Category Archives: Human rights

LNG landowner frustrations rising again in PNG

Hides landowners met several times with the government to discuss outstanding LNG Project payments. Photo: Supplied

Radio New Zealand | 21 March 2017

Papua New Guinea’s major LNG Liquefied Natural Gas or LNG project could be shut down again due to simmering landowner frustrations.

Landowners in the Highlands province of Hela say the government has let them down again by not following through on promised benefits from the multi-billion dollar gas project.

The landowners mounted a protest blockade of the project’s conditioning plant in Hides last August.

In response the government signed an agreement to address landowners’ grievances over lack of benefits and equity arrangements within thirty days

Hides landowner representative Andy Hamaga said government did not honour their promise.

“Unfortunately to date they haven’t done anything. We are looking at options, whether to take them to court, or go with the national arbitration, or go go back again and shut down the whole (LNG Project) operations before the general election,” he said.

At the time of last year’s blockade of the LNG plant, in response the government said the delays in royalty payments to landowners were due to complications over identifying genuine landowners.

The Petroleum and Energy minister Nixon Duban said that it was in the best interests of Hela to ensure that the right beneficiaries would be getting the payments.

“This project is going to be here for a long time,” Mr Duban explained at the time.

“We cannot make a mess and pay the wrong people. And so the onus is on the state to ensure it’s done properly. Whether we take one year or a couple of months, we must ensure it is done properly.”

However, Mr Hamaga said this was misleading.

“The state minister is not giving us the actual information,” he said.

“They were supposed to do this clan vetting and landowner social mapping thing before we signed the big Umbrella Benefit Agreement we have signed in 2009. I think they’re using this one as an excuse.”

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PNG group says mining ombudsman ‘last hope’

Porgera mine. Photo: wikicommons / Richard Farbellini

Radio New Zealand | 13 March, 2017

A human rights group in Papua New Guinea says it would be a great relief if Canada agrees to appoint an ombudsman to monitor PNG’s mining sector.

The Akali Tange Association has written to Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, as part of a wider global campaign calling for the appointment.

The group said Canadian-owned Barrick Gold had employed security guards at Porgera who had committed killings, assault, and rape.

Its executive officer, McDiyan Robert Yapari, said an ombudsman would finally provide some justice for victims as well as holding mining companies to account.

“Now we don’t have any choice but only our prayers – our only hope now lies with the Canadian Prime Minister, if he sets up this Canadian extractive human rights ombudsman – that would be a great relief for us,” said McDiyan Robert Yapari.

Mr Yapari said the situation at Porgera Mine was getting worse and an ombudsman was the community’s last hope.

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ExxonMobil’s natural gas project foments unrest in Papua New Guinea

Armed clansmen in the town of Komo in Papua New Guinea’s Hela Province. Photo courtesy of Michael Main

Michael Main | UPI  |  March 9, 2017

The Papua New Guinea liquefied natural gas project is the largest resource extraction project in the Asia-Pacific region. Constructed at a stated cost of $19 billion, it’s operated by ExxonMobil in joint venture with Oil Search and four other partners.

The project extracts natural gas from the Papua New Guinea highlands where it is processed before being sent via some 435 miles of pipeline to a plant near the nation’s capital, Port Moresby. The gas is then liquefied and transferred into ships for sale offshore.

Construction for the project began in 2010, and the first gas shipment was made in May 2014.

In February 2009, the economic consulting firm Acil Tasman (now Acil Allen) produced a report for ExxonMobil about the project’s impact. The purpose of the study, which was posted on ExxonMobil’s website but has now been removed, was to provide an analysis of the likely impacts of the project on Papua New Guinea’s economy.

ExxonMobil did not respond to questions about the removal of the report or the impact of the project on local communities.

The report said the project has the potential to transform the country’s economy by boosting GDP and money from exports. These would increase government revenue and provide royalty payments to landowners. It claims the project could potentially improve the quality of life of locals by providing services and enhancing productivity. Workers and suppliers would reap rewards, as would landowners who would also benefit from social and economic infrastructure.

But six years on, none of this has come to pass.

A shaky agreement

In the years since construction began, Papua New Guinea’s ranking on the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index has fallen by two places to 158, having been overtaken by Zimbabwe and Cameroon. Far from enhancing development indicators, the largest development project in PNG’s history has coincided with an unprecedented downgrade in the country’s development status.

In this period, there has been a stream of articles published that highlight the alarming state of Papua New Guinea’s economy and criticize the lack of positive economic and development impacts from the LNG project.

But very little is known about the actual impact of the project on local landowners. This is largely due to the remote location of the gas field in the mountainous Hela Province. The dire security situation in that part of Papua New Guinea also makes any investigation a highly dangerous undertaking.

