PNG CRACKDOWN PUTS MINE OPERATORS ON SPOT

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Two recent closures over failure to meet standards

By Eric Tapakau PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 31, 2009) – In Papua New Guinea (PNG), more and more mining companies are coming under the spotlight as the Mining Inspectorate gets tough to ensure our Mining (Safety) Act and Regulations are complied with.

So far operations have been suspended in mining companies which have cost the companies millions of kina in lost revenue.

Putting mining companies under the spotlight will be a two way issue as the mining industry contributes more than 60 percent of export earnings to the country each year while at the same time Papua New Guinea laws must be seen to be followed.

The Mines Inspection division of the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) has been busy this year as it tried to ensure all mining laws were followed and no employee’s lives were put at risk during operations.

To date Ramu Nickel/Cobalt mine and Simberi have had their operations suspended as the two operations failed to comply with laws and regulations covering the mining industry in the country.

"Actually the new Chief Inspector of Mines Mohan Singh and his deputy chief inspector of Mines Lave Michael are two no nonsense guys who are particular about the requirement for compliance as specified under the Mining (Safety) Act 1977.

It also comes with experience and having the knowledge to ascertain whether a company is in compliance or otherwise.

The same treatment is being given to all mining companies without fear or favor," said one mining industry insider.

"In the past, mines inspections were conducted on a regular basis but the companies were only required to comply with the directives and not necessarily having the operations shut.

"However with this new management, miners are given notice that failure to comply will result in the shutting down of operations costing millions until the legal and practical requirements are fully satisfied and are up to standards (per Ramu’s case)."

The position of the chief inspector is a statutory position. He has the ultimate authority by law to shut down a mining operation if he thinks that standards are not being met and that the safety of the workers is at risk.

The decision of the chief inspector to shut a mine is totally independent and is not influenced by any person including his immediate boss, the managing director of MRA, the Minister nor the Industry.

He is mandated by law to ensure there is strict compliance to the fullest.

He also conducts investigations into accidents and incidents occurring at work. All mining companies operation in PNG are required by law to report every little injury from a tiny razor cut to a finger up to death.

"PNG is proudly one of the very few countries with a very high standard in safety requirements which is arguably far better than Australia," the mining industry insider said.

Meanwhile mining company Allied Gold have lodged an appeal to the MRA against the indefinite shutdown of the Simberi Gold mine in the New Ireland province.

The company is claiming it was not advised of any breaches of its operating permits by government departments responsible for the mining sector.

Simberi Gold Limited is confident mining operations on the island will resume soon.

The company said it was hopeful negotiations with the MRA on the matter will be resolved in the near future.

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