Robert Apala | Post Courier | December 5, 2019
A Porgera landowner has called for urgent action against illegal mining activities after two men were shot dead, allegedly by another group of illegal miners.
According to landowner Rexie Kulina, over 200 illegal miners entered the Porgera pit area to scavenge when the incident happened last Saturday.
Mr Kulina said illegal mining activities is raising law and order issues to a dangerous level, with armed gangs now entering the in-pit and threatening locals.
He said the deceased, both from Kandep, were in a ‘hot spot’ or area where gold specks could easily be found, when they were challenged by an armed raider, allegedly from a neighbouring province.
Mr Kulina said the second group of illegal miners wanted to move into a rich spot, where the Kandep man was getting A-grade gold but he resisted and was shot.
“The law and order situation in the valley is tense and local police cannot handle such issues in the mining areas and in the valley,” Mr Kulina said.
Porgera local police chief, Sergeant Poko Itapu, said local policemen are trying their best to settle the issues of illegal miners but still there is trouble and violence.
Sgt Itapu said they can only arrest and charge illegal miners if they cause fear to the general public or destroy public property, but if they just pass through Porgera station, the police cannot do anything.
“We are here just to protect public properties and the general public but whatever these illegal miners do in the mine’s open pit is not our concern,” he said.
Sgt Itapu said the two opposing ethnic groups are regrouping and locals are walking in groups with weapons, while women, children and mine workers in Porgera station monitor the situation in fear.
He said relatives of the deceased are demanding compensation and also want the killer to be handed over to police.
“There are no leaders here in the valley.
“The local police are powerless. “We want the government to declare a state of emergency (SoE) in Porgera valley,” Sgt Itapu said.
“We want the so-called leaders of Porgera to return because the people are suffering and want peace.”
He said most Porgera landowners and leaders are in Port Moresby fighting over the right to lead the mine license renewal.