Pilferage at old storage tank caused spill
By Gorethy Kenneth
PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, May 17, 2010) - There is a huge oil spill at Loloho, the former Bougainville copper mine port facility area in Kieta, Central Bougainville.
The lives of many Central Bougainvilleans are at risk from this oil, which was used to run the steam turbine generator and provide electricity for the port facilities - used and left 25 years ago by the Bougainville copper mine. Black oil was contained in two 28 million liter tanks left untouched during the Bougainville war.
One of the tanks was empty from the crisis days while the other tank was still full with 28 million liters of this outdated oil.
The leakage started from steel pipes taken away illegally by experts and individuals from abroad (Cubans, Americans and Asians) collaborating with the locals and illegally transporting the oil out of Loloho for the outside market.
It is now alleged that more than 90,000 tons of oil have been stolen and taken out in vessels - one allegedly sitting in Singapore and the oil still not sold because it is outdated as it was left there some 25 years back.
Locals from Kieta and the surrounding Loloho area told the Post-Courier that people came from all over the globe, setting and signing agreements with local companies and individuals who were illegally buying and selling scrap metal - part of it the original steel contained in the power house at Loloho - also one that connected to the fuel tanks, which eventually disturbed the pipes, causing a huge oil leak since last year.
Paying locals a little money and getting away with huge amounts of money because these pieces of steel were original, when sold outside they will get a lot of money for them and overseas they smelt them again and resell them as second hand steel in PNG, Peter Nabeu, a local told the Post-Courier.
But there is now a New Zealand environmental group working on the site to contain, drain and hopefully burn off the oil, and in time save the lives of the people of Bougainville.
An expert from that environment group Ron Brennan advised they were waiting for a letter of approval from Bougainville Copper Foundation boss Paul Coleman in Port Moresby in order to start burning the oil in Kieta.
Brennan explained that bringing machines alone to clean and carry out the operations would cost them US$30 million but the whole cleanup operation of the mine areas would cost US$90 million, covering Panguna and Loloho.
"We’ve got the approval from the ABG and the locals here in Kieta but we are still waiting for a consent letter from Paul Coleman (BCL) to start our full operation," Mr. Brennan told the Post-Courier last week.
"This oil is very dangerous. Once it spills into the sea, there goes Bougainville for the next 100 years, but we are checking every day for any spill into the sea," he said.
"We are just waiting for the consent letter from Paul Coleman to start our operations," he said.
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