Category Archives: Human rights

O’Neill promises more delays for LNG payments

Landowners face more delays before receiving promised benefits

Royalty payments to be released after proper clan-vetting process done

The National aka The Loggers Times | 18 July 2018

PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill says royalty payments for landowners of the PNG LNG project will only be released after proper landowner identification is completed through the clan-vetting process.

O’Neill said this in Parliament yesterday when responding to questions from Sinasina-Yongomugl MP Kerenga Kua.
Kua said the Government had not honoured most of its landowner commitments under the umbrella benefit sharing agreement (UBSA).

That included non-payment of royalties and equities, infrastructure development grants, business development grants and the seven per cent equity participation.

Kua asked O’Neill whether Government had delivered all these commitments to the people of Hela and Southern Highlands.

The prime minister said his Government was committed to honour all commitments made by previous governments, “some of which are very misleading to landowners”.


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Nautilus’ stock plummets as deep sea mining litigation proceeds

Deep Sea Mining Campaign | 17 July 2018

Today Nautilus Minerals Solwara 1 deep sea mine project will be at the centre of a court hearing in Papua New Guinea as local communities seek to enforce their legal rights to full information about the project.

Andy Whitmore, Finance campaigner from the Deep Sea Mining campaign said, “We were informed that Nautilus told its shareholders at their AGM that the legal case bought by local communities in PNG to stop the Solwara 1 project had been dismissed on June 18.”

“It is also alleged that Nautilus stated to shareholders they believed the government of PNG was going after community for cost recovery because it was a spurious lawsuit.” 

“This is misinformation from Nautilus!” claimed Jonathan Mesulam from the Alliance of Solwara Warriorsa local community leader whose village is located 25km from the Solwara 1 project.

“There is still a legal case registered at Waigani National Court House. The case, which was adjourned on June 18, will be heard today.”

“The real question is this: why is the government trying to dismiss this case? Why would government resources be invested in blocking this case over the constitutional right of all PNG citizens to Freedom of Information?”

Nautilus stock fell by 19% this month after a string of bad news stories. These include the contract with their shipbuilding supplier had been canceled, major mining company Anglo American divesting its’ shares from the company and that the majority of the local community in New Ireland province oppose the renewal of Nautilus’ exploration license.

“Local community around the Community Beneficiary Area (CBA) have all objected to the renewal of Exploration License 1196 through written objection which was lodged at the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) in March this year. There was also strong objection during the Warden hearing in April” continued Mr. Mesulam.

“New Irelanders are now well informed of the potential impact of Nautilus Minerals and their experimental seabed mining project. They are giving their undivided support to ensure the project is stopped at all cost.” 

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“Minister Tuke welcomed these concerns and promised to have responsible agencies address them in the right processes, however  he called to have the mine agreement formalized before the November APEC meeting, a time frame which seems unreal given the outstanding issues of identifying other affected landowner groups and addressing their concerns”

Gabriel Lahoc | NBC News | 12 July 2018

The planned Wafi-Golpu mine pipeline, which will run out from the mine site from the borders of Bulolo and Huon Gulf districts, across the Markham river and ending in the industrial hub of Lae, has come under attack.

Leaders from the Ahi tribe, notably from Butibam village, and the Wafi-Golpu Mine Area Landowners Association, surprised the organisers and the guests when they interjected at the closing of the Wafi-Golpu mine project development forum yesterday at the Sir Ignatius Kilage stadium in Lae.

Chairman of the Wafi-Golpu Mine Area Landowners Association, Holmes Kissing, faced the guests, which included Mining Minister Johnson Tuke Morobe Governor Ginson Saonu, Communications and Energy Minister and Bulolo MP Sam Basil, Huon Gulf MP Ross Seymour, Menyamya MP Thomas Pelika, Tewai-Siassi MP Dr Kobby Bomareo, Mineral Resources Authority Executive Manager Sean Ngansia, Wafi-Golpu Joint Venture senior executives and the chairmen of the three primary landowners groups, Yanta, Hengambu and Babuaf, and expressed the people’s disappointment in their handling of the negotiations relating to the project.

