Communities Organise Against Ocean Dumping

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

A regional conference on submarine tailings disposal will be held in Manado, North Sulawesi in Indonesia between April 23-30, 2001. Submarine tailings disposal is the disposal of mine-mill waste or tailings into the sea through a submerged pipe, thus by-passing the international ban on ocean dumping which is limited to dumping from boats. Participants will come from Pacific countries where submarine tailings disposal is increasingly being practiced and promoted by the mining industry — Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and New Caledonia — as well as from countries where these mining companies are based — England, the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Participants will include members of non-governmental organisations, affected communities, academics, scientists, and government officials. North Sulawesi is the home of gold mining projects where submarine tailings disposal is being practiced (Newmont's Minahasa Raya) or proposed (Aurora Gold's Mireas Soputan Mining). Conference participants will visit these mine sites.

The Pacific region has become a focus for companies advocating submarine tailings disposal. The countries in this region, along the so-called "rim of fire," are rich in minerals. Deposits are commonly found on the many islands that characterize the region but these islands have little or no "disposable" land for massive waste storage. As well, deposits are frequently found at the tops of mountains where waste storage is also a problem. Given the proximity of the sea to many deposits in this region, submarine tailings disposal offers companies a relatively convenient and cost-effective alternative to storage on land.

Participants to the conference will learn about legislation in the U.S. and Canada that effectively bans submarine tailings disposal in these countries. They will also learn about monitoring techniques and about potential health risks associated with submarine tailings disposal from an eco-systems and health perspective.