Ramu mining, logging operations resume
A Chinese mining company has been given the green light to resume its Papua New Guinea operations in both mining and logging after both were halted due to deaths of workers. Yet the Ramu Nickel project developer's adherence to safety and industrial standards has a questionable record.
A Chinese mining company has been given the green light to resume its Papua New Guinea operations in both mining and logging.
RamuNico, a subsidiary of the China Metallurgical Group Corporation, operates one of PNG's major resource extractive projects - the Ramu Nickel Mine in Madang province.
It's also the only major mining company in PNG also involved in logging.
As Johnny Blades explains, both its mining and logging activities were shut down following labour accidents.
JOHNNY BLADES: RamuNico's logging activities, which are located around the Kurumbukari mine site, were ordered to a halt last August by authorities following a fatality of a logging worker. Similarly, the Ramu Nickel mine operations were suspended in April after an incident that resulted in the death of a Chinese national employee and injuries to two local workers. Since then, PNG's Mineral Resources Authority and related agencies have done investigations into the respective situations, particularly reviews of the standards around health and safety of workers, and in the last few weeks, permission has been given for both to resume operations, which will be pleasing for the company.
DON WISEMAN: This wasn't the first accident or death involving Ramunico was it?
JB: Yes there have been a few incidents. At the start of this year, the PNG government revealed a Sepik worker had been killed at the mine. About seven years ago, the reported accidental death of a local worker triggered clashes between PNG workers and management at the mine. And in 2014, a group of locals, including a couple of employees with Ramunico, launched an attack on infrastructure and property of the miner as well as injuring five Chinese workers injured. There does seem to be a history of resentment at the Chinese developer, who has in many instances brought in Chinese nationals for the work. The government had questioned the safety and operating standards of the Ramu mine, as there appeared to be poor lighting, security and fencing, basically a lack of demarcation between the mine operations in pits from public access. And right from the beginning of RamuNico's mine project, it caught the attention of PNG Labour and Industrial relations officials who were concerned about parlous working conditions. So the labour standards of Ramunico's logging activities appear to have followed the tone of the mining.
DW: In March, I understand a slurry pipeline at the mining project leaked, that doesn't sound good?
JB: There was a leakage but the company was quick to assure landowners that there was no acid in the stuff that streamed out. However, the claims by RamuNico a few years ago that its pipes were unbreakable now sound rather hollow. Things have not gone smoothly in this major investment project. And in addition to this, around 600 workers at the mine went on strike in January over mine management issues. Let's not forget that, locally, disquiet over the project's mine tailings pipeline lingers. That, of course, is the pipeline that dumps mine-waste into the sea off Basamuk Bay and was, of course, the subject of a long-running and ultimately unsuccessful legal challenge by landowners. Following the death and injuries in April, which happened around a high-pressure acid leach, the PNG mining minister Byron Chan blamed the incident at least partly on the company's cost-cutting measures. This company, like others in the industry, has been struggling with the slump in global commodity prices. So all these things cast further doubt on the Ramu Nickel developer's adherence to safety and industrial standards.
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