SYDNEY, Dec 22 (Reuters) - A move to block deep sea dumping of waste from the Ramu nickel mine in Papua Guinea has been rejected in an appeals court, ending a lengthy legal battle delaying the Chinese-backed project, junior partner Highlands Pacific said on Thursday.
The $1.5 billion project, one the biggest Chinese investments ever in the impoverished South Pacific nation, has been plagued by protests over plans to dump 100 million tonnes of waste into the Bismarck Sea.
A court in Papua New Guinea had already approved the dumping, but an appeal by local landowners was lodged against the decision in September.
“It is now time to get on with the commissioning and operation of the project and for the benefits to start flowing through to all stakeholders,” Highlands Managing Director John Gooding said.
Highlands holds an 8.56 percent stake in the project. Metallurgical Corp of China leads a Chinese consortium that owns 85 percent, with the rest held by the Papua New Guinea government.
The project, the first of its kind for Papua New Guinea, is being designed to yield 31,150 tonnes of nickel and 3,300 tonnes of cobalt a year for at least 20 years.
The partners expect the mine to be running at maximum capacity by late 2013. (Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Lincoln Feast)