MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Porgera landowners call for mine closure

Published by MAC on 2005-03-30

Landowners call for mine closure

By Anton Huafolo, The National

30 March 2005

Landowners have demanded for the closure of the Porgera mine until the joint venture developer addresses their concerns regarding serious human rights violations by security personnel.

Their concerns, contained in a letter sent to Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, stated that there have been a number of killings and other human rights violations committed by security personnel employed by the mine since 1989. They claimed that no investigations have been done to date and now want the mine closed until the killings are fully investigated. "They come and take gold from our land, but why kill us?" Mark Ekepa, chairman of the Porgera Special Mining Lease Landowner Association, said during a meeting with media personnel. "The most recent killing was last week."

The landowners, in their letter, have called for a commission of inquiry, claiming that 21 people have so far been killed in the mine area.

"We want those responsible to be put behind bars," Mr Ekepa said.

They also want to be relocated from the special mining lease area, away from the dumping and stockpiling and operation areas.

PJV, however, attributed these deaths to illegal mining problems where the illegal miners had fallen to their deaths from the pit wall, or were hit by falling rocks. In some cases, there were even armed confrontations with security personnel.

"A small number of illegal miners are armed and are often prepared to confront security. This is the group in which the majority of casualties occur," PJV stated.

Mine general manager Phil Stephenson said: "We have reached a stage where we ourselves are also not prepared to accept any more deaths.

"We welcome suggestions from all stakeholders, especially the local community, so that we can find solutions to this problem.

"All our lives are affected when someone in the community is hurt or killed. "We need to work together to find solutions."

More Gold as Probe Looms

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier

April 8, 2005

Porgera Joint Venture has placed multi-million-kina orders for new equipment for its underground mining operations, indicating an extension of mine life for at least 10 years.

This means an additional six years from planned closure in 2009 due to discovery of more than seven million tonnes of new ore at 7.5 grams of proven and probable reserves.

The drilling program will double to more than 70,000 meters this year. PJV mining manager Frazer Bourchier said that last year alone about 800,000 additional ounces of gold were proved resulting in an estimated 1.8 million ounces of gold.

PJV has re-engaged former hard rock miners from early days of the Porgera mine as drivers of the new (coming) trucks, jumbo drills, loaders and other ancillary equipment for underground mining likely to continue through to 2013 and beyond.

The new developments comes as PJV Special Mining Lease (SML) Landowners Association backed by Opposition Leader Peter O'Neill seek Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare's intervention for a Commission of Inquiry into alleged "continuous killings" of 20 people from the area.

Mr. O'Neill wants the Government to intervene immediately "to put an end to the killings, establish the circumstances of those who died and refer their murders to justice" backing a Marh 21 letter by the landowners' association president Mr. Mark Ekepa alleging that PJV security guards were involved. PJV would also welcome any legitimate enquiry into the problems at the mine site, stockpile and waste dumps and the disruption to operations.

"The issue is one of safety. Illegal miners were not trained, dressed or equipped to operate safely in the environment of the mine, where there were loose rocks, heavy equipment and blasting taking place", a PJV spokesperson said.

"Any legitimate enquiry would reveal that PJV used the utmost restraint in dealing with a difficult crowd control problem, and that its own security, safety, community affairs and rescue personnel were placed at grave risk every day by the intrusions.

"An inquiry would help to explain to the public and to the relevant authorities that gold thieves were creating a dangerous safety situation, which PJV was obliged to deal with."

Probe looms for mine deaths

The National, Papua New Guinea

6 May 2005

Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare may consider opening an inquiry into the deaths at the Porgera Gold Mine in the Enga province.

Sir Michael told Parliament he would seek answers about the killing of 29 people at the mine from the Police Commissioner, and if he was not satisfied, he would set up a commission of inquiry to look into the deaths.

There have been allegations that the killings were done by security guards employed by the mine operator, Porgera Joint Venture.

