Ten years ago, a small group of Papua New Guineans made a decision to fight the construction of multibillion kina mine Chinese owned nickel mine in the Madang province.
The reasons were simple:
- Land was going to be taken away from its traditional custodians in Kurumbukari in the Usino-Bundi electorate and…
- the sea, a vital resource for the people’s survival, was going to polluted by the dumping of tailings into the Basamuk Bay.
I cannot mention some of the names of those who were strongly opposed to this because I do not have their permission. But they remained dedicated and were determined to stop the destruction from happening years before I got involved in the campaign.
It is one part of my life I never regretted.
In 2011, in the course of the campaign, we produced one of several documentaries warning of the destruction that was about to happen. We hoped that in the process, people would be educated and would make the right decision and stop the dumping of tailings or the construction of the processing facility.
While filming the documentary UPROOTED, we travelled to Kumumbukari, where old Benny Mangua, a chief in his own right and chief custodian of the land wept because he was going to lose his land forever.
Months earlier, he was told by the Chinese company workers that their village was going to be removed because it was going to become the mine site. They gave him K500 as a resettlement payment.
Months later, his sons were evicted from their village by police. Benny Mangua, didn’t survival long after that. He passed on, a broken man separated from his land. His family was told not to plant food on land that was later turned into a dumping area for the mine.
His son Peter Peter continued to resist attempts by police and the company to remove him. One morning, armed police, acting in the interests of the Chinese mine management, broke down his house and forced him off his land.
He died about two years later.
In Basamuk, on the coast, they built a nickel refinery. Landowners went to court to stop the company from dumping waste into the bay. Some were threatened. The court case was unsuccessful.
Government officials peddled a narrative that the waste was “safe” and that it wouldn’t affect the sea. During a presentation in Madang, we walked in uninvited and asked the Chinese developers what they meant when they said the “waste is safe.” Their response was that the system they used was of international standard.
Members of landowner companies said the people wanted and needed development and that we were stopping their “progress.” In their ignorance, they listened to the line pushed by the Chinese developer that America was behind it and that we were supporting “an American (Western) agenda.”
In then end, the court ruled in favor of the company.
Today, people complain about the waste disposal in the one beautiful Basamuk Bay. The water is red from the waste disposal. Some of the older men who selfishly supported the mine and the refinery are dead.
Their children are living with the destruction they allowed.