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PNG puts Barrick, Zijin on notice over Porgera gold mine negotiations

Communities living around Papua New Guinea’s Porgera gold mine lack enough access to clean water to meet their basic needs. Photo: Columbia University

Government stake in Porgera mine won’t solve the appalling human rights and environmental abuses.

Jonathan Barrett and Mell Chun | Reuters | August 19, 2019

Papua New Guinea plans to take a larger share of the Porgera gold mine as part of lease-renewal talks, diluting the ownership of joint venture partners Barrick Gold Corp and Zijin Mining Group, the country’s commerce minister told Reuters on Monday.

The planned changes are part of a push by the South Pacific archipelago to transform its economy under new government leadership amid a perceived lack of benefits flowing from resources projects back to communities.

Porgera, located in PNG’s northern highlands region, is expected to produce 240,000 to 260,000 ounces of gold this year. Barrick and Zijin each own 47.5% of the mine, with the remaining 5% held by landowner group, Mineral Resources Enga.

PNG’s Minister for Commerce and Industry, Wera Mori, said a portion of Barrick and Zijin’s stakes would be given to the national and provincial governments and to landowners.

“We would like to see the mine to continue, but this time to be structured in such a way with a lot more national interest in it,” Mori told Reuters in an interview in Sydney.

The final figure to be held by Barrick and Zijin would be determined during on-going negotiations over a requested 20-year extension to the lease, he said.

“It will decrease correspondingly, like if the state picks up say 30% or 40%,” said Mori.

Barrick and Zijin were not immediately available for comment. In early August, Barrick Chief Executive Mark Bristow said in a statement that there needed to be a “partnership approach” over the future of the mine.

The Porgera lease recently expired, although the operators are allowed to keep producing during lease-renewal negotiations.

Papua New Guinea land-owners have raised concerns over what they say are negative social, environmental and economic impacts from the mine. Negotiations with the project operators have been complicated by a split among the landowners.

GOLD RUSH

PNG was the world’s 14th largest gold producer in 2018, according to the World Gold Council.

Mori, who was standing in for PNG’s new prime minister, James Marape, at an investor forum in Sydney, said the resources-rich nation was developing policies to keep more of the commodities it produces to improve its economy.

“We are in the process of developing the framework to retain at least 30% of our gold that we export every year,” Mori told the forum early on Monday.

Proposed changes to the country’s mining laws are expected to be presented to PNG’s parliament in the coming weeks, capturing all new projects.

Mori said that PNG would also consider pegging its currency, the kina, to gold, rather than the U.S. dollar.

PNG’s central bank currently fixes its currency to a narrow U.S. dollar band, propping up the kina’s value while creating a shortage of dollars available in the Pacific nation.

Marape, the former finance minister who became PNG’s new leader in May after winning a vote in parliament, has put some of the world’s biggest resources companies on notice over how profits are shared from the country’s resource riches.

He said he wanted to turn PNG into the “richest black nation” on earth over the next decade.

This includes sending a team to renegotiate its Papua LNG agreement with French oil major Total SA.

Gerea Aopi, PNG country director at Papua LNG partner Oil Search, told the forum that the sector required certainty.

“I think the industries both in oil and gas and mining have indicated that we don’t object to the changes that are going to take place as long as there’s proper consultation,” Aopi said.

The Total-led Papua LNG, which also includes Exxon Mobil Corp, is part of a $13 billion project set to double the country’s exports of LNG.

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President Calls For A Fair Share Of Lihir Gold Mine Benefits

Post Courier | August 12, 2019

Newly elected president of Nimamar local level government (LLG) Stanley Tunut has called on the national government to allocate its share of service delivery funds owing over the years.

Mr Tunut, a National Alliance party member unseated deputy governor and incumbent president Ambrose Silul of the People’s Progress Party (PPP).

His election was witnessed by locals who gathered in numbers at the Tumbawinlam House last week Thursday.

He said Lihir island has been deprived of government services despite having the third largest gold mine in the world.

“Over the years, the people of Lihir have not felt the impact of the funds from the national government’s service improvement programs directed to the provincial, district and the local level government,” Mr Tunut said.

