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.
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.