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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 31) – Illegal mining is still going on at the Porgera mine on Papua New Guinea despite the dangers posed to those involved, leaders from the Enga province were told.

[PIR editor’s note: According to their website, Barrick is the owner of a 75 percent joint venture interest and is the operator of the Porgera gold mine located in Enga Province in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. The mine is located about 130 kilometers west of the established town of Mount Hagen and about 680 kilometers by road from the coastal port of Lae on the central north coast of the mainland peninsula from which all materials are freighted.]

Deputy Prime Minister Don Polye and Inter-Government Relations Minister Sam Abal were told this by Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) officials and security personnel during a visit to the mine and its surroundings last week.

The two ministers were told of how illegal miners risk climbing steep slopes surrounding the open pit mine searching for gold.

Mr. Polye was surprised to learn that illegal mining was still going on everyday.

PJV Barrick illegal miners’ project and social community affairs manager Steve Ginpel said illegal mining was an ongoing activity even though several illegal miners had been shot dead by security personnel in the past years.

Mr. Ginpel said illegal miners were creating problems for themselves, and putting their own lives at risk.

A security guard told The National that illegal miners normally came in big numbers, climbing down the 100-meter steep slope to look for gold in the pile.

He said illegal miners had no fear getting shot by security guards, getting killed by falling rocks or even fall to their death over the steep slopes.

[PIR editor’s note: Landowners near the mine have charged that numerous killings have taken place at the mine, allegations that the Somare government said it would investigate. See story.]

He said illegal miners normally hide in the tunnels, which were dug by the company, and came out at night with torches to search for gold.

Messrs Polye and Abal were told that most of the illegal miners came from Laiagam, Kandep and Tari. They were also told that the Porgera landowners hardly take part in this activity.

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