I first visited Hela Province in 2009 shortly before the project was to begin construction. I encountered a population that was bristling with anticipation and enthusiasm for a development that promised to transform their lives.

In 2016, I returned and spent seven months with the landowners of the LNG project as part of my doctoral research. What I encountered was abject poverty situated alongside one of the largest natural gas extraction operations in the world. Combined with this was immense frustration, anger, corruption, mounting violence and widespread proliferation of weapons.

Like other such projects in Papua New Guinea, the LNG project was able to begin operations after agreement was reached with landowners on the benefits that were to be delivered via the extraction and sale of the resource that exists beneath their land. After much negotiation, the PNG LNG Project Umbrella Benefits Sharing Agreement was signed in May 2009.

On its website, ExxonMobil describes the agreement as ensuring a “fair distribution of the benefits,” but neither ExxonMobil, Oil Search nor any of the other joint venture partners are signatories to the UBSA. Rather, the agreement is between the Papua New Guinea state, various levels of government and the landowners themselves.

The agreement outlines a variety of income streams to be generated by the project, as well as specific development promises, such as road sealing and township development. Its upshot is that landowners can expect the LNG project to deliver tangible improvements to their lives and to the lives of their children.

But the reality – after four years of operation and windfall profits for the project’s joint venture partners – is that the project has delivered almost nothing of benefit to landowners. In fact, it has, in important ways, made life worse for the majority of people living in the project area.

Downward spiral

During my fieldwork with project area landowners, I saw a life of immense frustration, disappointment and palpable anger at the absence of benefits. The township of Komo, which is at the center of operations, contained a newly built hospital that stood empty with no beds, no staff and no fuel for its generator.

It, and its newly constructed staff houses for nonexistent staff, are just two of several white elephants built at inflated prices by companies owned by Papua New Guinea’s politicians. Promised road sealing and township development, including power supply and schools, have all failed to materialize.

The most terrifying aspect of life in Hela province has been the proliferation of weapons. The Huli-speaking population comprises a complex society of hundreds of individual clans with a history of disputes over land and possessions that can be traced back over many generations. This pre-existing context of intense inter-clan rivalry has been made worse by the frustrations of a population hammered by the broken promises of the nation’s largest resource development project.

During the project’s construction phase, Komo was a hive of activity. It was home to thousands of international workers as well as PNG nationals attracted to high-paying jobs and the promise of an LNG-driven future.

Large amounts of cash were paid to people who had no prior experience of money, and the lack of infrastructure development meant there was little to spend it on other than consumable goods and guns.

A black market arms trade has existed between the PNG highlands and the Indonesian military across the border in West Papua for many years. During the course of my fieldwork, I witnessed constant outbreaks of fighting by heavily armed clans, young men gunned down by military assault rifles, and many dozens of houses shot through with holes and razed to the ground.

Much of this fighting is a direct result of payments made to landowners displaced by the project. Compensation money paid to affected clans invariably ends up in the hands of individuals who fail to distribute the funds properly or support their own families, and the money is always paid to men.

In 2009, ExxonMobil agreed to pay 700 PNG Kina (approximately U.S. $216) per hectare per year for land occupied by the LNG project, indexed to inflation. The giant Komo airfield that was built to fly in materials for the project’s construction occupies an area of approximately 1,500 hectares. Disputes over ownership of that land have resulted in sporadic warfare over the past several years and dozens of deaths.

Military intervention

In August 2016, several leaders of landowning clans at ExxonMobil’s gas conditioning plant at the village of Hides, which is located on a ridge in a remote part of Hela Province, organized to blockade the facility and shut off the gas taps at several wells. Although security guards initially opposed the blockade, the landowners came armed. They forced their way into the plant site before locking its gates and demanding that the government meet their ultimatum to honor the UBSA agreement.

Members of Papua New Guinea’s mobile police squad told me they had no intention of acting against the local population, who vastly outnumber and outgun any police and military presence the government is capable of providing.

When I interviewed the landowner leaders during the blockade, it became clear that what they were demanding amounted to a better future for their families.

In November 2016, a convoy carrying the Hela Provincial governor, deputy governor and some local level government councilors was blocked on the road by an armed clan. Although the dispute was clan-related, I was informed that the convoy was targeted as a result of frustration over the lack of LNG project benefits and perceived corruption.

The resulting shootout left two people dead and one policeman wounded. A few weeks later, the PNG government announced that it would be sending troops with “logistical support” from ExxonMobil and Oil Search into Hela province, to flush out illegal arms and restore peace to that volatile part of the country.

The military intervention in Hela province has thus far been unsuccessful. James Komengi, a Huli who runs a peace NGO based in Hela province, told me that a gun amnesty that’s been in place for the past two months has failed to recover anything other than a few homemade shotguns and some non-serviceable factory-made rifles.

