Simon Jemison, head of Investor and Media Relations for Allied Gold says the spillage of waste material was small, and confined to an area on land, so it couldn't have affected sea life.
He blames what he calls hysterical reporting in the PNG media.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Simon Jemison, head of Investor and Media Relations for Allied Gold Ltd
JEMISON: About a week ago there was a small leak to a small pipe outside our process plant on the island of Simberi in Papua New Guinea, and the leak to this pipe is onshore from our process plant, and it oozes out some ground-up ore, which is the process mud that's created when you're extracting gold from the ore. So contrary to some of the hysterical reporting in PNG, there has been no cyanide spill and we hope to repair this pipe in the next couple of days and in operation thereafter.
HILL: So this tailings mud that oozed out of the tank, this actually happened onshore, this didn't actually happen offshore or in the water?
JEMISON: Correct, this is an onshore activity so there was no dispersal or leaking of any materials into the sea that we're aware of. We have environmental monitoring in place, it's always part of our program, we take our environmental responsibilities seriously. But contrary to some of the media reporting out of one particular PNG newspaper, we can't believe and can't see how there can be an impact to the marine environment given the activity is one that we noticed on land, onshore, about 100 metres away from our process plant.
HILL: So none of this actually got near the water?
JEMISON: Well it's not to say a small amount may not have washed away through the nature of rain and those sorts of things, but this activity is in a mixing tank, it's onshore.
HILL: How toxic is this mixture?
JEMISON: Tailings by their very nature are ground-up ore, so it's the processed mud and all that would have the gold in it. It's then bleached with re-agents, those re-agents and chemicals are then tidied up.
HILL: These include cyanide?
JEMISON: These include cyanide, and then they're diluted to a level that meets the environmental approvals that all gold mines have, and in this case diluted by about eight parts to one at the gold mine with seawater, and then it's put about 150 to 200 metres below the sea level, which is below the level at which many of the fish in the area would be swimming around.
HILL: But if you're suggesting that this is the case that it's a very minor leak and very little risk to anyone, why is the deputy provincial administrator of New Ireland, Veronica Jigede, saying that fish, whales, turtle and dugongs are dying in the area?
JEMISON: Yeah look I can't directly comment on her statements, but I would say is that we're unaware of any impact on the marine environment, and it would be highly unlikely that there was any given that the activity was onshore and we're unaware of any whales, and particularly unaware of any dugongs in the area. They're very, very rare. So for them to be impacted we think is a bit of misinformation out there unfortunately.
HILL: But the reports that we've had say that the Department of Environment and Conservation in PNG has actually instructed you to shut down the mill plant until there's further investigation into this, has that not happened?
JEMISON: I'm not aware of that, but what I am aware of is that we said last Friday that we had ceased production for the week while we fixed the small leak. So we have stopped gold mining, we have stopped gold processing a week ago to fix up these tanks, so it's a bit of a moot point whether we had been told to stop or hadn't been told to stop given that we voluntarily stopped late last week to fix up the pipeline in the small tank, which is probably two metres high by two metres wide.
HILL: So why if this didn't happen, why are people claiming that they can see marine life dying, why would they say that?
JEMISON: Well I'm not sure where the claims have originated from, I guess once a rumour starts it can get out of control. What I would say is that Simberi Island is a very, very far flung part of Papua New Guinea, it's a small island with about a thousand landowners on it, so I'm sure if we were having issues out there we would be aware of it. But at the moment we're not aware of any impacts to either the on-land or off-shore environment.