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.