Mineral rights commentary

By Colin Filer

Might I humbly suggest that people commenting on this matter [proposed changes to the ownership of mineral rights in Papua New Guinea] should make themselves familiar with the wording and significance of the legal reforms being proposed here.  They are the work of well-known Papua New Guinean lawyer, Peter Donigi, who has been pushing this wheelbarrow for many years, and who persuaded North Fly MP Boka Kondra to introduce them to Parliament as a set of Private Members’ bills a couple of years ago.

The proposals are presented and explained in Donigi’s (2010) book ‘Lifting the Veil That Shrouds Papua New Guinea’.  The essential point in the proposed legislation is that it extends the scope of the so-called ‘lease-leaseback scheme’ (currently under investigation by a Commission of Inquiry) to cover mineral rights as well as land and timber rights.

What it would entail is a further empowerment of ‘landowner companies’ and an extension of the ‘private dealings’ regime from the forestry sector to the extractive industry sectors.

The private dealings regime in the forestry sector was the primary target of a previous Commission of Inquiry headed by Tos Barnett in the late 1980s.  Barnett found that landowner companies could not be trusted to safeguard the interests of customary landowners at all, and the Forestry (Private Dealings) Act (the brainchild of Sir Julius Chan) was repealed when the new Forestry Act came into effect in 1992.

Unfortunately, we have recently seen a resurgence of the private dealings regime through abuse of the lease-leaseback scheme under the Land Act, in what I and others call a ‘land grab’ by logging companies disguised as agricultural developers.  Hence the new Commission of Inquiry.

The best that can be said of Donigi’s amendments is that they might indeed have the (unintended) effect of reducing the level of foreign investment in new mining and petroleum projects, and therefore help to lift the ‘resource curse’ (if not exactly the ‘veil’) that is currently ‘shrouding’ PNG.  On the other hand, they might just make it easier for Dodgy Brothers to  do dodgy deals with landowner companies that are the puppets of greedy national politicians.

Donigi does say at one point in his book (p.51) that Asian investors (unlike Western investors) are ‘not interested in profit alone’, but ‘are interested in a long term relationship with the country’.  My investigation of the recent land grab by dodgy Asian loggers in cahoots with dodgy landowner companies and national politicians suggests that they may be more interested in relationships which last around three years.  How this sort of relationship might pan out in the extractive industry sectors is anyone’s guess.    


Filed under Financial returns, Papua New Guinea

6 responses to “Mineral rights commentary

  1. Tom Pauling

    Yes, and in every government department there is a stooge waiting to assist the crime bosses.
    It really is a disgusting indictment on the “Melanesian Way” to see the corruption manifets there in PNG.
    How these idiots could imagine that giving resources to land owners would result in any sense of social inclusion or economic order or that it could be regulated is beyond even Walter Mitty………….
    Some nations are just doomed to endless failure for all time.

  2. PNG minerals rights for Australian citizenship

    The capacity of the PNG administration has to be ranked in the last and lowest quartile of governments in the world.
    The place is just extraordinarily hopeless.
    The sensible thing would be to have a referendum in PNG to determine if certain land owners would like to become Australian citizens in exchange fpor theior mineal rights.
    This is attractive becaiuse PNG is a real shit hole in any ones language.

    • James Labasu

      Nothing like becoming citizens in a rascist, backward country like Australia whose greatest contribution to PNG is bringing their drinking culture to PNG. All of us PNGeans would LOVE being Aussie citizens! Please “mate” give us a break. We know what you think of our country – so please piss off!

      • Chriss

        You are delusional to call Australia racist and backward and this is typical of the childish denial of teh so called elite of PNG to open their eyes.
        Thats why you nation has fared so badly.
        Because people like you pretend to believ what you say all the time.
        But if Australia is “backward” what does that make PNG?
        You have nothing there James.
        Your politicians are incompetant to just down right corrupt.
        Your graduates are generally substandard, particularly your lawyers.
        You have no infrastructure to speak of.
        Your public service is a disaster.
        The place is swept with serious crime 24/7.
        Infant mortality rights are far far too high.
        The average life expectancy for men is 51 years of age.
        And you are sitting here in denial, like kluther wenge, somare and the rest ofthose idiots, pretending that non of this is a reality and non of this can change, and no of this is impacting on the lives of the people of PNG
        Wake us James

      • Wesely

        James you dumb a*rsed primitive.
        You would know James because your just describing your own mentality, not that of the average Australian.
        Take a good look at the self prclaimed “paradise” you live in complete with the highest rate of violent crime.
        Ever wonder why no one from PNG has ever won a Nobel Prize?
        Ever wonder why no one wants to visit your nation as a tourist?
        Ever wonder why other Pacific nations are climing the scale of independance and development but all that is happening in PNG is an inexorable down hill slide?
        No, I don’t suppose you have.
        And while you’re there, Australia tax payers shell out of their own pocket in taxes to support 1/10 of PNG’s annual income because dumb a5s*ole losers like you spend your time sitting under a tree dribbling beetle nut from your mouth down the front of you shirt.

  3. Chriss

    I see nothing wrong with the above suggestion that land owners in PNG swap their rights in the minerals rights the ground for alternate citizenship and money.
    If not Australia, China or America.
    That seems to be what all of PNG’s politicians have done, (i.e. get out).
    In any event, there is likely to also be a flight of capital, as can be seen from the Lihir land owners who are investing their wealth overseas, as is their right, it is a commercial decsion to maximize on their investment potential.
    It would be their (landowners) right to under the new proposed Chan bill.
    James, who could blame them.
    If you have the opportunity to improve your life why would you not go to Australia, USA, or Canada where, with money, you can enjoy an ordered and advanced society with has health services, safe streets, and the benifits of a transparent and stable democracy.
    In comparison PNG has no attraction to such people.

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