Wafi-Golpu mine waste optionsThere has been a lot of speculation and much concern from communities about where the tailings and mine waste would go from the proposed Wafi-Golpu mine.

The answer is we still don’t know. But communities need to work together to ensure that neither the Watut River or the Morobe Coast is polluted.

There are currently two options, a TSF or DSTP – there are others but the companies are typically very secretive about other safer but more expensive options such as thickened tailings.

Currently MMJV (Newcrest Mining and Harmony Gold) are undertaking a review of DSTP (deep sea tailings placement) – the name miners use for dumping mine waste into the sea. It is a false name, the waste is neither placed nor in deep water, it just runs out the end of the pipe, at around 150m deep at Basamuk Bay.

Newcrest has been doing this for many years at Lihir. It was also used at Misima and currently on Simberi. There have been significant impacts at Basamuk Bay, from the waste dumped there from the Ramu nickel name – ask your wontoks from Basamuk what they think of mine waste in the sea.Wafi-Golpu TSF

The review, due in June 2018, will probably be a secret company document.

The alternative is to build a TSF (tailings storage facility) on the Watut River floodplain to the west of the Timini Range. While perhaps not as immediately bad as dumping waste into the sea, a poorly designed, constructed or managed tailings dam could endanger the river and the communities that live nearby. Either from leakage and contamination or a catastrophic failure such as at the Mt Polley mine in Canada or the Samarco mine in Brazil.

The communities along the river and the coast have a right to see these studies and to be involved in any mining related decisions that affect them, their land and communities for generations into the future.

Wafi-Golpu TSF design

 

Wafi-Golpu infrastructure

 

Soon, if not already, Newcrest Mining (and Harmony Gold) will be trying to convince communities in Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea that there is not much profit to be shared with mining affected communities. They will talk about competitive pressures, commodity cycles, the need to reduce the cost of production…

So, let’s see how well Newcrest are doing;
1. Recent reports from Newcrest show an underlying profit of $498 million AUD and the retirement of significant debt. With $446 million (pre tax) coming from Lihir.
2. The company-wide all in sustaining cost was $994 per ounce, with a profit of $601 for each of the 2.36 million ounces of gold they mined. A return of over 1.1 billion dollars.

Newcrest shares 26 million ounces of gold with Harmony Gold at Wafi-Golpu. At today’s price that’s worth $42,000,000,000 AUD or 100 billion kina. Add on the 13 million tonnes of copper and 48 million ounces of silver, and the proposed mine is looking very rich indeed.

Now that’s total value, not profit and it will take many years to mine and some will never be recovered – but how much will be returned to local communities and shared with the LLG’s, Morobe Province and PNG?

Wafi-Golpu sign