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Environmental Problem of the Ok Tedi Copper Mine Essay

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Updated: Mar 18th, 2020

In 1998, the leaders of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited (BHP) faced the necessity to resolve the ethical problem related to the significant environmental pollution, which could lead to the ecological catastrophe. Thus, the BHP owned 52% of shares in the Ok Tedi copper mine located in Papua New Guinea.

The problem is in the fact that the mine discharges the great amounts of tailings and waste into the Ok Tedi River during the decades of the mine’s development. As a result, the waters of the Ok Tedi River cannot be used by the local inhabitants, who are dependent on these resources necessary to farm.

However, inhabitants are also dependent on the Ok Tedi copper mine’s development because many local people work there. That is why, the ethical problem is in the necessity to provide the morally appropriate solution to address the environmental and social issues and respond to the interests of employees, local inhabitants, and authorities.

It was agreed in 2001 that the Ok Tedi copper mine would operate till 2010 while continuing to dredge into the waters of the Ok Tedi River, without constructing the facilities for storing dangerous tailings.

In this case, the agreement achieved by the BHP and the government of Papua New Guinea cannot be discussed as ethically appropriate and effective because the decision to continue operations without the significant changes in the process cannot address the needs of the local inhabitants who are also employees at the mine, cannot contribute to decreasing the negative effects on the environment, and cannot prevent the ecological catastrophe associated with the changes in the ecology of the forests near the Ok Tedi River.

From this point, the proposed agreement and decision cannot meet the interests of the stakeholders and community in relation to providing a safe environment for working and development; cannot respond to the idea of sustainability and environmental protection; and cannot satisfy the needs of the local inhabitants and employees related to the limited possibilities for farming and fishing.

Following the ideas associated with the principles of the professional ethics, it is possible to note that the decision of the company and government is characterized by a lot of weaknesses and direct violation of the ethical ideas. That is why it is reasonable to take the position against the decision.

The BHP and the government of Papua New Guinea did not demonstrate the interest in those stakeholders’ needs, which are not associated with the material outcomes for the company and country.

In spite of the fact that the authorities proposed the decision to support the social and economic spheres with references to continuing operations and preserving the profits, the decision cannot be discussed as ethical because its implementation leads to violating such norms as the environmental protection and the guarantee of the community’s welfare.

Referring to the ideals of Utilitarianism, it is possible to state that the consequences of the decision cannot be positive for the community because the absence of changes can lead to worsening the situation and to the ecological catastrophe. Furthermore, this agreement cannot be approved from the point of deontological ethics because such a decision cannot be discussed as the widely appropriate variant to cope with the problem.

The further focus on the mine’s operations without changing the technologies potentially results in ecological catastrophe, violation of the ideas of sustainability, and in the destruction of resources for the local inhabitants’ life and activities.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Environmental Problem of the Ok Tedi Copper Mine'. 18 March.

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