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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i


Ok Tedi Mine Operations Expected To Continue In PNG
7 of 9 community groups support production for 11 more years

By Jemima Garrett

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Dec. 4, 2012) – Landowners in Papua New Guinea are expected to finalize their agreement to extend the life of the Ok Tedi mine by the end of this week.

The announcement was made by the Ok Tedi Mining Limited CEO at the PNG Mining and Petroleum Investment Conference in Sydney.

Ok Tedi Mining Ltd CEO, Nigel Parker, says seven of the nine community umbrella groups affected by the mine have signed up to continue gold and copper production for 11 more years.

The remaining 2 groups, he says, are expected to sign this week.

"It has been an absolutely exhilarating process in the last three weeks," he said.

"I have personally signed on the company's behalf those agreements and the people are extraordinarily happy with Ok Tedi Mining Limited, with the continuation of the mine," he said. "To be quite frank, it is quite inspirational."

The community groups represent around 100,000 people downstream of the mine in the Fly River catchment in PNG's Western Province.

Mr. Parker says recent calls by three MPS for the mine to close on health and environmental grounds appear at odds with the community views.

"The communities definitely wants the mine to continue, and are unequivocal about that," he said.

"I am sure the elected politicians have the communities at heart, and if they do get reports coming through of unidentified medical issues I am sure they would react, and possibly that is why they are reacting so much.

"In fact, when that was all hitting the press we actually had the communities from those areas in Tabubil negotiating the mine continuation, and the general response was 'Mi no save' - 'We are unaware of these sorts of issues of the ilk that were being publicized.'"

Mining reform

The Ok Tedi announcement came at the same conference where PNG Mining Minister, Byron Chan, elaborated on the O'Neill government's plans to reform the mining industry.

The O'Neill government has been under pressure on a number of fronts to ensure more of the benefits of mining get down to the grassroots people, and has responded with a wide-ranging reform program.

Changes include moves to reduce the maximum size of exploration leases by half and to limit the number of licenses an individual can hold to 10.

Mr. Chan told the conference the PNG Government is determined to ensure landowners benefit from mining projects and to encourage downstream processing.

"We want to make sure people are committed, companies are committed, everyone is committed to the project and not just holding license and playing on the stock market," he said.

"There are some companies that have been playing that game for far too long."

Radio Australia: www.abc.net.au/ra
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