China's Ramu nickel mine in PNG attacked by armed villagers


Rowan Callick, Asia Pacific Editor, The Australian –

Date of publication: 
7 August 2014

Melbourne – China’s $2.2 billion Ramu nickel mine in Papua New Guinea has been closed following an attack by armed villagers.

Five Chinese workers were injured, with one needing 14 stitches.

The operator, Ramu NiCo, said “computers, printing machines, office furniture, office windows and doors, two-way radios, office phone and other equipment were severely damaged or removed, costing millions of kina”.

Nine excavators, a fuel truck and a lighting vehicle were burned during the attack on what RamuNico describes as “China’s largest greenfield mining investment” in any foreign country. It is the largest such venture to be operated as well as owned by Chinese interests anywhere in the region, including in Australia.

A police squad was dispatched from the provincial capital, Madang, including officers from the Criminal Investigation Unit.

Ramu NiCo president Wang Jicheng, who visited the mine site to assess the damage, told the management team that re­turning the area to normality was the priority, before restarting ­production.

The company said mining would remain suspended “until the perpetrators are identified and brought to justice”. The attack has been blamed on illegal migrants to the mining area who were unhappy with the company’s recruitment policy.

Greg Anderson, executive director of the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum, has said RamuNico impressed and surprised observers with the quality of its community programs.

The company said it had been attempting to hire skilled and competent workers to improve productivity, and had been seeking to persuade those living near the mine of the value of training.

The attack took place at the mountainous Kurumbukari mine site, from where the nickel and cobalt are slurried down a 135km pipeline to a processing facility at Basamuk, on the coast south of Madang.

Ramu NiCo is 85 per cent owned by Chinese interests, led by major state-owned enterprise the Metallurgical Corporation of China. Brisbane-based Highlands Pacific owns 8.56 per cent.

Production began last year following a two-year delay due to legal appeals over environmental issues, chiefly depositing tailings in the ocean. The mine is building output towards 70 per cent capacity this year, reaching full capacity next year.

The mining sector in PNG, which for decades carried the economy, is encountering big challenges, but the government can rely on even larger income from liquefied natural gas sales.

The Ok Tedi copper mine also closed for a period recently, due to flooding, and Lihir owner Newcrest has faced severe problems of its own.


China’s MCC shuts PNG nickel mine after attacks

Reuters –

7 August 2014

MELBOURNE – The Ramu nickel and cobalt mine in Papua New Guinea was shut this week by its Chinese owners after it was attacked by villagers on Monday, according to media reports.

The mine, forecast to produce 22,000 tonnes of nickel in 2014, is operated by Ramu NiCo, which is majority owned and run by Metallurgical Corporation of China Ltd.

Ramu NiCo said equipment, including computers, printers, and phones, “costing millions of kina” were badly damaged or removed from its office, according to The Australian newspaper.

One local report said preliminary investigations found the attacks were spurred by concerns about the company’s hiring policies for mine workers, while Ramu NiCo has been focusing on training locals to be able to work at the mine.

Minority owner Highlands Pacific’s top executives and a spokesman were not immediately available to comment on the situation at the mine.

(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Michael Perry)