'Devastating' Impacts Feared as Oil Spill Threatens UNESCO Heritage Site in Pacific
An oil spill in the Pacific Ocean’s Solomon Islands after a mining company’s cargo ship ran aground is threatening an endangered environmental gem.
“The impact of this oil spill will have a devastating effect on the surrounding environment, including potentially on a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the livelihood of the people of Rennell,” Australia’s High Commissioner in the Solomon Islands Rod Brazier said in a statement.
The ship, which was chartered by Indonesian mining company Bintan Solomon Islands, was carrying a load of bauxite—a stone used in aluminum production—when it ran aground on Rennell Island Feb. 5. Since then, oil has slowly leaked out of the ship into the surrounding waters.
The disaster is unfolding next to the southern third of the island, known as East Rennell Island, which makes up the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.
“East Rennell was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1998 and is the largest raised coral atoll in the world,” UNESCO said in a Feb. 20 statement on the spill.
Bintan has abdicated any legal responsibility for the spill, claiming that it was only the chartering company and thus had no liability for the crash. The ship’s operator, King Trader Ltd., sent a team to salvage the ship, according to the Associated Press.
Yet Bintan has continued loading operations in the bay where the ship ran aground, stirring up the oil and making the problem worse, the Guardian reported.
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