Tag Archives: Hela Province

Tension forces ExxonMobil to send some workers home

LNG Project facility, Hela Province, Papua New Guinea Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

The National aka The Loggers Times | December 5, 2017

EXXONMOBIL is still keeping “essential workers only” at the Hides Gas Conditioning plant in Hela because of tension in the area last month.

A spokesperson from the company told The National yesterday that ExxonMobil was still monitoring the situation.

ExxonMobil is the operator of the US$19 billion (K374.34bil [sic]) PNG LNG project that the province hosts.

“ExxonMobil PNG is continuing to monitor ongoing tension in the Highlands (Hides, Angore, Komo) areas,” the spokesperson said.

“The safety and security of our employees, contractors and the local community is a top priority. Staffing at the Hides Gas Conditioning Plant remains at essential personnel only.

“Non-essential personnel have been relocated to other areas of business including our Port Moresby office and the LNG Plant.

“The Hides Gas Conditioning Plant is operating safely at normal production levels.”

On Nov 21, more than 100 workers from ExxonMobil working at the Hides Conditioning Plant left.

Provincial police commander Michael Welly confirmed that his officers escorted the workers to the airport to travel on the first flight out of Komo to Port Moresby.

Hela Deputy Governor Thomas Potape said that the landowners wanted to shut down the LNG project due to their prolonged outstanding benefit payments.

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PNG landowners block access to gas wells over royalty disputes

PHOTO: Landowners in PNG’s highlands cut down trees to block roads near gas wells in Hela Province. (Supplied)

Eric Tlozek and Bethanie Harriman | ABC News | 29 November 2017

Armed landowners in the Papua New Guinea highlands say they have blocked access to gas wells because of an ongoing dispute with the Government over the payment of royalties.

The landowners in PNG’s Hela province have cut down trees and blocked roads and say they have stopped police from taking back control of the area.

They are demanding the PNG Government pay them outstanding royalties, which are the subject of a protracted legal dispute.

“They have cut down trees from wellhead B to G, blocking the roads,” said Dickson Ango, the chairman of one of the petroleum development licence areas.

“The security personnel have withdrawn and landowners have taken control of that area.”

Mr Ango said the landowners were protesting the PNG Government’s failure to pay a promised 20 million kina ($AUD8 million) in royalties for the gas.

“They promised to pay to the landowners — they even wrote a dummy cheque and gave it to the landowners — but that money was not in the account,” Mr Ango said.

“They showed us the cheque and they said, you see it, you feel it, you touch it and then they withdraw it and they never pay it to us.”

PHOTO: Landowners in PNG’s highlands cut down trees to block roads near gas wells in Hela Province. (Supplied)

The PNG Government has previously said it cannot pay royalties to some landowner groups because of disputes over clan vetting and an ongoing legal case.

It has been negotiating with landowners in an attempt to resolve the disputes and prevent unrest at the project and along the pipeline.

The operator of the PNG Liquefied Natural Gas project, ExxonMobil, said its production was continuing at normal levels, but it has withdrawn all non-essential staff from the area.

“ExxonMobil PNG is continuing to monitor ongoing tension in the Highlands (Hides, Angore, Komo) areas,” a spokeswoman said.

“Staffing at the Hides Gas Conditioning Plant remains at essential personnel only.

“The Hides Gas Conditioning Plant is operating safely at normal production levels.”

Police in Hela Province were not able to be reached for comment.

A spokesman in Port Moresby said officers there were trying to resolve an unrelated dispute involving the hijacking of trucks as part of a compensation claim over the death of a young man in a traffic accident.

Hela Province has been the scene of some of PNG’s worst tribal fighting over the past four years, with provincial authorities estimating at least 200 people have been killed.

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Law and order at LNG site needs attention

Dug up highway near PNG LNG project gas plant

The National aka The Loggers Times | November 28, 2017

THE law and order issue at the LNG project site in Hela needs to be urgently addressed by the landowners, the Government and ExxonMobil, according to former Nipa-Kutubu district administrator Robin Pip.
It follows a roadblock set up by landowners from PDL1 (Petroleum Development Licence 1) in the Komo-Margarima district.
They want the Government to pay their outstanding K20 million.
Pip, also a former community affairs officer with ExxonMobil, said these issues should have been addressed before the gas production.
He said the government should have identified the genuine landowners and pay their royalties and equity accordingly.
Meanwhile, Komo-Margarima MP Manasseh Makiba presented a petition to parliament last Friday from the landowners reminding it to start the clan-vetting project and pay out the K35 million promised to them.
Makiba said the landowners of PDL 1, 7 and 8 wanted the government to address clan-vetting urgently and pay the K35m that was agreed to be paid to the landowners in a Memorandum of Understanding in August, 2006.
“The K35m and the clan-vetting was later approved in an NEC 2010/2016 decision allowing for the K35m to be paid out to the landowners and the clan-vetting to begin a week after,” he said.
“The NEC decision also tasked the Attorney-General to file applications at the National Court to set aside restraining orders. However, since then nothing has eventuated,” he said.

