Tag Archives: Ok Tedi

PNG’s Ok Tedi mine disaster money locked in new legal fight

Alex Maun, a landowner who sued BHP in the 1990s, in the dying forest near the Ok Tedi River. CREDIT: ALEX DE LA RUE

Nick Toscano | Sydney Morning Herald | November 3, 2019

A fresh legal dispute has erupted over control of a fund set up to benefit the tens of thousands of villagers affected by mining giant BHP’s environmental disaster at the Ok Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea more than 20 years ago.

The Ok Tedi mine – which BHP co-owned with the PNG government until selling its stake in 2002 – discharged tens of millions of tonnes of mine waste into the local river system during the 1980s and 1990s, contaminating fish and trees and devastating the area’s economy.

A special trust account was created by the mine owners in the late 1990s to accumulate dividends from the Ok Tedi copper and gold mine’s ongoing profits to compensate the 30,000 landowners of the worst-affected communities living downstream of the mine.

Estimated to contain 250 million kina ($106 million), the Western Province People’s Dividend Trust Fund had been managed by PNG government officials until September last year when the Ok Tedi and Fly River Development Foundation, a regional representative group, raised allegations the funds were being “misapplied … causing a diminishment” and won a legal bid to become its trustees.

The newly-formed foundation headed by local leaders claiming to represent 30,000 residents of the villages most immediately impacted by the Ok Tedi mine disaster obtained National Court orders to replace the government as trustees.

But control of the trust is again under a cloud with the PNG government, represented by prominent Australian law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth, last month obtaining further court orders blocking the ANZ Bank from dispensing the funds.

The Ok Tedi and Fly River Development Foundation has applied to have the injunction set aside, alleging an abuse of process, including claims the PNG government is a vexatious litigant and that Corrs Chambers Westgarth had failed to obtain the necessary certification with PNG’s Investment Promotion Authority to be practising in PNG. The case will be heard in the country’s National Court in December.

A spokesman for Corrs Chambers Westgarth said the firm was “not in a position to comment” as the matter was before the court.

An ANZ spokesman said it would be inappropriate to comment as the matter was before the courts in Papua New Guinea.

BHP, Australia’s biggest mining company, completed its withdrawal from the Ok Tedi mine in 2002, transferring its 52 per cent equity stake to a development fund designed to operate for the benefit of PNG residents, known as the PNG Sustainable Development Program Limited. The fund was to use dividend payments from BHP’s transferred shareholding in Ok Tedi to finance long-term sustainable development projects in PNG, particularly the western province.

The miner also reached an out-of-court settlement with 30,000 landowners represented by Slater & Gordon in a landmark lawsuit in Victoria’s Supreme Court in 1996, which included $110 million in compensation for the affected villagers.

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AG Tasked To Look Into Use Of Ok Tedi Funds

A mother and her malnourished child, Bimadbn Village, Morehead, Western Province, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Penny Johnson

Gorethy Kenneth | Post Courier |  August 30, 2019

Prime Minister James Marape has instructed the deputy Prime Minister and Attorney General Davies Steven to seek a restraining order to protect more than K500 million of OK Tedi CMCA and non CMCA funds from being abused.

North Fly MP James Donald took the PM to task to explain why there were a certain group of people now drawing down K58 million from the CMCA funds parked at a commercial bank in Port Moresby.

An irate PM Marape demanded the inquiry report done by former prime minister Peter O’Neill to be released.

“It saddens me that we continue to have people with interest outside of the main stream, outside of everyone, to use institutions of our democracy to access funds run-ning in and out of Vulupindi Haus, running in and out of Court Houses and access funds under the auspices or pretext of being better for our people.

Western Province like many other provinces with entitlements from resources continues to remain backward in so far as development indexes and indicators are concerned,” Mr Marape said.

“Let me call on the Attorney General and our Deputy Prime Minister to firstly furnish to us the enquiry that was made on the use of CMCA and non CMCA earlier, this Parliament deserves to have the benefit of that report.

“Let me advise the leaders of Western Province, that I also ask the State Solicitor to intervene and that this matter is put on hold until we ascertain exactly what is being pursued or what is being accessed and whether they are in compliance with the Trust Instruments we have and whether they have legal entitlements to those funds,” he said.

“As we speak, it is immoral to have Western Province still backward over K500million in funds that are entitled for development sitting in banks and government institutions, legal firms, many of the so called educated people, we are fighting over money that is meant to fix Western Province.

“They have their own funds sitting there, yet educated Western Provinces with a combination of other Papua New Guineans over time have been feasting on this funds outside of what these funds are meant for.

