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Plaintiffs disappear and pull out of PNG waste dumping case

LIAM FOX


There are fears for the safety of three missing landowners involved in a case against a big nickel mine in Papua New Guinea.

The lawyer acting for a group of landowners, trying to stop a mine from dumping waste into the sea, says she has not heard from her clients since Sunday afternoon. Tiffany Nonggorr says other people connected to the case have been threatened and bashed.

"I'm concerned that they've been hurt or held against their will," she said. In March, the landowners won a temporary injunction preventing the Ramu nickel mine from building a deep-sea tailings pipeline to dump waste into Astrolabe Bay off Madang.

A judge was due to begin hearings today to decide whether to lift the ban or make it permanent. Ms Nonggorr says she does not know what the plaintiffs' disappearances mean for the case.
"I have absolutely no idea. All we can do is try and locate them," she said.

Police say they will be out in force around the courthouse to keep the peace. The case has divided the community into two camps: those who support the mine and those who do not want its waste dumped into the bay. Ms Nonggorr says tension has been building and in the last week it has escalated into intimidation and violence.

"In the last week or so, I've been threatened, the plaintiffs have been threatened, we've had to get a police escort," she said. "People that assist me with logistics in Madang - because I live in Mt Hagen - have been attacked and also threatened. It's a bit of a mess, I must say."

Anti-mine campaigner John Simoi experienced the intimidation first hand when he went to pick up the plaintiffs and bring them back across the bay to Madang by boat on Saturday morning. He was blocked by a boat full of armed men who demanded to know where the three landowners were.

"They came with a gun pointed, with a long bush knife and another hunting knife, and then they hold us up in the middle of the sea," he said. Mr Simoi says they had to return with a police escort to pick up the men.
"These thugs ... are a bunch of opportunists who are trying to get money from it," he said.

Police have confirmed the incident took place and that a man was arrested after another anti-mine campaigner was bashed last week. The rumour floating around Madang is that the plaintiffs have flown to Port Moresby to negotiate with the mine's majority owner, China's Metallurgical Group Corporation.


Plaintiffs 'pull out' of PNG mine challenge

The three landowners behind a legal battle to stop a mine dumping its waste into the sea in Papua New Guinea appear to have pulled out of the case. Up until this morning Eddie Tarsie, Peter Sel and Farima Siga had been passionately opposed to the Ramu nickel mine's plan to dump its tailings into Astrolabe Bay off Madang.

In March, the three landowners won a temporary injunction preventing the mine from constructing its deep sea tailings pipeline. Today a trial was due to begin to decide whether to lift the injunction or make it permanent.

But this morning their lawyer Tiffany Nonggorr was handed a fax from a law firm in Port Moresby saying her clients wanted to change lawyers and discontinue the discontinue the proceedings. She had not heard from her clients since Sunday and feared for their safety.

"I'm concerned that they've been hurt or held against their will," she said earlier today. Ms Nonggorr says other people connected to the case have been threatened and bashed. The case has divided the community into two camps: those who support the mine and those who do not want its waste dumped into the bay.

Ms Nonggorr says tension has been building and in the past week it has escalated into intimidation and violence. "In the last week or so I've been threatened, the plaintiffs have been threatened and we've had to get a police escort," she said. "People that assist me with logistics in Madang, because I live in Mt Hagen, have been attacked and also threatened. It's a bit of a mess, I must say."

Anti-mine campaigner John Simoi experienced the intimidation first hand when he went to pick up the plaintiffs and bring them back across the bay to Madang by boat on Saturday morning. He was blocked by a boat full of armed men who demanded to know where the three landowners were. "They came with a gun pointed, with a long bush knife and another hunting knife, and then they hold us up in the middle of the sea," he said.

Mr Simoi says they had to return with a police escort to pick up the men. "These thugs ... are a bunch of opportunists who are trying to get money from it," he said. Police have confirmed the incident took place and that a man was arrested after another anti-mine campaigner was bashed last week.

Justice David Cannings adjourned the matter until tomorrow and ordered the plaintiffs to appear in court.
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