for saying ”I think there has been a sort of overcompensation in terms of thinking about environmental issues, social issues, way beyond what is necessary to achieve good practice,” in relation to mining in Australia and Canada. Communities witnessed the development of a mining project by a company who couldn’t meet regulations in Australia, and so turned to Africa, where rules are less ‘stringent’. This is a story that is most intimately known by the displaced communities, as well as the communities who live at the base of the mine, the workers, local NGOs, the government, and to the company themselves.

During operation the Kaylekera mine was not only secretive, plagued with industrial disputes and allegations of not providing safety gear for workers, the mine during operating failed to deliver any dividends to their shareholders despite record breaking production. Concerns about cost cuts meaning safety and environmental cuts were raised at Paladin’s shareholder meetings for many years in a row, but these concerns have consistently been overshadowed by angry shareholders who have been hemorrhaging money from the dropping share price.

On January 5th of this year, days after Paladin threatened legal action against local civil society groups in Malawi who were concerned about contamination leaving the mine sites, the Company announced that the Kayelekera Uranium Mine (KM) “suffered some minor storm damage during the night when a 20-minute, high-intensity storm resulted in some 25mm of rain falling at the Site. The resultant surge of stormwater caused the liner in the plant run-off tank to rupture, releasing up to 500m3 of material to the bunded areas of the site. Up to 0.05m3(50 litres) may have overtopped one of the containment bunds due to the nature of the rainfall event at the time. […The company] confirm[s] no contamination occurred.”


Villagers wash clothes in the Sere River, Kayelekera, Malawi, 2009, Photo by Jessie Boylan

In a meeting in early February with Paladin, Charles Roche (MPI) and Mia Pepper (CCWA) were told that the 50 litres was surface water from the mine site, not tailings, and would have no impact on the environment or public health. However, a report recently put out by EJOLT (Environmental Justice Organisations, Liability and Trade) and CRIIRAD (Commission for Independent Research and Information about Radiation) called the ‘Impact of the Kayelekera Uranium Mine, Malawi’, states that despite Paladin’s confidence, there were no “detailed results provided.”

Prior to the Jan 5th spill there has been numerous other spills, deaths and truck accidents. “Paladin reported that accidents occurred during the transportation of chemicals or radioactive products (two tonnes of MgO in January 2013, uranium concentrate in February 2014, etc…),” the EJOLT report states. In what could be a disturbing trend caused by increasing financial pressure, there have been single fatalities at the Kaylekera site in 2013 and 2014, after almost 500 days without any lost time injuries prior to 2013..

This type of self-assurance and lack of adequate independent monitoring and research has been typical of Paladin throughout their time in Malawi, and local NGOs like CFJ are not confident in their ‘business as usual’ approach. “We have reliable information from mine workers on the site that the Jan 5th spill was caused due to negligence,” said Mwangonde via email to MPI from Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe. “It could have been avoided if workers on the site were able to manage run off water properly. Our fear is that maybe large volumes of untreated water are being disposed into the river systems. Secondly, Paladin’s EIA [Environmental Impact Assessment], which they used to secure a mining license, didn’t have anything around water disposal into the environment and water systems. They are moving inch by inch form their initial commitments,” he said.

“As for the mine closure,” Mwangonde continues, “we are worried that the environmental bond which was set aside may not be sufficient and its details are all [in] the closet. Paladin is on record saying that they have set aside an environmental bond, which would be used during mine closure. We don’t even know the name of the bank holding this bond.”

CFJ has been pushing for an independent assessment of radiation and contamination at KM for many years, and they want CRIIRAD to “be allowed to visit the mine, take samples and talk to communities and government without any remorse from the company if they have nothing to hide and are well meaning, said Mwangonde. “Paladin has been reluctant to accept that.”


Near Kayelekera, Malawi, 2009, Photo by Jessie Boylan

Civil society and environmental organisations like CFJ, MPI and the Natural Resources Justice Network (NRJN) have kept a close eye on their operations since the beginning, in an attempt to make Paladin accountable for the damage they do to communities and the environment. In 2006 MPI commissioned a report of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by Dr. Gavin Mudd and Howard Smith, prior to operations at KM commencing. The report found that in the EIS there was:

• a lack of adequate, high quality environmental and radiological baseline data
• a lack of sufficient technical engineering design detail for critical project components
• a lack of references and discussion of models for numerous critical design issues
• Missing key baseline radiological data, especially pre-mining radon flux
• completely inadequate figures and maps to present and visualise the proposed project
• a lack of appropriate strategic, long-term tailings management plan
• poorly argued project alternatives and inappropriate dismissal of viable project options
• inadequate characterisation and discussion of potential acid mine drainage issues
• a completely minimal and inappropriate rehabilitation plan

Given this was at the start of the project, what hope did Malawians have in this Australian company that predicted jobs and GDP growth for one of the poorest countries in the world. We will see the cumulative impacts of the Kayelekera uranium mine in years to come, and if Paladin walks away without a clear contingency plan, all Malawi will be left with is a hole in the ground and contaminated waterways with no means to fix them.

Back in 2006 Reinford Mwangonde wrote “There is little capacity in Malawi to address the complex environmental and public health risks associated with uranium mining, but these need to be addressed before any mine proceeds.”

Unfortunately we cannot turn back time.


Kayelekera Open cut, Malawi, Photo by Rachel Ketter