5 Feb 2003

Fly River province want BHP's shares in OK Tedi returned to PNG

6:17 pm on 5 February 2003

The Governor of Papua New Guinea's Fly River Province says he will lobby the National government for the return of BHP-Billiton's share in Ok Tedi mine from a company in Singapore to PNG.

Dr Bob Danaya says last year's removal of BHP's 52 percent shares in Ok Tedi Mining LTD or OTML was never assented to by the Fly provincial government which is also a shareholder.

He says the Australian mining giant promised the landowners of Fly and Ok Tedi Rivers the shares as compensation for environmental damage caused by mining along the two main river systems.

This was a condition of BHP's gradual withdrawal from its Ok Tedi Mine.

Dr Danaya says there is a lot of suspicion in the Fly Province, concerning BHP's motives for the Ok Tedi mine.

"The 52 percent shares sitting in Singapore, why should this share be sitting there, why shouldn't they just leave it here in Papua New Guinea, with the people, with the province. It's supposed to be a gift to the people, but this gift is sitting somewhere in a foreign country where you can not have access to, and our aim is to ensure that this 52 percent share comes back to Papua New Guinea."

Dr Danaya says OTML's response was that the 52 percent shares would earn better interest in Singapore as it was a tax haven.

Dr Danaya met yesterday board members of OTML and representatives from PNG's Sustainable Development Programme to discuss various issues surrounding the Ok Tedi Mine.