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Former PM Chan blames bureaucracy

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 30, 2009) – Former Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan is calling for a new deal for resource owners.

Sir Julius said he will push through Parliament amendments to the current mining regime that would see wealth given back to the people.

The New Ireland governor, who is leading his provincial executive council members on a familiarisation trip to Port Moresby, said it was time for a change.

Sir Julius said he accepted responsibility for some things that he and the government did in the last 35 years and change was needed in such changing times.

"I will move a motion to change the laws to give wealth back to the resource owners," Sir Julius said.

The New Ireland government has placed a moratorium on the issuing of new mining licences until the current 14-year-old Lihir agreement is honoured by the National Government.

Sir Julius, however, said political leaders should not be blamed because it was the slackness of the bureaucracy that had caused all the problems.

Provincial administrator Simeon Malai said one mining company already affected was Nautilus, which is doing undersea mining exploration in the area.

Mr. Malai said a mining warden hearing, scheduled for last week, did not take place because of the moratorium.

"It is up to the National Government to honour the MoA," Malai said.

Nimarmar LLG president and mines chairman Rudolf Tongop said the Lihir agreement was signed in 1995 but the National Government had failed to honour its commitment.

He said Lihir mine contributed about K500 million [US$182 million] a year to the national purse but nothing had gone back to the people.

The New Ireland PEC members had a productive three days where they visited various Government departments and talked with mining companies operating in the province.

Mining giants Lihir Gold Limited, Allied Gold, Barrick Gold and Simberi Gold all have operations in New Ireland.

"We have been producing wealth and we are just asking for our fair share of it," Sir Julius added.

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