MOBS RAID PORGERA MINE, OPERATIONS CEASE

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PNG police, military called on to restore order

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, March 30, 2012) – One of the country’s biggest gold mines was yesterday raided by an unruly mob who went on a rampage injuring employees and damaging equipment.

Porgera mine general manager Greg Walker and Enga province Governor Pater Ipatas have sent an urgent message to the government, police and the defence force in Port Moresby to provide security and address the deteriorating law and order problem in the area.

Mine workers were injured and three were taken hostage as scores of illegal miners went on a rampage through the open pit early yesterday morning. The three workers were later freed, with one sustaining serious injuries.

Substantial damage was done to mine equipment although no estimated cost has been released.

The Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) mining operations in the open pit had been halted until the safety of workers could be guaranteed.

Walker said: "We have reported this serious incident to the government and to police.

"We are calling on them to act swiftly to restore law and order in Porgera."

"There is no excuse for the illegal and violent behaviour of these trespassers – they place our employees and themselves in grave danger when they act outside of the law in their attempts to steal gold from the mine," Walter said.

"The behaviour of these illegal miners, virtually all of whom have migrated in from outside of Porgera, has also contributed to the steep decline of law and order in the Porgera valley, affecting the community at large.

"This simply has to be stopped and I call on the government to undertake its responsibility to protect our legal right to peacefully conduct our business."

Ipatas condemned the actions of the illegal miners, which the mine management said numbered over a thousand, saying many of them were from outside Porgera.

He has asked the police and soldiers in Port Moresby to come to Enga and help restore law and order.

Ipatas said illegal miners in the area continued to be stubborn despite the number of them killed or maimed by mining explosions. The most recent case was on March 3 in which five men who had illegally entered the mine were killed during a routine blast underground.

"They have not learned from the recent incident in which five people died, that they should not be in there," he said.

"They should know by know that the PJV has been given the lease to do the mining and exploration. They have the legal right.

"The actions of these illegal miners have an impact on Porgera, Enga and PNG. We can’t allow criminal to take control of the area.

"I call on police to strengthen their presence in the Porgera Valley so that the interests of the country can be protected.

"I wouldn’t mind a call-out of the PNGDF soldiers to help police in the area. These are not locals doing this illegal mining. They are people from other areas.

"I’m also mindful that there are people living on the special mining lease area. It’s time that they are resettled so that the area is free from local people and illegal miners."

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