CAUTION URGED WHEN CHANGING PNG’S RESOURCE LAWS

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Investors fearful of landowners gaining ownership of minerals

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Nov. 30, 2011) – The mining and petroleum industry’s "big guys are in town" and any change in the law on mineral resources ownership will drive them out.

This warning was issued yesterday at an industry seminar by PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum president Dr. Ila Temu.

He said PNG must use its natural resources to fund its development as it was a highly prospective destination capable of attracting the big investment dollar.

"The big guys are in town and spending big," he said. And they included Newmont, Newcrest, Harmony Gold, Vale, ExxonMobil and Xstrata. For exploration, the challenge now is to keep these big guys in town so they spend the big exploration dollar. For projects – LNG, Frieda, Marengo, etc – PNG must ensure these projects are delivered on time and on budget," Temu said.

"The benefits of doing this are enormous. Secure a competitive edge in this highly-competitive global environment."

However, he warned that the issue of mineral ownership by landowners would put all this at risk.

Also in attendance were Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Mining Minister Byron Chan, who had sent shockwaves throughout the industry with his proposal to give all resources back to the landowners when he was appointed minister in August.

Chan had since taken a cautious approach to say it would only be done within the framework of the Constitution and laws of the land.

Temu pointed out that the proposed amendment to the Mining Act to vest ownership of mineral rights in landowners was "wrong and ill-conceived."

"It is inconsistent with constitutional provisions that call for resource development for the benefit of all citizens. It is too big a risk to take," he said.

While landowners were claiming minimal benefit from the development of their resources, Temu argued that under the under current laws, rights of landowners were fully recognized through compensation, royalty, equity and preferential treatment in employment and business development opportunities.

"The issue is more to do with mismanagement, fraud and corruption of landowner benefits than ownership. Changing the law on ownership does not address the problem. It will only make it worse," Temu said.

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