Tag Archives: James Marape

PNG transfers remaining BCL shares

Carmella Gware | Loop PNG | March 13, 2020

The PNG Government has fully transferred its entire 36.4 percent share in the Bougainville Copper Ltd to the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

This was one of the resolutions reached during the first, and possibly the final, post-referendum Joint Supervisory Body meeting held on Thursday, the 12th of March, at Port Moresby’s APEC Haus.

It was the first Joint Supervisory Body, or JSB, meeting to be held since the referendum last year. It is also the last JSB as its name has been changed to Joint Consultative Body, and this body will continue to provide oversight to the post referendum consultation processes.

During the JSB, teams from the PNG and Autonomous Bougainville governments, including President John Momis and Prime Minister James Marape, sat together to decide a future for Bougainville.

The sixth out of the 13 agendas discussed and passed included the transfer of Bougainville Copper Ltd shares.

The JSB noted that in 2017, the National Executive Council made a decision for the National Government to transfer 17.4 percent from its 36.4 percent shares to the landowners of Panguna. Following that, on the 13th of December, 2019, at the joint announcement of the Bougainville Referendum results, Prime Minister Marape further announced that the National Government will transfer to ABG its remaining 19 percent of the BCL shares.

“This JSB affirmed that the entire shares of Bougainville Copper be passed to Bougainville Mining Ltd – the Bougainville Government and Bougainville people’s subsidiary company,” the PM, flanked by the ABG President and members of their technical teams, told media after a full day of meeting.

Rio Tinto and the ABG both own 36.4 percent each while public shareholders hold the remaining portion of the share capital.

Apart from BCL shares, the PNG Government has made it clear that the constitutional Restoration and Development Grant (RDG) will be given to support the budget on Bougainville while the National Planning Ministry has been directed to clearly define the K100 million commitment and report back in the next Joint Consultative Body meeting this year.

The JSB has also acknowledged and accepted the democratic choice of the Bougainville people for Independence.

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Booting Exxon gives Marape a boost – for now

Western Highlands province in Papua New Guinea, the region of the proposed P’nyang LNG development (ADB/Flickr)

The rejection of the P’nyang LNG deal signals a new way of doing business, and a shifting landscape for US concerns.

Bal Kama | The Interpreter | 19 February 2020

The recent announcement of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Government to cease all negotiations with one of the United States’ largest oil and gas companies, Exxon Mobil, over the P’nyang LNG project, a new gas field in PNG, has broader implications for the US and Papua New Guinea.

At first glance, the decision against Exxon for allegedly acting in bad faith is part of a wider crackdown by the government of Prime Minister James Marape to ensure greater fairness in the resource sector. Since ousting then–Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in a vote of no-confidence in 2019, Marape has charted a different approach from that of his predecessor, under the banner of “Take Back PNG” – a larger policy objective to reassess PNG’s developmental direction and regain lost opportunities. Marape laid out his vision in his inaugural visit to Australia in 2019 and is gradually applying it in many sectors.

The decision illustrates the growing frustrations of dealing with investors in resource-rich PNG, and it further demonstrates an emerging crop of PNG leaders confident in reassessing the status quo. For the US, Exxon’s alleged conduct, criticised by the PNG government as being “exploitative”, undermines US efforts in the Pacific region as a force for good.

Exxon Mobil has a US$19 billion liquefied natural gas project in PNG (PNG LNG), which made its first shipment in 2014. The PNG LNG project, which remains the largest economic investment by the US in the Pacific, coincided with former US President Barack Obama’s announcement in 2012 of a “pivot to the Pacific” policy. The geopolitical scenario of the day, the excitement of having the US interested in PNG, and the high expectations surrounding a global and reputable company, among other factors, influenced the PNG government’s initial agreement for Exxon to operate the PNG LNG project. It was thought the deal would have a transformational impact on PNG’s economy – an assurance that continues to be projected by some quarters.

