Tag Archives: Mekere Morauta

‘Reform PNG’s Resource Ownership Laws’

Henzy Yakham | Post Courier | September 12, 2018

The conversation on ownership of natural resources has intensified in recent times with the issue moved from the simmer-back to hot-and the front-burner.

In the forefront and pressing for revolutionary reforms in the resource ownership regime are two of PNG’s founding statesmen – Sir Julius Chan and Sir Mekere Morauta.

Both Sir Julius and Sir Mekere played very significant roles during pre-independence years as architects to craft the foundations of PNG’s currency, banking and financial institutions, which in succeeding years underwent further reforms to improve their service delivery.

Today, the two former prime ministers are calling for changes to the resource ownership laws so that the original inhabitants of land and sea where the natural resources are found have fair and equitable benefits. In November 2013, despite not attending a Madang meeting of governors from maritime provinces due to prior confirmed official engagements, Sir Julius provided a brief paper to his colleagues on the development of PNG’s extractive industries, ownership of natural resources and related issues. Included in the brief was Sir Julius’ stance that land/resource owners’ rights to own natural resources on and under their land and sea as his proposed remedies in the mining industry.

The brief highlighted a number of aspects in which PNG has failed to structure the mining industry for maximum value to PNG and its citizens. With the brief were comparisons of mineral royalty rates of PNG (which are among the lowest in the world), and other countries which include:

Poland: 10 per cent contained metal value
Ghana: 3 -12 per cent sliding with price
Canada: 15 per cent (British Columbia) taxable income; 18 per cent (Ontario) of taxable income 20 per cent; (Quebec) of taxable income
Mozambique: 10 -12 per cent diamond; 5-8 per cent precious metals
Mexico: 8 per cent gold
Botswana: 10 per cent diamonds; 5 per cent precious metals
United States: 12.5 – 16 per cent Oil; 8 – 20 per cent precious metals
Papua New Guinea: 2 per cent gold; 2 per cent copper

Sir Julius maintains that PNG’s mining regime is grossly distorted and unfair because billions of kina are earned, but the real land, and resources owners simply do not realise their fair share of the benefits.

In a nutshell, he has been pushing for among others:

– Royalties raised to 10 per cent f.o.b. annual revenues;
– SSG raised to 10 per cent f.o.b. annual revenues and SSG payments should be made directly from the company to the province;
– Tax Credit raised to 10 per cent of assessable income and funds should be placed in an account the year of eligibility with no time limit on the use of funds;
– The State receive at least 30 per cent equity in all mining projects free of charge, and should convey a significant portion of this equity to the province, the LLG and the landowners;
– Twenty per cent (20 per cent) of all royalties, special support grants, tax credit and dividends from equity holdings be placed in a separate account to be used for development projects in non-mining provinces; and
– The Mining Act 1992 be comprehensively reviewed and amended, specifically such that ownership of all minerals on and below the sea is vested in the province in whose waters minerals are located.

PNG’s Mining Act 1992, states that all minerals existing on, in, or below the surface of any land in PNG, water lying in any land in PNG, are the property of the State. During colonial rule, the mining and petroleum laws of PNG were adopted based on Australian precedents, giving the powers of ownership of resources in the Administrator. Under the common law of England, minerals belong to the owner of the land under which they are found.

The British Common Law, inherited by Australian colonies upon white settlement, included a presumption that the owner of the land is entitled to all that lies above and below the surface.

Natural resources such as minerals were regarded as part of the land in which they naturally occurred and accordingly passed into private ownership upon Crown grant of the land. Despite these arguments, in the end the Australian Statutory Law in place during colonial times prevailed over both PNG law and British Common Law, this was formalised in the Mining Act 1992. However, it is very clear that State ownership violates both traditional PNG law and British Common Law.

In April 2013, Sir Julius told the Parliamentary Referral Committee on Minerals and Energy inquiry into the review of Mining Act 1992 that under current laws, PNG simply gives away all its wealth and then buys it back at an exorbitant price.

On August 19, 2013, Sir Julius was the Keynote Speaker at the Department of Mineral Policy and Geohazards Management (DMPGM) organised regional consultation meetings in Kokopo, East New Britain Province on the proposed changes to Mining Act 1992. There, he outlined the way in which the mining regime in PNG has failed the people and the way it should be changed for the greater benefit of the people and provinces.

