Tag Archives: Porgera

PNG aims to retain 30% of exported gold, may change currency pegs

Jonathan Barrett | Reuters | 19 August 2019

Papua New Guinea wants to retain at least 30% of the gold it currently exports as it transforms its economy under a new government leadership, the country’s commerce minister said on Monday.

PNG was the world’s 14th largest gold producer in 2018, according to the World Gold Council. Its assets include the Porgera gold mine, majority controlled by a joint venture between Barrick Gold Corp and Zijin Mining Group , which has a lease currently up for renewal.

PNG’s Minister for Commerce and Industry Wera Mori told an investor forum in Sydney that the resources-rich nation was developing policies to keep more of the commodities it produces in the country 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 an investment forum in Sydney.

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.

James 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 a perceived lack of wealth flowing from their projects back to communities.

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

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Financial returns, Papua New Guinea

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

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.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Barrick allowed to continue Porgera mine while lease extension considered

Reuters | 3 August 2019

Barrick Gold Corp said on Friday the National Court of Papua New Guinea had ruled that the miner could continue to operate the Porgera gold mine, while the country’s government considers an application to extend the lease for the mine.

The government is looking into an application by Barrick Niugini Ltd, a joint venture between Barrick and China’s Zijin Mining Group, for a 20-year extension on Porgera’s special mining lease that expires on August 16, the company had said.

Papua New Guinea’s recently elected Prime Minister James Marape has pledged to “tweak and turn” laws governing how natural resources are extracted to help lift the South Pacific country out of poverty.

“I am confident that we shall be able to reach a broad agreement on the terms of the lease extension,” Barrick’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Bristow said in Thursday’s statement.

In June, PM Marape said major reforms to earn more taxes from the country’s natural resources would not take effect for years, but the country’s treasurer put Total SA, Exxon Mobil Corp, Newcrest Mining and their partners on notice that it wants to get more benefits from their gas and mining projects.

1 Comment

Filed under Papua New Guinea

LOs Call For Unity On Mine License Renewal

Post Courier | July 26, 2019

Leaders and landowners of the Porgera Gold mine in Enga want Prime Minister James Marape to visit the mining district to get views of mine communities before the mine’s lease agreement expires next month.

They are also calling on the various landowner factions operating outside Porgera to return and consult with the people on the ground so a collective and proper position paper, representing the interests of the people can be presented to the national government.

Landowners of the Porgera special mine lease (SML), lease for mining purpose (LMP) and mining easement communities aired their concerns in Porgera last week.

They included chairman of the Ipili Porgera Investment (IPI) group of companies, Jolson Kutato, President of the Porgera women in business (WiB), Elizabeth larume, president of the Porgera Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) Nickson Pakea, former president of the Porgera LLG and former deputy governor of Enga, John Pawe, SML leaders William Gaupe, George Yope and Mathew Yapala, Paiam ward member Perale Kana, SML councilor Sukul Tupia, Porgera District Women’s Association leader Wanoli Waiyape and SML landowner Arnold Kulina.

The landowners have called on the Prime Minister not to entertain any landowner faction groups operating from Port Moresby but to go to Porgera and directly consult with mine landowners.

“We are here and our position will be addressed here in Pogera and the government will receive our position paper in Porgera.

“Ongoing in fighting by landowner faction groups is causing confusion amongst the genuine landowners so the Pogera Landowners Association (PLOA) and Porgera Jus-tice Foundation need to sit down , iron out differences and properly discuss issues relating to the mine review with the Pogera people,” Mr Pawe said.

Mr Kutato who led the 1999 mine negotiations then as chairman of the landowner association said there are a lot of side issues the landowners need to fix before the mine lease expires.

He said landowners must take the review process very seriously if they are concerned about the future of their children because this will be the only time to renegotiate long-term benefits but nothing will be achieved if there is still division.

“The Prime Minister must listen to the concerns of the people and come to Porgera because the landowners and leaders are here.
We will formulate our position paper as united landowners to go into agreement with the government and developer and this has to be in Porgera,” Mr Kutato said.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Massacres: land rights over resource rich land may have played a role

Mt Kare in the Papua New Guinea Highlands. A large gold mine is planned for the area. Source: Supplied

Lush and humid, Papua New Guinea’s highlands look idyllic. But a brutal massacre of women and children has highlighted a deadly turf war on our doorstep.

Benedict Brook | News. com | July 15, 2019

WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE

The images that shot around the world last week were shocking enough. The hacked bodies of women and children, victims of a bitter inter-clan conflict.

Their remains wrapped in cloths, tied to branches and lying beside a sun-soaked country road. There is a brutal logic to some of the deaths.

The scene was gruesome but what also horrified many Australians was that it happened so close to our shores.

The 16 people murdered hailed from the Hela province of Papua New Guinea. At its closest point, the PNG coast is just four kilometres from Australian islands in the Torres Strait.

Australia used to govern the nation until as recently as 1975 and, with the US, Canberra is setting up a military base in the country.

PNG’s Prime Minister James Marape has condemned the slaughter and told the culprits bluntly: “I am coming for you.”

The massacre occurred in the country’s humid highlands, a region drunk on a heady cocktail of bitter clan rivalries, mining riches, lawlessness and even sorcery. In one grim incident, young boys were beheaded.

Locals stand by the bodies of victims recovered in recent tribal violence in Papua New Guinea. Picture: Pills Kolo via AP. Source: AP

Even in an area where killings are not uncommon, PNG watchers have struggled to comprehend the sheer brutality of these murders.

“I wish I could say violence was a surprise in this part of PNG,” Jonathan Pryke, Director of the Pacific Islands Program at think tank the Lowy Institute told news.com.au.