“It is about time we put to shame people who continue to access these funds and I propose AG to establish a pathway, with legitimate bodies on the ground like government, districts and CMCA agencies on the ground so that Daru town does not have black buckets anymore.

“The National Government will add in their ex-gratia component and their own funds and we will work in partnership to ensure that this province is moving on the right spot.

“Let’s find a way to help the Western Province leaders and the people,” he said.

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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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Tuke yet to receive mining audit report

The National aka The Loggers Times | July 4, 2019

MINING Minister Johnson Tuke says a report on an internal audit into one of the trust accounts that keeps the funds from the proceeds of the Ok Tedi mine for the people of Western is yet to be furnished to his office.

Tuke said these in response to questions from Western Governor Taboi Awi Yoto in Parliament yesterday.

Tuke said the previous government under the leadership of Peter O’Neill had put a moratorium on one of the trust accounts to undertake an audit after allegations of corruption and misuse of funds.

“There are two trust accounts – the Community Mine Continuation Agreement (CMCA) Trust Account and non-CMCA,” he said.

“Under CMCA 12 projects have been identified and they were being done. It comes under Ok Tedi Development Foundation (OTDF).

“The other one is non-CMCA and projects were endorsed before I became the minister.”

Tuke said there were 148 projects endorsed and funded under non-CMCA Trust.

“These projects were done already but we don’t know, whether these projects were actually delivered on the ground or not.

“For this reason, the previous government authorised a project audit to be done so that the people would know whether these funds were actually used to deliver projects and programmes to benefit the people of Western or not,” he said.

“The audit report was done already but I have yet to receive it.”

Tuke said once he received the report he would act on its recommendations with the relevant authorities.

He also clarified that the balance of that funds under the non-CMCA Trust would be given to the Mineral Resource Development Company (MRDC) as per a Cabinet decision.

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No tangible development in Western despite decades of mining

A father holds his malnourished son in Western Province, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Sally Lloyd

Marape Tells Awi Yoto To Improve Western

Leiao Gerega  | Post Courier | June 24, 2019

For almost 38 years Western province has seen no tangible development taking place despite helping the country generate millions in kina from the Tabubil mine.

The province remains one of the least developed in the country with low health status and lack of basic delivery of service to its people.

Prime Minister James Marape who visited the province on Friday to launch both the provincial and district five year development plans was implored by Governor Taboi Awi Yoto to look at the provinces needs which include;

  • Creation of one or two electorate added to the province’s current three electorates;
  • Uplift moratorium on the Province’s need to recruit new public servants;
  • Fix issues with the province’s dividend trust account through former operations with Ok-Tedi;
  • Find common ground on issues regarding WP’s major development program called the PNG sustainable development program;
  • Building of a major port to export its resources;
  • Request Ok-Tedi and Porgera to compensate middle and south Fly over mining waste pollution;
  • Current 33 percent shares in Ok-Tedi be lifted to previous 64 percent and
  • Stop fly-in and fly out of Ok Tedi workers to ensure money goes back to the people

Mr AwiYoto admits that the slow progress of development of the province was due to disunity amongst the leaders.

He assured Mr Marape that they are now ready to work together to ensure their people benefit from the money owed to them.

The 2018-2022 development plan under the theme “a new way forward” focuses on three key areas which are health, education agriculture and covers the province and its three districts in the Middle, South and North y.

“This is no easy task….everyone in this country have their own issues,” Mr Marape said while giving examples to how Buka and Lihir have fared poorly over the years despite the huge mining activities.

“Our agriculture and mining resources have been lost over the years while the people are suffering. Waigani is stealing from them and we are here now to turn things around,” Mr Marape said.

“These new work will take years but we want to direct and steer the country in the right path,” he said.

Mr Marape who travelled later to Tabubil to hear presentations from Ok-Tedi mining limited says everything will be discussed in Waigani after which they would strictly ensure monies owed to the people under various areas will be “unlocked.”

Mr AwiYoto says despite giving so much to the country the province has been failed by so many governments over the past years and is confident there is certainly a positive journey ahead.

Around 17,000 people gathered to welcome the prime minister at the Kiunga Township on Friday.

Mr Marape grew up as a child in Western province where his father was a Seventh Day Adventist pastor.

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Marape holds Singapore talks over PNG trust fund

Radio New Zealand | 19 June 2019 

Papua New Guinea’s prime minister has led a delegation to Singapore to find a way in to a trust fund the government has been locked out of.