On May 14, 2009, Sir Julius proposed reforms in natural resource ownership laws in a motion tabled in Parliament.
The underlying intention of the motion was for the transfer of the resource ownership to landowners of where the resources are found. As well, the motion proposes for increased benefits for landowners, provincial governments and the country in general.

Sir Julius argues that as a direct consequence of the arrogation of all mineral, oil and gas reserves on land and below the land and sea by the State have been a massive give-away of the national wealth of PNG.

On September 4, 2018, Sir Mekere asked Prime Minister Peter O’Neill a series of questions based on important national issues raised by Sir Julius in his reply to the inaugural address of the Governor General in opening this Parliament.

Sir Mekere prefaced his question to Mr O’Neill by quoting Sir Julius “to remember that in our democracy the final power is the power of the people. We are here for one reason only – to serve the people”.

“I want to take a wider view of the challenges we face. For though we have some short-term problems to tackle, I fear there are even more grave problems looming over us.

“I have never known a time when our country was in greater peril.”

After quoting Sir Julius, Sir Mekere asked Mr O’Neill what the government position on Sir Julius’ recommendations among others to:

– Increase the level of royalties from the current 2 per cent to 10 per cent;
– Increase the level of Special Support Grant and the Tax Credit Scheme;
– Establish a Trust Fund in which 20 per cent of revenues of mining provinces would be paid to distribute to non-mining provinces;
– Revise the Mining Act 1992 and the Oil and Gas Act 1998 to vest ownership of resources in the people;
– Introduce a Derivation Grant for mining and petroleum provinces of 5 per cent of the value of resources originating in that province;
– Increase Autonomy of Provinces, provinces “that demonstrate capacity to manage their own affairs. The autonomy was to cover administrative and financial autonomy and autonomy over non-renewable and renewable resources.

Answering Sir Mekere’s questions, Mr O’Neill said “the Mining Act is under review at present and I will not pre-empt the discussions and the outcomes of that review that is taking place.

“The Mining Minister and his team are already well advanced in those discussions. There will be an opportunity for this Parliament to look through that review and the new Mining Act, which will address all these issues, including royalties, the powers of the provinces with respect to the mining activities in those provinces and the management of the trust funds.

“There has been a gross abuse in the management of some of the trust funds and we are all aware and are trying to correct that as we move forward.

“I can assure you, that the people of Papua New Guinea, particularly the landowners will get a better share of the benefits of the resource development in this country.

“That is the priority of this government and we will continue to pursue it through the mining review which is now being conducted and is still continuing.”

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PNG government to sue BHP Billiton over alleged environmental damage

Children playing in tailings downstream from the Ok Tedi Mine in Papua New Guinea, 2009. (Brent Stirton/Getty Images)

ABC News | 11 April 2018

Papua New Guinea’s government says it will sue Australian mining giant BHP Billiton for alleged environmental damage in the Western Province when the company was operating the country’s largest copper mine in the 1990s.

It’s not the first time legal action has been touted.

In 2004, a massive law suit representing thousands of PNG landowners, was dropped after settlement was reached, which included compensation.

PNG’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says the government will also initiate an independent commission of inquiry into the PNG sustainable development program, which has been a subject of a court case in Singapore.

Former PNGSDP Chairman and Opposition member of Parliament Sir Mekere Morauta says Mr O’Neill doesn’t understand the purpose of the project.

Bethanie Harriman has the story: Listen Here 

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O’Neill caught out telling lies over Ok Tedi Mine

Bryan Kramer MP | PNG Blogs | February 09, 2018 

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill was caught lying and misleading Parliament during question time when it resumed its first session in 2018 on Tuesday.

O’Neill was responding to a question raised by the Governor of Western Province, Toboi Yoto asking when his people would benefit from Oktedi Mine and when they would receive the share certificates.

Western Governor explained that since the O’Neill Government took over the mine in September 2013 it had failed to transfer the share certificates representing 33% interest in the mine to the Western Province people. Further, still, they had yet to receive their dividends.

In response, O’Neill claimed when his Government took over the mine from BHP, who at the time wanted to shut down the mine for not being profitable. He said the Government inherited a loss-making machine.

He confirmed his Government has yet to transfer 33% interest to the landowners, claiming it was because of stamp duties issue.

