3 Apr 2008

Australian company bows to pressure and cuts back mining proposal for PNG's Kokoda

8:55 am on 3 April 2008

An Australian company has bowed to pressure and cut back a mining proposal in a bid to minimise damage to Papua New Guinea's historic Kokoda Track.

Frontier Resources managing director, Peter McNeil, said a compromise was needed to guarantee a multi-million dollar copper and gold exploration licence was renewed by the PNG government.

The company has been under fire over a plan critics said would damage part of the historic track, where Australian soldiers fought the Japanese during World War II.

Frontier handed a redrawn proposal to the PNG government yesterday that bypasses 15 kilometres of the Kokoda Track and leaves only 250 metres affected by potential exploration.

The company's original proposal to renew its exploration licence could have led to 600 metres of the track being destroyed.

The issue has been complicated by disputes over the true route of the track, north of Port Moresby.

The dispute reached diplomatic levels, with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his PNG counterpart Michael Somare discussing the issue in Port Moresby last month.

Mr Rudd wants the infamous World War II track, where 600 Australian soldiers died fighting the Japanese, placed on the World Heritage list.

But Mr Rudd said last month the mining project's future was up to the PNG government.

PNG Mining and Lands Minister Puka Temu has received Frontier's updated proposal but has yet to comment on it.

Local landowners have backed the mining proposal, believing it will improve infrastructure and the wealth of their area.