Papua New Guinea’s national court has ordered the Ok Tedi mining company to stop dumping waste into the Ok Mani, Ok Tedi and Fly rivers and all its tributaries - a move that could effectively shut the mine.
The court has also ordered that company bank accounts be frozen after allegations were made that money earmarked for local development had been misused.
The order was granted following an application by a number of leaders and beneficiaries from the South Fly District who had named Finance Minister James Marape, Secretary for Mining Sadrach Himata, the State, OTML, PNG Sustainable Development Program, Bank South Pacific and the Australia & New Zealand Banking Group (PNG) as defendants.
The landowners had gone to court for two main reasons. They alleged that the continued dumping of mine wastes and tailings into the Ok Tedi, Ok Mani and the Fly rivers and all its tributaries has adversely affected the lives of people living along the river systems and that a number of trust funds established for the benefit of the people of Western Province were being depleted at a fast rate and that the court should intervene to stop the peoples’ money being spent without their consent.
BHP operated the mine from the 1990s to 2001 when it handed over its majority share to a local trust in return for legal immunity. Last year, the PNG Government passed legislation to take over the PNG Sustainable Development Program - effectively nationalizing the mine. But now the order from the National Court could see the mine grind to a halt.