PNG nickel mine ready to start dumping 200 million tonnes of waste in ocean

Despite a rancourous dispute with local landowners over compensation and infrastructure upgrades and an appeal against a Papua New Guinea High Court ruling approving the dumping, Australia's Highlands Pacific on Friday said it is confident it could power on its already built mine next year after the intervention of a provincial governor.

The wrangling over the $1.5 billion Ramu nickel and cobalt mine that over its life will dump 100 million tonnes of waste 400m offshore comes as the new PNG's government moves to quell concerns about proposed changes to mining rights that would potentially force projects worth billions of dollars into renegotiation.

Papua New Guinea Mine Watch quotes the provincial governor as saying the main issue had been that local landowners wanted maximum meaningful participation in the mine and that contract rates offered by the government were much higher compared to the Chinese.

Ramu is situated on Papua New Guinea’s north-west coast and is completely built – annual production is estimated at more than 31,000 tonnes of nickel and 3,300 tonnes of cobalt for over 20 years. Highlands Pacific has an 8.56% stake in the mine, which is owned by Metallurgical Corp of China.

The Sydney Morning Herald quotes Highlands Pacific (ASX:HIG) GM Peter Jolly: "There are many rivers that deposit natural sediments into the sea off PNG's Rai coast and Ramu will discharge less than six per cent of the total sediment load of the Basin".

MINING.com reported in August among sweeping changes promised for the impoverished country, PNG’s new mining minister introduced a plan to hand state ownership of mineral and energy resources to customary landowners forcing mining companies to renegotiate permits and contracts. The week before the PM guaranteed the support of 80% of MPs he needs to preserve his majority ahead of 2012 elections by expanding his cabinet by a third.