MAC: Mines and Communities

Renewed Call for Real Development in Papua New Guinea

Published by MAC on 2020-10-12
Source: ACT NOW!

From Extraction to Inclusion Report

With the release of a new report, ACT NOW!, Jubilee Australia, and the Oakland Institute, are calling for an urgent change of course from political leaders in Papua New Guinea. The report, From Extraction to Inclusion, analyses the country’s economic and development performance since its independence in 1975.

Download full report:

See also:

2012-09-18 A call to suspend mining in Papua New Guinea

New Report Calls for a Dramatic Change for Real Development in Papua New Guinea

6 Oct, 2020

With the release of a new report, ACT NOW!, Jubilee Australia, and the Oakland Institute, are calling for an urgent change of course from political leaders in Papua New Guinea. The report, From Extraction to Inclusion, analyses the country’s economic and development performance since its independence in 1975.

The main finding is that the PNG economy has relied on the large-scale extraction of abundant minerals and other natural resources, under the illusion it will improve the lives of its citizens. Yet, on most indicators, PNG is faring worse than its Pacific neighbours and any progress that has been achieved does not reflect the huge value of the resources extracted.

“PNG has allowed some of the world’s largest mining, petroleum and timber companies onto its shores to extract gold, silver, copper, nickel, oil, natural gas, tropical hardwoods and palm oil. Yet, positive changes have been limited and the economic and social development that has been repeatedly promised has not been delivered,” said Dr. Luke Fletcher, lead author of the report.

The report reveals that relying on the extraction of natural resources has failed to improve people’s lives for a number of reasons. The extractive industries tend to operate as enclaves with little connection to the rest of the economy. Foreign companies are allowed to externalise their enormous social and environmental costs while banking most of the profits offshore. They also contribute relatively little to government revenues. And the growth of these sectors has been accompanied by poor governance, theft of public money, and corruption.

“PNG has already lost much of its accessible forests – part of the third largest rainforest in the world – and this is a disaster for a country where forests constitute a key source of construction materials, food, and medicine for large swathes of the population. The pollution of land and waterways by mining waste has also had devastating consequences for local communities, compromising their access to fresh water, to food sources, and to prime gardening land,” said Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director at the Oakland Institute. Mousseau has extensively documented the wrongdoings of the logging and palm oil companies operating in the country.

From Extraction to Inclusion also details how extractive operations often involve widespread human rights abuses. Communities opposing extractive projects face repression, threats, and violence. Projects have been forced upon the communities – or they have provided consent because of empty promises that are never delivered – while legitimate dissent and protests are often met with violence and abuses by police forces or private security operatives.

Through its comprehensive and objective review of the facts and figures, this new report makes it clear that it is urgent for PNG to change course and put people back at the centre of its development policies. Eddie Tanago, Campaign Manager for ACT NOW! explained, “our nation’s most important assets are not the minerals and petroleum that foreign corporations value so highly. Our most important assets are our people, our customary land, our agricultural skills, and our knowledge of how to sustainably manage our land and resources.”

“We still have a largely rural population, living on their own land with the skills and ability to work, produce, trade, and innovate in a way that will improve their lives and those of future generations. It is these natural resources that should form the basis for people’s livelihoods, and be managed by and for the people in a sustainable, responsible, and a wise way,” Tanago continued.

From Extraction to Inclusion details the important policy shifts that the government needs to make to put people back at the centre of its economic and social development policies. “These should start with a halt to the current attacks on customary land tenure, which is the basis of the village economy and the livelihood of most of the population,” said Eddie Tanago.

The report calls on the government of Papua New Guinea to take bold steps, including rejecting new large-scale resource extraction projects, halting the expansion of oil palm, and banning round log exports. The priority should be public policy and investment in appropriate agriculture that benefits farmers, feeds the country, and uses natural resources in a responsible way. The report also recommends that local communities should be placed at the heart of future forest management and that downstream processing of sustainably and ethically produced timber products should replace the current focus on round log exports.

The three organizations recognize that the current government has made some moves in the right direction but are calling for much stronger action to show that the priority is the people of Papua New Guinea, not the largely foreign corporations and financial interests, which have been encouraged to plunder the country for over four decades.

Mayur’s claims for coal fired power don’t stack up

1 Oct, 2020

Mayur Resources justifications for building an expensive and polluting coal-fired power station in PNG are irresponsible, condescending, illogical and faintly ridiculous.

The truth is a coal-powered plant does’t make sense on economic, environmental or human rights grounds and for PNG and the Pacific, coal power would represent a terrible step backwards.

Mulder has claimed a coal fired power station is necessary to provide PNG with a failsafe in the event of a major earthquake or prolonged drought.

This overlooks the fact the power station will rely on a large network of overhead power lines to distribute its electricity and those will be very vulnerable to earthquakes and its coal supply will be dependent on river barges which could be grounded in the event of drought.

Mulder’s analysis also ignore the fact there are better, cheaper and more technologically appropriate options to provide power both to rural communities and urban dwellers.

Small-scale local solar and hydroelectric schemes make much better sense in PNG, and these are the options being pursued by the PNG Electrification Partnership which is backed by the United States, Japan, New Zealand and Australian governments.

We are a nation of 800 tribes and 800 languages. Our unique cultures have endured because of our rugged geography, unpredictable climate and volatile geology. Community based power solutions make perfect sense and can help empower rural people to take charge of their own development.

Meanwhile, analysis from the World Bank suggests the cost of burning coal to produce electricity in PNG would be more expensive than the major renewable alternatives; hydropower and biomass. It would also be more costly than using locally produced natural gas.

ACT NOW! is also concerned by the human rights impacts of Mayur’s plans, as there is no evidence the company has engaged in proper community consultation or obtained the consent of people living around the proposed power station site.

Mayur's claim that it has engaged with local communities because 3,000 people turned out to hear Mayur ambassador Darren Lockyer speak at Unitech in Lae, is completey laughable. Just because people turned out to see a rugby league legend and always greet Lockyer 'with open arms', as he says, doesn’t mean they understand the economic, social and environmental impacts of a coal-fired power station on their doorstep.

Unfortunately this is not the only example of Mayur’s arrogant and condescending attitude to PNG and its people.

Mayur CEO Paul Mulder has claimed coal is good for PNG because 70% of Australia’s electricity is generated from burning coal as is 70% of the electricity in China.

This ignores the fact China is the world’s worst carbon polluter and Australia has the second biggest carbon footprint per capita in the world. Those are records that PNG does not want to emulate.

Mulder has also failed to talk about the fact that in the UK, the government has promised to shut-down all its coal-powered electricity plants by 2025 as it looks to move its economy onto a green and sustainable footing.

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