Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Basil challenges MMJV over Watut River payouts


Bulolo MP Sam Basil has gone on the warpath with Morobe Mining Joint Ventures after the company started paying out compensation to villagers along the Watut River who have been affected by activities of the Hidden Valley gold mine.
 Basil went on NBC national radio today to tell Watut River communities to refrain from signing any statutory declarations and documents issued by MMJV and Morobe provincial government until legal advice was sought.
The controversial statutory declaration (please click on images to enlarge and read contents)
 This is after MMJV started paying out compensation on Oct 18 to affected villagers along the Watut River system.
 “I believe signing the statutory declaration and receiving compensation may jeopardise future lawsuits by the locals and district administration,” he said.
 “My office has not been informed by MMJV officials about past methods of compensation, as well as the current compensation payouts, and the future implications of the already-signed statutory declarations.
 “I caution the Morobe provincial mining division officials not to blindly commit people of Bulolo district and Huon Gulf district - who are already affected by the river system - to sign any form of statutory declaration without knowing fully its future effects.
 “Any statutory declaration must have clearance from both parties’ legal representatives before executing the processes.”
Improvement damage valuation sheet
 Basil said his joint district planning and budget priorities committee (JDPBPC) recently approved K150, 000 to fund a toxicologist from Australia, who had already identified areas for sampling.
 “I also urge affected people of Huon Gulf to convince their local MP and Minister for Health Sasa Zibe, or Governor Luther Wenge, to fund the Huon Gulf side of the affected river system as it is a very expensive exercise which needs a joint effort from all concerned parties.
 “The documents (given out by MMJV and Morobe provincial mining) are now in the hands of lawyers representing Bulolo district, who will advise the Bulolo JDPBPC of its future implications.
 “If there are any implications, then the law firm has been instructed to file an order to stop MMJV and the Morobe provincial government from carrying out the compensation payouts, while also seeking nullification of the already-signed documents.”
 Basil said Bulolo JDPBPC would sue MMJV if there was enough evidence about Watut River pollution by the Hidden Valley mine.
 “I don’t want to see people blindly signing statutory declarations today without knowing its future implications,” he said.
 “Proper and just compensation must be carried out beforehand, with reference to the Ok Tedi experience.”
 MMJV general manager of sustainability and external relations David Wissink, in a letter dated Oct 8, 2010, said the company was committed to pay for individual improvement damages along Watut River.
MMJV's compensation letter
 He said these would be calculated in accordance with the PNG Valuer General 2008 revised rate and MMJV’s compensation policies and procedures.

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