Miner describes PNG move to take over Porgera as unlawful

11:41 am on 2 September 2020

A multi-national miner has described the Papua New Guinea government's move to take over the Porgera gold mine as unlawful.

The government last week issued a Special Mining Lease at Porgera to state-owned company, Kumul Minerals Holdings.

This followed the government's decision in April not to renew the previous mine lease held by a joint venture of Canadian company Barrick Niugini and Chinese partner Zijin Mining.

On Tuesday the National Court dismissed the companies' legal challenge over the non-renewal, but Barrick indicated it would appeal.

The Prime Minister, James Marape, said the companies had a right to challenge the new lease in the courts too.

"Please conclude the matter fast. Conclude the matter fast and tell us where we've gone wrong in the entire process.

"No need to beat around the bush and if the court tells us that we were wrong, we'll eat a humble pie and correct ourselves. So if you feel that you're aggrieved, go to court and tell us where we've erred."

In a statement Barrick Niugini Limited (BNL) said it disagreed with numerous grounds outlined in the National Court ruling dismissing the application for judicial review handed down by Deputy Chief Justice Kandakasi, adding that it intended to urgently appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

"In this regard, the Company notes that the dismissal of proceedings was not based on the substantive grounds advanced by BNL in its application for judicial review."

Earlier, BNL suggested the PNG government had not fully consulted with Porgera landowners about issuing the new lease.

It said it would take steps to challenge the purported grant of Special Mining Lease 11.

"BNL considers that any such grant of SML 11 to Kumul Minerals Holdings Limited is unlawful and invalid."

Meanwhile the prime minister told parliament his government would be engaging with landowners over its plans for the Enga province mine.

He also said the government had given the companies every opportunity to talk to it over the future of the mine.

Marape cited the case of the Ok Tedi copper mine in Western province, where the government took control of operations in 2013, as an example of how PNG could run its own mines.

"It's about time that Papua New Guineans have confidence that we can run our own mine. If we are running Ok Tedi successfully, we can also run Porgera.

"We have not completely shut Barrick out. Options for equity and operatorship is on the table. You can come and talk to us, there's a new arrangement, but under our own Kumul Holding Mining Limited's SML," Marape said.

Barrick is also making conciliatory noises.

"BNL remains ready to enter into good faith negotiations to chart a way forward that can result in a win-win for all stakeholders and lead to the re-opening of the Porgera mine."