Controversy

Tolukuma Mine Closed Pending Negotiations

via Post Courier

THE Tolukuma Gold Mine in Goilala district, Central Province, remains closed due to impacted landowner concerns that outstanding issues are still not being addressed by its 100% owner company, Petromin PNG Holdings Ltd (Petromin).
Petromin Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Joshua Kalinoe and his senior management team met with the aggrieved Yulai Landowners Association (YLA) at the weekend to remove the taboo (tanget plant) so that the mine operation could proceed.
However, the mine is still closed after the impacted landowners and the Petromin team deferred negotiations to lift the taboo to tomorrow.
YLA Chairman George Gusi said they will not remove the taboo until this week when both parties come to a roundtable discussion to address the grievances. 
Mr Gusi told Mr Kalinoe and his senior management team that there nothing has been done for the mine impacted villagers since the mine began operation 16 years ago.

“We want to know what is there for us as landowners of Tolukuma. We have no basic services as we supposed to have at the impacted villages. Our living standard is very poor despite coming from a mine impacted area. We will not remove the taboo. Our position stands until our grievances are addressed” Mr Gusi said.

Mr Kalinoe said he respects their customs and would return on Tuesday to reciprocate their custom ceremony with a view to re-open the mine. Mr Kalinoe appealed to the YLA comprising Ame, Yangam and Yaulo clans to give Petromin one more chance to look into their grievances so they can respond accordingly. Mr Kalinoe added that Tokuma Mine is like a first born child to Petromin and it cannot turn its back on its child.
Mr Kalinoe added that he was confident of the usual kind of understanding and support of landowners towards advancing the collective interests of the mine operations, the employees and the local community.  When asked to comment on the impact of the temporary closure of the mine, the Managing Director said that Petromin is currently assessing the financial impact of the mine closure since the June 19.

River of poison

Each year, Tolukuma Gold Mine – formerly owned by Australian-based Emperor Mines Ltd – dumps more than 230,000 tonnes of mine waste into the Auga-Angabanga river system.

It's a mining practice that's illegal in Australia, but companies can get away with it in Papua New Guinea, and it's destroying people's lives.

Communities living downstream from the mine report that:

  • People have become sick or died from drinking and washing in the river
  • Fish have died and food gardens have been destroyed, threatening their food supply
  • Changes in the river flow have caused flash flooding, making it difficult for locals to cross the river and access their market gardens

"Our people have lived on this land for 2,000 years," says one community member. "We probably now have one of the richest alluvial soils in the country. What happens with the flooding that's coming annually in the rains [is] that richness in the soil is now under threat from the poison from this [river] water. So, this threatens the basis of life in our communities."

The river – once the lifeblood of communities – has become a source of fear. “The way we used to see the river was very clear and we could see the rocks we would cross," says a local from Goro. "Now we … hate the river, and the respect we had for the river we don’t have anymore. It gives us pain and fear that we don’t like the river.”

Women have been particularly affected as they're responsible for collecting water for their families. Women from some villages along the Angabanga River now walk many hours a day to collect water from cleaner streams and wells. This has increased their workload and some feel unsafe as they pass through land belonging to other villages.