TALKS ON FUTURE OF OK TEDI MINE TO BEGIN

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 8, 2000 – Post-Courier)---The Government will soon begin preliminary discussions on the future of the giant Ok Tedi copper mine in Western Province, Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta announced yesterday.

Sir Mekere told reporters that the talks would begin "as soon as possible," and would involve the local community, the Government, other shareholders and Ok Tedi Mining Ltd.

The announcement follows a report by the World Bank, which found that the mine should be closed on environmental grounds.

The OTML management yesterday asked the Government to release the World Bank report on the future of the mine.

Dr. Roger Higgins, OTML Managing Director, said that informed discussion about the mine's future could only occur in an environment in which the full facts were available to those who needed to make a decision about how to proceed.

"The people of PNG have important decisions to make, and they would benefit from having access to all opinions and data that can help them to reach a view of the best way forward to address the environmental, social and economic issues resulting from the mine's operations," he said.

Sir Mekere said the environment was just one of a number of issues that needed to be considered by the Government before it made its decision.

"Ok Tedi is more than just an environmental issue,'' Sir Mekere said yesterday. "It has profound social and economic implications for the country. Any decision we take now on the future of the mine will affect the whole country."

He said no decision would be made until a mine closure plan and a mine closure strategy had been approved.

Ok Tedi is a major contributor to the PNG economy, producing about 10 percent of PNG's gross domestic product, and is also the sole significant industrial employer in Western Province.

Sir Mekere said the Government's stand on the issues was that mining would continue while they continued the studies on their course of action, and also monitor the impact of the mine closure.

Dan Weise, the World Bank's resident PNG coordinator, confirmed the bank’s recommendation to the Government.

Dr. Higgins said yesterday that OTML had nearly completed a mine closure plan in accordance with its statutory requirement to submit a plan 10 years before expected closure.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

 

PNG GOVERNMENT WARNING ON FUTURE OF OK TEDI MINE

By Rena Sarumpaet

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 8, 2000 – Radio Australia)--The Papua New Guinea Government says a decision on the future of the Ok Tedi copper mine must give full consideration to the social and economic consequences of its possible closure.

The Government will begin talks with all stakeholders, including the majority owner, Australian resources company BHP, following the receipt of a long-awaited report by the World Bank.

Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta says Ok Tedi is not just an environmental issue, but also a social and economic one for the whole country.

The World Bank says immediate closure could bring the worst social impact. Tens of thousands of people depend on the mine for their living. But the Bank does suggest Ok Tedi eventually be closed, on environmental grounds.

Yet, the Managing Director of Ok Tedi Mining, Roger Higgins, insists there's no firm view.

"As I understand it, the World Bank has suggested that it would be desirable to have a clear closure plan, and that's different from actually stating any particular position on whether the mine should closed or not," he said.

BHP has said it is not comfortable continuing to operate Ok Tedi.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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