“But targeting women and children is what makes this stand out. It’s sadistic.”

One answer to the sustained violence in this part of PNG may be found several valleys away in the shadow of a mountain. Deep beneath the grassy exterior of Mt Kare, rich seams of gold run. Just down the road, the Pogera gold mine is one of the world’s largest.

Hela provincial administrator William Bando told news agency AFP last week that the killings might have a connection to local rivalries at Mt Kare.

Location of the Hela region in Papua New Guinea. Picture: Google Maps. Source: Supplied

WHY ARE MINES SUCH FLASHPOINTS?

Mines are generally run by major firms but a proportion of the royalties are distributed locally, to the government and landowners.

In a poor country, the effect of that cash can be huge. Indeed, Hela province itself was carved out of another government region so the local Huli people could more directly benefit from the proceeds of a huge liquefied natural gas project in the town of Hides, backed by the US company ExxonMobil.

PNG experts news.com.au has spoken to have said it’s too early to tell if the new Mt Kare mine and the massacre are connected. Violent disputes can be for many reasons. The mine’s owner Indochine has said that linking the site to the tragic incident is nothing more than “speculation”.

A plausible alternative explanation is the slaughter was a tit-for-tat action for other recent killings. But land rights, including over mines, have turned violent in the past. During the 1990s, more than 20,000 people died in PNG’s Bougainville province, largely over who would benefit from an enormous mine.

Resources are big business in PNG with the industry making up 21 per cent of the nation’s economy.

Luke Fletcher, Executive Director of Jubilee Australia, an organisation that advocates for communities in the Pacific region, told news.com.au the entry of big mining firms into remote regions had fundamentally changed the way of life.

“It impacted the whole fabric of society. There was a lot more cash coming in. Disputes became associated with land and who was the landowner of a particular tenement identified for a mining project.

“The Huli ethnic group has a complex social connection to the land so it’s been very difficult for the Government to identify who is a landowner.”

That’s led to not only skirmishes over property but also the withholding of some royalties as the mining firms don’t know who to give the money to.

These disputes have rumbled alongside more longstanding feuds as well as desperation brought on by poverty.

At the same time, promises of modern infrastructure haven’t, in some cases, eventuated. And while shiny new hospitals and schools have been built, in a number of cases, funds to pay staff and materials have dried up.

“There is more cash around but in some ways that has been just as much of a problem. Because there’s so much cash, there are now so many weapons,” said Mr Fletcher.

“This isn’t the first violence we’ve seen, it’s just the most egregious.”

GOLD RUSH

Michael Main, an anthropologist and PhD candidate at Australian National University, knows Hela well. On visits to the lush mountain valleys he recalls having to persuade locals he was merely a student and not a geologist looking to pinpoint the next rich fissure of gold.

“When a piece of land acquires a much greater value (due to mining) that does exacerbate things; even if it’s only perceived in that way. With the hype around mining some think a mountain is literally full of gold.”

There had been a “gold rush” in the early 2000s at Mt Kare, he said, where nuggets were found in the soil and dug up by locals. But that was all now gone with the remainder of the riches beneath the surface.

The Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea is one of the world’s largest. Source: News Limited

STONE AGE TO ARMS RACE

The population of PNG’s Highlands were completely unknown until the 1930s when Australian patrols stumbled across a people who, essentially, were no more progressed than the “Stone Age”, said Mr Main.

The modern age has arrived with speed: mobile phones now sit alongside age old beliefs in sorcery. It’s a place where rivalries run as deep as superstitions, all unencumbered by the usual trappings of the nation state, like police, who are rarely seen.

But in times past there was a framework around violence.

“Most people would not have been involved in fighting and it would have been bows and arrows facing off,”

“There is no longer the strong tradition of dispute resolutions through dialogue. Guns have changed the power dynamics,” he said.

“It’s become an arms race. One clan will be well armed, the another clan they have a historical enmity with will get armed too.

“You can even hire guns from a friend.”

A Huli man in traditional ceremonial dress at a mobile phone shop in PNG’s capital of Port Moresby. Source: Supplied

BRUTAL LOGIC TO KILLINGS
Weapons mostly came in from the neighbouring Indonesian province of West Papua. But some come through Australia’s Torres Strait. While the few police will sell individual bullets to supplement their meagre wages. The Government’s own armoury has been pilfered from.

“The amount of guns vastly outnumbers those held by the entire PNG defence force,” Mr Main said.

The recent violence has been eye opening, however. Women, who in Huli society are never armed, have become victims as have children. And traditional tools — like the bush knife — have also been used to butcher victims.

“When I was there, there was the case of young children being beheaded as part of the conflict,” he said.

He added there was a brutal logic to killing kids: “It’s making sure the next generation doesn’t grow up to take revenge.”

Mr Main likened the violence to that which has occurred in many parts of the world, from the Balkans to Ireland, where groups jostle for land and prominence.

The Lowy Institute’s Mr Pryke agreed: “There’s nothing distinct about PNG people; it’s just where they sit on the development spectrum”.

There was no “silver bullet” he said to end the violence, but the PNG Government needed to make its presence felt.

Some mining firms, he said, had been more successful than others at building local infrastructure and remunerating locals. But they needed to step up.

“The mining industry will tell you they are doing as much as they can and they don’t want to fill the gaps left by the Government. But they need to think more deeply about improved development outcomes, because if this violence continues that could be destabilising for business interests in the country.”

Mr Main said the mines have brought jobs and cash. But much of that was when they were under construction, with many wage packets drying up when mining began.

“When they were in the construction phase there wasn’t much fighting because there was money coming in, development was happening and people were focused on the future.

“Now that vacuum has been filled with all these jealousies and grievances from the past returning.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea