Landowners on Lihir in Papua New Guinea’s New Ireland province are threatening to close the island’s airport if their demand for compensation is not met.
Operation of the Lihir gold mine, which is run by Australian company Newcrest, are dependent on the small Kunaye airport, known also as Londolovit.
Nimarmar Local Level Government Council Media Officer, Tony Sapan said that landowners were frustrated that the mine had operated for over twenty years without any formal compensation for use of their land.
He said the landowners wanted $US900 million or $K3 billion, in compensation.
“They’ve played around with their calculations and they think that’s what the compensation outstanding is worth. And then they can come up with a future for the continued use of that land where the Kunaye airport stands,” said Tony Sapan.
Despite the existence of memorandums of agreement between the provincial government and various local stakeholders for operation of the mine, there is no formal agreement between landowners for use of the airport.
“The airport physically supplies the mine. And there is no such agreement. That is what the landowners are up in arms about,” he said.
The landowners earlier gave notice of their demands in April and have been in discussions with the mine owners, the government and the Mineral Resources Authority.
According to Mr Sapan, the landowners were planning for a meeting next Wednesday, where it was hoped a representative of the mining company could be present for discusssions.
He said the landowners were trying to exhaust negotiation options before carrying out their threat.
“At the last resort, I’m sure, they would want to do that,” Mr Sapan explained.
“But they are talking to the mine, they are talking to the government, they are talking to the Mineral Resources Authority that handles mines in Papua New Guinea. So they are trying their best to do this under the law.”