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Papua New Guinea: Ramu Nickel shareholder, Conic Metal, asked to respond on steps taken to investigate & remedy Basamuk Bay spill

Groups raise concerns about the environmental damage and potential health impacts of the Ramu nickel spill in Papua New Guinea's Basamuk Bay allegedly brought about by the operation of Ramu Nickel-Cobalt Operation, in which Conic Metal Corp. maintains a 8.56% shareholding.

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre invited Conic to respond as to the steps the company is taking to investigate the spill and resultant harm, and to remedy the alleged adverse impacts. The company did not respond.

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Company non-response
9 July 2020

Conic did not respond

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre invited Conic to respond concerning the steps taken to investigate and remedy the Basamuk Bay spill. The company did not respond.

Article
5 July 2020

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

Author: Melanie Burton, Min Zhang & Christian Schmollinger, Reuters

11 October 2019

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 [...].

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.

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Environmental remediation expert Alex Mojon took samples from the bay [...].

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"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 [...].

[...]

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Article
16 June 2020

Papua New Guinea Landowners' Fears Confirmed: Bismarck Sea At Risk; Canadian Conic Metals Unresponsive

Author: Mining Watch Canada

17 June 2020

As early as 2010, landowners living along the coast of the Bismarck Sea in Papua New Guinea (PNG) sought and won an injunction to stop mine tailings from the Ramu nickel-cobalt mine from entering Basamuk Bay via a pipe system coming from the processing plant. [...]

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[...] [T]he Supreme Court found that the mine could go ahead because of the possible economic ramifications for PNG of cancelling the permit that had already been granted, but ordered the mine to carry out regular environmental monitoring of the impacts of the tailings in the marine environment. [...]

In August 2019, the mine's tailings transport system failed, spilling tailings that were on their way to the seabed near the shore, and turning the waters of the Bismarck Sea a bright red. A scientific report of the spill provided to the provincial government notes "alarmingly high level of contamination" in the ocean, natural water bodies, coastal communities, and agriculture.

MiningWatch Canada and US-based Earthworks have twice written to Toronto-based Conic Metals, which says its "asset base is underpinned by" its joint venture interest in the Ramu mine, in February and March. We have sought further information about the spill, about Conic Metals' response to the scientific report on the spill, and about the monitoring reports of the effects of the tailings disposal system that were mandated by the Supreme Court of PNG in 2011. Conic Metals touts itself as a company focused on metals for the energy transition required by climate change and one that "aims to conduct its business openly and with honesty and integrity, and strives to create an organizational culture that endorses ethical conduct and conforms to best practices." We have had no response from the company to our letters.

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Article
16 June 2020

Self-proclaimed leader in responsible battery metals fails to address serious environmental harms from mine waste disposal

Author: Catherine Coumans (MiningWatch Canada), Ellen Moore (Earthworks) & John Chitoa (Bismarck Ramu Group)

17 June 2020

Conic Metals, a Toronto-based company that specializes in securing electric vehicle battery minerals has failed to address allegations of serious environmental harm from the Ramu nickel and cobalt mine, specifically its submarine tailings disposal operation that uses the ocean as a dumping site for mine waste. The company ignored multiple requests in February and March for information on what steps the company has taken to address serious environmental contamination related to its principle asset, owned through a joint-venture interest with Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC). [...]

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Despite holding just 8.56% joint-venture interest in Ramu mine Conic states that revenue from the project is central to the company's growth strategy and foundational to its goal to become a "leading battery metals investment vehicle." Unfortunately, this growth strategy relies on a toxic tailings disposal operation that is decimating a coral-reef biological hotspot and putting at risk the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen who depend on the Basamuk Bay for their food. This is unacceptable, particularly given the increasing scrutiny and pressure to address the health, environmental, economic, and social impacts along the supply chains of lithium-ion batteries, electric vehicles and other low-carbon technologies. Companies that purchase nickel-cobalt hydroxide, nickel sulfate or use nickel-containing inputs should ensure that their supply chains are not linked to the damaging practices at the Ramu mine, or similar high-pressure acid leaching (HPAL) facilities dumping toxic waste into the ocean.

Making matters worse, Conic continues to laud the HPAL operation as 'best in the world' instead of addressing the fact that its flagship asset is at the center of massive environmental lawsuit. The company's behavior, unwillingness to engage with the mounting evidence, and unresponsiveness to concerns raised by stakeholders, renders its environmental and social commitments meaningless. [...]

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Article
15 June 2020

Canadian company goes silent on problems at its Ramu mine

Author: Ellen More, Earthworks

16 June 2020

Since 2010, landowners in the path of the Ramu nickel-cobalt mine, and the accompanying refinery on Basamuk Bay, have opposed the use of ocean tailings dumping. They sued, and the mine operators at the time, Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) and Highlands Pacific, were ordered to carry out and publish quarterly reports on the impacts of ocean dumping. To this day, communities have not seen a single report. What they have seen is a steady uptick in environmental and social problems from the Ramu operation.

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Enter Canadian company, Conic Metals Corp. in 2018. Conic, an electric vehicle battery metals investment company, acquired Highland Pacific's ownership share in the project. The company promised a responsible alternative to source critical metals necessary to meet the growing demand for electric vehicle batteries and touted Ramu as its principal asset.

[...]

It wasn't until November 2019 that Conic reported on the disaster, saying that its partner Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) "continues to meet or exceed the obligations of its environmental and social licenses". The company went on to state that MCC is carrying out regular studies on biological effects of tailings dumping on marine life, in addition to the court-mandated quarterly reports.

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Conic did not respond to letters sent by Earthworks and MiningWatch in February and March requesting the reports and an update on what steps the company was taking to ensure it had independent, verifiable information about the environmental impacts of the Ramu operation.

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Article
12 November 2019

Conic Provides Update on Ramu Operations and Announces TSX-V Listing

Author: Conic

13 November 2019

Conic Metals Corp. [...] confirms that it has been notified by majority-owner and operator Metallurgical Corporation of China Limited ("MCC"), that processing at the Ramu Process Facility resumed [...] after a short suspension to undertake remedial works, as was previously reported by the Company. The suspension of activities was not the result of an environmental investigation as incorrectly reported by some media outlets. The Company and PNG government took 11 independent samples after the incident that occurred in late August and all sampling showed no lasting environmental impact. The statutory body in PNG responsible for environment protection, Conservation and Environment Protection Authority ("CEPA"), has declared the marine environment in Madang Province normal with no evidence of toxic elements as a result of the incident or Ramu's ongoing operations.

MCC's operating record at Ramu, now in its eighth year of production, continues to meet or exceed the obligations of its environmental and social licenses, and MCC continues to work with all Papua New Guinea government authorities in adopting a culture of continuous improvement at Ramu to mitigate against any future incidents. In addition, MCC monitors its world class deep-sea tailings management system in full compliance with the project's Environment Permit. This includes quarterly reporting of water quality and regular underwater inspections of system integrity. Also, studies are regularly conducted, in accordance with the prescribed guidelines, to monitor biological effects on marine life. The project has been in compliance with its permits and obligations since its inception.

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Conic Metals Corp. is a base metals company offering direct exposure to nickel and cobalt, both being critical elements of electric vehicles and energy storage systems. Conic holds an 8.56% joint-venture interest in the producing, long-life and world-class Ramu Nickel-Cobalt Operation located in Papua New Guinea which provides Conic with significant attributable nickel and cobalt production. [...]

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