But he said that the royalties worth millions paid into the Nimamar local level government have made no impact in the livelihood of the people.

“The first thing I will do is to overhaul how the budget of the Nimamar local level government will revolve to the people of Lihir with the royalties that is directed into the administration.”

He said the budget of the LLG will be well structured to benefit the people rather than the administration consuming the entire internal revenue.

“I intend to make some changes in the administration the budget was delivered in past and make a fresh start,” he said.

“If you visit the entire island on the western and to the eastern tip, you will notice the run down state of infrastructures and road conditions. To get to the western tip of the island will only require four-wheel vehicles to manoeuvre through. School and health infrastructures are wearing to and drug supplies in the aid posts and clinics are inadequate,” Mr Tunut said.

He said only a fraction of the population that reside within the perimeters of the mine site receive benefits from the mining company Newcrest Mine Limited.

Mr Tunut said to look after the affairs of the people of Lihir, there has to be an audit made on the works of the previous administration in order to make a fresh start.

“The people of Lihir do not want any political affiliation but want services to be delivered.”

He said the Nimamar local level government under his leadership will support and work alongside Namatanai member Walter Schnaubelt to deliver projects for his local level government.

He urged all stakeholders, churches and the entire population including the landowners of Lihir Gold Mine to unite because the future of Lihir will depend entirely on them.

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Landowners Want 100 Per Cent Ownership of Porgera Mine

Zombi Kep | Post Courier | August 5, 2019

Majority landowner representatives are calling on Prime Minister James Marape to extend his ‘Take Back PNG’ campaign by taking back the Porgera gold mine from operator Barrick Niugini Limited (BNL).

Acting through the Justice Foundation of Porgera, 18 out of 24 landowner agents who signed the MOA in 1969, are urging the PM to act on his word by taking back Porgera gold mine from Barrick.

In a recent press conference in Port Moresby, chairman of Justice Foundation for Porgera Mr Jonathan Paraia, claiming to speak for the 18 landowner agents, declared their intention to take 100 per cent ownership.

“Enga must own the land which was given to us by God and the 95 per cent that is leaving the country for Canada must stay back in the country,” said Mr Paraia.

“We own all the resources in the country, yet all the resources are leaving the country.”

He said if the profits were retained, a lot of people from Porgera, Enga and PNG as a whole will be employed and there will be surplus of money owing into the country.

“That’s why when the mining lease expires, we are putting our resolution up to government not to renew the agreement.”

He said according to the Mining Act, anything six foot underground belongs to the State and the State should have full ownership of the mine and its profits.

But he claims the ownership had somehow passed onto foreigners. “Over the last 30 years, 95 per cent is owned by Barrick and nothing is coming back to us, even the country is missing out on it,” said Paraia.

“But now as the mining lease is expiring, PNG must own this mine.”

He said that just like the government taking over OK Tedi, they want to take ownership of the Porgera mine to resettle the landowners affected, pay proper compensation, and deliver proper services.

“The government must allow us to take over the mine so that all the damages that were done to Porgera will be fixed by ourselves,” he said.

“The things that Barrick has failed to do today; we want to do ourselves.”

He stressed that the mine will continue to operate just as it is but the ownership needs to change. “All the workers will be intact and all contractors will remain but the ownership must change.”

Former Laigaip Porgera MP Nickson Mangape who is also one of the 18 landowner agents, brushed aside comments made on social media that they are incapable of owning the mine.

“You people kept asking who will take over Porgera gold mine and saying that it’s too complicated on Facebook,” explained Mr Mangape.

“You look at OK Tedi, the government of the day took over. This is the same thing that we want with Porgera.”

He said there is no difference.

“About 33 per cent went to landowners (Ok Tedi) and 67 per cent went to the government, the same will happen with Porgera.

Enough is enough,” he said.

Meantime the National Court in Waigani ruled last week Friday that BNL and Mineral Resources Enga (PJV) will continue mining after the August 16 expiry of the mine’s SML.

Following the ruling, BNL president and chief executive officer Mark Bristow said a total of K20 million in royalties for landowners are withheld as a result of ongoing legacy issues.