In his first overseas trip since taking office last month, James Marape met with officials from the PNG Sustainable Development Program on Sunday.

The company manages about $US1.4 billion of assets through a long term fund which was set up to hold profits from the Ok Tedi copper mine in Western Province.

Since the government of Peter O’Neill expropriated the mine from the SDP in 2013, it had been in a protracted court fight to gain control of the long-term fund parked in Singapore.

Singapore’s High Court ruled against the government’s claim in April. Following this, and a change in government leadership, PNG’s new prime minister Mr Marape is seeking a different approach.

He said on Facebook the aim of his trip was to find common ground with the company managing the fund.

The prime minister was accompanied by MPs from Western Province whose constituents are intended to be direct beneficiaries of the SDP’s projects and long-term fund.

Mr O’Neill, who indicated that the government would appeal the Singapore court ruling, portrayed the government’s aim in the case as being to ensure the company’s funds were given to the people of Western Province.

It remains to be seen whether that appeal will proceed, with Mr Marape advocating a discourse-based approach to dealing with Sustainable Development Program.

The SDP was established in 2001 when BHP Billiton divested its majority share in the lucrative Ok Tedi copper mine in Western Province to SDP.

The divestment followed legal action by Western Province landowners over extensive and long lasting environmental damage caused by the mine operations, particularly its riverine tailings disposal system.

April’s court decision was welcomed by the four Western MPs, who said it would ensure SDP was protected from political interference and that its assets went to the people.

However, the money in the fund is intended to be disbursed by SDP within Western Province when the Ok Tedi mine closes. The mine is still operational.

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Academic Urges Govt To Revisit Tax Regime

Post Courier | May 28, 2019

The recent political tussle in PNG has emerged due to inconsistent resource development policies, mainly the disagreements on local fiscal contents associated with the extractive sector, explains an academic.

Senior Lecturer Dr Ken Ail Kaepai of PNG University of Technology said from Lae that PNG needs to critically revise the minerals taxation regimes to develop sound policies and innovative ways of capturing a significant share of the mineral wealth without placing tax burdens on the industry.

“The political tussle between the government and opposition is not new. During the mineral boom periods, Australia had its share of high political turnovers due to arguments over resource rent tax and royalty policies.”

“The idea of national ownership of resources has been People Progress Party’s (PPP) policy platform for maximizing the mineral wealth for PNG.

However, PPP has not pursued it for a policy shift. Currently, the political mindset thinks that equity participation is one way to accommodate national interests com- pared to allowing 100 per cent foreign ownership of PNG’s mineral resources,” he said.

He said that the lack of capital for exploration and project developments restrict the national ownership of mining, oil and gas. The State and landowners do not have the equity capital for procuring equity interests in resource projects.

Dr Kaepai explained that given the limitation, the State has agreed to acquire 22.25 per cent interests in the Papua LNG through a deferred payment of the equity capital, which includes the landowner’s 2 per cent interest.

“The State will bear landowner’s financial burden of their equity interest through KPHL. It means that the landowners will be free-riders at the expense of the State and the society at large.”

“Under this arrangement, the dividends will be delayed over more extended periods required for allowing the State to repay the equity capital sourced from external lending institutions or will enable the investor to recoup its equivalent equity capital cost internally using future positive cash flows from the project.”

Dr Keapai said that the deferred payment of the equity capital shifts the financial burden of providing the upfront capital cost of equity to the investor.

The State’s market capitalization of equity participation in minerals, petroleum and LNG is not clear, and landowner equity participation has been problematic,” he stressed.

Dr Kaepai said that the Panguna was the only mine that consistently paid equity dividends until its premature closure in 1988.

“Local equity participation in Porgera and Lihir gold mines have been problematic and unsustainable, while free-carried interest was offered to OK Tedi landowners under exceptional circumstances associated with the riverine tailings disposal system.”

Dr Kaepai said that a former mining minister, the DMPGM and the MRA misled the GoPNG to take the 30 per cent equity in the failed Nautilus Minerals’ under-sea mining development.

“It is a significant loss of public funds that could have been used to develop the deteriorating health and education infrastructures in rural PNG.”

“It appears that the GoPNG provides tax holidays as compensation for equity participation, and at the pretence of attracting foreign direct investment. “This strategy causes a fiscal dissipation where both tax concession and equity participation could lead to wasteful resource extraction.

“The State and landowners need to critically assess the financial viability of equity participation in Papua LNG, Wafi-Golpu and Frieda projects.

This includes the renegotiation of the Porgera gold mine on a case by case basis.

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