"We declare our first goal to be for every person to be dynamically involved in the process of freeing himself or herself from every form of domination or oppression so that each man or woman will have the opportunity to develop as a whole person in relationship with others".

- Papua New Guinea National Goals and Directive Principles

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

ExxonMobil contributed to the landslide claims National Disaster Office!

We have now all learnt that tragedy has struck residents living near ExxonMobil's  Souther Highlands operation. A large landslide 1km long has destroyed dozens of homes. Sadly, the death toll could reach 60. 

                                          Source: ABC News

Clearly our first thoughts must go out to the family of the victims. However, given the scale of this tragedy it would be remiss if we did not consider whether there was a causal link between the landslide and ExxonMobil's operations. When asked by ABC Radio, Exxonmobil denied the link. Nevertheless, disturbing evidence is beginning to emerge. 

For example, in today's Namarong Report it was reported that United Nations PNG Coordinator has pointed the finger at Exxonmobil's operation. However, perhaps most damningly Bill Yomba from the National Disaster Office made the following remark to CNN:
"This is a very huge landslide that covered a 1 kilometer area. We are still trying to find out the cause but at this stage we believe the gas project run by Esso Higlands Limited was a contributor because they had been digging for limestone in the area".
According to the ABC's Liam Fox similar accusations are being levelled by villagers near the landslide:

"There are people - locals are already drawing some links. How correct that is, we're not able to say yet. But they believe that the quarry next to the landslide site caused the landslide. That blasting in the past has, quote, 'softened the ground' as they have said. And that quarry was used by the LNG site for its operations. But Exxon Mobil says that's not the case anymore and hasn't been for about six months."
The Post-Courier is relaying similar views from the ground:
"Locals blamed international contractor Clough Curtain Joint Venture (CCJV) for not developing the Tumbi quarry including proper safety procedures that resulted in the loose rocks and soil from the top of Gigira mountain range to cascade causing severe destructions on its way down." 
In a move that may seem insensitive in light of the tragedy, ExxonMobil has resumed work in the affected area - whether this risks further destabilising the site we are not sure. ExxonMobil's spokesman Rebecca Arnold has informed investors and customers this event will not prevent it from meeting its corporate targets. 

Rest assured LNG Watch will keep readers fully updated on information as it comes to hand. It is absolutely essential for the victims and their family that the accusations again ExxonMobil are thoroughly investigated. 


  1. Exxon Mobil has blood on their hands... and anyone else who benefits from this project without seeking justice for the victims of Vampire Capitalism, has blood on their hands

  2. I'm sorry to say that just because there is a big operation, like the LNG, in the area does not mean it is to blame. I've flown over much of PNG and have seen land slips like this where there the environment has been untouched by humans. Those land slips just go unnoticed because of the fact that they do not affect any part of the population. The massive amount of rain that we have been experiencing here in PNG over the last month is a much more plausible explanation. When the ground becomes super saturated by water it can act as fluid -- check it out here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ground_liquefaction. Remember not all acts of nature should be considered a conspiracy. A thorough investigation of facts needs to be done before accusations thrown. Just these accusations could cause more people to loose their lives or livelihoods. With Regards, PNG MAN

    1. We agree PNG Man (see today's post) - however, local testimony and testimony from key office holders in both the government and UN, have raised concerns. I dont think anyone is suggesting that the LNG operation generated the landslide, however, the key factual question is whether the operation increased the risk of a landslide. If so why werent precautions taken.

      The problem is, too often natural disasters and the havoc the wreak on communities are treated as pure acts of nature - but the literature is very clear on this front, the impact of earthquakes, Tsunamis, landslides, famine etc, are mediated in a significant way by social factors e.g. poor warning systems, government trade policy, badly regulated construction industry. People escape responsibility for these social factors by pointing the finger at nature.

      But we both agree an investigation should take place to establish the facts.

      Thanks for the thoughtful commentary!


      LNG Watch