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Esso Highlands calls allegations ‘pure speculation’

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Feb. 2, 2012) – The operator of Papua New Guinea’s Liquefied Natural Gas project, Esso Highlands, has dismissed speculation that its activities were the cause of last week’s landslide in Southern Highlands province.

Four bodies have been recovered but at least 25 people are confirmed to have been buried in the landslide.

Many locals claim that a nearby quarry used for the project involved explosives which unsettled the earth and caused the landslide.

Esso’s media spokeswoman Rebecca Arnold says the project’s contractors stopped working at the quarry six months ago and never used explosives.

"That’s pure speculation at this stage. At this stage the cause of the landslide is unclear. The government is undertaking an investigation and I understand has commenced that assessment. We continue to provide support to the government in any way, shape or form that they require."

Rebecca Arnold says some of the project’s construction work remains temporarily suspended due to the landslide.

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