Although the Porgera Joint Venture has recently applied for the renewal of their Special Mining Lease, a majority of the landowners whose lands are the subject of the mining lease, are maintaining a dispute for breaches of various agreements, laws and the constitution of PNG under the previous lease.
On 13th December 2013, the Porgera Special Mining Lease area landowners presented a position statement to the former Minister for Mining, Hon. Byron Chan, after Australian lawyers conducted a review in relation to the compliance of their Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) dated 12th May 1989, with the Independent State of Papua New Guinea. The statement claimed that the landowners were owed more than four billion United States dollars (US$4billion) worth of unfulfilled contractual undertakings by the State.
The position statement claimed that the breaches of the MOA, has caused negative impacts on the social, environmental and economic lives of the Porgera landowners. They claimed that in the period 1994 – 1995, the State allowed the mine to vary its original proposals for development of 1988. The 1988 proposals sought State approval and issuance of a Special Mining Lease (SML) for the mine to construct mining infrastructure that was capable of processing eight thousand tonnes of crushed ore through its mill over a mine life of twenty years. Underground mining was to cease after seven years of operations. Only five years later the State allowed what was called a “minor variation” to the approved proposals to double the processing rate to 17,000 tonnes per day. This meant that the amount of ore mined daily and the waste material produced were also doubled, resulting in the waste dumps which were originally designed to hold less materials, bursting into the river systems causing massive landslides which destroyed homes and gardens owned by the landowners. The mine failed to resettle the landowners from within the Special Mining Lease to unaffected area, even when experts found the need to do so in 1996.
The landowners claim that the State has since the lodgement of their position statement, failed to address their complaints, resulting in the landowners issuing a Notice of Dispute in April of 2015. The State has also failed to respond to the Notice of Dispute which may then force the landowners to then invoke the arbitration provisions in the MOA.
The State’s failure to respond to the legal steps being followed by the landowners pursuant to the MOA, is unbecoming of a responsible government. It is clear that State agencies are negligent of their duty to deal with the dispute in an orderly and responsible manner to ensure that the complaints are properly dealt with. The State’s continuous ignorance of the issues raised by the landowners will do nothing but increase the frustration and anger of those affected landowners which could eventually lead to the disruption of yet another resource project in the Highlands region of Papua New Guinea.

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