The spill caused the bay near the Ramu Nickel refinery to turn bright red. (Supplied: Nigel Uyam)
A man has died in Papua New Guinea after eating a fish caught near the site of a massive nickel refinery spill, however the mine’s Chinese operator denies the accident caused his death.
- A senior local official is calling for a post-mortem investigation
- The mine’s operator accidentally spilled slurry into the sea in August
- A ban on the sale and consumption of local fish is in force, pending scientific tests
An estimated 200,000 litres of toxic slurry was released into Basamuk Bay in PNG’s Madang province in late August, after an electrical fault at the Chinese-owned Ramu Nickel refinery caused an underwater pipe to overflow.
The spill caused the bay to turn bright red, and officials say dead fish and at least one dolphin have washed up along the Madang coastline in recent weeks.
An official investigation into the spill from PNG’s Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) was due to hand down its report into the mining accident today.
However, local authorities have already moved to ban people from eating or selling fish caught in the province following the man’s death and the fish kills, and have requested a post-mortem examination.
Marcus Kachau, Madang’s deputy provincial administrator, told the ABC he also wanted environmental experts to test the fish to work out if they were safe to eat.
“One person went out fishing, and caught a fish for his family, but his family refused,” he said.
“He wanted to eat the fish, and then right after that, about one-and-a-half hours, he died.”
However a medical officer quoted in the national Post-Courier newspaper, who said he treated the man, claimed he had eaten a poisonous puffer fish.
Madang officials were due to receive an environmental report into the spill today. (Supplied: Nigel Uyam)
The medical officer was not named in the article, but said attempts to resuscitate the man had failed.
The company itself has also denied the spill was responsible for the man’s death or the fish kills, and said it would not accept responsibility until the provincial government provided scientific proof.
A delegation from the Madang Provincial Government reportedly met with environmental authorities in Port Moresby today to receive the results of their investigation.
Details from that meeting were yet to emerge, and multiple attempts to contact CEPA and the Madang Government this afternoon were unsuccessful.
The managing director of PNG’s Mineral Resources Authority told the ABC in August the slurry included heavy metals, which were “very toxic” and “very acidic”.