Govt To Investigate K92 Mine Stand-Off
Michael Koma | Post Courier | August 28, 2017
The government is to launch an investigation into the standoff that eventually resulted in the destruction of properties at the K92 mine site in Balimoia, Eastern Highlands, in a bid to resolve issues raised amicably.
Disgruntled landowners went on a rampage last Thursday burning two trucks, a grader and standby generator, according to police.
Several gas cylinders and fuel drums were also destroyed allegedly by landowners from Balimoia One, Two and Three villages.
Police said the landowners, mostly youth, closed in entrance to the underground mine in the early hours of Thursday and took the law into their own hand.
A workshop at the entrance of the mine was also destroyed.
Police said the K92 Mining is still in the process of assessing the damages to determine the cost of the destruction.
During the rampage the only road that links the developer’s gold processing plant at Kumian to the mine site on the foot of Mt Kora was blocked with tress by the irate landowners.
Mining minister Johnson Tuke told the Post Courier that the destruction has already taken place and it’s now time for the concerned parties to come together to address the core issues that triggered the violent encounter.
Mr Tuke said:
“Extractive industries contributed immensely towards the national economy: the state must not be denied revenue in the face of such destruction.
“One the other hand the landowners must not be denied spin benefits, especially royalty payments.
“Its equally important that the developer must continue operation to contribute eloquently towards the country’s wealth and create employment opportunities.
“In every such situation there is always a reason.
“I will call the Mineral Resource Authority, the K92 mine management, Balimoia Interim Landowners Association and the Eastern Highlands Provincial Government to a roundtable discussion to find a way out of this chaotic situation.
“We cannot solve a problem with violence.”
Mr Tuke arranged for an audience with the landowners yesterday but they put him on notice which he termed as “uncalled for.”
In light of Thursday’s incident, Mr Tuke had flown to Balimoia yesterday (today) and told the landowners to control their temper as he would be negotiating for an amicable solution.
“As a local MP (Kainantu) I am aware of the situation and I am well-placed to discuss the subject,” he said.
The minister said the Balimoia gold deposits was initially developed by Kainantu Highlands Ltd and transferred to Barrick Gold before K92 Mining took over.
“Some of these issues arises during the two previous developers’ term and continued to exist until today.”
The landowners were pressing for off-spin benefits in terms of royalty payments, contracts and employment opportunities, which they claimed were not properly accorded to them.
The minister said the memorandum of agreement needs review.
K92 Mining Limited says claims about it not honouring commitments (engaging landowners in its operations) were unfounded.
K92 Mining’s management said it has built a formidable workforce of 500 with contractors on site including 300 employees alone from Balimoia and associated landowners.
The developer added that the Balimoia Interim Landowners Association (BILA) has yet to determine whether it will use its business arm, Balimoia Development Corporation (BILDECO) or a new business entity to participate in business opportunities created by the developer and its suppliers.
Meanwhile, police reinforcements from Ramu, Lae, Kainantu and Goroka were deployed into the area to protest the properties and equipment.
The Balimoia area, in which the gold-rich Mt Kora stands, is sandwiched between Kainantu town in Eastern Highlands and Ramu Valley in Morobe Province.