Enga landowners want Canadian miner out of PNG

3:46 pm on 4 October 2018

Landowners are calling on Papua New Guinea's government to reject an application for a renewed exploration permit for a Canadian miner.

A protest against Barrick Gold.

A protest against Barrick Gold. Photo: Facebook/ Kelly Taila

Barrick Gold is seeking a renewal of its license at the Porgera gold mine in Enga province which it and Chinese miner ZiJin each own a 47.5 percent stake in.

The Justice Foundation for Porgera group says it represents a majority local landowner groups.

Its chairman Jonathan Paraia said the mine had caused irreparable environmental damage and failed to deliver promised benefits for the community.

He said repeated rapes of local girls by Barrick's security guards have also left a legacy.

"Over the years there are a lot of issues affecting landowners, caused by the company, and there is no remedy. It's now thirty years [that the mine has almost been in operation]. They want Barrick out of Porgera, or Papua New Guinea. They want the mine to operate but they want to change the ownership rights."

The Mining Warden, Kopi Wapa, has been conducting hearings in Porgera as part of public consultations over the license application, before submitting his report to the Mining Advisory Council. The Council will subsequently make recommendations to the minister of mining on a final decision on this matter.

However, the Justice Foundation for Porgera group is concerned that Mr Wapa lacks impartiality in this matter, accusing him of being sponsored or compromised by Barrick.

"The Warden was on the podium surrounded by mining company employees, he gagged our legal counsel and tried to gag us," Mr Paraia explained.

But the local MP, Tomait Kapili said the Justice Foundation for Porgera group was falsely purporting to represent landowners, and had little grounds on which to oppose Barrick's operaions.

Mr Kapili, who said the Porgera Landowners Association remained the legitimate local landowner representative body, predicted that Barrick's license would be approved, but on improved terms.

"Improved terms to the landowners, the district Development Authority, the provincial government and the national government," the MP said, adding that an increase in equity participation was the aim.

"We'll need to amend the Mining Act to increase the 2 percent royalty up to about 10 percent."

Yet, Mr Paraia said landowners expected the warden to make a recommendation for Barrick to be refused approval for exploration, "because of overwhelming objection from the local community".

"Because even if they issue the exploration license, physically the landowners will not allow them to explore in their areas."

"This mine has turned us into mining refugees in our own land, we are subsistence people without land we cannot grow food to survive. People have died, women and girls have been gang raped, hundreds displaced on Barrick's watch."

Barrick has paid compensation for a number of the victims of its security guards' abuses, however local groups have complained that there has been a lack of justice on many counts.

According to Mr Paraia, Enga's provincial governor Sir Peter Ipatas had earlier indicated he supported the landowners in their opposition to Barrick.

The Special Mining Lease agreement which is the basis for any mining in Porgera is still valid until next year.

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