Namie Mine Phytoremediation

Name of case study

Namie Mine Phytoremediation

Location

Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea

Year

2014-2016

Scale

Landscape scale

Area / size

Unknown

NbS employed

Bioremediation / phytoremediation of soil

Type of NbS

Ecosystem restoration

Initiator

PNG University of Technology, Pacific Agriculture Alliance

Funder

The Christensen Fund and others

Budget

Unknown

Design group

Not applicable

Collecting hyperaccumulator samples. Photo from Pacific Agriculute Alliance
Climate change benefits
  • Increased pests or spread of weeds
  • Loss of food production
  • Reduced soil quality
  • Reduced water quality
  • Soil erosion / landslide
Societal / socio-cultural benefits
  • Food security and quality
  • Empowerment / equality
  • Water security and quality
Ecological benefits
  • Food production (for humans)
  • Purification
  • Soil building
Discussing phytoremediation with Mekamui community. Photo from Pacific Agriculute Alliance

Summary of case study

Phytoremediation is an approach to land rehabilitation that utilises plants to absorb and stabilise pollutants (Rungwa et al., 2013a). Phytoremediation represents a promising avenue for restoring environments impacted by mining activities in Papua New Guinea. By harnessing the natural abilities of plants, this nature-based technology may offer a sustainable and economically viable approach to remediate contaminated sites and promote ecological resilience (Rungwa et al., 2013b). Ongoing research and implementation efforts aim to leverage phytoremediation as a key tool in addressing environmental degradation and promoting long-term sustainability in PNG (Rungwa et al., 2013b).

Mining operations in Papua New Guinea (PNG), typically gold, have yielded earnings but have also led to significant environmental degradation, particularly in areas surrounding mining sites (Rungwa et al., 2013a). The Morobe goldfield in Morobe Province has a history of mining activity, dating back to the 1920s. However, the environmental impact of these activities has been substantial, affecting both land and water systems (Rungwa et al., 2013a). Heavy metals, such as cadmium, copper, iron, mercury, lead, and zinc, have contaminated soil, vegetation, waterways, and marine life, posing significant ecological and health risks (Rungwa et al., 2013a). Issues such as dieback at Ok Tedi mine, cyanide spillage at Misima gold mine, and direct waste dumping at Lihir gold mine have contributed to instability in local ecosystems (Rungwa et al., 2013a). Some revegetation work has been done to remediate mines with good results (Rungwa et al., 2013b). Phytoremediation can be used in conjunction to more effectively address soil toxicity caused by heavy metal contamination from mining in addition to revegeation.

By harnessing the phytoextractive abilities of specific plant species, such as hyperaccumulators of arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead, contaminated soils can be remediated over time (Rungwa et al., 2013b). Phytoremediation has been successfully investigated in past rehabilitation efforts, such as the Namie Mine in Morobe Province (Rungwa et al., 2013b). Phragmites karka, a native plant, for example, has demonstrated effectiveness in absorbing heavy metals from mine soil environments in Namie (Rungwa et al., 2013a). 

Organisations like the Pacific Agriculture Alliance (PAA) are actively promoting research and development in agriculture and biodiversity preservation in the Pacific region. Research initiatives at institutions like the PNG University of Technology are further advancing the understanding and application of phytoremediation in PNG’s unique environmental context (Rungwa et al., 2013b).

The effectiveness of phytoremediation for mining damage in PNG relies on identifying suitable plant species with robust root systems and efficient metal translocation mechanisms (Rungwa et al., 2013b). Technologies like inductively coupled plasma spectroscopy (ICP) enable precise quantification of heavy metal concentrations in plant tissues, aiding in monitoring and assessment efforts (Rungwa et al., 2013b).

While mining activities continue to pose social and environmental challenges in PNG, regulations like the Environmental Planning Act aim to mitigate these impacts and guide rehabilitation.

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Upper Ridges, Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea. Photo from Worldwide Elevation Map Finder.
References
  • Rungwa, S., Arpa, G., Sakulas, H. W., Harakuwe, A. H., & Timi, D. (2013a). Assessment of Phragmite karka (pitpit) as Possible Phytoremediation Plant Species for Heavy Metal Removal from Mining Environment in PNG. A Case Study on Closed Namie Mine Wau, Morobe Province. In The Proceedings (Vol. 9). 
  • Rungwa, S., Arpa, G., Sakulas, H., Harakuwe, A., & Timi, D. (2013b). Phytoremediation–an eco-friendly and sustainable method of heavy metal removal from closed mine environments in Papua New Guinea. Procedia Earth and Planetary Science, 6, 269-277.

Further resources:

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