Melisha Yafoi | Post Courier | January 14, 2019
THE US$5 billion (K16.7 billion) Wafi-Golpu gold and copper project in Morobe Province has been shut down.
This shutdown took effect last Friday when about 100 men claiming to be landowners threatened to enter the exploration and development site following opposition to the memorandum of understanding which was signed between the State and the developer Wafi-Golpu Joint Venture in Port Moresby last December.
The WGJV Executive Project Director, Bryan Bailie stressed that “the safety of our personnel is paramount and that we will not put them at risk. As such, all non-essential personnel were evacuated as a precautionary measure.”
Activities at the exploration site are currently suspended pending assurance that law and order has been re-established.
A disappointed mining Minister Johnson Tuke said this shutdown is uncalled for and the actions taken by these parties to raise their grievances is a sense of a criminal act.
He explained that the state has gone into an engagement with the company to develop an understanding with the state and the developer.
Reports on the ground say all staff were evacuated to safety leaving the project site deserted since Friday after protestors threatened to enter the exploration camp unless it was evacuated and work immediately stopped.
Mr Tuke said that in most cases as far as history is concerned in any mining aspects before a initial mine starts there had to be form of an agreement to give comfort and in most cases and instances companies did not have the money.
He said there were certain institutions which had access to huge chunks of money so companies go out to the fields to conduct explorations to identify and come up with the resource and when they find the resource they have to run through a financial institution to look for money and financial institutions have their own criteria as to go about releasing the money to investors.
“So the government in its wisdom has given the consent to the company that this project is a priority to the company so that’s the relationship that we have established.
“And for people to go and conduct a shutdown is uncalled for, the understanding is with the State.
“It’s not the provincial government or the landowners or anybody else, the common law is that anything that is six feet beneath the earth belongs to the State, the State has all the legitimate power to act on its people,” Mr Tuke said.
He said what they have done is within the law, within the Act so for people to go out and stop the mine is unnecessary.
“It is a sense of criminal act there has to be an appropriate authority to do so the government will still provide leadership and bring this project into fruition and that is not the appropriate forum to talk about all these,” he said.
“I have already instituted a development forum that is still in progress. We can see that challenge but a challenge has to be taken in a appropriate action and this is outside of the context and I condemn those actions undertaken by some elements.
“They probably have some of their own issues if there is some degree of politics amongst themselves, they should not demonstrate to the company if they think that there is some certain issues that needs to be resolved they need to handle it within their own communities.”
Mr Tuke said said for them to take it to a broad degree or a standing where it now becomes a common knowledge to PNG is not good enough and Wafi-Golpu is a very relevant project because in the next 10 to 20 years Porgera and Ok Tedi might shutdown.
“We are still a mining country and we need to take on board this Wafi-Golpu project so that it in the years to come that will be in the place that the two mines will go down so that it can generate revenue to our country and that’s basically what we are trying to do,” he said.
They made known their grievances but I think it’s not appropriate for them to go that far because they are certain forms which we have not exhausted them all yet and we just started the process and we are still into it and we have a long way to go and we will still go through that,” he said.