Residents of Komo village are reporting that ExxonMobil staff are being transported under heavily armed guard from their arrival at the Komo airfield to the gas conditioning facility at Hides. Recently, a man was gunned down at the Komo market in full view of the police and military contingent that is tasked with ridding the local population of its weapons.

According to the blog Papua New Guinea Mine Watch, these forces stood by and watched the killers as they calmly left the scene. They said that they were human beings who are fearful of losing their lives in the face of the enormous task ahead of them.

The governor of Hela Province has now declared the gun amnesty to be unsuccessful, with few weapons being surrendered.

The next stage is for the police and army to attempt to forcibly remove thousands of military weapons from hundreds of clans throughout the province. All this is a far cry from the excitement and optimism that characterized the mood of the landowners when the LNG project began construction in 2010.

Papua New Guinea now faces a situation where it’s compelled to send its army to an area where a major resource extraction project has failed to deliver on its promises to landowners. It may be time for all parties involved – both state and corporate – to consider development as a more effective path to peace.

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PNG campaigners lobby Canadian PM over Porgera abuses

Porgera mine. Photo: wikicommons / Richard Farbellini

Radio New Zealand | 9 March, 2017

Campaigners at the Porgera Gold Mine in Papua New Guinea are among those calling for an ombudsman for Canada’s mining sector.

In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the Akali Tange Association said an ombudsman would hold Canadian companies to account for abuses.

It said Canadian-owned Barrick Gold had employed security guards at the Porgera Mine who have committed killings, assault, and rape.

MiningWatch Canada spokesperson Catherine Coumans said letters from the Porgera campaigners and others affected by Canadian mining companies were already having an impact.

“It’s certainly really significant when people around the world write directly to our Prime Minister and to directly indicate what the harm is that they’re experiencing from Canadian mining companies and how they have a hard time getting access to justice in their own countries and therefore really need Canada to step up to the plate.”

She said they were still getting reports of rapes at the Porgera Mine.

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20 million oz of gold – but where is the development?

Porgera mine workers celebrate 20 million oz of gold

20 million ounces of gold is worth US$ 24,000,000,000 at today’s market price

Twenty four billion dollars / Seventy two billion kina from just one mine – but where is the development we were promised from this ‘world class mine’?

Polluted rivers, poverty, rape, violence is the price we pay for paving the streets of Sydney, Vancouver, London and New York with our gold

Large-scale mining is the wrong model of development, it is neo-colonialism, and we need leaders who will stand up for PNG and say no more!

PJV reaches milestone production since 1990

Post Courier | March 08, 2017

THE Porgera gold mine in Enga Province reached a milestone this month achieving 20 million ounces (oz.) in gold production since the start of operations in 1990.

The mine is a joint venture operation between Barrick Gold Corporation, Zijin Mining Group and Mineral Resources Enga (MRE) Limited.

In a statement the firm released yesterday it announced that the PJV processing department had attained the +20 million oz on March 6, 2017 after 7044 ounces were produced that day.

Marking its significance for the 26 year mine operation, six of PJVs longest serving employees and some production and processing staff were invited by the PJV management to witness the historic gold pour event.

PJV general manager operations, Damian Shaw on behalf of the management, commended the efforts of those who had been involved with the operation since the first pour in 1990 and those who were still with the operation working safely, 20 million ounces later.

“This has been a great effort by everyone, the employees, the community, the government and all other stakeholders. To those who work behind the scene to make it possible to achieve this result, congratulations.

“Not many mines meet 20 million ounces, it is a rare achievement. Porgera still has a long life so let’s get another 20 million,” MrShaw said.

The +20 million oz. is derived from more than 143 million tonnes of ore that have been mined in both the Open Pit and Underground since start of production.

Production superintendent (Anawe) Anthon Pakyo, acknowledged the contributions from all of the PJV site departments, adding that there have been challenges along the way but as a team, the site has achieved this.

“For the processing team, this is a real milestone achievement as we all know it has been challenging to get this far. We can hope for some more million ounces in the future through our continued team efforts,” Mr Pakyo said.

Porgera accounts for, on average 11 per cent of Papua New Guinea’s total exports and is a major contributor to the PNG economy in taxes, duties, royalties and infrastructure development.

PJV has also managed over 570 tax credit scheme (TCS) and infrastructure development program (IDP) funded projects valued at over US$74million since the start of TCS in 1992.

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Plea for assistance with pollution from Porgera mine

Tailings waste from the mine flows through the Porgera Valley. Photo: Emily Allen

Loss of Customary Water Rights

Howard Peter | Secretary, Kulinist Strickland Resource Holders Association 

The Strickland & Dumbudu river pollution and the environmental damages by the illegal use of our rightfully owned river system has the denied the rights of the river landowners of their Customary Water use rights since 1989 till now.

