Thursday, October 28, 2010

MMJV admits "high" sediment in Watut River


One of the joint venture partners in the just-commissioned Hidden Valley gold mine in Morobe province has admitted that there are “higher-than-expected” sediment levels in the Watut River.
South African company Harmony Gold Mining, through its chief executive officer Graham Briggs, made the announcement in a letter to stakeholders – published on its website ( – on Tuesday this week.
Harmony CEO Graham Briggs

Briggs admitted that this was causing “serious concern within and outside the company” and a change in the course of a section of the lower Watut River, resulting in die-back of vegetation.
The admission came about as Morobe Mining Joint Ventures, made up of Harmony and Australian partner Newcrest, started paying compensation to affected villagers along the Watut River and as Bulolo MP Sam Basil called on villagers not to accept the payouts.
“The higher-than-expected sediment impacts in the Watut River in PNG have given rise to serious concern within and outside the company,” Briggs said.
“The mine’s environmental impact statement (EIS) predicted sediment loads in the Watut River during construction but, as it has taken longer than expected to reach hard rock at the mine which will be used to construct the interim waste dumps, the construction of stable waste dumps has been delayed resulting in a continued high sediment load in the Watut River.
“Construction of the interim waste dumps has been prioritised, with specific resources allocated to the project to ensure speedy progress.
“This will reduce the sediment load in the river, and allow the current sedimentation to flush out.
“In addition, mining activities which contributed to the increased sediment load have been stopped.
“The MMJV commissioned further impact assessments so that we could better understand the impact of these sediment loads on the river.
“These studies show that the increased sediment load in the Watut River (of which the mine is one source) has resulted in a change in the course of a section of the lower Watut River, and a die-back of vegetation in that area as a result of flooding.
“Although these changes in the river course occur naturally over time, the mine's contribution to the sediment load in the lower Watut River has speeded up this process.
“The MMJV has committed to expanding its monitoring programme to quantify the impacts coming from the mine and other sources, taking remedial action wherever possible, and working with the government to assess fair compensation for those affected.”
Hidden Valley mine was officially commissioned on Sept 29 by Governor General Sir Paulias Matane at a ceremony which also marked its opening.
The new gold project is a joint venture between South African miner Harmony Gold (70%) and Newcrest Mining Ltd (30%), the largest gold miner in Asia-Pacific.
MMJV plans to invest a total of K1.25 billion over a 10-year period, with the outlay to go towards wages and salaries (K800 million), royalty payments (K200m) and revenue for the provincial and national government (K250m).
The Hidden Valley mine is projected to produce an estimated 2.9 million ounces of gold.

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