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No move by Porgera to rebuild or relocate villagers

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 15, 2009) – About 600 school-aged children from various villages within the giant Porgera goldmine’s special mining lease (SML) areas have missed out on basic education annually in the past seven years, according to landowners.

Tuanda landowner chairman Sole Taro said Apalaka Primary School, the only school that catered for SML villages, had been destroyed by the mine’s refuse from the open pit in 2002.

Mr. Taro claimed the Porgera joint venture had pulled the whole school down, apparently as a prelude to relocating it, but had not made an attempt since to resettle the affected villagers and the pupils.

Taro said there were many children in his village who had had no education, and their number was growing.

Their situation was forcing many of them to resort to illegal activities, he said.

"Up until now, we have no school, and the future of thousands of kids is in limbo," he said.

"Established institutions are ignoring our pleas to fight with Barrick.

"That is why we are suffering."

The National visited the district last week and found that schools were not the only things the villagers lacked.

There were no electricity and water supplies and health services in the village. It was also discovered that in the community of about 1,200 dwellers, an average of three or four households shared a pit toilet.

Taro, who is also a ward councillor, claimed that 15 villagers died as a result of the unsanitary conditions.

He said Tikini, Kewai’I, Tuanda and Woyewa villages were severely affected by the mine’s refuse disposal.

Taro reiterated his earlier call for the operators of the Porgera mine, Barrick (Niugini) Limited, to immediately resettle the affected villagers.

It is understood that Barrick had initiated a resettlement programme for the landowners.

However, the villagers rejected the company’s offer, made in 2007, of K95,000 [US33,000] for each household.

Taro said the villagers would agree to K250, 000 [US$88, 000] per household as part of a permanent resettlement package.

A senior manager at the Porgera Development Authority said his organisation would be involved with providing basic services only after Barrick had resettled the affected villagers permanently at a suitable location.

The National:

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