PNG landowners remind Exxon of project obligation

6:36 pm on 23 November 2016

The developer of Papua New Guinea's LNG gas project has been warned it could be halted if terms of the founding agreement are not met.

A beneficiary group comprising LNG project-affected landowners and provincial governments has petitioned the government to ensure maximisation of the value of their equity interest in the project.

The group said there had been a prolonged lack of disbursement of benefits emanating from the ExxonMobil-led LNG project

The government is accused of failing to meet its social contract for around 60,000 landowners, and has been given until this week to respond to the petition's demands.

A landowner representative from petroleum development license areas in Hela province Raymond Kuai said it was also incumbent on the developer to respond.

"Now that the state has not met its part of the bargain, my message to Exxon and (project partner) Oil Search is you are unlawfully carrying out the LNG Project on traditional land without my permission. We will just advise you to stand down, close the gate, and talk to one of your project owners, which is the state, until we get some response."

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Facilities of LNG Project partner Oil Search in Nogoli, Hela Province. Photo: RNZI/Johnny Blades

The Beneficiary Group claims that new changes to a 4.27% equity interest in the project being introduced by state-owned Kumul Petroleum Holdings Ltd erode the value of their equity.

They say this breaches the terms of the Umbrella Benefit Sharing Agreement signed with over 60,000 landowners at the inception of the project in 2009.

Furthermore, Mr Kuai said direct landowner participation was long overdue.

"We want direct participation in the PNG LNG project - that is the essence of the UBSA," he explained.

"We're not just interested in the cash benefits. Being a direct owner of the project gives us the ability to own part of the plant, part of the pipeline. We would become part owners of that. So it's more than just cash benefits we're talking about here."

Mr Kuai explained that landowners saw it as essential that they become decision makers regarding the returns on their interest in the project.

He said this was all the more important because government had a track record of mismanagement

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