After attending a training facilitated by Bismarck Ramu Group (BRG) in July this year, a group of vibrant young people from St. Andrew’s Lutheran Parish in Lae, Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG), is taking the lead to mobilize communities to stop “Deep Sea Tailings Placement” (DSTP) – a misleading name for mine tailings disposal into the ocean – by the Wafi-Golpu mine into the Huon Gulf.
DSTP has become a prominent national issue, as mining tailings in PNG are not regulated by law and so there is no proper monitoring of the environmental impacts. This issue drew international attention in August due to a mine waste spill into the ocean by the Chinese-owned Ramu Nickel mine at Basamuk Bay, Madang Province. The spill caused a red discharge that discoloured, clouded, and poisoned a substantial part of the bay adjacent to the Ramu Nickel plant.
After the training at BRG in July, the Lae-based youth were able to get their church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC) of PNG, to support them in their campaign against exploitative and destructive industrial development in their area. Since 2017, the ELC of PNG has been celebrating the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation within the Lutheran World Federation theme, “Liberated through God’s Grace” and three sub-themes: “Creation not for sale, Human Beings not for sale, and Salvation not for sale”.
Within this context, it was clear to the St. Andrew’s youth group members that the proposed DSTP for the Wafi-Golpu mine, a Newcrest (Australia) and Harmony Gold (South Africa) joint venture, is not in line with the sub-themes and as such is a violation of God’s Grace. Consequently, the youth initiated their campaign to oppose mine tailings disposal into the Huon Gulf – networking effectively and bringing many concerned people into their movement. Local women have been particularly active, supporting their children’s efforts to try to stop the destruction of their environment and protect their land-based livelihoods. The head of the ELC in PNG, the Bishop Dr. Jack Urame, has been clear that his church will do all it can to uphold the key principle, Creation not for Sale – the Bishop said, “As a church and as Christians we must raise our voice against developments that are destructive to the lives of our people and environment. It will affect their livelihood”.
On September 14, 2019, the St. Andrew’s youth launched an event called Green Day. This event was held two days prior to PNG’s national Independence Day to collect rubbish throughout Lae city. It was highly successful, with young Lutherans from other congregations and parishes within Lae city also joining in the clean-up campaign. In this way, the Green Day clean-up campaign provided a space for the youth to protest against the Wafi-Golpu mine tailings disposal and to also reflect on their own actions with regard to waste pollution.
To show solidarity with the Lae-based campaign, the Karkar Island Solwara Warriors (Ocean Warriors), a member of the Alliance of Solwara Warriors (ASW) and also part of the ELC PNG congregation, led a traditional canoe voyage – from Karkar Island in Madang Province all the way to Lae in Morobe Province – to help campaign against DSTP. The Karkar Solwara Warriors are well known for having campaigned effectively against Nautilus Minerals’ plan to initiate seabed mining in the Bismarck Sea, and are now keen to support the young Lutherans of St. Andrew’s Parish to stop the proposed ocean tailings disposal of the Wafi-Golpu mine in Morobe.
With momentum building, another community from the ELC of PNG joined in the movement – the Labu Lutheran community located at the mouth of the Markham River built a traditional canoe to welcome the canoe from Karkar Island. In both Karkar and Markham, such traditional canoes had not been built for several generations and so their revival was particularly important and exciting. The Mayau Lale (Guardian of the Sea) canoe from Karkar, and the Mete Pana (The Way of the Gospel) canoe from Markham – as they have been named for their unique roles in their respective societies – were both restored through a cultural revival and are now united to Christ’s gospel and the values of the 500 years of Reformation of the ELC. As they sail along the northern coastline of New Guinea, the two canoes will share information with communities and will advocate against large-scale destructive profit-for-the-few-driven activities by corporations, especially foreign-owned ones, in indigenous communities in PNG. At the same time, young people in the church will continue their efforts to press the ELC of PNG to continue to lobby the government.
These young people also plan to bring the agenda of DSTP to the National Lutheran Youth Conference in Lababia, Salamaua, Morobe Province 19-23 September 2019. They are hopeful that, as a result, this important issue will be included on the agenda of the National Lutheran Synod for next year and thus will be presented to the Government of PNG as a concern for the estimated 2 million Lutherans in the country. In this way, Christianity in PNG is becoming an important way for communities – including youth – to work toward liberating the oppression and suffering of people in PNG in rapidly changing and challenging modern times.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.
Get Reports via Email
We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.