PNG GOVERNMENT TARGETS PORGERA MINE SCAVENGERS

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 12) - The Papua New Guinea government has sent policemen from Port Moresby to the giant Porgera gold mine to guard the mine from illegal miners and maintain general law and order.

Illegal miners have been given until the end of next month or "be arrested and charged."

Mobile squad (MS-3) members from McGregor Barracks outside Port Moresby led by Senior Sergeant Jeremiah Bianaga have started carrying out awareness programs with help from local landowners in Porgera, advising illegal miners and others of the Government’s warning and its consequences.

This follows Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Mining Dr. Puka Temu’s public notice in the media where he said the Government was concerned about illegal mining activities within the Porgera special mining lease (SML) area.

[PIR editor’s note: Papua New Guinea police in September, 2005, filed murder charges in at least one of the numerous deaths reported at the Porgera gold mine in Enga Province by area landowners that year. While displaced landowners in the area of the mine have sought an independent probe of alleged killings of scavengers by mine security guards, little has been reported since PIR published its story on the conflict two years ago.]

The Porgera Joint Venture, 95 percent owned and operated by Barrick Gold Corporation, has assisted by providing two 25-seater buses to transport the policemen and selected community leaders on this law and order campaign which is scheduled to last until the end of the month.

He said such activities caused great concern for the safety and security of not only the PJV employees but also the illegal miners themselves. He said mine operations were also affected.

Temu warned illegal miners to stop their activities and return to their homes or the Government would act to remove them and allow mining operations to run smoothly.

The policemen and landowners started the awareness campaign last Wednesday with a visit to the open pit.

There they addressed up to 50 illegal miners and later moved them out of the SML before heading to the Porgera station to speak to the public there.

Senior Sergeant Jeremiah Biamaga said his men had been sent to Porgera by the National Government to maintain general law and order as well as to ensure no unauthorized people entered the mine. He warned the public, particularly the illegal miners, that they had until the end of this month to end their unlawful activities.

He said by January, his men would start clearing the SML and anyone caught would be arrested and charged and could end up in prison for lengthy periods or have to pay hefty fines.

The group would continue with its awareness campaign in and around the Porgera area this week before moving out to areas such as Maip/Mulitaka, Laiagam, Sirunki and Kandep where most of the illegal miners come from and distribute the Minister Temu’s public notice about the consequences of entering the mine illegally.

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