The most basic needs and rights of Papua New Guinea landowners are being completely disregarded while a Canadian and Chinese consortium talks up the potential of an internationally significant gold mine ahead of a PNG Government decision on the mine’s lease renewal.
Porgera Gold mine in remote Enga Province of Papua New Guinea expired last year and consortium made up of Canada’s Barrick Gold Corp and China’s Zijin Mining wants their lease to be extended for another 20 years.
A majority group of landowners, the Justice Foundation for Porgera headed up by the PNG Resource Owners Chairman Jonathan Paraia believes Barrick has no intention to deliver on promises it’s making to reduce environmental destruction or stop practices that damage local lives.
“Barrick has had 20 years to adequately deliver on its promises to resettle landowners, provide housing, education, clean drinking water so how can we for a moment believe that it will start honouring promises made under new contracts,” he said
“How many more independent reports detailing environmental and human rights abuses need to be published before the mine is held to account,” he said.
Mr Paraia understands Barrick needs this lease to be renewed so it can conclude a deal with Chinese state-owned entity Zijin.
“If the lease is renewed Barrick will not see it out, it intends to divest its share to its Chinese partner or someone else,” he said.
In 2015 Barrick Niugini officials told Landowners to make an offer for 95% of shares in Porgera mine but we could only make an offer for 10% so there was no sale. Instead in 2017 it sold half its shares to Zijin. We believe its goal is to sell its remaining shares once the lease is renewed.
The Chairman of the Justice Foundation for Porgera is also extremely concerned about a 70 million kina (almost $20M US) donation made to the Enga Provincial Government last week by the Chinese Government.
“The extremely generous donation while a decision on the mine is imminent is highly suspicious at best, and deserves a high level of scrutiny,” he said.
Jonathan Paraia also wants Barrick and elements of the PNG Government to stop cherry-picking supportive minority landowners with conflicts of interest and listen to the vast majority who want Barrick out.
“In the last fortnight, as part of Prime Minister James Marape delegation to Enga, Minister Johnson Tuke, Minister Bryan Kramar and Mineral Resources Authority head Jerry Garry unofficially visited the mine site and met with Barrick employees and contractors who claimed to be landowner representatives.
“Two of the guests, in particular, Dick Pundi a director of Ipili Porgera Investments Ltd (IPI) and Maso Mangape an employee of IPI claim to represent the interests of Landowners when IPI is a major service provider to Barrick, so whose interests are they serving?” he said.
The Justice Foundation for Porgera is aware the Prime Minister is adamant to take over the Porgera Gold Mine but other representatives of government are acting against the interest of the Prime Minister.
“The people of Porgera and the Justice Foundation for Porgera know the Prime Minister James Marape is listening to the people and has the best interests of our country at heart.
“We stand behind the Prime Minister and support him to say Barrick out, it’s time Papua New Guineans profited from Papua New Guinea’s valuable resources,” Mr Paraia said.