This first ever forum is where all stakeholders were supposed to meet together and participate in discussions, but according to the frustated Ahi and other mine affected communities, not all stakeholder groups were ever consulted or invited to express themselves.

Mr Kissing, who is also from Butibam, shouted down the master of ceremony who was closing the first day open session, and was allowed by Minister Tuke, to air their grievances.

Mr Kissing, pointed out Morobe Deputy Provincial Administrator Masayat Moat, for failing in his leadership to get as many and all concerned parties together in the negotiations and discussions leading to the forum.

He told the national leaders and Wafi-Golpu JV executives that there were several outstanding issues as the planned pipeline will run through traditional land of several tribes and communities from outside and within Lae city and the fact that the state has not yet compensated the rightful landowners for the Lae Tidal Basin port and Lae city and that only one Ahi village of Wagang, where the pipe will end, was included as a stakeholder.

Reflecting on the mistakes of Hidden Valley mine, Mr Kissing warned that the livelihood of the people in and around the mine area, to those along the rivers and along the nearby coastline will be affected, and the frustrated locals will rise up against the developer and the government if they ignore these issues and concerns and sign any agreements and deals.

Mr Seymour and Mr Basil, admitted that the majority of the affected people are not yet ready for the mine and vowed to task the provincial administration to help identify affected communities and involve them, .

Minister Tuke welcomed these concerns and promised to have responsible agencies address them in the right processes, however in his speech he called to have the mine agreement formalized before the November APEC meeting, a time frame which seems unreal given the outstanding issues of identifying other affected landowner groups and addressing their concerns.

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Banking Giant Standard Chartered Takes Stand Against Mine Waste Dumping

Ditch Ocean Dumping Campaign applauds broad prohibition to protect oceans, rivers and other water bodies

Earthworks | 10 July 2018

Standard Chartered has  announced a full prohibition of financial services for clients practicing marine and riverine mine waste dumping. Standard Chartered adopted their policy shortly after the launch of the Ditch Ocean Dumping campaign, joining Citigroup, which has also confirmed that it will no longer finance submarine mine waste disposal.

“We have long held the view that marine or riverine tailings disposal is not good industry practice, and we are proud to add it to our prohibited activities list,” said Amit Puri, Managing Director and Global Head of Environmental and Social Risk Management at Standard Chartered.

“We applaud Standard Chartered for taking a leadership role in ending ocean mine waste dumping. It’s dirty, unnecessary and wrong,” said Ellen Moore of Earthworks, a nonprofit organization which is coordinating the campaign.

“Banks and financial institutions must actively take steps to ensure that they are not bankrolling the destruction of our oceans. I hope other banks follow the example set by Standard Chartered and Citigroup.”

The Ditch Ocean Dumping campaign, which includes 40 groups in 17 countries, is calling on financial institutions to divest from any project or company that employs aqueous tailings disposal.

Mining companies dump 220 million tonnes of mine waste directly into oceans, rivers and lakes every year:  more waste than the United States puts into its landfills. While the outdated practice has been phased out in many parts of the world, new mining proposals in Papua New Guinea and Norway signal ocean mine waste dumping is being ramped up, not phased out.

By drawing a clear line in the sand against aqueous mine waste dumping, Citi and Standard Chartered are joining a growing movement of governments, companies, mine-impacted communities, and civil society organizations calling for an end to the practice.

At the 2016 conference of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 51 of the 53 participating countries voted in favor of an international ban on ocean mine waste dumping and to develop a plan to stop ongoing dumping due to the irreparable destruction and degradation of marine environments.

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“breaches of the MOA, has caused negative impacts on the social, environmental and economic lives of the Porgera landowners”

Resource Owners Federation of Papua New Guinea Inc | 9 JULY 2018

Although the Porgera Joint Venture has recently applied for the renewal of their Special Mining Lease, a majority of the landowners whose lands are the subject of the mining lease, are maintaining a dispute for breaches of various agreements, laws and the constitution of PNG under the previous lease.