Mr Bristow also said the company has funded a lot of training initiatives and to date, the total value of K544 million including donations has provided schools, health services, water, power, bridges and roads in support with the local government to change the lives of the people for the better.

He said the company has also made a commitment following its recent meeting with Prime Minister James Marape that it would invest in the Paiam hospital to get it operational again.

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Leader Speaks His Mind On Porgera Mine

Communities living around Papua New Guinea’s Porgera gold mine lack enough access to clean water to meet their basic needs. Photo: Columbia University

Post Courier | August 5, 2019

The landowners of Porgera mine have given up their mountains and land to mine developers. This is with the thought that they will be partakers and beneficiaries. But after 30 years they still haven’t benefited from it.

These are the words of Nixon Mangape who is a signatory of the 24 landowner agents that signed the MOA in 1989.

“We have given our mountains to the developer to mine gold which we thought that the government will benfifit from the taxes collected from the developer, as well as the national and provincial government but us the landowners will receive the maximum benefit,” he said.

“That was our initial thought when we signed the agreement in good faith but in so many years the developer haven’t given us any contract.”

Mr Mangape said that he represented Tiene Wape clan.

“Out of the 23 landowners that were party to the signing of the MOA in 1989, I am the 24th person who signed the agreement,” he said.

“I have not benefited from the mine and even my clan have not benefitted.

“That applies to all 24. We were not given contracts.”

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Australia to be sued over mining project’s ‘unmerciful’ destruction of Indigenous land

Galarrwuy Yunupingu, who is launching legal action against the commonwealth, says Nabalco and its successor, Rio Tinto, failed to ask the local people where they could and couldn’t go on the Gove peninsula. Photograph: Peter Eve/AAP

Galarrwuy Yunupingu taking legal action for loss of native title as well as destruction of dreaming sites

Helen Davidson | The Guardian | 4 August 2019

The federal government is facing a lawsuit over damage done to Indigenous land by the decades-old mining project that sparked the Yirrkala Bark Petitions.

Gumatj leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu revealed on Saturday that he and his people were taking legal action against the commonwealth, seeking compensation for the loss of native title over the minerals exploited by mine operator Nabalco and its successor, Rio Tinto, as well as the destruction of key dreaming sites.

The suit is expected to use the historic precedent set by the Timber Creek judgment by the high court in March, which ruled on monetary compensation for loss of native title.

“They’ve come to Gove peninsula without asking properly of the landowners of the place,” Yunupingu told the crowd at Garma festival, in north-east Arnhem Land.

“They have all come, getting the OK from the PM and the government of the country, to come all the way and start digging and insulting the country.”

He accused the two companies of having “ripped some land unmercifully”.

“They have damaged our country without seeking advice to us and they have damaged a lot of dreamings – dreamings that were important to Aboriginal people.”

He said the companies failed to ask the local people where they could and couldn’t go on the Gove peninsula in north-east Arnhem Land.

Traditional owners have received royalties from the mine, a fraction of the total revenue drawn from the site. They have recently opened their own mine and training centre, Gulkula Mining, of which Yunupingu is chair.

Prospecting for what would become the bauxite mine and refinery began in the 1950s, and Yolngu traditional owners were strongly opposed.

Leases were granted and excised without consultation of the people of Yirrkala, and the now historic Yirrkala bark petitions were delivered to the federal government in 1963. Yunupingu, whose father was then Gumatj clan leader, helped draft the petitions.

However, the mine went ahead, with the Gove agreement signed five years later between the commonwealth and Nabalco.

Traditional owners took the mine to court in 1971, the first ever native title litigation, but lost, with the judge citing the doctrine of terra nullius in his judgement.

The loss sparked the establishment of the Woodward royal commission, and NT land rights act.

The case flagged by Yunupingu on Saturday will rest on the precedent set by this year’s Timber Creek decision from the high court, which awarded more than $2.5m in compensation to native title holders over dozens of acts by the NT government between 1980 and 1996 which were later found to have “impaired or extinguished” native title rights and interests.

More than half the amount was to compensate for “cultural loss”.

The March judgment reduced the amount ordered by the federal court in 2016 but otherwise held up the new precedent of quantifying the monetary value of native title and associated compensation for the removal of land rights.

Native title experts responded to the ruling with predictions it would pave the way for potentially billions of dollars in liability payments by Australian governments.

The attorney general, Christian Porter, said on Sunday: “There is a well established process for native title claims and those processes would be followed for any such claim lodged regarding bauxite mining.

“I note that at this point what has been said is an intention to lodge a claim and that a claim has not yet been lodged.”

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Mining industry implicated in multiple rapes and murders faces no “real consequences” after lobbying Trudeau 33 times in just over a year

Samuel Helguero | The Post Millennial |  3 August 2019

On January 17, 2018, then Minister of International Trade, Francois-Philippe Champagne, announced the establishment of a new position.

For many, it was good news. Trudeau’s promised Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise came with the “ironclad” guarantee that an independent official would have the power to compel documents and witnesses for their investigations into corporations.

The commitment to the ombudsperson was not only verbal, but was included in Trudeau’s campaign promises and was stated explicitly on the Q&A page of the government’s website once he was in office.

For many it was good news. 

Critics of Canada’s mining industry were particularly hopeful. The multi-billion-dollar industry is one of the largest in Canada and has long been suspected of crude human rights abuses—abuses that would warrant an investigation.

“A cultural habit”

Among the industry’s possible violations of international law—as bodies like the UN and Amnesty International might attest—is the chemical poisoning, rape, murder, and serious beatings of hundreds of men, women, and children by people the industry directly or indirectly employed: all over the course of little more than a decade.

Taking just one example, in the mid-2000s researchers rushed to an area in Papua New Guinea, pursuing local reports of murder and abuse at a Canadian-owned mine (owned by Barrick Gold). One report was painstakingly gathered by villagers who travelled six hours to send documents in the closest area with internet.

Asides from victims of murder and beatings, researchers were surprised to find, when they arrived, that more than a hundred women and children had been raped by the mine’s security forces.

Barrick Gold Mining Company tried to cover up their security forces indiscretions, even at parliamentary hearings. Barrick’s founder, Peter Munk defended his company’s inaction complaining that human rights organizations did not understand how “gang rape is a cultural habit” in Papua New Guinea. But after dozens of human rights lawyers threateningly swarmed the island, the company gave in with a small compensation mechanism for 119 women.

Barrick made the compensated victims sign a legal waiver promising that they wouldn’t pursue legal action against the company. One lawyer working on the island found Barrick Gold to be executing a similar harm-and-sign practice in Tanzania. This is only a small glimpse into the array of telling cases.

Trudeau’s “ironclad commitment”

It is understandable why such a large and profitable industry—operating in the most remote corners of Latin America, Asia Pacific, and Africa—with a questionable history of human rights practices, would not want a powerful ombudsperson to investigate their affairs.

Yet, Trudeau had made a commitment, a sealed promise, to create an ombudsperson with the powers to compel witnesses and documents.

“We had an ironclad commitment by the government of Canada that this would be the mandate of the office,” MiningWatch Research Coordinator Catherine Coumans recalled in conversation with The Post Millennial.

“These companies are headquartered here, they’re getting tax-breaks here. They needed to be held to account here.”

But when in April 2019 the experienced and well-qualified Sheri Meyerhoffer was publicly appointed to the position of ombudsperson, she didn’t even know which tools or powers would be available to her.

“We’ll see what the toolbox ends up having at the end of the day,” Meyerhoffer said in an archived document provided to The Post Millennial

Indeed, it was made clear in a 2019 April press conference that “at the end of the day” Meyerhoffer and the public would have to hear from an independent legal opinion that would help establish the complete extent of her investigative powers. The expert’s advice was planned for release in early May.

This legal opinion never came out.

An undisclosed source told Coumans that the experts’ report took a wrong turn in the government’s eyes upon suggesting the new ombudsperson could be legally equipped with all the powers to subpoena initially promised. Others have suggested publicly that a legal disagreement took place on the best legal mechanism for giving Meyerhoffer serious investigative tools. Either way, the legal opinion was kept behind the political curtain.

Without the once-promised ability to compel witnesses and documents, the ombudsperson became limited in her investigations. She could still carry out inquiries and supply recommendations to the government. However, her reports would lack crucial specifics and credibility.

