Nautilus: PNG missed deadline

NAUTILUS Minerals says that time has lapsed for the Papua New Guinea Government to pay for its disputed 30 per cent interest in the Solwara 1 underwater mining project.

A few weeks ago an arbitrator ruled against the PNG government and set October 23, 2013, as a deadline for it to pay Nautilus around $118 million for a 30 percent stake in Solwara 1.

The government had exercised its 30 percent option back in late March, 2011, but never paid up, contending the junior hadn’t met all its obligations on the project.

The dispute headed to binding arbitration in June last year and an arbitration decision finally came out in early October, this year.

Nautilus said the arbiter ruled in its favour and ordered Papua New Guinea to pay the junior for the 30 percent interest by October 23.

But that deadline has now passed without payment, Nautilus said yesterday in a news release that was thin with details.

But Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said yesterday that the government was seeking legal advice on the arbitration tribunal’s decision on Nautilus and the time limits placed on it regarding payment of its equity.

“Since the decision was handed down, we have been reviewing it and have sought legal advice.

“The State is looking at its options, and we have commenced discussions with Nautilus for an amicable solution to this,” the Prime Minister said yesterday in response to a statement issued by Nautilus.

“There are other issues connected with this project that were raised, in the local community and in Parliament, which the government was dealing with before this arbitration decision landed on us. So there are a whole ranges of issues we are dealing with, so we need to be careful about placing time limits on these issues,” Mr O’Neill said.

“We respect the decision of the tribunal, and we are dealing with it in the best possible way,” he said.

Nautilus, on the other hand, stated it “is in discussions with senior officials of the State” and added that it preferred “to resolve these matters amicably’’.

In the run up to the October 23 deadline Nautilus President and CEO Michael Johnston had voiced hope the government would make payment on time.

In an early October conference Mr Johnston said he had met with Papua New Guinea officials to talk about the arbiter’s decision and that officials did not show resistance to it.

“Those discussions were very good,” Mr Johnston said. “We’re currently working with the government to try and achieve completion by October 23.”

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