Miner flags thousands of job cuts in PNG

2:33 pm on 25 June 2020

Thousands of Papua New Guineans are to lose jobs due to an impasse at a Highlands gold mine.

According to Reuters, Canadian company Barrick Gold Corp says it has to lay off most staff at its Porgera gold mine operations in PNG's Enga province.

It is blaming the James Marape-led government's refusal to extend its recently expired lease for the Porgera joint venture.

Barrick and Chinese partner Zijin have stopped production at Porgera and put the mine in care and maintenance mode while challenging the lease decision in court.

But Barrick says this has created an untenable financial situation. It has flagged job cuts, saying 2,650 Papua New Guineans would be retrenched by the end of July.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape, who said in April the government intended to operate the mine itself, has been criticised by his predecessor for his handling of the Porgera lease issue.

Peter O'Neill echoed Barrick's warning that refusing the lease would be costly for PNG.

However Mr Marape said his government had carefully considered the issue and decided it was in the best interests of the state, especially due to the environmental damages claims and resettlement issues around the mine.

PNG prime minister James Marape (left) arrives in Morobe Province, greeted by Morobe Governor, Ginson Saonu.

PNG prime minister James Marape (left) arrives in Morobe Province, greeted by Morobe Governor, Ginson Saonu. Photo: PNG PM Media

'Fairer share'

The prime minister issued a release yesterday saying his government intends to review restrictinos on foreign investment projects in PNG.

This came as Mr Marape visited the fledgling Wafi Golpu Mining project in Morobe province.

Together with Mining Minister Johnson Tuke, he met with the Morobe Provincial Government and landowners of Wafi Golpu to discuss basic principles of distributing benefits as the National Government prepares to net project developers.

Regarding recent amendments to PNG's Mining Act and Oil and Gas Act, Mr Marape assured investors that his government is not "changing the goal posts".

"However, the present Mining Act will govern the framework of the Wafi Golpu Mining contract that should be secured after negotiations," the release said.

According to the government, it wants to advance Wafi Golpu and Porgera projects, as well as other major resource developments such as the P'Nyang liquefied natural gas project before the third quarter of this year.

"And to our provincial governments and landowners in those resource areas, please be rest assured that our Government will give you a fairer share within what the State secures from negotiations with developers," Mr Marape said.

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