FORMER Mining Minister Sam Akoitai says the Ok Tedi mine should be closed by now if the previous agreements were adhered to.
He said the Government should shut the mine now so that the Western Province people will can benefit from the funding that is parked with the PNG Sustainable Development Program.
Mr Akoitai said when he was mining minister in the previous government, a report was put to the Government that recommended a complete shutdown of OK Tedi but he was one of a few people, including government ministers, who insisted the mine continued because 26 per cent of the country’s revenue was coming from that mine and it would affect the economy if it was closed down.
He said based on that, agreements were signed and PNGSDP was born.
“There was a process that started after the findings. The findings recommended the closure of the mine before my time. OK Tedi/BHP basically wanted to shut the mine because of the report that detailed that the river system was damaged beyond what we could indicate - the river would recover after more than 200 years,” Mr Akoitai said.
“On the insistence of the State – the country would lose 26 per cent of GDP – the mine remained open. The company then also had its arguments that if the mine continued and there were any disputes in the future (like what is happening now) they would be the ones facing the consequences.
“But the Government insisted that the mine must continue because the Bougainville copper mine closed and the economy was not looking good.
“Then we came up with the agreement where PNGSDP came about. This is where we reached an agreement that all dividends would go into PNG by PNGSDP. When that happened, the Central Bank had its own agreements on that 53 per cent, and that is the reason why BPNG is represented.
“This is where the agreement was signed – one third of dividends would go back to the country for development projects and from that one third, which was further split – a third of that one third would go to the Western Province people and the rest to PNG.
“That money has to look after Western Province after the mine closes. What’s the reason? The people who will feel the pain of the mine closure and because of the damages will be compensated. Not the people of Papua New Guinea.”
“Now Chris Haiveta has come out. If I was in Government now I would close the mine so that it would give the river system time to recover.
“It is good to shut the mine now so that the Western Province people will now benefit from the two thirds of funds parked in PNGSDP. That’s their money.
“I had a look at the study. I opposed the 9th Supplemental Report. Why? Because the report basically indicated total damage to the river system and I didn’t agree with the arrangement with basically BHP walking out.
“I opposed the idea too because BHP (walking off) approved of State and also State as equity partner to the program.
“The State has an equal responsibility to the damage to the river system as an equity partner.”
“But my authority as minister for mining then, I had no option and I had to comply with it.
But it is a very serious case that the State has betrayed its partner – BHP – bulldozing the agreement for the takeover of Ok Tedi without looking at the 9th Supplemental where it gave rise to PNGSDP.”