Illegal miners killed in confrontation at Porgera gold mine
ABC Radio Australia
Police reinforcements have been sent to Papua New Guinea’s northern highlands after illegal miners were killed during a confrontation at the Porgera mine.
Police in Papua New Guinea say illegal miners have been killed after a disturbance at the Porgera gold mine site in Enga province.
The mine’s operator, Barrick Niugini, says its staff requested police assistance to deal with a group of around 300 illegal miners on the site late Tuesday.
PNG’s Deputy Commissioner of Police Operations Simon Kauba says at least one person was killed in the confrontation.
“There was this confrontation from the illegal miners, those who were with those two who were deceased, and so they were dispersing them, and in the process may have been hurt, and later we found out one or two other people died from the confrontation,” he said.
Porgera Joint Venture Executive General Manager Greg Walker says two others were reported injured during the clash, and a search the next day located the body of a deceased trespasser.
“What we know at the moment is during an incident on the evening of [December] 3rd, one person was injured and deceased – I’m not aware at this point of the cause of death,” he said.
“There are rumours and speculation that a second person was injured but we have not been able to locate any person at this time.”
Barrick Niugini Limited, the Canadian company that owns the mine, says “no security staff were reported to have taken part in the incident resulting in the fatality”.
Greg Walker says mine security were in the area, but removing the trespassers was a police operation.
“There’s often trespassers in the mine area, and at that point there were 300 aggressive trespassers – they come into the mine area seeking gold
“We would regard them as illegal miners…the main concern that we have is that these people come into the active mining lease and they’re interacting with heavy mine equipment [and] they’re not fully aware of the hazards in the mining area.”
Mr Kauba says extra police were sent to the mine.
“[The] situation is not looking good but it is brought under control,” he said.
“We are sending in extra reinforcements so that we can allow the normal situation to come back and also allow the mine to operate at the normal rate.”
Mr Walker says there have been tensions at the mine, but operations have resumed.
“There was a lot of protesting in the community – directed mainly at the police, but also directed at…Barrick personnel – yesterday was very tense and last night we suspended operations for the safety of our employees,” he said.
“We suspended operations for 12 hours, operations commenced this morning…as per normal and it’s very calm at the moment.
The company says it is investigating the incident and its causes.
Enga Province Governor Peter Ipatas says illegal mining is becoming an increasing problem at the site.