However, the overall economy of PNG did not experience the projected windfall. Instead, there were a series of negative outcomes over the years at both a national and a local level – national debts grew, and unfavourable benefit-sharing arrangements and royalties led to conflict among traditional resource landowners. Many have questioned whether the resource boom marked by the PNG LNG project was in fact a “resource curse”.

“Absolute bad faith”

The ousting of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in 2019 was partly a result of growing grievances over the failure to deliver on the promises of the Exxon-led project and other resource deals. An important issue was the high level of concessions made in those deals. Historically, PNG governments, desperate to become investor-friendly, have made hasty concessions that often disadvantaged the country from having a fair share of the revenue from the development of their resources.

In a 2016 report, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) observed that “the tax arrangements for PNG’s mining and petroleum sectors are very generous compared to other resource-rich countries and do not reflect the maturity of the PNG resource sector”. The World Bank, in a 2017 report, also found particularly for the Exxon-led LNG project that Exxon Mobil and its PNG LNG partners created “a complex web of exemptions and allowances that effectively mean that little revenue is received by government and landowners”.

The PNG government must share some burden of fault for creating this scenario – including, for instance, the failures by previous PNG governments to negotiate a favourable outcome for the country, the misuse of funds by political leaders, a politicised bureaucracy unable to carry out their due diligence, and judicial interventions that at times hinder payments to disgruntled landowners.

This does not, however, excuse Exxon and its partners from the grave unfairness suggested in these reports. This, together with his experience as a minister in previous governments, underpinned Marape’s firm stance on taking a different approach in the current deal on the P’nyang LNG project. In his appeal for Exxon Mobil to act fairly, Marape noted that “the initial terms [in the PNG LNG project] provided by PNG were so generous” and that new “reasonable terms” should be considered for the P’nyang project.

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape (C) at Parliament House in Canberra, during a six-day visit to Australia in July 2019 (Mick Tsikas/AFP via Getty Images)

The terms proposed by the PNG government are not publicly available, but they appear to include giving no fiscal concessions in P’nyang, treating it as separate project from the current LNG projects and increasing domestic market obligations, local content participation, and landowner’s royalties from the current rate of two percent. The Prime Minister described Exxon’s refusal to accept the terms as a move to “extract even more profit for themselves”, while Kerenga Kua, the Minister for Petroleum and Energy denounced Exxon as acting in “absolute bad faith” and coming into PNG “with a determination to exploit our vulnerabilities, exploit us for our weak economic position and take advantage of us”.

A principled populist

The firm position taken by the Marape government is historic – no previous government has ever taken such an approach. PNG has had resource deals in the past that have resulted unfavourably for the country, but past governments have been shown to align more closely with investors than with their citizens.

The leaders and the people of PNG appear to be supportive of Marape’s approach. Further, the government is considering amending and tightening the legislative framework to ensure an equitable resource sector.

Marape is unlikely to concede to Exxon Mobil, as he insists: “You win for your shareholders, and I win for my people”. James Donald, a Member of Parliament representing the area where P’nyang LNG site is located, cautioned Exxon against crossing “a line between commercial parity and commercial greed”. Other MPs representing the resource areas have also demonstrated support for Marape’s stance against Exxon.

The PNG government is likely to reconsider its current position if Exxon responds positively to its terms. Unless that happens, however, there appears to be a general distrust for Exxon among the people of PNG – a situation far from the hope Exxon represented when it first entered the country. The distrust for Exxon has broader implications when one considers Exxon not only represents US economic prestige in the Pacific, but a society whose business ideals are expected to reflect the democratic values of fairness and just outcomes. The longer this tussle between Exxon and the PNG Government continues, the greater the distrust is likely to be, not only for Exxon, but for what it represents – the United States – in the Pacific.

As the vote of no-confidence scheme against a sitting government in PNG resumes later this year, those affected by Marape’s firm policies may hope for a change in government. In the fluid political landscape of PNG, a populist and comparatively principled Marape faces a challenge beyond just his immediate political rivals, and inside company boardrooms. However, if anything, his approach to governance so far has been reassuring for the people of Papua New Guinea.

