The PNG National Court today made a decision of unprecedented symbolism. It’s hard to know why, but not hard to decipherwhat we’ve been offered.
Environmental disaster. In exchange for the billion-kina investment of a mine that will export all its earning back to China.
When a resource extraction project has invested enough money (in this case, K2.8 billion, we are told) in the effort, virtually no level of constitutional or moral insult can be felt.
In other words,
IF an investor plans to violate any of the National Goals of the country, goals which underpin the Constitution (like the Federalist Papers in the US) and define the unique sovereignty of the State, and
IF a project’s plan amounts to a breach of ‘our duty of trust for future generations’ as vested in the National Goals, and
IF the investor plans to commit irreparable harm to a resource which has international significance, above and beyond its national and local significance, and in the course of which will most probably pose a danger to the health of a population wider even than the immediate landowners, and
IF the investor has failed to disprove either possibilities in a court of law
It is still LEGAL for their project to go forward
IF they have invested an indeterminate sum ALREADY –- a sum that represents either overwhelming confidence in the outcome of the project, and/or the time spent under construction of the project BEFORE the plaintiffs have filed their suit.
In still other words,
With enough money, and enough impediments to raising a case by remote villagers, anyone can destroy the environment of PNG.
In still other words,
PNG can and has sold it's soul to the Devil.
Given that in this case the impediments to bringing a case have included the very suspicious ‘flipping’ of the first set of plaintiffs, and the singular courage of the one remaining plaintiff---it is hard to find any judicial recourse for landowners from this judgement.
Justice Canning’s judgement spends 61 pages affirming the validity of the plaintiffs’ case, and the defects of the defendants’ case. In the last 3 pages it effectively does an about-face to conclude that the Deep Sea Tailings Plan is not in violation of the Environment Act, and that the preponderance of investment in the mine, and the potential expense to the Provincial and National Government were it to close, including the loss of investor confidence in the country, forces his hand.
This is particularly curious in light of his statement that:
"The defendants assert that if the DSTP is stopped the Ramu Nickel Project will be abandoned. ‘If DSTP is killed, the project will be killed’ was how counsel for the first defendant put it in his opening address. I see no credible evidence in support of that proposition. If a permanent injunction is granted in the terms sought by the plaintiffs MCC will be required to find an alternative method of tailings disposal, a land-based facility, which the evidence suggests would be a technically feasible option, though much more expensive than the DSTP."
Furthermore, Cannings says,
“I cannot believe that MCC would just walk away from the project, having invested K2.9 billion in it to date, according to the evidence of their Acting Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Sun Yan.”
It is therefore the additional costs that he is considering, should MCC need to switch to a land based tailings system at this stage. In fact, it is the unspecified 'considerable' cost, and the likelihood that there would be economic ripple effects---also unspecified--that constitutes his decision:
“What I can believe, however, and make findings of fact on, is that a permanent injunction would lead to an extensive delay in commissioning of the project. The extra cost involved for MCC would be considerable. The multiplier effect on the provincial and nation al economy of commencement of a project of this magnitude, would be delayed. Investor confidence in PNG would be impaired.”
Where is the hard evidence of these costs and the loss of investor confidence? In fact, Ms Nonggorr was the one to claim during the trial that a judgement in behalf of the plaintiffs would boost investor confidence in their investments by indicating that a robust judicial system stands to protect them in PNG.
But it is all too clear, by symbolism as well as word, that Ms. Nonggorr more than won her case.
Especially when they've got a chocolate fix (thanks Jordanna)
Hey--Who's that kid in the background?