Chan calls for changes to PNG Mining Act before polls

3:29 pm on 19 December 2016

The Governor of Papua New Guinea's New Ireland province has come out in support of calls for changes to the Mining Act before next year's elections.

Governor of PNG's New Ireland Province, Sir Julius Chan.

Governor of PNG's New Ireland Province, Sir Julius Chan. Photo: RNZI/ Peter Kinjap

Sir Julius Chan, who is a former PNG prime minister, said he backs statements by Hidden Valley's Nakuwi Landowner's Association that citizens should have more ownership of mineral extraction operations.

The association is frustrated at long delays to a revised agreement regarding the Newcrest's Hidden Valley mine in Morobe province that would guarantee landowners and local communities more benefits.

In recent years elements of the government have indicated the Mining Act could be modified to give landowners more control of the wealth from mining.

However, speaking at this month's PNG Mining and Petroleum Investment Conference in Sydney, the prime minister Peter O'Neill ruled out any changes to the Act before the 2017 elections.

The Mining minister Byron Chan echoed this.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill gives a talk at the Lowy Institute in Sydney on May 14, 2015

The Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill. Photo: AFP / Peter Parks

But Mr Chan's father, Sir Julius, said PNG people have suffered for too long under a Mining Act that literally steals the wealth from their land.

He said that the level of royalties which mining companies pay in PNG compared to overseas "completely screws the landowners and provinces".

"Our people are getting almost nothing from the huge amount of wealth coming from their ground," he complained. "It all goes to the company and the National Government, and none of it comes back to the people."

Sir Julius criticised the O'Neill government for reneging on various promises made to him in return for his party's support for the formation of the coalition in 2012.

This included commitments on renegotiating the Memorandum of Agreement for the Lihir Gold Mine in New Ireland.

"Government has dragged its feet for literally four years, ever since 2012 when the MoA came up for the regular five-year review," he explained.

"National Government should be protecting the rights and the interests of the landowners and people, but instead it just delays and acts as the stooge for the Mining companies. This has to stop "

The New Ireland governor said his administration fully supported the Nakuwi Landowners in their intent to shut down the Hidden Valley Mine unless government signs a new MoA.

Sir Julius said it is time for Mining Provinces and landowners to come together to insist on a fair deal from the great wealth that is coming out of their land.

"I think we need to sit down together and come to agreement on how we want the entire mining regime, the entire mining system, to work."

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