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Angore Shut Down, Expat Worker Held Hostage

Post Courier | November 21, 2017

Angore has been shut down for an indefinite period since last week and an expatriate worker was also held hostage as an expression of their frustration for their nonpayment of funds.

Hides Gas Development Company chairman Tuguyawini Libe Parindali yesterday (Nov 20) confirmed this with the Post-Courier.

Mr Parindali said the landowners are frustrated because government has failed miserably to honor its commitments as result as threatened to shut down operations at the Hides Conditioning Plant.

“The government now needs to fast track its clan vetting process and release the K6.7 million owed to the landowners in infrastructure and the K35 million promised money for the Investment Development Grants.

“Businesses and individuals are now facing a serious security issue and we need government’s intervention.

We will not touch the developer, they have our undivided support. All we want is for the Government to fix its outstanding issues,”  he said.

Meanwhile a spokesperson for ExxonMobil confirmed that despite rumors the Hides Gas Conditioning Plant is continuing to operate.

“ExxonMobil PNG continues to monitor the situation in Hela Province.

“The safety and security of our employees, contractors and the local community is a top priority.

Due to recent community tension in the Highlands (Hides, Angore, Komo), ExxonMobil PNG has suspended non-essential work. Non-essential personnel are being re-deployed to other areas,” the spokesperson said.

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Exxon moves non-essential workers away from PNG’s Hela

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

Radio New Zealand | 23 November 2017

The oil and gas multi-national ExxonMobil says it has moved non-essential staff away from its LNG project operations in Papua New Guinea’s Hela province.

This comes amid a surge in unrest and tribal fighting in the remote Highlands region where the gas fields for Exxon’s LNG project are located.

Three days ago an expatriate worker with the project was kidnapped and held hostage by landowners who are reportedly frustrated with the government over non-payment of project commitments.

Police said the hostage was released without harm two days ago.

A spokesperson for ExxonMobil PNG said that due to recent community tension in Hela areas Hides, Angore and Komo, the company has suspended non-essential work.

She said non-essential personnel were being re-deployed to other areas.

According to Exxon, the Hides Gas Conditioning Plant is continuing to operate, as the company monitors the security situation in Hela Province.

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ExxonMobil employee held hostage in PNG’s Hela province

Extractive industries bring upheavals to Papua New Guinea communities: earth-moving underway for the ExxonMobil-led Liquefied Natural Gas project in Hela Province. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Radio New Zealand | June 5, 2017

A scientist working for ExxonMobil in Papua New Guinea was held hostage last week by armed tribesmen in Hela Province who wanted police to release a local warlord.

The men, who were carrying home-made firearms, abducted the woman from the vicinity of the Komo airfield on Friday as they were on their way to the Tari police station to demand the release of their kinsman.

The police commander for Hela province Michael Welly said the woman was held for two hours at the most before being released.

“The hostage takers went into the camp, got this female employee and held her hostage and demanded that police release the suspect so my men had to give in to their demand and release the suspect who initially had the home-made firearm on him,” said Superintendent Welly.

“We know those suspects involved in the hostage situation. We know their identity. We will have them arrested soon.”

Superintendent Welly confirmed that the woman, an employee of Exxon Mobil, is an environmental scientist with the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project and that she was from coastal PNG.

LNG Project facility, Hela Province, Papua New Guinea Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Exxon Mobil praised the police handling of the incident.

“Exxon Mobil is taking very seriously the abduction of one member of its staff in the vicinity of Komo airfield on Friday,” said an ExxonMobil spokesperson.

“We are relieved to say that the incident was resolved quickly and that all our staff are safe.”

The company said the issue was not directly related to PNG LNG activities.

“We continue to encourage constructive dialogue as the means to resolving tensions.

“Exxon Mobil PNG is committed to maintaining a positive relationship with landowners, the government and the wider community,” said the company spokesperson.

PNG security forces parade at the launch of the election security operation in Mt Hagen. Friday 26 May 2017. Photo: PNG EMTV online

Michael Welly said it was an isolated incident and not related to the upcoming national elections, which have prompted a beefing up of security in the province in recent months.

He said there were strategies in place to deal with aniticipated security issues in Hela during and after polling which starts on 24 June and is scheduled to run over two weeks.

“I am hoping that the response unit that is going to be deployed into Hela province is done soon enough so that I can strategically locate them in the hot spot areas that I think we need to maintain for the smooth running of the elections,” said Michael Welly.

Mr Welly said the response unit had been gearing up in Mt Hagen over the weekend in preparation for deployment from Tari.

He said he was hoping to get two police mobile squads and two platoons of defence force personnel for the election period.

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Papua New Guinea government intensifies military operations at ExxonMobil plant

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

John Braddock | World Socialist Website | 7 April 2017

The Papua New Guinea government of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill is moving to intensify its massive police and military operation against villagers in Hela province, where the $US19 billion ExxonMobil liquefied natural gas (LNG) is based.

