Delays Plague Papua New Guinea's Wafi Golpu Project Amidst Landowner Disputes and Legal Battles

 Ongoing landowner disputes and prolonged court battles have cast yet another shadow over Papua New Guinea Morobe's ambitious K18.5 billion Wafi Golpu gold/copper project, pushing its development into another year.

At the end of last month, the PNG national court granted the State permission to resume negotiations, lifting restraining orders initiated by a landowner party. However, disagreements persist as Morobe Governor Luther Wenge and Bulolo district MPs emphasize the necessity to resolve all landowner issues before project progression, while the State presses for urgent development.

During a September consultation with landowners, the State, led by the Mining Minister and Prime Minister, sought cooperation to expedite negotiations and secure Special Mining Lease 10 by October. Discussions highlighted the considerable costs associated with an underground mine, stressing the need for sophisticated equipment and techniques that could only be provided by a major mining entity like Newcrest.

The project's anticipated economic boost prompted the government's urgency, running development forum consultations parallel to Porgera's in September. Local media reported positive negotiations favoring the country, with a total benefit sharing agreement surpassing 60%, encompassing taxes, royalties, equity, and additional environmental fees.

Key milestones in the past year included the April signing of the framework agreement, release of the Infrastructure Development Grant to Morobe, forum consultations, and Newmont Corporation's acquisition of Newcrest Limited as Wafi-Golpu's joint-venture partner.

Despite high hopes riding on Wafi Golpu's benefits, pending announcements of key principles and SML10 have left Morobe in a state of anticipation. The province's fiscal plans hinge on this project, leading to the creation of non-operational business arms and stalled trust accounts amidst calls for development.

The delay in Wafi Golpu mirrors other stagnant projects like the K412 million Lae Port Extension and the idle K105 million Coastal Fisheries Hub launched in Vocopoint by the National Fisheries Authority in 2022. Additionally, the envisioned new township at Nadzab and the relocation of the administrative capital remain slow-moving endeavors.

Legacy issues have hindered Morobe's social sectors, with struggling education, a healthcare system teetering on collapse, and a challenged Law and Order and Justice Sector. Despite financial assistance, manpower shortages, rundown facilities, and limited resources persist.

However, amid setbacks, local companies like International Container Terminal Services Inc, Lae Biscuit, Paradise Biscuit, and Goodman Fielders have shown growth, signaling a promising future for Morobe.

Next : PNG's OK Tedi Mine surpassed its annual sediment dredge target of 10 Million Cubic Meter

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