Placer Dome Loses Porgera Environmental Committee Chair Over "Propaganda"

On June 15th, MiningWatch Canada joined the Mineral Policy Center of the US and Australia's Mineral Policy Institute in publicising the resignation of Yati Bun, Chair of Placer Dome's Porgera Environmental Advisory Komiti (PEAK). The well-known and respected Bun resigned over Placer Dome's misuse of him in its "propaganda materials" and lack of action in the cleanup of river pollution from the company's Porgera Mine.

In his resignation letter Bun sharply criticized Placer Dome for failing to implement recommendations aimed at mitigating the impacts of mine waste disposal into the Strickland River at its Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea. At Porgera, Placer Dome dumps mine waste directly into the Strickland River, a practice that is illegal in most developed countries.

Placer Dome has disposed of mine tailings and overburden into the Strickland River system in Papua New Guinea since 1992. After numerous complaints by local villagers and Papua New Guinea environmental groups, and following a 1995 scientific study published by Australia's Mineral Policy Institute indicating serious environmental problems, the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) conducted a thorough study of the impacts of riverine disposal at the mine.

Placer Dome then created a multi-stakeholder committee called PEAK (Porgera Environmental Advisory Komiti) to oversee the implementation of the CSIRO recommendations. In his resignation letter PEAK's most recent Chairman, Yati Bun, accused the company of using him in "propaganda materials" while doing nothing to mitigate the impacts of their disposal on the Strickland River. "Placer has now had four years to carry out these studies and implement their recommendations, yet nothing has changed from the situation in 1996 when the CSIRO report was started," said Bun.

Bun's resignation was sparked by Placer's unauthorized use of his name in publicity materials. "My conscience cannot tolerate being involved any longer with the PEAK process of expediting the continuation of riverine discharge, as when the history of Porgera is written I do not wish to be the one that oversaw Porgera's impacts and did nothing," he said. Bun is Executive Director of the Foundation for People and Community Development in Papua New Guinea.

A backgrounder "Environmental Advisory Committee Chair Quits Over River Pollution at Placer Dome's Porgera Mine in Papua New Guinea" and Bun's resignation letter are available from MiningWatch Canada.