Member for Moresby North-West Sir Mekere Mortaua interjected with a point of order. Mekere a former PNG Sustainable Chairman told O’Neill to stop his incurable lies [about the mine]. There was never any plans to shut down the mine it was not making any loss but investing in further explorations, Sir Mereke said.

O’Neil responded telling Mekere that he was only trying to protect his legacy of providing immunity (protection) to BHP, the mines former developer who destroyed the lives and livelihood of the people through environmental damage.

“It was loss-making machine when we took it over but we had to restructure the mine during the drought and paid off all the employees making a profit,” he said (source post courier article – https://postcourier.com.pg/ok-tedi-issue-heats/)

It was at this point I then interjected asking the Speaker to advise the Prime Minister to stop lying and misleading parliament. As I had in front of me 2012 OkTedi Financial Report confirming the mine was, in fact, making a profit.

O’Neill responded I was a busybody from Madang on social media.

So was O’Neill lying when he claimed the Oktedi Mine was a loss-making machine before he took over it?

O’Neill took over the mine in 2013, so let’s review the mine’s profits four years before and four years after from when he took over it.

  • In 2009 net profit K1.5 Billion
  • In 2010 net profit 2.03 Billion
  • In 2011 net profit K1.2 Billion
  • In 2012 net profit of K913 million
  • In 2013 net profit of K181 million
  • In 2014 net profit of K360 million
  • In 2015 net loss of -K347 million
  • In 2016 net profit of K384 million

This confirms O’Neill was lying and misleading parliament.

What O’Neill failed to disclose that soon after taking over the mine companies he held a direct and indirect interest in where awarded substantial contracts to service the mine.

So perhaps he was referring to his own companies being a loss making machines until he took over the Mine and thereafter they started turning over million Kina profits.

It is not the first time O’Neill has unashamedly lied both on the floor of Parliament and in the public arena.

In the height of 2017 General Elections O’Neill made an announcement while on the campaign trail in Tari that his Government had made the decision to transfer the 4.27% Kroton shares to the PNG LNG landowners.

“Today I am announcing that the national government will transfer 25 per cent of Kroton shares, which is 4.2 percent indirect interest in the PNG LNG project,” he said.

“The shares to be transferred to landowners and provincial governments in Hela, Southern Highlands, Gulf, Western and Central province are valued at K3.5 billion,

“Our Government is providing 25 per cent of Kroton shares to landowners and beneficiary groups that should rightfully be receiving benefits from the PNG LNG project.

“These shares will enable the landowners and communities and the provinces to secure a better future and to be more self-sufficient.

“This Government has made it our business to correct bad decisions from the past, particularly when this relates to land ownership.

“I was not a signatory to the initial Umbrella Benefits Sharing Agreement in 2009, but I have made sure that our government does the right thing by our people today.

“This in the same spirit as the transfer of 17.4 percent of BCL shares to the landowners and people of Bougainville by the national government.”

“It is the same as the transfer of 33 per cent ownership in Ok Tedi” O’Neill said. (source https://www.thenational.com.pg/clans-promised-shares/)

So did O’Neill transfer the 4.27% of Kroton shares in the PNG LNG Project to the landowners? Did he transfer the 33 per cent ownership in the Oktedi mine to Western landowners?

The answer is NO.

Such statements maybe construed as undue influence (criminal offence under Section 102) When a person makes a false statement to induce a voter to vote in a particular way knowing the statement to be false.

This explains why O’Neill is commonly referred to as a Pathological Liar – defined as habitual or compulsive lying.

It is certainly embarrassing knowing such a person occupies the office of Prime Minister where his shrewd conduct and poor character reflects on our Nation of 8 million people.

Following the formation of the Government in August 2017 I asked members of the Opposition who previously served under O’Neill why they abandoned his Government – they responded because he was forever lying, making commitments or promises he would never honor. “We got tired of his lies and left” they said.

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Ok Tedi Mining Ltd damaged by O’Neill

O’Neill may have turned the Ok Tedi mine into a corporate disaster, as Morauta claims below, but Morauta can hardly claim that under his leadership the outcomes for the poor people of Western Province were any better…  

Mekere Morauta | 14 June 2017

At a rally in Kiunga today, the former Prime Minister and current chairman of PNG Sustainable Development Program Ltd, Sir Mekere Morauta, told Western Province people the sad story of the Ok Tedi mine since Prime Minister Peter O’Neill took it in 2013.

