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Old 17-11-2002, 11:53 AM
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Mining Ombudsman exposes PNG river poisoning coverup

4 November 2002 - Media Release :

A report released today exposes a coverup of massive mercury poisoning at the Tolukuma mine in Papua New Guinea, threatening thousands of lives. Drawing on leaked confidential information, the new Oxfam Community Aid Abroad report reveals how the Top 100 Australian-listed company, Durban Roodepoort Deep, has failed to disclose this information to its shareholders.

Oxfam Community Aid Abroad's Mining Ombudsman 2001-2002 report details allegations of mining companies violating the basic rights of communities in Asia Pacific and South America. The report calls on the Australian mining industry to establish an independent complaints mechanism and protect the human rights of communities affected by the companies' activities.

"The Tolukuma mine in Papua New Guinea clearly demonstrates an unwillingness on the part of Durban Roodepoort Deep to respect the rights of the women, men and children affected by the mine," said Mining Ombudsman Ingrid Macdonald. "The Tolukuma gold mine continues to pump 50,000 tonnes of mine waste into the river system every year with devastating impacts on local communities."

The report also documents recent deaths at the Indo Muro Kencana Mine in Indonesia, owned by Perth-based Aurora Gold Ltd. Following a number of fatal shootings and injuries of community members at the mine, Oxfam Community Aid Abroad is now calling for the Australian government to conduct an independent inquiry into possible Australian diplomatic linkages with these violent incidents.

More encouragingly, BHP Billiton has begun engaging with local communities impacted by its Tintaya mine in Peru. In a meeting facilitated by Oxfam Community Aid Abroad's Mining Ombudsman in late 2001, a multi-stakeholder process has been established between the company, communities and local municipality to resolve grievances and empower those affected.

"The Tintaya mine demonstrates the considerable benefits that can be gained by all stakeholders in using an independent facilitator such as the Mining Ombudsman", said Andrew Hewett, Executive Director, Oxfam Community Aid Abroad. "We are seeing increased interest from the business community in creating a formal complaints mechanism for the mining industry," he added.

Oxfam Community Aid Abroad established the Mining Ombudsman in February 2000. The Ombudsman assists men and women from communities affected by mining, whose basic rights are threatened by mining operations. Human rights investigations are conducted in response to such complaints and the Mining Ombudsman raises the cases directly with the companies concerned.

For a copy of the Mining Ombudsman Annual Report, for further information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Carly Hammond on tel: (03) 9289 9413 or 0409 181 454, or
Ingrid Macdonald on tel: (03) 9289 9490 or 0419 889 782.

Read the report online

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