Sale of Tolukuma Gold Mine by Australian based Emperor Mines must include safeguards to protect communities against environmental damage

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 12 Sep 2007

Yesterday’s announcement by Australian-based Emperor Mines Limited to sell the Tolukuma Gold Mine in Papua New Guinea should include a commitment to sell the asset to a purchaser that will work with communities to alleviate impacts and maximize benefits as well as stop the practice of disposing of mine waste in rivers.
For years, Oxfam Australia has worked directly with people affected by the mining operation in PNG as well as community representatives to ensure Tolukuma Gold Mine and Emperor respond appropriately to community concerns. ‘Importantly, recently we had achieved from TGM and Emperor a common understanding of the importance of resolving the concerns being expressed by communities,’ said Oxfam Australia’s Mining Ombudsman, Shanta Martin.
In August this year, Tolukuma Gold Mine and Emperor committed to provide sustainable and safe water supplies to affected communities, commencing with implementation of recommendations arising out of a joint study of alternative water supplies in affected Mekeo villages. Tolukuma Gold Mine and Emperor also made the welcome commitment to ensure that the mine would have zero impact on the river within three years.
Oxfam says that communities in the first two villages participating in the clean water supply process – Gagaifua and Oriropetana – demonstrated considerable faith and good will in allowing Tolukuma Gold Mine representatives to enter their villages despite the mine’s long history of poor corporate conduct. Local people now expect the mining company to fully implement the recommendations that include the provision of household tanks, wells and hygiene training as well as the commencement of a soap production project.
‘Relations are at a very sensitive stage and Tolukuma Gold Mines must ensure that it continues to work closely with communities to address their concerns, which include but are not limited to the provision of sustainable clean water supplies,’ said Ms Martin. Oxfam Australia considers honouring existing undertakings to communities and addressing broader community grievances to be essential if the mine is to build good relations with the communities and ensure a conflict-free coexistence. The Tolukuma mine has experienced conflict with local communities in the recent past.
The positive steps Tolukuma has taken to work with people adversely affected by its mining practices demonstrate the potential to improve corporate-community relations. A key factor in deciding who Emperor will sell the mine to should therefore include the new owner’s reputation and commitment to continuing these processes with communities affected by the mine and to minimise the impact of the mine on the environment. ‘We would welcome a public statement from Emperor that this will be a key consideration in the sale process,’ added Ms Martin.
For more information or to arrange an interview with Shanta Martin call Ian Woolverton on 0409 181 454