He told them that the latest annual financial results are a disgrace, and confirm his worst fears about Mr O’Neill’s expropriation without compensation in 2013.

“They show that a well-managed and very profitable company under PNGSDP’s majority ownership has been turned into a corporate disaster under Mr O’Neill, as I predicted,” Sir Mekere said.

“OTML made a loss of K350 million in 2015, by far the largest in its history and far outstripping the K15 million loss caused by the very severe drought in 1997. The company never made a loss under PNGSDP majority ownership.

“This is Mr O’Neill’s dirty little secret. He and the OTML Board micro-managed by Dr Jacob Weiss have tried to hide the loss by not publishing OTML’s 2015 Annual Review, or its 2015 and 2016 quarterly financial results.

There is no explanation anywhere in the latest 2016 Annual Review to account for a loss of this magnitude.

“The only explanation can be the waste and mismanagement we have come to expect of the O’Neill Government.”

Mr O’Neill has decimated OTML profits. Under PNGSDP, average annual profits were almost K1.2 billion a year; under Mr O’Neill they are just K100 million.

OTML used to be the biggest taxpayer in PNG, which helped the national Government pay for education, health and infrastructure maintenance.

Under PNGSDP average annual taxes were K640 million; under Mr O’Neill they are just K100 million. OTML paid practically NO company tax at all in 2015 and 2016.

PNGSDP’s profitable and well run mine delivered large dividends: K288 million a year was paid on average to the State and the people of Western Province. A further K426 million a year went to PNGSDP.

After administration costs (which are capped), two-thirds was saved in the Long Term Fund and one-third went to the Development Fund to support programs for the people of Western Province and PNG.

Under Mr O’Neill total dividends have fallen to just K68 million a year on average, and no dividends at all were paid in 2013 and 2015. Only K150 million was paid in 2016 compared to K723 million in 2012, PNGSDP’s last full year of ownership.

PNGSDP received K5.5 billion in dividends from OTML between 2002 and 2012. Two-thirds of these dividends were invested in the Long Term Fund to be used after the mine closes. The balance of the LTF at the end of March 2017 had grown to K4.3 billion ($US1.36 billion).

Moreover, the LTF remains safe and well protected from the tentacles of the octopus.

One-third of these dividends (about K1.8 billion) were used for development programs in PNG and especially Western Province.

In total Western Province received more than K4.7 billion in direct benefits from OTML and PNGSDP: K2.0 billion in royalties, CMCA and other payments, K1.7 billion in dividends from OTML, K400 million for Kiunga-Tabubil road maintenance and more than K600 million in development projects from PNGSDP.

In October 2013, shortly after the expropriation of PNGSDP’s shares in OTML, Sir Mekere warned that OTML faced the same fate as the Tolukuma gold mine under state ownership:

State ownership “would spell disaster for Ok Tedi. Tolukuma has been ruined since it was turned into a State-Owned Enterprise, and instead of an asset it has become a huge liability. Ok Tedi will suffer the same fate. It will die a long and painful death. There will be risks to jobs and wages. There will be a lower standard of operations, including in workplace health and safety. The quality of environmental management will fall. Transparency and accountability will be compromised, especially in the area of contracts.”

Sir Mekere said his predictions had come true. “Mr O’Neill has killed Western Province’s Golden Goose.”

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Locals Call For Leaders To Stop Politicising On PNGSDP

Post Courier | April 28, 2017

LEADERS from the special mining Lease area in Ok Tedi in the Western Province have called on intending candidates to stop politicising the PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP).
They said they were making the call after concluding the signing of the heads of agreement for the transfer of 33 percent of the mine to them this week.
They said the road to the finalisation of the deal had been long and challenging after suffering years of neglect and marginal benefits from the mine.
They said this had been the status quo since closure of the Panguna which offsetting opening of OK Tedi which had been the country’s economic backbone for a long time.
“We particularly are very concerned that the matter of the Long Term Fund under the PNGSDP has been used as an issue for people with vested interest to score political mileage at the expense of the very people who are entitled to benefit from this fund,” CMCA region core group chairman Richard Zumoi said.
He also called for the immediate resignation of Sir Mekere Morauta as Chairman of the Board of PNGSDP to remove all possible political interference and influence on the organisation because he should not be politicising the issue in the elections.
He said outside of politics it was time for the people of Western Province to be in control of their own development destinies adding there should be two representatives from their people appointed onto the PNGSDP board.
“We are now demanding that there should not be any more statements relating to the PNGSDP issue unless there is a sincere intention and will to reform the program charter and rules to ensure that the people of Western Province receive full benefits in the form of tangible and sustainable
infrastructure and services because we the people gave the social license for the mine to continue to operate,” Mr Zumoi said.