Our rights were denied because of the National Government’s failure to carry out its duty to inform the poor landowners before the approval of various water use permits for Porgera Joint Venture on the effects of mine tailings, sediments and mine derived wastes on the environment, river system and the landowners living along the river system.

The denial has led to many sufferings and frustrations by the innocent river landowners who relied on the river for their daily activities. Due to the pollution and environmental damages, the landowners could no longer enjoy these rights and as a result have suffered loss and frustrations and some of their customary water rights are lost forever.

Health Related Problems

The river landowners along each section of the river have experienced a lot of health problems that they have never experienced in their life time. Some form of skin irritation diseases were faced by the landowners who used the polluted river for transport, swimming and even eating fish caught in the polluted river.

Many landowners have died due to these problems since 1990 and till now and they continue to suffer and die in their remote villages that have no access to health services.

Noting these facts , people have suffered greatly due to Department of Environment and Conservation and other responsible state agencies negligence.

Affected communities living along Strickland and Dumbudu river areas now waiting for Hela Provincial Government to look in to these allegations immediately before Barrick PJV exit by selling its 95% shares. Department has continuously ignored our plea to date , HPG to step in and do something to help ol taragu lo ples.

This issue is prolong issue so its time for Hela Provincial government to step in and do something inorder to avoid company sell its stakes of 95% to interested company. I have verbally approached with Hela Provincial government and I also wrote to them but they continuously fail to address my environmental damages and River pollution issues.

TALK ACT ENVIRONMENT WAY!

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Our submissions were ignored – NZ seabed mining protesters

Busloads of people protested outside the Environmental Protection Authority hearing to consider Trans Tasman Resources’ seabed mining application. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Robin Martin | Radio NZ | 7 March 2017

Thousands of submissions against a proposed seabed mining project in Taranaki are being ignored, opponents say.

Greenpeace and Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) say the Environmental Protection Authority’s summary of the submissions is misleading, and its report should be withdrawn.

Hearings are underway now for Trans-Tasman Resources’ application to process 50 million tonnes of iron sands a year for up to 35 years, from a 65 square kilometre block off the coast of Patea.

A similar application was rejected in 2014, but the company said the science had progressed and any environmental damage would be minimal.

The environmental groups said a detailed analysis of submissions made for the application did not include more than 13,000 objections to the project that were made via their websites.

KASM spokesperson Phil McCabe said the report instead drew attention to the submissions made directly to the Environmental Protection Authority website, of which 56 percent were in favour.

“The analysis only looks in detail at the 262 submissions that went directly to the EPA website. They’ve all but ignored the other 13,400 or so submissions that came through third-party websites, through KASM and Greenpeace’s websites.”

Mr McCabe said the report gave the impression a majority of submitters were in favour of the project, which was not the case.

“It’s a bizarre approach and in our view it’s essentially disrespecting people that made submissions and not taking their views into account.

“Another issue is that those submissions are not available to be viewed on the EPA website, therefore they are not on the record.”

KASM and Greenpeace have asked for the report to be withdrawn.

But the authority’s decision-making committee said the report did not hide from the fact that there were a large number of third-party submissions opposed to the project and it would not be withdrawing it.

“In the decision-making committee’s view there is nothing misleading about the report… It does not attempt to suggest there were not a large volume of third-party web-based submissions that opposed the proposal.”

The key themes and character of the third-party submissions were set out in the report, the committee said.

“This report does not, and was never intended to, remove the requirement for committee to have regard to any and all submissions made and it will be discharging this duty accordingly.”

Iwi have lost faith

Busloads of South Taranaki Māori attended the hearings in New Plymouth yesterday where Ngāti Ruanui, Ngaa Rauru and Ngaruahine made submissions. All three iwi oppose the application.

Kaiarataki Te Runanga o Ngāti Ruanui spokesperson Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the iwi had a good relationship with oil and gas companies and took issue with Trans Tasman Resources painting it as obstructive.

“We are not a tribe that will sit there and turn our back on opportunities. We can’t afford to be. So this myth, this legend, this whole Walt Disney story that the ‘haters and wreckers’ don’t want progress is simply not correct.”

The iwi had lost faith in Trans Tasman Resources and did not believe it could control the environmental impacts of the project, Ms Ngarewa-Packer said.

Outside the hearing, Hawera kuia Tangiora Avery simply worried about what the effect of the project would be on her mokopuna.

“The sea is a life-giving thing that has been going on for our people for centuries. It’s our food basket. We were taught from the time as babies how to go, where to go, what to do on the beach.

“When you have people tearing at your beach there’s going to be nothing left for the next generation that’s here.”

Hearings into Trans Tasman Resources’ application are due to end on 20 March and a decision is due 20 working days later.

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