Papua New Guinea's Labour and Industrial Relations Secretary has expressed dismay at the working conditions at the Ramu nickel/cobalt mine.
David Tibu has warned the Chinese Metallurgical Construction Corporation and the contractor, Chinese company EFNI, that they must comply with his directives for proper conditions or face closure.
Mr Tibu says health and safety conditions for workers at the country's biggest project are far below the required international labour standards.
He also says mine employees are being forced to work in excess of the legal hours of work and, in lieu of overtime payment, are sometimes paid in tinned fish.
Mr Tibu says the Chinese developers have responded to his directives with some proposals, but insists he will monitor their efforts to comply.
"I wanted the management and the contractor to seriously look at addressing those issues because it's totally below par. At the political level and the community level, a lot of concern has been raised. And in fact we were the first government department since 2000 when the MOU was signed to have actually visited the site."