Export Development Canada -backed mine leaves a sea of cyanide
Groups call on G8 Environment Ministers to Improve Environmental Standards of Export Credit Agencies
For immediate release
Ottawa, April 11, 2002. The Lihir gold mine in Papua New Guinea is breaching the spirit of international conventions on dumping waste at sea, yet it has been backed by public export credit agencies, including EDC. The US export credit agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, turned down support for this project on environmental grounds in 1996. Groups are calling on the G8 Environment Ministers, meeting this weekend in Banff, to call for the highest common environmental standards for export credit agencies.
"The environmental problems at the Lihir gold mine will not be solved by weak environmental guidelines such as those that EDC has adopted", says Melanie Quevillon, Coordinator of the NGO Working Group on the EDC. "Commitments made at the G8 Environment Ministers meeting are empty promises unless the Ministers show commitment to get their own houses in order".
The mine is pumping 110 million cubic metres of waste, contaminated with cyanide and other chemicals, into the sea each year through a pipeline 125 metres beneath the surface. Another 20 million tonnes of rock waste are dumped each year into Luise Harbour. A plume of sediment from the seaside mine extends two kilometres into the Pacific Ocean. Huge piles of rock waste sit on reclaimed harbour that locals say was a breeding site for endangered leatherback turtles. EDC provided a guarantee for $29.6 million.
In a story in the Australian Sydney Morning Herald, April 9, 2002, residents near the mine are quoted as saying "The mine has failed to provide the promised business spin-offs. Its benefits go offshore. Most people on Lihir now oppose it. We think it is the next Bougainville."(Bougainville's Panguna mine was forced to close in 1989 by violent protests.)
At last year's meeting of the G8 Environment Ministers in Trieste, the Ministers called for common binding environmental guidelines for export credit agencies as well as common measures to increase transparency. So far there is no consensus, as the US has consistently called for higher standards than what Canada and others have agreed to. Japan as well, has higher environmental standards than Canada.
"Canada should not be associated with environmental and social disasters like the Lihir gold mine", says Joan Kuyek, National Coordinator of MiningWatch Canada. "The upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development focus on corporate sustainability is laughable when institutions owned outright by G8 governments are not held to the highest standards".
For further information contact Melanie Quevillon at 613-789-4447 or Joan Kuyek at 613-569-3439.
Press Release - Thursday, April 11, 2002