In January, the government deployed 150 troops and police near the ExxonMobil site in response to what it claimed was a spike in tribal violence that had left dozens of people dead. Security forces were ordered to seize and destroy illegal weapons after police raised concerns about a build-up of high-powered guns.

Police Commissioner Gari Baki proposed last month that the government recruit 500 retired ex-servicemen to help enforce “law and order” in Hela. Baki said the former police, soldiers and warders would be on a six-year contract to train new police officers. Baki announced the plan while overseeing the destruction of over 500 firearms, mostly home-made, surrendered by locals during an amnesty that started in January.

Hela Governor Francis Potape admitted that the amnesty, which was extended twice into March, was largely unsuccessful. Police commander Samson Kua told the media on March 7 that hundreds of weapons still remain unaccounted for. Security forces would be ordered to take “tough measures” to recoup the guns and arrest the owners, Kua declared.

The actual purpose of the police-military buildup, which will involve 300 people, including public servants from the law and justice sector, is to protect the giant LNG project, which has been subjected to protests and blockades by traditional landowners.

Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari said securing the LNG site was a “critical” aim of the operation. “We’ve got a very important project that is located there,” he said. “It supports the economy, employs thousands of Papua New Guineans, so we’ve got to restore law and order.”

Construction of the ExxonMobil operation was originally bankrolled by the US Export-Import Bank. The project is viewed as economically vital by the major Wall Street shareholders that have backed it.

In February, the Singapore-based InterOil Corporation announced a $US2.5 billion deal approving ExxonMobil’s acquisition of the company. It includes interests in six licenses covering four million acres of the PNG highlands. One undeveloped gas field, Elk-Antelope, is among Asia’s largest and will be used to vastly expand ExxonMobil’s footprint.

Landowners in Hela are meanwhile still waiting for royalties, development levies and dividends from the project to be paid. In February, more than 1,000 protesters from four villages gathered at the ExxonMobil site to demand the payments, estimated at over 1 billion PNG kina ($A400 million). A spokesman said the government had promised to pay royalties but never kept its promises. It was the second major protest affecting the LNG project. In August 2016, landowners blockaded the entrance to the plant and disrupted gas supplies over the lack of payments.

Michael Main, a PhD student at the Australian National University, told ABC Radio on March 10 that “after four years of operation and windfall profits for the project’s joint venture partners,” the project had “delivered almost nothing of benefit to landowners.”

“In fact,” Main declared, “it has, in important ways, made life worse for the majority of people living in the project area.

Under the LNG Project Umbrella Benefits Sharing Agreement, signed in 2009, ExxonMobil agreed to pay 700 Kina (US$216) per hectare per year for land occupied by the project. The government promised specific additional development programs, such as road sealing and township development. Landowners were told they could expect, according to Main, “the project to deliver tangible improvements to their lives and to the lives of their children.”

However, during the seven months Main conducted fieldwork in the province, he witnessed “a life of immense frustration, disappointment and palpable anger at the absence of benefits.” “What I encountered was abject poverty situated alongside one of the largest natural gas extraction operations in the world,” he explained.

Rampant corruption is a major issue. Main cited the township of Komo, near the LNG plant, which contained a newly built hospital that stood empty with no beds, no staff and no fuel for its generator. This was one of several “white elephants” built at inflated prices by companies owned by PNG’s politicians.

“Promised developments, including road sealing, power supply and schools, had all failed to materialise,” Main said.

The complex clan-based society of the highlands region, with a history of disputes over land and possessions that can be traced back over many generations, has been made worse, according to Main, “by the frustrations of a population hammered by the broken promises of the nation’s largest resource development project.” He described 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.”

Main noted that since the beginning of the ExxonMobil project, PNG’s ranking on the UN’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,” he concluded.

PNG still has one of the lowest levels of GDP per capita in the region. Real GDP growth has dropped from 11.8 percent in 2015 to a forecast 2.8 percent in 2017. Government revenue has fallen sharply due to the precipitous decline in global commodity prices. LNG prices are less than half what they were in early 2014. The price in 2016 dropped as low as $US6.45 per million British thermal units (Btu) from a peak of $19.70 in 2014. Asia’s LNG market fared worse than slumping oil markets, plummeting by 67 percent.

The O’Neill government has responded by slashing spending, targeting health and education, by up to 40 percent. Austerity is fueling explosive social antagonisms and anti-establishment sentiment. Sections of the working class are becoming more restive over the government’s vicious attacks on jobs, living standards and basic rights. Early last month, National Civil Registry office workers in Port Moresby stopped work and locked the premises, demanding overdue wages. Workers alleged that they had not been paid for over two years.

The government is increasingly mobilising the police and armed forces to suppress deepening unrest. On March 28, armed police intervened to disperse a large crowd outside the provincial assembly in the East Sepik capital Wewak as Governor Michael Somare, PNG’s first prime minister under formal independence in 1975, was preparing to retire from official politics. The crowd had gathered to demand payments for various projects, activities and past “loyalty” to Somare.

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