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PNG Govt not to be blamed for Delayed Porgera Mine Opening Dilemma

Commentary by By Hon Dr Lino Jeremaih Tom Wabag MP & Minister for Fisheries Lately there has been so much interest in the ongoing negotiations of the Porgera Gold Mine as pressure groups mount pressure on the Marape-Steven Government. They’re citing issues of declining welfares of people affected by this closure, and also, a purported declination of investor confidence amidst fears of a worsening economic downturn fuelled by the Corona Pandemic. Now, there is nothing wrong in the people crying out as the loss of their jobs and benefits from the spin-offs and other activities related to the closure of an operational mine is really unfortunate and sad. It has impacted on their lives badly, and we fully empathize. However, their angers and accusations are mis-directed. They have been misled to believe that the Government is responsible for Barrick’s unsuccessful SML extension bid and therefore, consequential mine closure. The Government is not responsible, and Barrick must not mislead people to pass blame on the Government. Barrick has themselves to blame for mistreating our people and this nation, and its Sovereign Government. Their blattant Non-compliance to very important social contractual clauses contained within the Mining Development Contract and their arrogance and deliberate oversight these many years have finally caught up with them. Barrick Gold has been denied an extension of its SML by the Government from recommendation from an independent body; the Mining Advisory Council. An INDEPENDENT review process that was legally sanctioned to access their SML application based on the company’s performance and compliance especially to the MDC, before the SML is extended was carried out. The reasons will be made known soon but it seems mainly because of Barrick’s NON-COMPLIANCE to some of the very important clauses in the MDC that deals with issues of Social-Contracting (one such reason why we have illegal miners flogging the mine every other day hitherto) In any contract, breaches of clauses have their repercussions and one must face them no matter how high or mighty one may be. The Government of PNG under the leadership of PM Marape did its part by allowing the legal and independent process of review to complete before it decided on the SML extension application based on RECOMMENDATIONS made by the MAC. Barrick denied their own rights to an SML extension because of their own mistakes and breach of contract; not because of this government’s nationalization agenda as political opportunists and pressure groups are fervently trying to portray daily. The day of atoning had arrived, and their own sins have finally found them out; nothing to do with the Marape-Steven Government. They were busy extracting and feasting that they totally forgot or intentionally ignored their social, environmental and tax contractual obligations. The very things that gave them the legal ticket to the pot of gold. The government had nothing to do with this. The Government as responsible as it is, then decided that any corporations regardless of global standing or wealth or might, must respect this nation and its sovereign laws that prescribe our jurisdiction and sovereignty. We can no longer keep breaking laws and bending and stooping so low, to make way for corporations to disrespect our nation and our sovereignty, and trample on us to have their way and day on our land. We’re an independent and sovereign nation for crying out loud and we demand respect for our laws, government, people and land. The Marape Steven Government realising the sad predicament facing everyone due to the mine closure decided in its wisdom to allow Barrick to come to the table as soon as possible to discuss on commercial terms the way forward. Now Barrick either intentionally or not, again arrogantly decides to commence negotiations from totally the wrong end of the bargaining stance. They were trying to make an offer to the Government when they no longer own the mine by virtue of the expiry of the SML. The ore body now belongs to the Government and the only things they own now are their capital investments. The government is willing to negotiate but this time on our terms. Before we did so, Barrick got a court order prevented us from furthering any more discussions and getting the mine back to being operational. Therefore, the Government is not responsible for any delays in the re-opening of the mine. Any further delay and the ramifications that may follow must solely lie on Barrick for deliberately misleading the people of this nation and delaying the whole process. We as a responsible government, are inviting Barrick to come to the table so we can find a win-win solution for all of us including the National Government, Enga Provincial Government, its people and Barrick, but on a platform acknowledging the government’s ownership. To all our people, the Government has done NOTHING WRONG and is not responsible for this delay and we must all learn to support our government especially, when it is making decisions in the best interest of you, its people. We have a Prime Minister who truly puts his people and nation first and who is willing to sacrifice all else, including his political career for his people and this very rare gesture by this rare leader demands not only our support, but respect and reverence. It is not an easy task to make such very strong decisions. It takes a real man, more so a special kind of leader with guts to make such bold decisions. On behalf of the Enga People, I also thank him for trying to get the best deal for us his people and our support is behind him. next : Barrick limits Electricity Supply to Mining Communities in PNG
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