NAURU LANDOWNERS PROTEST GOVERNMENT MINING

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Demonstrators say lease agreements violated

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, May 27, 2011) – A land dispute over phosphate mining in Nauru remains unresolved while police released two women protesters they arrested.

It is believed the tension [was] triggered [because] the Nauru government stopped paying landowners royalties as per the lease agreements and began mining private land without the consent of the landowners.

Nauru's Justice Secretary, David Lambourne told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program the landowners' claims are illegitimate.

He says the land is under a 20 year mining lease from the year 2000.

"It's not all landowners to this particular portion it's only a small subset," Mr Lambourne said. "They've taken it into their heads that they are actually owed more than they are legally entitled to and so the past couple of weeks they have been disrupting operations on this particular portion."

He says the government has been trying to negotiate a solution and resolve the grievances of a small group of people who are disputing royalty payments.

However, Mr Lambourne told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program some people were taking advantage of the protest in an attempt to widen the dispute.

"We've had reports there are some individuals who have been trying to fester some discontent amongst the landowners, feeding them misinformation," he said.

"We are really concerned about that, because we are more than willing to sit down and listen to legitimate grievances, but if people are being fed misinformation and geed up for no reason other than for some short term political gain now that's of considerable concern to us."

Earlier, the women arrested, who are both aged in their 50s, reportedly attempted to block mining workers from accessing their land.

Police were called and witnesses have reported the women were handcuffed and taken away.

Nauru opposition MP David Adeang, who was there when the women were taken away, has told Pacific Beat the protest was peaceful and the police over-reacted.

"The men in the family and others were just idly chatting [and most were] just sitting ... the two ladies were actually lying down on their mats refusing to move," he said.

"The police were trying to eject them from their own land."

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