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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Nov. 2) – Papua New Guinea’s largest gold mine — Pogera — continued to face an unprecedented increase in illegal mining, re-igniting calls for the National Government to chip in support.

The issue grabbed attention from the participants at the PNG Mining seminar yesterday, to know locals at the Enga-based mine had to risk their lives to illegally mine gold.

And the population growth, now numbering nearly more than 40,000 and the unstoppable urban drift, continued to add weight to the "issue".

More than 900 participants at the seminar seemed to watch with interest pictures of illegal miners, with some showing Pogera Joint Venture rescue teams evacuating injured miners, who were hurt in their quest to dig up gold.

PJV social responsibility manager Steven Gimpel said illegal mining was still an issue at the mine, after the company built an open pit mine in 1993, three years after it began operations.

He, however, warned "it will be exacerbated as the extractive industries increase operations in developing countries’’.

Then he added: "Barrick Gold Corp recognises the risks that illegal mining poses to our communities and to our business and is determined to be an industry leader to address this issue."

[PIR editor’s note: A number of deaths – killings, according to area landowners – at the mine remain unaccounted for despite statements by the government that the matter would be investigated. At least one case implicating mine operators has been classified as a homicide but little reporting on the matter has since been apparent. See story. ]

Mr Gimpel added for the last five years, there had been an escalation in the frequency, numbers, and propensity for violence by illegal miners attempting to access active mining areas (open pit, old underground workings, stockpiles and waste dumps).

He said police were outnumbered to curtail the increase as people moved to Pogera to benefit from developed infrastructure, adding it was evident subsistence farming was "disappearing" as cash economy emerged.

Mr Gimpel said most of the illegal miners were males averaging 26-years-old, were non-Engans and had little or no education at all.

The Government has been called on to help provide awareness to illegal miners but the call-over of police personnel for the State of Emergency operation in Southern Highlands has resulted in an increase in the illegal act. Mining Vice Minister Ano Pala this week said the Government had taken the issue onboard and would take action.

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