On 13th December 2013, the Porgera Special Mining Lease area landowners presented a position statement to the former Minister for Mining, Hon. Byron Chan, after Australian lawyers conducted a review in relation to the compliance of their Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) dated 12th May 1989, with the Independent State of Papua New Guinea. The statement claimed that the landowners were owed more than four billion United States dollars (US$4billion) worth of unfulfilled contractual undertakings by the State.

The position statement claimed that the breaches of the MOA, has caused negative impacts on the social, environmental and economic lives of the Porgera landowners. They claimed that in the period 1994 – 1995, the State allowed the mine to vary its original proposals for development of 1988. The 1988 proposals sought State approval and issuance of a Special Mining Lease (SML) for the mine to construct mining infrastructure that was capable of processing eight thousand tonnes of crushed ore through its mill over a mine life of twenty years. Underground mining was to cease after seven years of operations. Only five years later the State allowed what was called a “minor variation” to the approved proposals to double the processing rate to 17,000 tonnes per day. This meant that the amount of ore mined daily and the waste material produced were also doubled, resulting in the waste dumps which were originally designed to hold less materials, bursting into the river systems causing massive landslides which destroyed homes and gardens owned by the landowners. The mine failed to resettle the landowners from within the Special Mining Lease to unaffected area, even when experts found the need to do so in 1996.

The landowners claim that the State has since the lodgement of their position statement, failed to address their complaints, resulting in the landowners issuing a Notice of Dispute in April of 2015. The State has also failed to respond to the Notice of Dispute which may then force the landowners to then invoke the arbitration provisions in the MOA.

The State’s failure to respond to the legal steps being followed by the landowners pursuant to the MOA, is unbecoming of a responsible government. It is clear that State agencies are negligent of their duty to deal with the dispute in an orderly and responsible manner to ensure that the complaints are properly dealt with. The State’s continuous ignorance of the issues raised by the landowners will do nothing but increase the frustration and anger of those affected landowners which could eventually lead to the disruption of yet another resource project in the Highlands region of Papua New Guinea.

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Basamuk People Threaten To Shut Down Ramu Mine Refinery

View of the Ramu Nickel mine refinery. Image by Christopher McLeod/Sacred Land Film Project.

Jayne Safihao | Post Courier | 6 July 2018

While deputy Prime Minister, Charles Abel and a large team of government officers arrived yesterday in Madang for the much anticipated royalty payment to those affected in the Ramu Nico project, neglected Basamuk landowners have threatened to shut down the Basamuk refinery on Monday.

The threat was issued to the Ramu Nico management yesterday by executives of the Basamuk Landowners Association, in what was a ‘strained meeting’.

Spokesman and activist in the fight against having the deep sea tailings placement in Basamuk, Sama Mellombo, spoke strongly against the Mining Resource Authority (MRA), saying it had no legitimate powers to negotiate royalty payments.

He said that the Lands Department made an Improvement Inspection Report in 1999 which stated that the land should be forfeited and given back to customary landowners to improve.

Mr Mellombo said this was before the Mining Lease 42 was granted, “as described as to the depth of 30 metre below the natural surface of land situated near Basamuk”.

“Basamuk land is exempted from compulsory acquisition. Since the first Lands Titles Commission hearing in 2011 there has been no decision made over the land title. So after two LTC hearings no one can claim the land. We’ve had to go to the National Court to sort ownership issues but the courts say they are not the proper authority to decide who owns the land. It’s been a volley between the courts and LTC since,” he said.

“Now who has given MCC, the Chinese developer, the Basamuk land?”

MCC spokesperson, who did not want to be named, confirmed the meeting with Mr Mellombo’s team saying that the issue of Basamuk landownership was an “in-house dispute” between factions of landowners which has been prolonged and has put the company in an awkward position.

“The company can go ahead and pay them outstanding land use payments and such but this is hindering us. We recognize Mellombo as an LOA chairman though,” he said.

Mr Mellombo when asked if this was an in-house dispute, scoffed the idea saying:

“There is no in-house matter because according to MOA review of 2013, doesn’t allow two associations in one area. The company and the government are playing games and interfering with LOA affairs which they have no right to.”

