Magazine article New Internationalist

Plunder Islands: International Mining Companies Are Blasting Their Way into Fragile Island Environments

Magazine article New Internationalist

Plunder Islands: International Mining Companies Are Blasting Their Way into Fragile Island Environments

Article excerpt

Plunder islands

International mining companies are blasting their way into fragile island environments. Chris Harris traces just a small cross - section of their activities.

Names and origin of mining companies are in brackets.

SOLOMON ISLAND

Gold rush in ecologically sensitive parts of Western Province since 1994. Local NGOs say companies' negotiations with landowners divide communities. Gold: Gold Ridge (Ross Mining NL - Australia) Relocation of villagers. Landowners to launch constitutional challenge on environmental grounds. Contact: WWF Pacific, PO Box 21, Gizo, Western Province, Solomon Islands. Tel: (677) 60191. Fax: (677) 60294. e - mail: 100232.3601@CompuServe.COM (Kath Means)

PAPUA NEW GUINEA

The most heavily impacted of all Pacific countries. largest number of prospective new projects.

Copper: Panguna (RTZ/CRA - UK/Australia) Currently shut down by war in Bougainville provoked by effects of mine; one billion tonnes of waste so far; all aquatic life killed in 480 - square - kilometre river system. Ok Tedi (BHP - Australia) All aquatic life killed within 70 kilometres of river. Court action by landowners forced $400 million compensation.

Gold: Porgera (Placer Pacific - Australia/Canada) 40,000 tonnes of waste daily. Hazardous heavy metals in 140 kilometres of river - up to 3,000 times permitted levels. Lihir (CRA - UK/Australia) Will dump 89 million tonnes of cyanide - contaminated tailings and 330 million tonnes of waste rock into one of the richest areas of marine biodiversity on earth.

Oil and gas: Kutubu (Chevron - US) Oil piped 176 kilometres to Kikori estuary. In 1996 non - essential staff evacuated after threats from landowners disaffected over royalty payments.

Nickel/cobalt: Ramu (Highlands Gold - Australia) Planned. High - pressure acid - leach processing. High risk to coastal and marine environments.

Contact: Independent and Community Rights Advocacy Forum, Box 155, PO University, NCD, PNG. Tel: (675) 3262469. Fax: (675) 3260273. e - mail: pharricknen@pactok.peg.apc.org

VANUATU

In the last two years 33 new exploration permits have been issued. No mining has yet occurred, but local communities are worried. Principal companies and number of exploration areas: BHP (Australia) 1; Aberfoyle (Australia) 2; Macmin (Australia) 1; Gauler Resources (Australia) 1; Union Mining (Australia) 3; Wattle Gully (Australia) 5; Minerals International (Vanuatu/Australia/Canada) 9; Island Arc (Canada) 6.

Contact: IDEAS (Industrial Development and Economic Alternatives for SANMA), PO Box 377, Luganville, Santo, Vanuatu. Tel/fax: (678) 36667 or 36114. e - mail: ideas@pactok.peg.apc.org (Executive Director: John Salong).

Colonial Pacific

Of the 24 political entities of the South Pacific region, 15 are colonies of one sort or another, marked on the map as follows:

In Free Association with the US (Micronesia, Marshall Islands) Unincorporated US Territory (Guam), US Commonwealth (Northern Mariana Islands)

In Free Association with Aotearoa/New Zealand (Cook Islands, Niue), Aotearoa/New Zealand Territory (Tokelau)

British Colony (Pitcairn)

French Overseas Territory (Kanaky, French Polynesia, Wallis and Fortuna Islands)

Chilean Territory (Rapa Nui/Easter Island)

KANAKY/NEW CALEDONIA

World's fourth - largest nickel producer, with 30 per cent of laterite deposits.

Key strategic mineral for both French and Japanese defence and nuclear industries. Thio Mine: world's largest nickel deposit; massive generation of waste. …

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