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Papua New Guinea

Saonu and Morobe Provincial Government v. Minister for Environment and Conservation and Climate Change and Others

Jurisdiction: Court of Justice at Waigani

Side A: Saonu and Morobe Provincial Government (Government)

Side B: Minster for Environment and Conservation and Climate Change and Others (Government)

Core objectives: Whether the environmental impact assessment of a mine was lawful and considered climate impacts.

On December 18, 2020, the Managing Director of the Conservation and Environmental Protection Authority issued an environmental permit for the Wafi-Golpu Mining Project as a precondition for the issuance of a special mining lease. The plaintiffs - the Morobe Provincial Government on its own behalf and on behalf of the people of Morobe - applied for a stay of the permit arguing that there was no proper review and consultation as required in the constitution and that the decisions were unreasonable as they would create irreparable environmental damages. The defendants argued for a dismissal of the application for stay. 

On September 20, 2021, the judge granted the application for stay. The judge held that the plaintiffs and other members of the public were denied natural justice as the Minister failed to provide fully the information required and in easily understandable language or incorporate the matters raised in consultations or review meetings. The defendants failed to consider the climate change goals that informed the adoption of the Environment Act when issuing the permit. There was a risk of irreparable damage as the defendants failed to demonstrate how the environmental impact assessment and the permit meet the requirements of the Act. Furthermore, the permit was granted for 50 years, 20 years more than the estimate life of a mine of 30 years. Noting the global impacts of greenhouse gas emissions, the judge noted that the parties did not provide any information on whether the environmental impact assessment factors levels of CO2 emissions and impacts on local and global environment and proposed measures to minimize such emissions. As part of an EIA analysis, the court noted that the assessment should include a question on "What climate change related risks have been identified and what adaption and mitigation programs if any have been built into the EIS and the deep sea tailings placement (DSTP) and how will that be monitored and reviewed and enforced?" The judge thus issued an order of stay of the two decisions pending a hearing and determination of the substantive review.

from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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