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Island leaders meet with Icelandic engineering firm

By Noel Pascoe PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Jan. 31, 2011) – In Papua New Guinea, landowners are dealing with three overseas investors for a geo-thermal power project that could revive the volcano-ravaged town of Rabaul.

[PIR editor’s note: Rabaul is a town located on East New Britain, a province in Papua New Guinea. It was the former provincial town and settlement before it was destroyed by volcanic eruption in 1994.]

Leaders from Rabaul’s Matupit Island community met with the representative of an Icelandic geothermal engineering firm on Saturday to discuss their plans.

Matupit leader Jack Pidik told the meeting that a geothermal power project could "bring Rabaul back to what it was before’’.

He told the leaders that the Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare had voiced his support for the concept. Sir Michael’s birthplace at Rapindik, within sight of the Mt Tavurvur volcano, is marked by a commemoration stone and plaque.

The area around the Somare plaque could be a part of the proposed geothermal plant. The idea is to drill wells and tap into the hot water underground, using it to create steam which would power the turbines to produce electricity.

Geothermal power is used to supply most of the power for the gold mine on nearby Lihir Island in New Ireland Province.

It is also used in Iceland, where in one case; a town of 5,000 people was rebuilt virtually next to an active volcano after a major eruption. At Saturday’s Rabaul meeting, reservoir engineer Grimur Bjornsson laid out the plans for the venture and stressed that tests had to be made before holes were drilled to gauge the extent of the geothermal resource.

He represents Ambate RG Pacific Limited. The company’s officer manager is former senior Finance manager Rupa Mulina.

Landowner leader Damien Kereku, former East New Britain regional Member of Parliament and Mataungan Association figure, asked how much land would be required for the project.

Mr. Bjornsson said each drill hole would take up an area of about 50 meters by 100 meters and cost about US$3 million. If the project was found to be safe and viable, the Rabaul area was estimated to be capable of generating up t 300 megawatts of power. Current power use in the Gazelle Peninsula is believed to be less than 30 megawatts.

A submission has been made to the National Executive Council by Ministers Paul Tiensten and William Duma on geothermal power for five possible sites in Papua New Guinea: East and West New Britain, East Sepik, Central and Milne Bay provinces where there are volcano resources. It is believed the report is still awaiting a decision.

The Matupit leaders are due to hear submissions in the next month or two from two other companies that are interested in producing geothermal power on their land.

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