Ok Tedi memories haunt BHP

BHP Billiton is reportedly seeking to pick up exploration permits in Papua New Guinea, despite the company’s legacy of causing major environmental damage when it operated the giant Ok Tedi mine.
Ok Tedi memories haunt BHP Ok Tedi memories haunt BHP Ok Tedi memories haunt BHP Ok Tedi memories haunt BHP Ok Tedi memories haunt BHP

Mining Minister John Pundari was recently asked questions in parliament over whether BHP exploration permit applications were being considered by the government's Mineral Resources Authority.

However, the minister does not view BHP favourably.

"I personally find it very difficult to allow the return of BHP Billiton into this country again given its legacy with the Ok Tedi mine project," Pundari said according to the Post-Courier newspaper.

"The environmental problems of the Ok Tedi river systems were real and huge and the company should have looked for remedial solutions instead of making a decision to walk away from them.

"In fact, there were serious operational oversights and deficiencies by the operator BHP Billiton that led to these environmental mishaps."

Meanwhile, Pundari will reportedly visit the Ok Tedi mine today to inspect the environmental damage caused by a recent series of four small ruptures at the pyrite concentrate waste pipeline.

The ruptures caused some spillage into the environment last month and a clean-up and monitoring program is continuing.

The cause is being investigated and the state-owned mine operator Ok Tedi Mining Limited is seeking government approval to use interim alternatives for managing its tailings while the pipeline is being prepared.

OTML said this week that the mine was facing $US6 million a day in lost revenue while it suffered $US180 million of lost revenue by the fourth week of the production suspension.

The lack of funds has caused the company to cut back on its expenditure, including its "engagement" of consultants, contractors and casual labour.

The mine typically produces around 160,000 tonnes of copper and 540,000 ounces per annum of gold.

However, production is scheduled to fall from 2014 through a proposed underground extension to the big open cut mine.

BHP Billiton divested its 52% stake of Ok Tedi in 2002 and has not returned to PNG since.

Gold majors Newcrest Mining and Barrick Gold have significantly increased their exploration activity in PNG over recent years.

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