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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 25) – Operations at the Porgera gold mine in Enga province, Papua New Guinea were disrupted early yesterday when a group of landowners converged and blocked off two gates to the mine.

Most of the staff at the mine was advised not to attend to duties until the mine’s management discussed the landowners’ grievances.

Police also confirmed that they had received reports of the closure of the two gates to the mine.

But it is not known if production has been affected as a result of this action by landowners.

Chairman of the Porgera Landowners Association (PLA), Mark Ekepa, said the action of the group of landowners was a result of outstanding grievances, which the group wanted the mine management to address.

He said among the issues was relocation.

"They are claiming that the mine had not included them in the current landowner relocation agreement. Our food gardens had been destroyed and we fear that our children will not have any land left. Our gardens were covered by dust," Mr Ekepa said.

He added that the SML areas were owned by about seven clans with more than 12,000 people.

He also alleged that the current manager of the mine made some deals with some of the landowners to sign the agreement and thereby leaving them out.

"We are not happy because that agreement does not represent everyone. What we requested for is not included in the agreement. We will not move away until someone from the Office of the Prime Minister, Department of Mining and Barrick (Niugini) Limited come and meet with us so we can renegotiate the mining agreement signed in 1989. We want the National Government to declare Porgera a disaster zone because of the land shortage," he said.

Barrick (Niugini) Limited confirmed that a group of landowners had blocked the two access gates to the Porgera mine.

Gary Halverson, the director of Barrick said the Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) was in the process of arranging to meet with the landowners to discuss their concerns in an effort to resolve the situation.

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