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Crime prone Porgera landowners want out

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 9, 2009) – Global mining giant, Barrick Gold Corporation, has to immediately resettle displaced villagers if illegal mining activities at its Porgera operations in Enga province are to be completely halted, landowners say.

Barrick is the majority shareholder in the Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) with Mineral Resource Enga holding a 5 percent equity.

The Tuanda landowners, one of the seven Special Mining Lease (SML) clans, said it fully supported the Government’s move to deploy more than 300 security personnel to the volatile area, but added Barrick should first move the landowners out of the area.

Internal Security Minister Sani Rambi announced the call-out in an effort to stop continuous illegal mining activities and to address serious law and order issues in the area.

Tuanda landowner chairman Sole Taro said his people had been severely affected by the mine’s eroding dumps, adding there was an urgent need for a permanent relocation of affected villagers.

Mr. Taro said any other measures initiated by the Government or Barrick would be short-term exercises that would not adequately solve the problem.

"I would suggest to Barrick that the only way forward for a lasting solution is to permanently relocate affected villagers to a location of their choice and free up the SML area from settlers and villagers," he said.

Taro reiterated that illegal mining would remain Barrick’s "biggest headache" as long as landowners and settlers remained in the vicinity of the mine.

"The answer is very simple; move my people out of here and make this place a no-man’s land.

"Only then can the company settle, relax and complete its operations without facing all these problems.

"If the people remain . . . I tell you, they will still trespass on company land as they’ve been feeding from here for so long," he added.

Taro, who is also Apalaka ward councillor, said on Tuesday that his people were tempted to resort to illegal mining because of easy access to the open pit.

The other reason, he claimed, was because the Anjolek creek and land they panned for gold and do their gardening were "completely destroyed" by the mine’s extensive waste disposal upstream.

The National visited the affected Apalaka village this week and confirmed that there were no food gardens and rivers for gardening, drinking and cooking.

Unconfirmed reports from some illegal miners said that 406 of their colleagues had died from blasts, rock falls and shootings since the mine started.

That figure could not be verified.

Villagers alleged that most of the illegal miners were dwellers from settlements within the SML areas like Yarik.

The National:

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