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By Harlyne Joku

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 27, 2000 – The National)---The Government is expected to elaborate on its view on the Ok Tedi mine's future next week, environment and conservation officials said yesterday.

This follows close study of the World Bank’s findings on risk assessment studies undertaken by Ok Tedi Mining Ltd. (OTML).

Environment and Conservation Minister Herowa Agiwa told the media yesterday that OTML should pay for damages caused to the environment and people before it is allowed to wind up its operations.

While emphasizing that this was his personal view, Mr. Agiwa said, in an official media release, that the World Bank had provided a useful environmental evaluation of the state of affairs at Ok Tedi, having highlighted deficiencies in social impact monitoring and management.

"I will take a closer look at the World Bank review in the context of the government position currently under review. As the mine is considering closure, and the BHP has publicly expressed a desire to pull out of Ok Tedi, the pressure to resolve the environmental issues is even more paramount than in the past," Mr. Agiwa said.

The Minister said he had decided to take full responsibility for environmental management at Ok Tedi, given the issues faced by the area.

"I want to see an environmental solution emerge that is transparent in its process. This Government, through Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta's able and strong leadership, emphasizes open and transparent governance. I will consult my prime minister and my colleague minister for mining on my stand and I intend to take the lead on environment and social matters currently at the center of attention in the Ok Tedi Mining operation," Mr. Agiwa said.

He also said that he had instructed his director and technical officers to study the environmental issues at Ok Tedi and to recommend a comprehensive strategy for solving them.

"I strongly believe that the various experts had persistently been in the wrong for the past 10 years or more. Accordingly it was obvious that the state will have to pay more attention to Ok Tedi's environmental issues to ensure a fair and suitable response in the years ahead," he said.

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

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