14 Feb 2008

Mining company says Australia is ignoring locals' concerns in spat over Kokoda Track

7:36 pm on 14 February 2008

The Australian company pushing to establish a mine near Papua new Guinea's Kokoda Track says local landowner needs may have been overlooked by those opposed to the project.

Frontier Resources Limited has been waiting since mid-last year for a renewal of its exploration license by PNG's government.

Meanwhile, landowners have closed parts of the track in protest at the delay in license renewal.

However Australia has voiced its opposition to the project, fearing it would damage the historic track where Australian troops fought Japanese in World War II.

But local landowners say that if the mine is small-scale it could co-exist with the Track.

Frontier's managing director Peter McNeil says Australia has no place to deny locals their right to develop their own resources.

"At the end of the day, it's the impact on the local communities which normally carries most of the weight in these sorts of things. There was a letter to the editor in one of the papers over here which said it's interesting but if it's a black fella's sacred site, you can make way for that fast enough but if it's a white fella's sacred site, there's no way you can touch it. And it's interesting hypocrisy in that sense as well."