“Three months later, the study has not been made public, [and] the [ombudsperson] remains without meaningful powers to serve impacted communities and workers,” wrote several members of the Advisory board charged with overseeing the appointment of an ombudsperson, as they resigned this month in protest.

“We are increasingly convinced that the government has no intention to fulfill its commitment to create an independent office before the next federal election.”

Continuous lobbying

Now, several months after Meyerhoffer was announced as ombudsman, a recent report highlights the campaign of intensive lobbying launched by the mining industry between the pivotal time frame of January 2018 to April 2019, a campaign that may have influenced impressionable bureaucrats.

The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) and the Prospector and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), both organizations representing a plethora of individual Canadian mining corporations, lobbied the federal government on 530 occasions. The Prime Minister’s Office opened their doors to lobbyists of the industry 33 times in this same time period.

The contents of those meetings are not known. However, the data available does indicate those most lobbied by the industry.

These names include senior policy advisor for Natural Resources Canada and former employee of the mining industry, Guillaume Julien—lobbied 38 times—and Sarah Goodman, policy advisor in the Prime Minister’s Office—lobbied 18 times.

Jim Carr, now Minister of International Trade Diversification, who announced Meyerhoffer and her limited purview at the aforementioned press conference, also met with lobbyists from the mining industry a total of four times.

Moreover, Carr’s chief of staff took part in three meetings.

In contrast, only a single civil society organization was granted a meeting. That organization, the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, was given just one meeting to discuss the mining industry despite continued and relentless attempts to arrange discussions. Adding insult to injury, the meeting was with a junior staffer, not the high-level policy advisors that entertained the mining lobbyists.

“We were being warned by staff members within the ministry that we needed to get a meeting because the industry is lobbying the heck out of the PMO. We were constantlyconcerned that the ombudsperson’s powers be removed. We were clear that if these powers were removed, they would effectively be duplicating the failures of the Harper government to put a strong ombudsperson in place,” Coumans said.

However, Coumans was not necessarily surprised by the political influence the mining industry seems to have demonstrated. The industry has long had a “revolving door” with the government, regularly handing out positions to “retired” politicians.

Take for instance, Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Both worked for the mining industry after leaving office.

Chretien went around the world, at the end of his political career, lobbying for the energy sector, while Mulroney has sat on the board of corporate directors for the largest gold-mining company in the world—Barrick—based in Toronto. The former leader has also had the privilege of being Chairman of Barrick’s International Advisory Board.

For John McKay a Liberal MP who has campaigned forcefully for accountability in the mining industry, he cannot help but echo this evidence that forces within the Canadian government are not operating on totally selfless motives.

“There are elements within the bureaucracy that don’t necessarily wish to see the ombudsperson have real abilities to access real investigations that have real consequences for real offenders,” McKay told The Post Millennial

Diplomatic flu

It is worth noting that McKay speaks with experience dating back to 2009 when he initiated efforts to hold the mining industry (as well as other members of the energy sector) accountable for human rights abuses abroad. The bill he tabled under the Harper government was consequently stopped after “possibly the most intensive lobbying interest known to mankind.”

Under McKay’s 2009 Private Member’s Bill C-300, three agencies—Export Development Canada, the Canada Pension Plan, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade—would have to withdraw funding from companies acting “inconsistently” with the principles of corporate social responsibility.

“I’m generally a balanced budget guy, fiscally responsible, respect a competitive tax environment, competitive regulatory environment, but I have absolutely no time for companies that play on the edges of corruption and abuse of human rights,” Mckay explained.

Much like guarantees for a powerful ombudsperson, McKay’s plans would not come to fruition.

Despite a minority Conservative government (voting unanimously against the bill), and support from the Bloc and NDP, the 2009 motion failed by six votes.

“A few of my erstwhile liberal colleagues seemed to go south on me just at the wrong time. Apparently, they had a severe case of ‘diplomatic flu’ when the vote came up,” McKay said tellingly.

Indeed, despite possibly record attendance by Conservative MP’s, “diplomatic flu” seems to have struck 14 Liberal MP’s who did not turn out to vote. Bill C-300 would be buried. 

