PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill says the 63.4% shareholding in Ok Tedi Mining Ltd that the government took from the PNG Sustainable Development Program Ltd does not belong to Western landowners as claimed.
He said this in response to Western people from the Community Mine Continuation Agreement and mine villages who threatened to shut down the Ok Tedi mine unless the government gave them the 63.4% shareholding in OTML.
O’Neill said the 63.4% shareholding did not belong to the CMCA and mine villages as they claimed but to all the people of PNG.
“On the question of the 63% shares, I don’t see anywhere in the agreement between PNG Sustainable, BHP and PNG Government that 63% belongs to the landowners,” he told reporters.
“If I’m wrong, show it to me. The law of this country says anything below 6m belongs to the State, belongs to every one of us in Papua New Guinea, not to one specific group of people.
“We are willing to sit down with the communities surrounding the project area but we are not going to break laws so that one group of Papua New Guineans can become so rich that the rest of us can become so poor.
“If they don’t want to be participants, to be shareholders, we will do a deal with the provincial government, do a deal with the mine site landowners and that will be it.
“If they are not on the boat we will leave them behind. It’s entirely up to them, I’m not going to wait forever.
“I don’t know where their argument is coming from.
“There is a negotiation going on at present. They’ve been invited to come and participate.
“Our negotiation team for the shares is led by the Chief Secretary and Secretary for Treasury.
“They are not the only landowners in the Ok Tedi area. The mine pit area and the nine villages surrounding the mine are supporting what the government is doing and they are actively participating in negotiations with government.
“Those along the river systems and other communities along the river systems that have been affected by the mining operations have taken up a position that is contrary to what the real landowners of the mining area are taking.
“That being said, we don’t respond very well to threats.
“No government should be held at ransom by any landowner.
“There are lawful means to attend to issues.”