A geologist has been killed in Bougainville by what the autonomous Papua New Guinea region's president describes as a group of "criminal thugs".
The victim, Terry Win Kilya, from Enga Province was an employee of Kalia/Toremana Joint Venture Limited, which has been conducting mineral exploration in a disputed area.
A statement on the death of its employee by the ASX-listed Kalia Group Limited said the geologist "received fatal injuries in a fall whilst undertaking field work on the company's Mt Tore tenements".
But Bougainville's President John Momis has linked the death to criminal elements in an area where tensions exist due to unresolved social problems related to the mining exploration work.
He said it was deeply regrettable that a talented and experienced geologist, who came to the region to share his skills and expertise, had been killed.
"Bougainvilleans have spoken in the referendum vote that we want to be liberated and free to charter our new path ahead, but this sort of unnecessary incident is disheartening," Mr Momis said in a statement.
Mr Momis extended an apology and his condolences to Mr Kilya's family and the people of Enga Province on behalf of the people and government of Bougainville.
A reconciliation payment or 'bel kol' of $US28,633 has been paid to the victim's family to help with funeral arrangements.
"In our Melanesian way and culture, we want to truly say sorry to the people of Enga and the family of the late Terry Win Kilya by extending our 'bel kol' assistance to late Terry's family," he said.
In its statement, Kalia said it was working with local police and officers of the Department of Minerals and Energy Resources "to determine the full circumstances relating to the incident". The company did not mention an attack or criminal elements in its statement.
However, Mr Momis has expressed disgust at the employer for allowing its personnel to venture into the area where the incident occurred, knowing that there were criminal elements resisting exploration there.
Mr Momis had ordered the indefinite suspension of the company's exploration licence and called for it to explain why such an avoidable tragedy was allowed to occur.
"The company has miserably failed to address its social issues and to fulfil its corporate social responsibility as a client of the ABG," he said.