Friday, February 01, 2013

Prime Minister cold on Ok Tedi issue

Source: The National, Friday, February 1, 2013


PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill says he will not be pushed by either BHP or PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP) into extending the mine life for Ok Tedi mine in Western.
He told reporters after addressing a Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry breakfast yesterday that there would be no mine life extension to 2025 until he was convinced that the mine was working for the benefit of people of Western and Papua New Guinea.
The state, ironically, wholly “owns” Ok Tedi Mining Ltd (OTML) through PNGSDP (63.4%) and the State of PNG (36.6%).
O’Neill, who last November banned Ok Tedi Mining Ltd (OTML) chairman Professor Ross Garnaut from entering PNG after comments made in The Austra­lian newspaper, said there was no need to speed up mine life extension.
Earlier this month, OTML managing director and chief executive officer Nigel Parker, told The National that Western villagers numbering more than 100,000 from 156 villages had unanimously agreed that the company continue operations until 2025, pending government approval.
“This is my favourite subject -- Ok Tedi and PNG Sustainable -- so I’m glad you asked that question,” O’Neill said.
“We will do the right thing for the people of Western and the country.
“That is our priority.
“We are not going to advance anybody else’s priority.
“Priority is people of Western, government of Western and the people of Papua New Guinea.
“I think that any mine life extension must satisfy these criteria.”
O’Neill, who has accused BHP of running the PNGSDP by remote control from Melbourne and questioning whether PNG had benefited from the project, remained steadfast in his views.
“Whose interests are they (BHP and PNGSDP) protecting?” he said.
“Who is it (mine life extension) really going to benefit, whether it is really going to benefit the landowners, the (Fly River) provincial government, and everyone else who are stakeholders in this project?
“The people who are wanting the extension, particularly BHP through PNG Sustainable, has to clearly indicate to the government that mine life extension will make a real change in our country.
“So far, I am not convinced.
“I can tell you that there is no certainty in whether the mine life extension will take place or not.
“I have to be convinced, not only me but the entire parliament has to be convinced, that 10 years ago we made the right decision for the country (in accepting OTML from BHP and giving indemnity).
“Unfortunately, I don’t believe that.
“We have given (BHP) protection from the environmental damage that caused misery for our people and cost huge damage to our people.
“This is not the sort of development I want to encourage in our country.
“I want to assure the people of Western that their interest will be paramount and the country’s interest will be paramount when we go forward on this.
“I am not in a hurry (on mine life extension).
“We can wait; the resources are not going to run away.
“We’re quite happy to wait.”

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