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PNG Prime Minister officially takes on Horizon Oil

  • A saga of corruption and bribery allegations continue for Australian company, Horizon Oil
  • Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Prime Minister, James Marape, has now publicly taken aim at the scandal — making the issue a priority
  • The scandal involves a AU$15.4 million transaction to a small shell company, reportedly linked to former PNG Petroleum and Energy Minister, William Duma
  • Duma continues to work in the PNG Government and James Marape has denied calls for an immediate sacking
  • Marape and Duma are expected to make a formal statement on the scandal
  • Shares in Horizon Oil continue to devalue on the Australian market, falling 3.61 per cent on Tuesday for a worth of eight cents each

Fraser Palamara | The Market Herald | 19 February 2020

Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea (PNG), James Marape, has publicly taken aim at Australian company Horizon Oil (HZN).

The pacific island leader is backing an investigation into the Australian explorer — spiralling from reports of ‘missed corruption warnings’ and a suspicious multi-million-dollar payment.

News of the saga first reached headlines earlier this month, including allegations of bribery.

Now the investigation has reached all the way to the top order of Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, James Marape.

“If there is corruption involved, then find the evidence and due action will take its course,” James Marape said publicly on Tuesday.

“I have sent a request to the highest levels in Australia. I am interested in this matter.”

“The Ombudsman and the police have every right to establish a file on this matter.”

Marape was elected as Prime Minister last year, running a campaign on promises to clean up corruption and hold foreign companies more accountable. He has commented that domestic investigations into Horizon Oil could begin.

The Horizon Oil allegations of corruption spawn from a payment made in 2011, following a denied petroleum licence application in 2009.

Horizon Oil then made a AU$15.4 million payment to an ‘unknown shell company’ — reportedly linked to PNG’s Minister for Petroleum and Energy at the time, William Duma.

Duma’s department was shown in documents to award a 10 per cent stake in a development licence to the same shell company. This company was listed in ownership under Duma’s personal lawyer at the time.

William Duma still works within the PNG Government, but Prime Minister Marape has denied calls for an immediate sacking.

However, Horizon Oil’s Chief Executive Michael Sheridan has faced fallout — being suspended as of last week.

Share prices in the publicly traded Australian explorer also fell 30.8 per cent at the time, lowering to a valuation of 8.3 cents each.

James Marape said on Tuesday that he and William Duma will make a formal statement on the matter in the very near future.

Shares in Horizon Oil continue to shrink, lowering an additional 3.61 per cent on Tuesday. They last closed at eight cents each.

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PNG PM urges multi-nationals to allow gas project to proceed

Papua New Guinea’s prime minister James Marape. Photo: PNG PM Media Unit

Radio New Zealand | 8 February 2020

Papua New Guinea’s prime minister has urged two energy companies not to hold a major LNG gas project in his country to ransom.

James Marape’s appeal to ExxonMobil and Oil Search follows the failure of negotiations with the former over the fledgling $US13 billion P’nyang gas project

Oil Search said PNG was demanding terms of Exxon that meant the project developers would not gain a sufficient return on their investment.

But Mr Marape accused Exxon of a “lack of interest” to meet PNG halfway by offering concessions for a better state take from the deal.

The failure of the negotiations has raised doubt over the future of the separate Papua LNG gas project signed with French major Total.

Mr Marape said he called upon the two multi-nationals, as beneficiaries of concessions previous governments have given, to work with Total to deliver Papua LNG.

However, he appeared to leave the door open for an agreement with Exxon over the P’nyang gas project proceeding.

He said in the interests of fairness, a Ministerial Gas Committee would request both the state negotiating team and ExxonMobil to present their positions for the State – through a committee of leaders – to decide what is the best outcome for PNG.

The prime minister said he had indicated on all levels of discussions that fundamental policy principles that influenced his government’s mindset would not change.

“These include no fiscal concessions in P’nyang, treating P’nyang as separate from both PNG and Papua LNG projects, increase in Domestic Market Obligations and local content participation,” he said.