The recognised groups within the project area to benefit today are Maigari Inland pipeline, Coastal pipeline and Kurumbukari LOA groups excluding the Rai Coast people in Basamuk.

It seems while the in-house matter is yet to be sorted out and LTC, yet to decide land ownership, the Chinese have somewhat put a refinery and Deep Sea Tailings Placement.

Mra Officers Allegedly Mishandling Landowners Issues

Jayne Safihao | Post Courier | 6 July 2018

The alleged mishandling of landowner issues by concerned MRA officers (named), in one of the impact areas of the Ramu Nico project may lead to the possible closure of the refinery at Basamuk.

In a petition, chairman of the Baasamuk Landowners Association Sama Mellombo, had singled two MRA officers as being very biased, not properly organising quarterly meetings and giving a complete blackout on project developments to the Basamuk LOA.

“I call on the Governor of the province, MPs for Madang and Rai Coast to get rid of these two gentlemen as they are not doing what they are supposed to be doing. MRA has not been paying our grants since, despite a competency jurisdiction hearing by the courts recognising us. These two gentlemen have been taking sides with certain individuals, coming to Madang and using it as a holiday resort and playing smart,” he alleged.

In the petition, he gave the company 48 hours before the refinery is shut down unless both men are replaced forthwith; that the refinery landowners identified by the Department of Lands and Physical Planning in 1999 be served on the proprietor, fully supported by a study of the Yangonan People of Rai Coast 1999 sponsored by Highlands Pacific and National Court order 2005/2010 regarding the subject land; and that the state show proof that Basamuk ground identified by Survey File No, 12/257 was legally acquired.

“We have been reliably informed that one MRA officer had a meeting to brief all the chairmen and executive committees of KBK, Inland and Coastal LOAs and singled out a Willie Galuk for reasons known only to himself. Who does Galuk represent? Not Basamuk I hope,” he said.

“We are concerned because this is not the first time the two officers have deliberately avoided Basamuk LOA executive committee since the outcome of the appeal to the National Court seeking to set aside the court order declaring that the election facilitated and conducted in Mindire village in 2016, was illegal.

“The landowners of Basamuk have been denied natural justice caused by these two officers who fail to remain impartial at all times when it comes to landownership issues. They see fit to be personally and deeply involved in the affairs of Basamuk LOA in-house matters that is causing the current status quo.

“Their actions are not in the best interest of the National Government through MRA and Ramu Nico management as they have failed to ensure four LOAs in the Ramu Nickel\Cobalt project has legal standing in the MOA; failed to conduct due diligence to ensure when conducting elections for associations over the years made sure of legal and statutory requirements according to association extract provided by the IPA for each term.

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Tensions mount at PNG gas project as landowners threaten to close plant for good

Armed civilians at the Angore blockade, courtesy of ATALA.

Lucy EJ Woods | Mongabay | 4 July 2018

  • On June 21, a dispute over royalties led heavily armed civilian groups to set fire to construction equipment at the ExxonMobil-led PNG LNG project in the Papua New Guinea highlands.
  • Negotiations with the government on June 26 failed to ease tensions. All wellheads have now been closed down and ExxonMobil personnel are being evacuated.
  • The landowner group has set a new deadline of July 18 for a resolution with the government, after which they threaten PNG LNG will be “closed permanently.”

Landowners in Papua New Guinea’s Hela province have threatened to expand and escalate their blockade of a natural gas project there, after an attempt at negotiation fell through.

Plant operator ExxonMobil PNG confirmed to Mongabay that all wellheads and the Angore pipeline have been shut down and personnel evacuated.

On June 21, to “show frustration” over a decade-long, unresolved landownership dispute, heavily armed civilian groups set fire to construction equipment and blockaded a wellhead site in Angore.

The $19 billion PNG LNG (Papua New Guinea Liquefied Natural Gas) project is the largest resource extraction project to ever be developed in the country.

As a result of the unrest, all three of the wellheads in Angore and the pipeline have now been suspended “and all impacted personnel are in the process of being demobilized or reassigned,” a spokesperson from ExxonMobil PNG told Mongabay. This is “due to unacceptable acts of vandalism.”

