30 Jan 2008

PNG landowners protest at Chinese-run Ramu nickel site

2:38 pm on 30 January 2008

Papua New Guinea landowners have staged a protest at the headquarters of a nickel mine project being developed by a Chinese-led venture in Madang province.

Managers from China Metallurgical Construction Company, which is the Chinese state-owned firm running the project, and four local chiefs held crisis talks in Madang town over a range of grievances.

PNG's Post Courier newspaper reports that 50 landowners and others demanded that MCC stop operations until the dispute was settled.

The landowners presented 18 points, complaining about their lack of participation in spin-off business, the employment of heavily armed Chinese security guards, discrimination at the work site and language barriers.

Steven Saud, who is the chairman of the Coastal Pipeline Landowners Association, said locals wanted better working conditions and opportunities for surrounding communities.

Earlier this month, a former PNG health minister, Sir Peter Barter, called for an independent environmental impact study of the Ramu nickel project after discrediting the existing report.

And PNG's Lutheran head bishop, Doctor Wesley Kigasung, has said pollution from the mine could cause up to 80,000 sea-dependent locals to lose their livelihood.