PNG LANDOWNERS THREATEN CLOSURE OF COPPER MINE

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 30) – Residents of 24 villages on the south coast of Papua New Guinea’s Western Province have thrown their support behind Governor Bob Danaya’s petition in Parliament for the closure of Ok Tedi copper mine.

Community leaders from the villages of Bituti, Paedeya and Bitamgu tributaries and Dorogori village said this in a statement yesterday.

"We believe the move by Governor Danaya is timely because it would give the Fly River Provincial Government the opportunity to bring Ok Tedi and the National Government to the negotiating table to do a better deal for Western Province before re-opening the mine," they said.

[PIR editor’s note: The Ok Tedi Mine, which has been operating since 1984, employs 2,000 people and is a major contributor to the PNG economy, according to the company’s web site. In January 2002, BHP Billiton Ltd divested its 52 per cent shareholding in OTML by transfer of its shares to the Papua New Guinea Sustainable Development Program Ltd. In 2004, the mine's export sales were K2.1 billion, which represented 25.7 per cent of PNG's export earnings. The company’s headquarters are in the town of Tabubil. The mine site is located on Mount Fubilan, 18 kilometers from the PNG/Indonesian border. OTML also operates milling facilities at the mine site and shipping facilities at the port of Kiunga on the Fly River, 800 kilometers upstream from the Gulf of Papua. ]

As stated in the petition, the villagers said they agreed with issues such as an autonomous government for the province by 2007 and that the PNG Sustainable Development Program Company Ltd’s 52 percent BHP equity now held in Singapore banks be transferred to the province under a reviewed policy and structure purely concentrated on Western Province development business.

They also called for Dr Danaya to set up a royal commission of inquiry to investigate Ok Tedi operations and have an independent non-government organisation with a reputable international image to annually monitor Ok Tedi’s implementation of special development programs for the province after the proposed review.

Meanwhile, the National Government has until tomorrow to respond to the petition or landowners will be taking action to have the Ok Tedi mine closed down.

July 1, 2005

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

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