A major landslip in the Western Province last Wednesday, which cut off road access between Tabubil (pictured) and the copper mine, is costing Ok Tedi Mining $3.3 million a day in lost revenue.
While no deaths or injuries were reported, people living in settlements in the vicinity of the slip zone have been advised to vacate their homes.
A number of villages are cut off and arrangements have been made to airlift food supplies if road access is not restored in the next few days.
The landslide was triggered by a long period of above average rainfall. In June, Tabubil received 1,156 mm of rain – much higher than the average of 700mm. Landslips are a common occurrence in the area due to the high rainfall and an unstable environment.
Work to restore road access has yet to commence due to further slips in the last 24 hours as a result of continuous rain.
Mine operations have shut down and 462 workers were airlifted by helicopter from the mine to Tabubil on Thursday. A small crew remains at the mine.
The slip has caused the copper concentrate pipeline to be dislodged from its footings but it remains intact.
The main water pipeline that feeds Tabubil was damaged, affecting supply to the town. Company engineers are working to restore the water supply from alternate sources and residents have been advised to restrict water use.