Health & Economic Impacts of the Lae- Papua New Guinea Coal Power Plant

The Lae Enviro Energy Park (EEP) coal-fired power plant is a proposed 52 megawatt (MW) project in Papua New Guinea being developed by Australia-based, Mayur Resources. If built, it would mark the first coal-fired power plant and coal mine in the country, linking it to coal for over 30 years as the rest of the world seeks to reduce its dependence on the fuel to ultimately phase out coal generation to meet the Paris Agreement Climate targets.

We estimated the increased health and economic impact for populations exposed to the plant’s emissions under two proposed scenarios: the 1-unit proposal and a 4-unit 200 MW expansion plant. We found that:

  • Under a 52 MW scenario, Lae EEP would emit approximately 210 tons of Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), 460 tons of Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), and 90 tons of particulate matter every year. If capacity is increased to 200 MW, annual emissions would increase to 850 tons of SO2, 1,840 tons of NOx, and 340 tons of particulate matter every year.
  • If the 52-MW plant is allowed to operate for 30 years, the impact of the cumulative air pollution includes 30 premature deaths, 25 new cases of asthma in children, 890 years of life lost, and 5,900 work absences taken due to sickness. The additional 3 units would increase these impacts to 115 premature deaths, 100 new cases of asthma in children, 3,500 years of lives lost, and 23,500 sick leaves.
  • An area of approximately 3.1 km2, with a population of 3,200, would be affected by potentially dangerous mercury deposition above a 125mg/ha/year threshold. Increasing the capacity would subject 12,100 people over 24.6 km2 of forests, waterways, and farmland to mercury deposition annually.
  • The economic cost of healthcare spending and loss of economic productivity as a result of 30 years of air pollution from a 52 MW Lae EEP is estimated at USD 7.5 million – 10.9 million Australian Dollars (AUD) or 25.5 million Papua New Guinea Kina (PGK). The cumulative economic cost of a 200 MW Lae EEP complex totals USD 30 million (AUD 43.1 million or PGK 101.4 million) — more than Papua New Guinea’s entire GDP in 2020.

All of these impacts could be avoided if the plant is not built.

Isabella Suarez, Southeast Asia Analyst; Lorenzo Costantino, Air Quality Analyst

Papua New Guinea, South East Asia