The safety of “staff and the community is our first priority,” the spokesperson added.

The spokesperson also confirmed that the neighboring Hides gas conditioning plant was operating as normal.

Armed protesters at the blockade of the Angore LNG pipeline. Image courtesy of ATALA.

Stalled negotiations

On June 26, representatives from landowner group Angore Tiddl Appa Landowners Association Inc. (ATALA), including Marlex Au from the Jangali clan and Eric Mondoro of the Telia clan, traveled to the national parliament in Port Moresby to negotiate with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

ATALA is demanding from the government an “infrastructure development grant” of 32 million kina ($9.7 million), equity shareholder certificates for traditional landowners, 2 percent royalties every month, and for the government to complete official clan vetting for the PNG LNG project.

Instead, ATALA were met by public servants, offered 20 million kina ($6.1 million) and told to halt the protesting and unrest in Angore and to lay down their weapons. This meeting was “to stall,” says Gary Juffa, governor of Oro province and a prominent opposition leader.

ATALA manager Benson Pajilah confirmed to Mongabay that ATALA had notified the government that it must resolve the dispute by July 18 or the PNG LNG project would be “closed permanently.”

“If the government don’t listen to ATALA Inc., we have capacity to shut down Hides Gas Conditioning Plant and Komo Airport. That will shut down all of PNG LNG’s operations,” Pajilah said.

“We will shut [PNG LNG] down forever, we will burn everything,” said David Hayabe, a founding member of ATALA. “We will blow [up] the gas conditioning plant at Hides.”

Both Palijah and Hayabe have said ATALA can “raise all of Hela” to shut down PNG LNG. Papua New Guinea anthropologist and Hela expert Michael Main said ATALA had “an incredible amount of support” and was recruiting people to join the group, including by offering money.

With the support of the population of Hela, it would be possible for ATALA to blockade and shut down the Hides conditioning plant, Main said, as PNG soldiers “are outnumbered and outgunned.” Juffa told Mongabay separately that ATALA was better equipped than the PNG military and police.

If a resolution is not found soon, the dispute “could be the end game [for PNG LNG],” Main said.

In response to rumors that ExxonMobil PNG could exit the country, a spokesperson told Mongabay that the company was “committed to Papua New Guinea for the long term.”

The Angore Tiddl Appa Landowners Association Inc. (ATALA) says it represents 150 clans in Hela, numbering some 100,000 people. Image courtesy of ATALA.

Sending a delegation

In an attempt to quell the continued civil unrest and prevent the suggested closure of PNG LNG, a government delegation will head to Angore.

Although a date has not yet been confirmed, Hayabe said it was likely the meeting would be held in Angore on July 13, before the July 18 deadline imposed by ATALA on the government to respond.

If the government fails to meet the deadline, “There will be no PNG LNG gas project,” Hayabe said.

Juffa said the government was sending “a heap of people, public servants, to meet with [ATALA], but as of yet there are no firm commitments.”

For the use of its land to develop PNG LNG, the government owes ATALA “millions,” according to Juffa. To resolve the dispute, the government “will have to find that money somewhere,” he said. He also suggested the government delegation’s response appeared to be the result of pressure from ExxonMobil PNG in a bid to prevent further damage to its infrastructure.

Construction equipment in flames in Angore. Image courtesy of ATALA.

Demands center on the government, not ExxonMobil

ATALA says it wants to work together with ExxonMobil.

“We have no issue with Exxon employees, they can go home to their families. This is not their fight,” Palijah said.

Hayabe said he did not trust the government, and that it should have responded quicker.

“We gave the government two more weeks to respond,” he said, referring to the deadline extension to July 18.

An ExxonMobil PNG spokesperson previously told Mongabay it was encouraging “all parties to work together to ensure issues are being worked through in a peaceful and constructive manner.”

That may not be the case if the dispute remains unresolved by July 18, according to Hayabe. “Let the government come and kill all of us,” he said. “Still we will fight and die on our land, we are ready and fully armed.”

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