Resource Owners Commends Government on Ok Tedi Mine Take Over.
The Resource Owners Federation of PNG Inc. believes that Prime Minister Peter O’Neill‘s action in passing legislation to take ownership of the OK Tedi Mine is well justified as his action has flushed the Lion out of the Sheep’s skin.
In 2002, BHP and the National Government under the Prime Ministership of Sir MekereMorauta, informed Papua New Guinea of BHP’s exit from the OK Tedi Mine. Citizens were led to believe that the people of Papua New Guinea through its government would take ownership and control of the mine. However,it now appears that the public statements were deceptive, since the State never had a controlling interest in PNGSDP or the OKTEDI mine. Sir Mekere through blindness or deliberately allowed BHP to continue to be involved in controlling the operations of the mine through the Singaporean owned Company PNGSDP, whose board, it is said is controlled by BHP appointees. If this is true, then in other words, the Lion never really left, but was allowed to change its skin and return in a sheep’s skin. The People of the Western Province including the landowners were not even shareholders as it is claimed by Sir Mekerenow , nor hada position on the Board of the PNGSDP. Hence, the people of the Western Province, their landowners and the State neverhad control of the operations of the mine since. The people of Papua New Guinea including and especially the landowners affected by the mine tailings expected the new owner (the State) to build a tailings dam and to put an end to the dumping of mine tailings into their rivers. But this was not to be, since PNGSDP and OK TEDI Mine Limited seems to have been controlled by BHP appointees .This alone is the most significant justification for Prime Minister O’Neill’s actions.Nothing would have changed under the continued ownership and control by PNGSDP.
Papua New Guineas further have to determine if they really benefited from the operations of the Ok Tedi mine under PNGSDP, which we assume kept 66% of the income from the mine in bank accounts in Singapore and spendingonly 34% in Papua New Guinea. Similarly only 34% of the expenditure in PNG occurred in the Western Province. But why? Western Province has and today remains one of the least developed provinces in the country .Most of the income should have been used to build a tailings dam to stop the environmental pollution and secondlyto build much needed infrastructure in roads, education,health,law and order and others. Why keep the money in Singapore and starve Western province of development and important social services in the last decade. It is also for this reason that the action of Prime Minister O’Neill and the Parliament is well justified.
Going forward we believe that the Prime Minister should honour the indemnity PNG gave BHP in 2002, which should be extended to PNSDP for its part in the destruction of the environment over the last decade , inexchange for returning to PNG of all the funds they have kept in Singapore. The funds should then be used to construct a tailings dam, restore any other environmental, social and cultural damages suffered by landowners and accelerate the development of the districts affected by the mine and the Western province generally.