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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 17, 2000 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---Misima Mines is the first of Papua New Guinea's major resource projects to formally present to the government its detailed plans for mine closure.

In an era when there is more talk about closing mines than opening new ones, Misima’s closure strategy may become the model which other projects, including Ok Tedi and Porgera, will follow.

With the social and economic dislocation that followed the abrupt closure of the Bougainville mine still fresh in the memory of Papua New Guineans, Misima Mines is making a major effort to ensure that the closure of its mine will be as well planned as the process that started the mine almost 12 years ago.

Mining will halt at Misima in March of next year, followed by four more years of processing low-grade stockpiles, according to briefings given to both the government and the media.

Since April 1989, Misima has contributed more than K 200 million (US$ 66,800,000) to national and provincial government revenues, the briefings said. It paid K 20 million (US$ 6,680,000) in royalties, spent K 15 million (US$ 5,010,000) on tax credit infrastructure, trained countless tradesmen and women, and overall made a very solid contribution to PNG’s resource based economy.

All that is about to change. The Misima Mines workforce will shrink from 740 to 325 when mining ends.

The combination of lower grade ore and low gold prices will restrict the project’s ability to maintain its previous support of the PNG economy, the briefings said.

The recent reduction in the tax rate for tax credit scheme projects from 2 percent to 0.75 percent is expected to affect some planned projects but the company welcomed the inclusion of maintenance in the plan.

After four more years, this will stop altogether, as stockpile processing finishes and the people of Misima return to more traditional ways of making a living. They will have many advantages as a legacy of mining.

Roads, wharves, an airport, a new high school and a modern hospital have all been built, the briefings said.

An educated population, with a decade of experience gained from employment at the mine and its various corporation activities, is already planning to export its skills to projects elsewhere in PNG.

At home on the island, locally organized committees have taken responsibility for planning the community’s future directions and needs, and in cooperation with Misima Mines sustainability staff, have invited the participation of shareholders, the private sector, government, NGOs and aid agencies.

The planning processes are focused not only on mine closure, but on ways of maintaining the higher levels of business opportunity and community welfare that have been achieved during the life of the mine, the briefings said.

Agriculture will play its important role in sustaining village life, and Misima Mines has initiated an extensive program to rehabilitate existing crops, introduce new cash crops, establish and train village people in new gardening methods.

Maintaining the present high standards of community health is another priority, together with strengthening the role of women and families.

Misima Mines recognizes that the success of its post-mining strategies will set an example for other resource sector project to follow, and is working closely with the government and the community.

Sustainability is a significant corporate objective of Misima Mine’s parent company Place Dome, the briefings said. Considerable international attention is directed towards making a success of PNG’s transition into an important phase in its history, when mines and oilfields are closing as well as opening.

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

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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