Expert says lab results from PNG Ramu nickel spill 'alarming' - report

by Reuters
Friday, 11 October 2019 05:52 GMT

* Expert finds heavy metals in soil samples

* Results come after August spill turned Basamuk Bay red

MELBOURNE, Oct 11 (Reuters) - An expert in chemical contamination has called test results from the Ramu nickel spill into Papua New Guinea's Basamuk Bay in August "alarming," according to a local media report on Thursday.

A spill at Metallurgical Corp of China (MCC)'s nickel processing plant located in Madang, on the country's northeastern coast, caused the surrounding ocean to turn red and left a muddy residue on the rocky shoreline, according to locals and photographs of the incident at the time.

The spill occurred as a result of an operational and administrative failure, a government official said at the time. MCC now faces compensation claims and calls from the local governor to close the plant.

Environmental remediation expert Alex Mojon took samples from the bay in September, according to a news report from Papua New Guinea' EMTV Online.

Mojon has previously worked for Swiss oil remediation company Man Oil Group AG as its chief scientist, according to his LinkedIn profile.

"I have to tell you that it's alarming ... there is evidence that Ramu Nico is not managing their waste and that is a fact. I have obtained the results from the laboratory from Germany ... I am shocked," Mojon told local media, according to EMTV Online.

All of the 28 samples tested were found to have toxic levels of heavy metals contamination, the EMTV report said, citing Mojon.

Mojon did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.

A spokesman for Ramu Nickel did not have an immediate comment while a call to MCC went unanswered. But an executive in August said that company management was "extremely concerned" about the incident and that it would address compensation once its investigation was complete.

An investigation by the country's Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) is due to be made available in the next week, according to media reports.

In a televised press conference on TVWAN news, Mojon said that some of the spillage had not dispersed and that local residents had complained of smoke from the plant that irritated their skin and eyes. "We welcome a copy of the report produced by Alex Mojon to be presented officially to CEPA, MRA and other interested organisations before we could make any comments," said Jerry Garry of Papua New Guinea's Mineral Resources Authority told Reuters. "We cannot fully appreciate and comment on his report until a copy and presentation is made to CEPA," Garry said. (Reporting by Melanie Burton. Additional reporting by Min Zhang in Beijing; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

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