Broken Hill and Damaged River: Australian Multinational Creates Mining Havoc in Papua New Guinea

By Patel, Urvi | New Internationalist, December 1995 | Go to article overview

Broken Hill and Damaged River: Australian Multinational Creates Mining Havoc in Papua New Guinea


Patel, Urvi, New Internationalist


GOLD IN THEM thar hills and floods and muck for the people who live downstream. That's the story that's causing widespread tension in Papua New Guinea and pricking the conscience of ordinary Australians.

The mine is the Ok Tedi copper and gold mine run by Australia's biggest enterprise, the aptly named Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited (BHP), on the slopes of Mt Fubilan in the Star Mountains of PNG's Western Province. At stake are big bucks and a (rapidly changing) way of life.

Last year BHP made a record profit of US$1.21 billion with OK Tedi contributing $282 million. For people downstream of Mt Fubilan along the Fly river, the mine's outflow of 80,000 tonnes a day of waste is destroying their traditional lifestyle. The 30,000 people who live along the banks of the Fly could drink, wash and fish from the river before the mining began in 1984. The excessive siltation is leading to increased flooding. They want a tailings dam to be built at the mine and compensation.

The mine is in a precarious location in a region of very high rainfall (7,900 mm or 312 inches a year). In 1984 a landslip destroyed the initial stages of a tailings dam. …

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