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Anger mounts at response to Solomons oil disaster

Author: Jamie Tahana, Radio New Zealand, Published on: 4 March 2019

4 March 2019

Efforts to avert an environmental catastrophe in a Solomon Islands world heritage area have intensified, as salvage crews begin efforts to pump about 600 tonnes of oil from a ship stranded on a reef.

...Solomon Trader...leaked about 100 tonnes of oil into the sea...creating an oil slick that extends about six kilometres from the wreckage.

The oil spill spells disaster for local communities in Kangava Bay, where hundreds of residents rely on the sea for their food and livelihoods. ...[R]esidents have told of a heavy stench that makes breathing difficult.

...Anger over how avoidable this environmental disaster was has been compounded by the response from shipping and mining companies involved...described as slow and evasive.

..The Hong Kong-flagged Solomon Trader arrived in Kangava Bay from the Chinese port city of Longkou on 5 February, when Cyclone Oma was churning its way through southern Solomon Islands and the north of Vanuatu.

...Despite the weather, the ship's crew started loading bauxite, the main mineral used in the production of aluminium, from a mine on Rennell operated by the company Bintan Mining Ltd.

...According to the governments of Solomon Islands, New Zealand and Australia, the responsibility for containing the spill, cleaning it up, and removing the wreckage, lies with the ship's owner, King Trading Ltd, its South Korean insurer, and the miner, Bintan Mining Ltd.

...Meanwhile, the oil spill was being stirred in the currents, Mr Singamoana said, leaving locals and officials to peel the sticky bitumen-like sludge from their white sand and rocks.

He said locals were being told to avoid seafood, their main protein source....


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