This is the legacy of the mining industry in Ottawa, that has proceeded to perpetuate itself with continual “pressure and lobbying” observed by people like the Secretary-General of Amnesty International. Similarly, men like the Secretary-General have not failed to comment that action by the current government “doesn’t take us a step forward.”

Of course, there are options open to the disappointed members of the public that want to see an effective investigation into possible human rights abuses. As always, they can stage bold demonstrations. They might also—as some have suggested—make it an issue in the coming election.

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How Exxon’s Big Gas Plan Stirred Up Papua New Guinea

‘An International Monetary Fund analysis found Papua New Guinea received “quite limited benefits” because it granted Exxon generous rights to recover costs before paying taxes or fees’

Dan Murtaugh | Bloomberg | August 2, 2019

Papua New Guinea, the impoverished Pacific nation of 8 million people, is in a bind over a $13 billion project to double natural gas exports. Political opposition to the deal has already helped take down a prime minister, and some of the world’s biggest energy companies are anxiously waiting to see what the new government is going to do with it. The drama is playing out as a flood of capacity is about to hit the global market, meaning time for the investment may be running out.

1. What’s the project?

It’s actually two cooperating projects involving a bunch of companies. Together, they will deliver capacity to export 8 million tons a year of liquefied natural gas, roughly 3% of global capacity. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a huge deal for a country with per capita income under $3,000 a year.

2. Who’s involved?

Exxon Mobil Corp. and Oil Search Ltd. are leading a group that plans to expand the existing PNG LNG plant with a third LNG production unit, which will be fed primarily by the P’nyang gas field in the country’s highlands. Meanwhile, Total SA is heading another venture, called Papua LNG, which also has Exxon and Oil Search as partners and a plan for two LNG production units fed by the Elk-Antelope gas fields. The projects will save money by sharing some facilities.

3. What’s the hold-up?

Both projects need agreements with the government, which include details that determine how the country will benefit. Total secured such a deal in April with then-Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, but opposition party members complained it wasn’t good enough. Finance Minister James Marape quit and left O’Neill’s coalition in protest. In May, O’Neill resigned under pressure from legislators and Marape was chosen to replace him. Marape’s government is now reviewing the Total agreement and considering changes. Exxon’s deal is on hold until that process is complete.

4. Why so sensitive?

When Exxon first opened PNG LNG in 2014, it did so with the promise of transforming Papua New Guinea’s economy. (Total gross domestic product is about a 10th of Exxon’s annual revenue.) The government estimated it would bring it about 2 billion kina ($613 million) in extra revenue annually through 2021. Instead, the project’s partners paid less than a quarter of that (about 495 million kina) in taxes, royalties, dividends and other payments in 2016. Meanwhile difficulty in identifying landowners in the highlands has delayed payments promised to those affected by drilling and pipeline construction.

5. Why such small benefits?

An International Monetary Fund analysis found the country received “quite limited benefits” because it granted Exxon generous rights to recover costs before paying taxes or fees. For example, Exxon is able to subtract its operating costs, debt amortization and capital costs from its gas revenue before taxes and royalties are calculated.

6. What’s the backdrop?

Extractive industries are key to Papua New Guinea’s economy, comprising nearly 30% of the country’s gross domestic product and 85% of its exports. Disputes over how to split the revenue have long been a source of social unrest. In the 1980s, a civil war erupted in the island of Bougainville over what was then one of the world’s largest copper mines. As many as 20,000 people died in the fighting and the mine has been shut since 1989. The island’s residents are scheduled to vote in a referendum in October that could lead to independence.

7. What’s at stake?

For the energy giants, the impasse couldn’t come at a worse time. Assuming deals are struck, they’ll still need a year for preliminary engineering work before being ready to sign off on the $13 billion building cost. Meanwhile, they have more than $300 billion worth of LNG projects from Russia to the U.S. to Mozambique that will be vying for a limited number of potential customers. A lengthy delay could put the PNG expansion at the back of the line. While Marape says he doesn’t want his country to miss out on the investment and jobs (at one stage expected to be more than 20,000), he’s also committed to securing a larger return for his country from its natural resources.

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