7 September 2012

Papua New Guinea Health Secretary ask for HIA to be performed routinely


An interesting article published this week in the PNG Post Courier. The Health Secretary ask companies operating with natural resources in the country to conduct HIA as part of their project management. The Health Secretary recognises that while environmental and social impact assessments are national requirements, HIA is not yet part of the mining code. The Health department might approach the government and ask to emend the mining code and he envisages a bigger role for the health sector in the management of the non-renewable resources.
Resource challenge

"THE Health Department is calling on all resource sector partners to provide health impact assessments.
That's according to Health Secretary Pasco Kase at the 48th medical symposium which started yesterday.
Mr Kase said the Health Department wanted to plan in advance with the resource sector on how best both parties could mitigate negative impacts and ensure the positive benefits were realised.
Mr Kase said currently the PNG Mining Act required companies to undertake environment and social impact assessments but did not require health impact assessments.
International best practices guidelines to implement health impact assessments have been established and are documented by both the international Council on mining and metals and the international finance corporations and both can be implemented in developing a policy framework for PNG.
The secretary noted that there were a number of countries throughout the South East Asia region such as the Philippines and Indonesia as well as Africa who had already chosen to enact laws that specifically ensure that a health impact assessment was carried out as part of mining project approvals.
This has allowed for better management of potential health risks on both mining company employees and also the surrounding communities.
"We will be approaching the Government to consider amending the mining act to ensure that Health Impact Assessments are undertaken as part of the licensing approval process,'' he said.
"This should start well before mine operations commence, as during pre-feasibility and feasibility- you are impacting on communities and the health system.''
Mr Kase said he wanted to ensure health impacts were identified early and systems were put in place to manage and mitigate the social impact, the potential severity of these impact on the livelihood of people and surrounding communities was vital for the mine, the community and the Government.
While acknowledging companies like Oil Search, Ok Tedi, Porgera Joint Venture and Lihir that support community health programs, he said the health sector wanted full participation with Government and other stakeholders.
He noted some of the potential health impacts of mining and these were:
* Infectious diseases: malaria, HIV and influence;
* Chronic diseases: heart disease, cancer, bronchitis and asthma;
* Nutrition disorders: malnutrition, vitamin deficiency and obesity;
* Physical injuries: accidents, poisoning and violence;
* Mental health and wellbeing: depression, stress and anxiety and;
* Health equity/inequalities: infant mortality and life expectancy between rich and poor, between groups and between other vulnerable people."