“These will be fundamental in progressing P’nyang.

“In the meantime, I call upon ExxonMobil and Oil Search not to hold the Total project in Gulf to ransom.

“If you model the project to be uneconomical, then don’t push it: let’s leave the gas in my land and you develop Papua plus further work in PNG LNG.

“After SNT and ExxonMobil present to the MGC, Cabinet will decide on P’nyang.”

Mr Marape said his government would shift focus to Wafi-Golpu and Porgera mines, and other resource sectors so life in PNG was not only dependent on P’nyang and other LNG gas projects.

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Exxon Partner Fires Back at Papua New Guinea in Gas Fall-Out

  •  State terms for P’nyang project not bankable, Oil Search says
  • Oil Search shares plunge 11.5% Monday to lowest since August

James Thornhill | Bloomberg | February 3, 2020

Exxon Mobil Corp.’s partner on a Papua New Guinea gas project that’s threatened by failed talks with the government hit back at the state’s position on Monday, saying its terms were uneconomical.

Oil Search Ltd., in its first comment since the talks broke down Friday, said that the government’s demands meant the project would not gain a sufficient return on investment. The impasse casts doubt on a broader $13 billion plan to double the country’s exports after Prime Minister James Marape, who came to power on a promise to increase the nation’s share of resources wealth, said Friday that Exxon’s proposed terms were ‘out-of-the-money’ for PNG.

The country’s take from the project would have been “significantly less” than deals done elsewhere in the region, including Malaysia, where Exxon has a big operation, Marape said Friday. The size of the resource, cost of development and the unique challenges of operating in PNG made comparisons with other arrangements in the region “misleading,” according to Oil Search.

“For Oil Search, the project returns under the State’s proposed terms were approximately the same as our cost of capital, on an unrisked basis,” Managing Director Peter Botten said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange.

The company’s shares ended Monday down 7.2% at the lowest closing level since Sept. 3, and having lost as much as 11% intra-day, as investors reacted to the latest setback to the group’s expansion plans in PNG.

The failure of the P’nyang talks has cast doubt on the future of Total SA’s Papua liquefied natural gas project. While the government has already reached agreement with the French company on that project, the business case of Papua was based in part on sharing infrastructure costs to expand the existing PNG LNG processing facility.

“With the talks failing, and P’nyang now stalled, we now see the most probable outcome being the PNG expansion (including Papua) stalls,” said Morgans analyst Adrian Prendergast in a Feb. 2 note.

Oil Search said it would “seek to advance the Papua LNG project in a timely way,” but added that several engineering and commercial changes would need to be made following the P’nyang delay. Meetings with the Papua joint venture partners, which also includes Exxon, were planned in the short term, the company said. A spokesman for Total in Papua New Guinea did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Papua is looking at a material delay which could push a final investment decision well into 2022,” said Saul Kavonic, energy analyst at Credit Suisse.

Total is currently targeting an FID in 2021. Further delay could see the expansion plan slip further down the queue in terms of projects competing globally for contractors and long-term offtake contracts.

“Trailing in the wake of the biggest wave of new LNG supply the industry has ever seen is not ideal,” said Angus Rodger, research director at energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, adding that any reassessment of how the project is structured would inevitably require lots more time.

Marape doubled down on his criticism of Exxon in a Facebook post Sunday, saying the company was “not sincere” in dealing with the government on P’nyang. Referring back to the original Exxon-led PNG LNG project, which started in 2014, Marape said that “to date my families, my tribes and my provinces and country are yet to fully see those promised windfalls yet the state continues to foot the social cost of this project.”

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PNG PM urges patience over Porgera mine talks

“Government was well aware that a majority of landowners want Barrick’s lease not to be renewed” – PM.

Radio New Zealand | 5 December 2019

Papua New Guinea’s prime minister has urged patience while negotiations over the contract for the Porgera gold mine continue.

James Marape was responding to questions in parliament from Laigap-Porgera MP, Tomait Kapili.

