THE National Court in Madang has given the green light to Ramu NiCo, developers of the US$1.4 billion Ramu nickel project, to dump its waste into the sea off Basamuk in Madang’s Astrolabe Bay, The National reports.
In a landmark decision yesterday, Justice David Cannings said although there would be a significant environmental impact, he refused the landowners’ application seeking a permanent ban on the use of the deep sea tailings placement (DSTP) system to dispose of the nickel and cobalt wastes.
He also said in his 65-page ruling he was not convinced by Ramu NiCo’s assurance that the tailings from the Basamuk nickel and cobalt refinery would not be toxic.
Cannings also refused the ban application because the government had already approved the dumping through the DSTP system.
Also, there would be adverse consequences for the mine and investor confidence if it did not go ahead, he said.
The matter had been before the court since last March, delaying the project which started in 2008.
Immediately following the ruling, lawyer representing the plaintiffs, Tiffany Nonggorr said her clients were considering an appeal.
Ramu NiCo released a short statement saying it could now proceed with the commissioning of the mine in order to start full operation in line with the company’s intention that the project meet best international practice standards in design and operation of its DSTP System.
“While the Company is pleased with the outcome and the finding that DSTP is lawful, Ramu NiCo will not be making further comment on the court’s decision until it has reviewed the whole 65-page judgement with its legal advisers.”
Up to the end of last year, Ramu NiCo had spent US$1.3 billion out of the total development cost of US$1.4 billion.
It said yesterday the project was at the end of the construction stage and had been scheduled to start trial operation late last year.
Cannings found that it was difficult to predict what the overall effects of the DSTP would be but he highlighted three:
. Smothering of benthic organisms which would affect the ecology of the bay;
.Food chain of the ecology to be affected; and
. Plumes, upwelling and ocean currents were likely occurrences to affect the Madang town area and north coast villages in the province.
He ordered the plaintiffs (landowners) must be consulted and kept informed by Ramu NiCo, the state and the Department of Environment and Conservation at least every three months on tailings and waste disposal issues for the life of the mine.