PNG PM Marape's Secret Porgera SML Grant to KCHL Tramples Mine Landowners Rights

PORT MORESBY: Friday, August 28, 2020: The Porgera Special Mining Lease (SML) landowners continue to be trampled on by the Marape Governments blatant disregard for their rights. In what can only be described as a State sponsored land grab, the Government secretly granted the Porgera Special Mining Lease to Kumul Consolidated Minerals Limited (KCML) on Tuesday this week.

In a series of manoeuvres which began with the surprise refusal of mine operator Barrick Niugini Limited’s (BNL) application for a renewal of the SML, followed by National Gazette no.232 which declared the Porgera SML area a reserve, it has become clear that the National Government seeks to disenfranchise the people of Porgera.

When the Prime Minister announced that he was not renewing BNL’s SML he said the decision was made after hearing the cries of the landowners. Mr Prime Minister, exactly whose cries are you referring to? Port Moresby based paper landowners? All you have done is legislated to help yourself to our land and give it to any operator you choose with or without our approval. How does that serve the interests of the people?

In his Statement on Tuesday the Prime Minister said “What the Government refused is further lease of the land. As per the Law, when a Special Mining Leases expires, the land or SML reverts back to the owner, which is the State.”

The PLOA negotiating team maintains that the rightful owners of the land Prime Minister, are the SML Landowners of Porgera, not the State.

In this situation our very own Government seeks to disenfranchise us. Government too must comply with PNG laws and not legislate to legalise theft of land from its rightful owners.

The recent visit of the Member for Central Bougainville, Hon. Sam Akoitai, to Porgera reminded us of the lessons learned from the Bougainville crisis. It also strengthened our resolve as stakeholders to develop a peaceful solution for our people. This move by the State to grant the SML to Kumul Consolidated Minerals Limited, with zero consultation with the rightful landowners and not one single visit to the Porgera Valley to understand the people’s views, is highly inflammatory in an already volatile situation. People are emotional, because they have lost their livelihoods with one, in our view, poorly considered decision.

Perhaps the leaders of our country have forgotten the reason why our mining laws require landowner consultation. We respectfully remind you Prime Minister of the lessons our country learned from Bougainville.

A new set of policies emerged in April 1989 in the Mining industry during the Bougainville Crisis. They gave landowners and provincial governments a far greater opportunity to participate in negotiations and to benefit from mining operations. Landowners now enjoyed higher royalties of 20 percent of an increased royalty rate of 2 percent of production; and a right to equity participation in the project. Landowners were to enjoy preferential treatment for employment, training, and contracting for services and operations connected with the mine. They were to be chosen ahead of people from the province who were themselves to be chosen ahead of other Papua New Guineans. All these important reforms and other higher benefits to landowners and provinces were prioritised as a result of the crisis.

The Marape Governments amendments to the Mining Act, pushed through Parliament without talking to landowners, removed the legal requirement for the Minister to hold a Development Forum and prepare an MoA before a license is granted. It makes this requirement an option by saying that the Minister may convene a development forum. Section 95H removes the Governments responsibility to properly address and deal with legacy issues relating to an expired, cancelled, surrendered, relinquished or terminated tenement. In short, the amendments took away landowner rights to negotiate a fair deal for themselves and gave all the power to the State, taking us back to before 1989.

Mr Maso Mangape, Chairman of the PLOA Negotiating Team said “Our interest in reaching an agreement with BNL was fueled by the desire to have certainty about issues such as resettlement and closure, as well as increased benefits for our community. Will KCML and the National Government now meet these obligations? We deserve an immediate answer.”

The SML Landowners of Porgera directly benefitted as a result of the lessons learned from Bougainville. Today, all of these gains have disappeared through the legislative changes made to the Mining Act in June. No landowners benefit from these changes, the only beneficiary is the State.

The secret granting of the Porgera SML to KCML should alarm all resource landowners and Provincial Governments in Papua New Guinea. What is happening to us today could happen to you tomorrow. The Marape Government has hit rewind and arrived at what is starting to look more and more like the mining regime that caused so much discontent prior to the Bougainville Crisis.

In our view the Prime Minister and his Government have acted in bad faith without an inch of transparency for months now to secretly usurp the rights of landowners and also Provinces. The granting of the SML is not the end - it is only the beginning of our fight to ensure our rights and interests are preserved. We will now pursue all available legal avenues to preserve our rights.


Next : OK Tedi Mine in PNG To resume Operations in September

Previous Post Next Post