PNG Government Declares State Of Emergency At Porgera Mine

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3-month operation launched to deal with illegal miners

By Johnny Poiya

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, April 29, 2014) – The Government has declared a state of emergency in Porgera, Enga Province.

Over a hundred policemen and soldiers from Port Moresby and Mt Hagen are already on the ground in the mining township, Highlands Divisional Commander Teddy Tei said yesterday.

The rapid increase in uncontrollable illegal mining activities within the mine lease area and other law and order issues in the valley has prompted the state of emergency.

A similar response, codenamed Operation Ipili, was executed in April 2009 for the same reasons that saw more than 300 houses within the mining lease area being razed to the ground by members of the security forces. Those houses were allegedly used by illegal miners.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Operations Simon Kauba will launch the three month operation today in a grand ceremony at the Ipili sports complex in Paiam.

The reckless behaviour of illegal miners who have descended into the valley and are extracting gold from the mine site has continuously disrupted production and risked shutting down the Barrick-operated world class open cut gold mine.

Killings on the streets of Porgera town have become common, resulting in tribal fights and the closure of the Highlands Highway leading into the valley.

Business houses and government departments also had to shut down as a result.

It is not clear whether security personnel will remove settlements around the mine proper as in 2009 but police have moved in with more determination than before to solve the problems. Security commanders briefed community leaders, government and business representatives on Friday.

They said their focus was to stop the illegal mining activities in the mining area, which were getting out of hand, as well as addressing other law and order issues in the valley.

The security contingent will live outside of the mining premises and conduct operations.

But as during the 2009 operation, sources on the ground say all illegal miners have already fled Porgera and will wait out the three-month period and return after the operation has finished.

In 2009, all illegal miners fled to their home provinces across the highlands region while the operation took place.

But as things cooled down the miners gradually returned and the number has increased since.

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