12 Dec 2007

PNG minister wants Kokoda track preserved for future generations

7:21 pm on 12 December 2007

Papua New Guinea's Tourism Minister Charles Abel has added his voice to concerns that a proposed gold and copper mine could damage the famed Kokoda Track.

Australian company Frontier Resources Limited is pushing ahead with plans for an open cut mine near the track despite moves by Canberra to have the World War II site listed as a world heritage site.

Mr Abel says the government's mining, forestry and environment departments must join with PNG's Tourism Promotion Authority to protect and develop the 96km track, which has become a tourism icon for the country.

He says that he cannot stress enough the significance of the Kokoda Track in terms of the historical ties between PNG and Australia and its long term economic values as a world class track.

In October Australia's government announced it would provide funding to assist world heritage listing of the track where hard-pressed diggers fought Japanese troops in 1942.

The new Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who has walked the track, said he would talk to PNG Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to express Canberra's concerns over the proposed mining.

But PNG's deputy mining minister Ano Pala has assured Frontier Resources that the PNG government would grant it exploration licences so mining could begin as early as 2013 in the Mt Kodu area.

Central Province Governor Alphonse Moroi also backed the mine proposal along with Mt Kodu landowners who see it as an opportunity to gain mining royalties.