We've got Prince Albert in a can. He is actually visiting our Madang tuna canning protectorate. Prince Albert of Monaco is the sponsor of a largely French team of environmental scientists who have been conducting an extensive biodiversity study within the province. In a glorious
live-aboard sailboat. Presumably with French wines. Last night there was an invitation only
reception for him at the Resort Hotel ---favourite watering-hold for our local
pseudo-elite and Knights of the Realm who like to spin tales of their courage
in the face of heathen masses in the business community. We do hope they
enjoyed the rack of lamb flaps.
Today I wonder whether conversation in the diningroom turned
to the any of the three large scale ‘developments’ that Madang people have been
encouraged to welcome gratefully as the only source of sub-minimum wage
employment possible (at the price of environmental devastation).
Ramu Nickel is already begun dumping their 1—million tones of toxic waste into Besamuk Bay. Do you think that factors into the French biodiversity study?
We learned this past week from the Scottish (not French) Association of Marine Scientists that all the large and trace mineral indicators for these toxins have been been detected as planned at 150 metres and below within the immediate pipeline dispersal area.
The instruments were not placed at distances great enough to project, as planned, dispersal of tailings as far eastward as Crown island and the Vitiaz Straits, or westwards, to Karkar Island. But I wonder whether the bizarre crocodile attack on an American tourist at crown Island not long
ago might have been a misplaced message for the Chinese?
We feel confident that the Chinese people will hold periodic town meetings to keep us informed and the progress of these tailings. Now that SAMS has completed its task, it is left to the DEC, MRA and MCC to keep up the good science. At their own expense. Someone asked the Chinese scientists in
attendance, during the question-answer period , whether or not asbestos-like minerals were included in the tailings mix (because the actual recipe, much like the secret Zyklon B formulas of
Nazi kitchens, remains a tantalizing secret ). Apparently there is no word for asbestos in the Chinese language.
This came after we’d been told that the up- and down-swelling of the seas will move the tailings mixture up or down by 10 metres in the models, and by observation as much as 25 metres
either way. But these fluctuations (and their wide discrepencies) should not alarm us, as this is well under the 50 metre mark that separates thedeep ocean from the superficial waters which we drink, swim, fish and bath in—EXCEPT on those rare occasions (once every eight or nine years, like clockwork) of el nino. During an El Nino event the turbidity increases and these up and downswells will almost certainly bring mine tailings into our shallow water zone.
When someone asked the SAMS scientists whether we could foresee increasing frequencies of el nino events in the global warming future, they demurred, saying it wasn’t within their scope
to guess, but that el nino events are usually preceded by roughly 6 months of weather warnings. This would be sufficient to alert our conscientious development partners at the State of China to pause production for the sake of our health. That made everyone feel better.
On that subject still, it was asked whether or not the area that MCC is licensed to dump within, which is a roughly 1 sq kilometer (I think) zone that they have the absolute right to pollute beyond the death of all benthic organisms below 150 metres, is marked at all? It apparently hadn’t occurred to anyone. Apparently floating fish and rancid smells are not signs enough. There should be a marker. Or---following the Zyklon B analogy—maybe its better we’re led to the showers in our innocence, dropping lines from outriggers as our children swim by the shore.
Today we also learned that MCC and the State of China are not just concerned about PNG’s development---and the progress of the Madang people---but they are also helping the poor Afghan
people as they mine for gold in their desert. The news told us that:
Time is running out to save one of the world's great archeological sites. On Christmas
Day, archeologists who have been working to preserve Mes Aynak, a stunning archeological site in Afghanistan with more than 5,000 years of history, will be forced off the site to make way for a Chinese mining company that plans to extract copper from beneath the site.
The Chinese government ownedcompany, China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC), plans to destroy Mes Aynak's temples, monasteries, thousands of Buddhist statues, and a mountain range in order to extract what they believe is $100 billion worth of copper.
Thank god Basamuk Bay isn’t an archeological site. Whew! Just a cradle of marine biodiversity for the Southwest Pacific . But you have to admit it was really generous of the State of China to allow these Afgani treasures to be studied for three years before they were destroyed. All's fair! That's sort of how we see this Prince Monaco biodiversity study in fact.
That raises the question of whether the MCC Christmas Party this year will be as festive as those before. Will it have an archeological theme? Fireworks for stone monuments? Or just a great big toxic seafood platter?
Someone did ask why these studies needed to be conducted at all—when we know from Misima and Liihir that Deep Sea Tailings Disposal is indeed environmentally destructive and that biological regeneration takes at least three years following the mine close to even begin. (Maybe the Buddhist
temples could be rebuilt too---as a theme park?)
Finally, when the pipeline and Kurumbakare landowners felt the Basamuk side of the room (and me) had asked too many questions, they shouted us down (oh wait---that was actually the MCC Director of Community Relations who did that)---by saying we had to get onboard now, the project was here to stay and there was nothing we could do about it.
The Provincial Administrator closed the session by wisely reminding us that we should respect science, especially as Marengo come on line soon, and we will soon have a lovely Pacific Marine Industrial Zone up at Rempi too. All these wonderful developments require scientific studies, just so we will know what will eventuate (from the gifts of our land, our environmental degradation, our tax holidays, our minimum wage jobs and our displaced town services) . Shut up, or get off the fast train to modernity.
Do you suppose the MCC were there at Prince Albert’s dinner? I do hope so. Because it is very important that we balance the enormous amount of natural resource wealth China will accrue from our province with a French study of the splendid biodiversity at risk. Not that the two have
anything to do with each other. Everyone who’s ever visited the bush for a long walk knows that the effects of marine pollution have nothing to do with the inland flora and binatang. And that an Industrial Zone on the North Coast will have no impact whatsoever on our dive tourism, much less on the world class coral reefs, or the endemic species of marine life being protected by our
Marine Management Zones. Really, to even think that way would be too negative!!
It’s fortunate that many of the visiting researchers speak French, and not much English, not to mention Bel or Pidgin, so they may be able to conduct their study without being disturbed by these industrial concerns. Hopefully they will enjoy their time in the big sailboat anchored offshore---without having to either rely on Australian wines or learn exactly how their host environment will be soon destroyed.