Barrick Gold Ltd, the co-operator of the mine in Enga province with China’s Zijin Mining Group, is pushing to renew its contract.

Mr Kapili requested that Mr Marape move all negotiations to Porgera itself, to adequately gauge landowners’ views and the extent of problems around the mine.

The MP spoke of ongoing “serious” law and order problems which he linked to a surge of outsiders to Porgera since the expiry of the Special Mining Lease in August.

“Since the expiry of the SML there’s hundreds and thousands of people coming from afar, outside the valley, claiming that the extension of the license – while we are negotiating – is not in order, ‘they are illegally mining, so we also want to illegally mine’.”

The prime minister answered that the government was well aware that a majority of landowners want Barrick’s lease not to be renewed.

He said the government had received many written and oral representations from landowners indicating that over 90 percent of them were against Barrick staying on.

“But we are mindful that our partners are operating the mine and they have the asset up there in the mine itself, so those discussions will bring to full conclusion when we consult everyone.

“I intend in the new year (for) an announcement to be made to the status of what will happen in Porgera,” said Mr Marape, adding that he would consider the Laigap-Porgera MP’s request.

“Let me assure the member that I look forward to considering his recommendations in the positive, that all discussions, if not all major discussions, will take place in Porgera, be held in the Porgera valley up in Enga province. So those recommendations are taken on board.”

Since last year, Porgera landowners have conducted a number of public protests to demonstrate their opposition to Barrick’s continued involvement in the mine.

They have complained about lack of compensation for environmental damage caused by the mine over almost thirty years of operation.

Mr Marape urged landowners to maintain composure while the government concludes its discussions with the mine operators.

His government is seeking a greater share in the mine.

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PM Gives Assurance Of Further Ramu Mine Probe

Post Courier | October 18, 2019

Prime Minister James Marape says investigations into Ramu Nickel Mine slurry spill at Basamuk Bay in Madang will continue.

He said this after a lengthy and heated debate in Parliament yesterday after a report on the August 24, 2019, incident was presented by Environment and Conservation and Climate Change Minister Geoffrey Kama.

“I note most Members of Parliament have a conversation to make in regards to this ministerial statement presented,” Mr Marape said.

“As indicated by the minister, there’ll be further assessment and investigation.

“Every stakeholder, including the Governor for Madang (Peter Yama), has every right to have an interest in this matter.

“When matters relate to the security of our people, the interest of our people, and matters relating to the environment, it is just and responsible that we all have a concern.

“We note the concern that was raised by every Member of Parliament, especially the Governor for Madang and Member for Rai Coast (Peter Sapia) in the immediate precinct and affected areas.

“We are grateful for the comments by every leader this afternoon, in response to the statement minister has made.

”
Mr Marape said Northern Governor Gary Juffa had made a strong statement, as well as Kompiam-Ambum MP and former Environment and Conservation Minister, Sir John Pundari.

“Every other statement is also correct, finding the right balance,” he said.

“Our harvest of resources comes from the price on our environment.

“We’ve allowed those investors to come in, but the investors who come in must operate within responsibility and due care to our environment, to our country, and to our people.

“I think from the outset, without the specifics on the impact on the environment, the fact that there was a practical defect in the structure of the mine itself is an incident that warrants deeper study into what was taking place, in as far as the mine safety and operation is concerned.

“Cabinet did indicate this to the minister, and I note that minister’s statement embraces further investigation, further assessment.

“Let me assure people of Madang, people of Rai Coast, people of Usino-Bundi and people of this country, that this report and the investigation thus far is not conclusive and that is not the end of the story.

“The fact that there was a slip, which took place in the mine infrastructure, irrespective of the extent of the damage, warrants deeper scrutiny, deeper investigation, deeper assessment.”

Mr Marape assured the people of Madang, Usino-Bundi, Rai Coast, as well as the country, that all stakeholders including Madang government, Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA), Mining Department and other Government agencies would look deeper into what had happened.

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