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By Harlyne Joku

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (September 14, 2000 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---Australia’s Minister for Environment and Heritage, Senator Robert Hill, said in Port Moresby that he was keen to see Australian mining companies that operate overseas including Papua New Guinea maintain high standards.

Senator Hill was responding to a question about a recent statement by The Mineral Research Institute that the tailings disposal system constructed for the multi-billion Ramu Nickel project in Madang was not acceptable in Australia.

Senator Hill said it would be a mistake to pre-empt the environmental process of the Ramu-Nickel project but confirmed that no Australian mines adopt the kind of tailing systems proposed for the Ramu Nickel project.

He added however that with every specific project, it is ultimately up to PNG to decide how to reach a win-win result where they benefit out of the development of their natural resources as well as ensuring that less damage is caused to the environment.

Senator Hill who is representing the Australian Prime Minister at Papua New Guinea's Silver Jubilee of Independence Celebrations added that he brought the best wishes of the Australian people.

He said the two countries share a common history and common sense of purpose for the region and that the Silver Jubilee is an important and historical occasion not just for the people of PNG but also for the Australian people.

"Our national interests are closely linked, and our strong ties are demonstrated by the fact that the Australian development cooperation program with Papua New Guinea is the largest of any of Australia's bilateral aid programs," Senator Hill said.

"The strong relationship between our countries is underpinned by warm people-to-people links, Australian support for Papua New Guinea's development efforts, defense cooperation and vigorous commercial ties," he added.

Senator Hill added that he will be accompanying his PNG counterpart, Minister for Environment and Conservation Herowa Agiwa, to look at existing potential ventures in the country including forestry and mining and reinforce close links so the countries may be able to achieve a win-win outcome from the development of their natural resources.

Senator Hill and his wife and entourage were welcomed at the Jacksons International airport and by Mr. Agiwa and traditional dancers from Huli in the highlands and Central province dancers.

Mr. Agiwa announced that the senator and his wife will be accompanying him to visit certain mine locations in the country including Ramu Nickel in Madang and Porgera.

Mr. Agiwa's wife also presented Senator Hill and his wife PNG bilums.

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