Environmental Damage By Gold Mine In Papua New Guinea.

We have been discussing the very issue in our Yahoo group – PNGdoctors. And it seems that the Papua New Guinea environmental laws may be need to be reviewed. I will write about that in my next post. For this post, I want to post here some of our discussions so you can know what we are discussing.

Below is a post by Dr Tim Haina to PNG doctors group. I will add a few more from our members in the coming days.


By Dr Tim Haina, PNG Doctors Internet Group.

I have read through the Oxfam study and am aware of a number of independent studies done on the water quality and effects of the tailings on the locals who derive their livelihoods from the
Angabanga river system.

It is interesting to note in the opening paragraphs of the Oxfam
studies that they mention two distinct issues with the environmental conditions attached to the operation of the Tolukuma mines.

Firstly there are specifications related to threshold levels required for safe drinking water and then in other parts requirements which relate to the minimum requirements to minimize environmental damage (flora and fauna).

Therefore they have used the Australian standards for drinking water as a quide as these are more stringent and also have been documented not to cause long term detriment to both humans and the environment.

Furthermore this means that Tolukuma may satisfy its legal
responsibilities while still pollutung the environment which is the
core issue here.

The fact that this study commissioned in 2004 shows significantly
elevated levels of heavy metals in the water as well as increased
turbidity suggests that there is an adverse health risk to the local
population as well as the environment at large.

Dr Kotapus study results are therefore not surprising.

High lead, mercury and other levels can only come from one source and that is the continuous discharge of heavy metals in the tailings.

There are no multilane high ways with lead laden fumes running
thorugh Vaifa ‘a nor large manufacturing industries along the river leading to Bereina.

Dr. Kotapus registration has no bearing on this study as its
credentials should be based on the scientific method and analysis and if the numbers are statistically significant the results will hold true under the most intense scrutiny.

My understanding is that registration entitles you to practice
medicine legally within a country.

I do not believe that Dr. Kotapu was practicing medicine in the sense that he was there in a ‘curative’ position.

Furthermore if the blood given was done with full consent from those involved then there are no ethical questions to be answered provided that full disclosure was made.

I would be interested in reading Dr. Kotapus study however chronic lead, murcury and arsenic poisoning lead to significant health problems. Lead in particular can masquarade from anaemia through to acute appendicitis and therefore some of the morbidity in the area may be put down to these other diseases rather than its root cause which is chronic lead poisoning.

Neurological damage as a consequence is an irreversible consequence and a grave legacy of company profits over human rights to life, access to safe drinking water and even the ability to further ones self (as per UN declaration) .

The department of Mining and resources has been raping the forests of PNG, sending its gold and oil overseas and keeping the toxins for the local people and the land off which they live.

We need to get appropriate representation to the DMR for a result that will not only be immediate but also a long term solution to this rampant problem.


About rodney itaki

Medical doctor and public health specialist from Papua New Guinea.
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