A continental shelf study published in 2008 shows that the extent of the pollution from Ok Tedi mine has also affected the Torres Strait islands.
The scientific report, which was based on marine resources, biophysical processes and environmental management of a tropical shelf seaway, was funded by the Australian Government.
A separate Australian-based Tingay research detailed that over one billion tonnes of tailings and waste rock have been discharged from the Ok Tedi mine into the Fly River and its tributaries over the past 20 years, extending east and west.
It was also noted that approximately two million tonnes of waste are discharged into the river system each week, or about 100 million tonnes every year.
This report was carried out in 2006 and since then there has never been any follow-up studies.
THE study report however detailed that the whole of South Fly coast, westward of the mouth of the Fly River, including Daru, is badly affected, extending and including the Torres Strait Islands and the Gulf Province to the East.
The wastes also reached Parama Island on the mouth of the Fly River, westward along the coast of South Fly to Daru along past Oriomo River, Binaturi River, Pahoturi River westward towards the Indonesian Border and reaching the Torres Strait islands of Saibai, Boigu and Duan.
And already, the delivery of large vast quantities of sediments from the Fly River to the north eastern section of the Torres Strait has raised concerns over the impact of heavy metals on marine life and the people of the region. Torres Strait islanders are now planning a visit to Papua New Guinea to address these issues.
In this report, the Australian scientists have conducted a number of studies from 1996 to 2006 that showed most of the sediment from the Fly River is deposited in the coastal zone from Saibai Island in the west to Kerema in the Gulf Province.
The impacts of heavy metals, such as copper and aluminum, on marine life has been well established however surprisingly there has been no long term study of the impact of heavy metals on the marine life and people of this area.
This is the blue print that the Ok Tedi Mine Impact Area Association (OTMIAA) has been basing their arguments on, demanding the Government, Ok Tedi Mining Limited and PNG Sustainable Development to settle their outstanding payments and address the issue amicably.
A scientific environmental report prepared by Dr Alan Tingay, based on scientific data and research carried out by OTML, BHP and others on the impacts of the mine, especially in the areas from the mine down to Everill Junction (the southern limit of the Middle Fly region) is also a blue print for the landowners to act on.
Dr Tingay was engaged by OTML to undertake the report for the 2006/2007 CMCA review.
“The impacts are extensive and severe and are progressively affecting areas and communities further downstream from the mine.
“It is also clear from the scientific research that some major impacts of the mine such as increased flooding of the Fly River will continue for many years after mine closure,” the study details.
“These wastes have caused profound changes to the river system. These changes will continue to get worse for a very long time into the future and are likely to affect the entire river from the mine to the coast near Daru.
The impacts of the river system include:
* Deposition of sediments from the mine over much of the river system with deep deposits (in excess of three meters) in the Ok Tedi adjacent floodplains and in the upper Middle Fly;
* A significant increase in the frequency, height and extent of flooding in the Middle Fly caused by the deposits of wastes and consequent raising of the level of the river bed;
* A significant increase in copper levels throughout the river system down to the estuary;
* Evidence of acid mine drainage on the levels that flank the river channels in the Middle Fly and on islands from Ok Tedi down to Suki creek in the south Fly;
* Destruction of large areas of lowlands in the lower Ok Tedi and Middle Fly floodplains;
* Very large decreases in the quantity and variety of fish and other aquatic animals in the river caused by continuous and very high levels of turbidity, the destruction of habitat; and
* The destruction of large areas of sago.
Pacific Mining Watch / Post Courier