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The Ok Tedi Negotiations

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Between November 2005 and June 2007, a team from The Keystone Center helped organize and implement a multiparty negotiation process aimed at increased redress for people affected by river contamination from the Ok Tedi Mine in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Ok Tedi is often cited as one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in the world. It is also a true sustainability dilemma. The mine produces 20% of PNG’s gross domestic product but it has also disrupted the traditional food webs and lives of more than 50,000 people by putting 90,000 tons of rock waste and tailings per day into the Fly River system.

After 18 months of effort, a major benchmark was accomplished. Delegates of the nine affected regions along the river, the mining company, the government, and others concluded a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that will ultimately give the people in the impacted area about 1.1 billion kina (roughly US$350 million) in funds, projects, and services. The negotiations were arduous and, as must be expected, no one side is fully happy. Nor are all issues neatly tied up in ways that will obviate all future problems or resolve every perceived injustice. Nonetheless, the negotiations achieved an important outcome and demonstrated a new and promising model for other discussions of similar scale and import. This paper describes the effort and offers reflections by the facilitators on what happened, how, and why. The
opinions expressed are strictly those of the authors. All of the information the opinions are based on are matters of public record at http://www.wanbelistap.com and other public websites.

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