14 May 2014

The Tumbi Quarry landslide – a new documentary

Posted by Dave Petley

The Tumbi Quarry landslide

The Tumbi Quarry landslide occurred in Papua New Guinea on 24 January 2012, killing at least 25 people.  The landslide was both large and catastrophic:

Tumbi Quarry

The landslide occurred in a quarry that had been used by contractors working for Esso Highlands, on a natural gas pipeline.  Despite the fact that the landslide originated at the quarry, and indeed destroyed it, ExxonMobil have repeatedly denied that they two are linked.  I have always found this difficult to understand.

A new documentary about Tumbi Quarry

In the last two weeks a new documentary has been released that investigates the Tumbi Quarry landslide, which is a companion piece to an article in the Nation magazine.  Both are excellent pieces, spelling out the injustice that has been done to the local residents and the lack of a proper, open investigation of the landslide.  An interesting aspect is featured in a companion piece on the Radio Australia website.  This highlights an interview that Ian Shearn did with Gerson Yakasa an engineer working with ExxonMobil sub-contractor MCJV.  This is the key part of the interview:

YAKASA: I talk to the director and I sent an email to everybody else that the operations in the quarry were risky and the quarry should be you know shut immediately

SHEARN: Did you say that in the email?

YAKASA: Yes, I thought the quarry would collapse.

The Radio Australia piece then notes that “Mr Yakasa said he saw numerous large cracks in the face of the quarry and clear evidence of slope instability.”

This case continues to bemuse me.  ExxonMobil continues to maintain that the landslide was not linked to the quarry, but with the lack of a proper investigation that is impossible to know.  Two independent sources have told me that ExxonMobil commissioned external consultants, including at least one renowned landslide expert, to investigate the landslide (I should note that I have no way to know for certain whether this is the case).  But if so, and if it found that the quarry was not to blame, why has it not been released?  I find that quite surprising.

There is still a need for a proper independent investigation of the landslide.  That it has not been undertaken is deeply unjust.