LNG Watch, both in this blog and on Radio New Zealand, has called for an independent investigation into the cause of the recent Tumbi landslide disaster.
To date, the National Disaster Office has pointed the finger at ExxonMobil owing to the existence of a quarry in the vicinity of the landslide area. Testimony from local landowners would suggest there may be some merit to this claim. LNG Watch has been told that a project contractor used high explosives in the quarry, without first carrying out a feasibility study. Landowners claim they demanded a study, but their cries were left unheard. If this is true then proper due diligence has not been exercised.
Moreover, experts who have worked in the affected area are raising concerns in the social media. This following note was posted on PNG Exposed:
I am a professional earth scientist wanting eagerly to know the final outcomes & conclusions of the investigations by foreign experts. I have not been to the area since the nineties, but I believe they must have cut a big hole into the mountain side to dig out the karanas; thus under-cutting the mountain face. When the mountain face would not hold any longer, the recent rains just caused it to slide. Limestone does not hold water & thus only results in reels & loose rock falls; not the entire mountain as in this case.......get the quarry operator to provide all designs & recent survey pick-up of quarry works just before the land slide; else they are at fault.
Of course, at the moment these are speculative claims – they must be verified with solid evidence before finger pointing begins. Hence the importance of an independent inquiry.
Moreover, as we have previously stated, this inquiry must scrutinise the national government. Too often resource developers are being allowed to conduct operations without regulatory oversight. This is having devastating environmental impacts around the country.
We are pleased to see the Prime Minister has come out in support of an independent investigation; we hope he is true to his word. Sadly, all we can hope for now is truth, the damage to local communities will never be undone.