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Ok Tedi Trust funds frozen by court case: OTML

oneill_vesus_morauta

Gynnie Kero | The National | January 17, 2017

TRUST funds for Community Mine Continuation Agreement (CMCA) villages in the South Fly district of Western are still frozen by a court case, according to Ok Tedi Mining Ltd (OTML).
But despite that, OTML continued to contribute money into the trust every year, deputy chief executive officer and general manager employee and external relations Musje Werror said.
As at December last year, the company paid more than K9.8 billion in benefits to the people of Western since 1982.
He revealed that 50 per cent of these funds were currently tied up in court.
Addressing people at a village in South Fly last Friday, Werror said the village was among others in the district whose projects would be delayed.
The Sepe/Auti village in South Fly was the final village in the CMCA corridor to sign the CMCA Extension Agreement (CMCAEA) last Friday.
“Your benefits start today (last Friday) after signing of the agreement.
“But your name (Sepe/ Auti) is among all South Fly villages, project delivery will be delayed. Until the (court) case is over, we cannot draw down from the trust,” he said.
Werror also told the locals that the compensation package for the 158 CMCA communities in Western was reviewed over the years.
“In 2001, the compensation package at that time was K175 million.
“That was revised in the 2006 memorandum of agreement (MOA) to close to K1.2 billion and now the CMCA extension agreement nearly K600 million.”
Werror urged Sepe/ Auti locals to cooperate with the miner and the Ok Tedi Development Foundation and the provincial government if they wanted to see real change in the village.
“To achieve sustainable development is not easy but it can and will happen if we all work together. I encourage the people of Sepe/Auti through your leaders to work closely with OTML, OTDF and the Fly River Provincial Government (FRPG),” he said.
“There will be disagreements along the way but we must never lose focus of our dream and our desire to develop our village, our region and our province.”
Ok Tedi Mining Ltd also presented two outboard motors and sporting equipment worth K70,000 to the village last Friday.
It is understood that two 23-foot dinghies would be delivered to Sepe/Auti later.

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PNGSDP case against State underway in Singapore

oneill_vesus_morauta

Gorethy Kenneth | Post Courier | October 04, 2016 

THE Papua New Guinea Sustainable Development Program case against the State started yesterday in the High Court of Singapore and will run for two weeks.

The Attorney-General’s office confirmed last Friday that the case was scheduled for this week but did not provide dates. But Koh Swee Yen, one of the lawyers for the plaintiff, which is the State in an email last week, said the case was scheduled to October 3 and was anticipated to run for the next two weeks.

The case, HC/Originating Summons (OS) No 234 of 2015, which was last heard in July and August will be heard in the Singapore High Court this morning with its Coram Judith Prakash J and counsels Koh Swee Yen, Yin Juon Qiang and Joel Quek (Wong Partnership LLP) for the plaintiff and Nish Shetty, Joan Lim-Casanova, Jordan Tan, Lim Chingwen and Sarah Hew (Cavenagh Law) for the defendant.

In this originating summons, the State, sought a declaration that it was entitled to inspect and take copies of all true accounts, books of account and/or records of PNG Sustainable Development Program Limited. This OS was an offshoot of the action in suit 795 of 2014, having been started after a summons in S795, which had applied for the same relief, was dismissed on the ground that the relief applied for, being final, had to be sought by way of an originating process rather than by an interlocutory application.

PNGSDP mounted a root-and-branch attack on the State’s alleged right of inspection. Its argument was that the State was not entitled to the relief it sought which was threefold. First, it was inappropriate to commence this action by way of an originating summons. Secondly (and this is the most hotly contested ground), the State did not have and may not enforce any alleged right of inspection. In particular, it refutes the State’s three arguments, which are based on the Memorandum and Articles of PNGSDP, an alleged collateral contract incorporating the same, and stopped. Thirdly, even if the State had an enforceable right of inspection, it does not extend to the documents listed in the schedule to OS 234.

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