Ramu Nickel Case: The story so far

10 02 2011

The 2011 legal calendar in Madang began yesterday (February 8th) with the opening statement from the plaintiffs. Picking up from last year, this time the people of Madang are putting forward their case to have a permanent injunction placed against the Ramu Nickel mine to prevent it from its plan to dump 100 million tonnes of mine tailings into the sea in the Basamuk Bay area.

A first in PNG, this landmark case got the attention of the PNG government who – as is the case with similar projects in other parts of the country – while paying scant heed to many glaring flaws and oversights, had given the go ahead to the Ramu Nickel mine to continue with this project without any further studies and deliberation on this mine’s benefits and negetive impacts.

The government of PNG, who is also named as the co-defendant in this case, even tried to suppress the voice of the people by passing an amendment to the Environment Act in early 2010 that restricted landowner rights while giving legal immunity to mining companies. This was done with no prior notice, and without seeking any public debates on this matter, even on the floor of parliament.

This action by the government created an outcry from the general populace, civil societies and business houses alike and inadvertently resulted in the government getting negative ratings from outside observers as well.

MCC boss Luo Shuo walking out of the Madang court room where the trial is being held. (Photo courtesy of Arnold Jameson, 8/2/2011)

On top of that, various other attempts were made to sabotage this case through threats, misinformation and even bribes. Eventually, the defendants scored a victory, which in September 2010 saw the withdrawal of the 3 original plaintiffs. This was a cruel blow to the people at a time when the country was celebrating 35 Years of Independence!

All hope seemed to be gone but then good ol’ Louis Medaing stepped into the ring with a fresh set of gloves and it was game on again when the judge allowed Mr Medaing along with the Tong and Ongeg clans – all legitimate landowners – to file fresh proceedings as plaintiffs in this case despite objections from the miner’s QC.

Hence we have arrived at this juncture. As Arnold Jameson a scribe from the ground pointed out yesterday,

“Today (February 8th) marked a significant chapter in the battle as the trial began in Madang. Witnesses who will be called to testify in court over the next two weeks include several well known scientists who are experts in coral reproduction, chemical oceanography and terrestrial waste treatment and storage.”

Into the second day and the people’s case received a boost when 998 more landowners joined as plaintiffs in this good fight, taking the total number of plaintiffs to well over 1000.

The plaintiffs’ scientists are now scheduled to give their evidence tomorrow (10 February).

If it is of any comfort to them, Tiffany Nonggorr, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, and the landowners must know that the people of PNG are behind them in prayer and in thought while the rest of the world looks on.

God bless PNG.

~ero~

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