The Prime Minister was responding to concerns about the deaths by Wabag MP Sam Abal. Mr Abal said PJV had done a great job with its gold production, but the killing of 29 people was an important issue which could impact on the future of the mine.

Sir Michael said news of the killings were a concern. He said he has not received a report from the police about the deaths to date.

"We want to know why they are killing those people, and whether the law allows them to do that." He said there appears to be foreign tactics, because 29 deaths was too many for one mine area.

Porgera Mine Deaths Prompt Call for Independent Probe

PNG Post-Courier

May 11, 2005

Morobe, Papua New Guinea, Governor Luther Wenge has added his voice to he push for a commission of inquiry into deaths at the Porgera gold mine in Enga Province.

The death toll has reached 29 since Opposition Leader Peter O'Neill made a call supporting landowners for a probe into the alleged use of firearms and alleged involvement of security guards engaged by the Porgera Joint Venture management in the killings. In Parliament last week, Wabag Member of Parliament Sam Abal reiterated the inquiry call.

Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare expressed concern but indicated he would wait for a police report before making a decision. "The Prime Minister has said he awaits a report from police, however, I am advised that police are alleged to have been fully involved in the killings," Mr Wenge said. "Any report they may bring will not resolve this matter."

He said an independent commission of inquiry should be immediately established to look at all issues relating to the killings at Porgera and to find out the cause of death of more than 20 people.

"The inquiry should determine whether anyone has a case to answer in relation to these deaths and refer them to appropriate authorities, and perhaps most importantly the inquiry must recommend ways to stop these deaths occurring in Porgera."

He vowed not to "stop pushing until the Government established a suitably equipped and resourced commission of inquiry".

"We cannot allow people to die in this nation with questions remaining about the reasons for their death and without due process of law and justice being brought to bear, to answer and deal with those questions," he said. "We are told these deaths are related to persons trespassing on the mine's restricted areas, but many of the deaths have come about as a result of shootings, assaults or other causes which could not be described as accidental," Mr Wenge said.

While acknowledging PJV's role in the nation's economy, he said the death of 29 PNG citizens must not be treated as "cost of doing business".

Widen Porgera mine deaths investigations

The National – 30 May 2005

Letters to the Editor

I resond to the articles published in the print media for the Government to investigate the deaths of 29 people at the PJV Porgera mine in Enga province.

Wabag MP Sam Abal queried the deaths of 29 Porgerans and was supported by Morobe Governor Luther Wenge and Opposition Leader Peter O'Neill.

An investigation must take place however any State-commissioned investigation should be broadened to include all deaths resulting from all mine-related activities in Porgera since mechanised mining started in 1989.

The scope of any investigation, for instance, must include the deaths of four people in the compensation-related riot in Porgera in 1996, the alleged deaths of many Lower Porgerans from environmental pollution, and those suffering silently from the general impacts of mining. The deaths represent just one significant issue regarding the Porgera Mine.

I hope that an investigation into these deaths will open the way for similar investigations into other mine-related issues in Porgera including environmental pollution, economic loss resulting from loss of access to alluvial gold, the ad hoc manner involving the extension of mine life, water use permits, and the general behaviour of the PJV on all these matters.

It is paramount that the behaviour of mine developers' be strictly regulated to ensure that people's lives and their home environments are not sacrificed for economic gains.

Dr Albert Nita,
UPNG Environmental Science,
Port Moresby

Identify the real cause

I support the call by Opposition Leader Peter O'Neill, Governor for Morobe Luther Wenge, and Wabag MP Sam Abal for a commission of inquiry into the killings at the Porgera gold mine. The inquiry is necessary to investigate and identify the real cause of deaths.

An impartial enquiry should be appointed without delay. Apart from people dying at the hands of heavily armed security, there have been so many other deaths as a direct result of the mining operations.

For instance, in 1994 an explosive blast killed two people, the underground and open cut mining operations continue to claim lives. There are also alarming reports that hundreds of people living along the Porgera, Lagaip and Strickland river systems are dying from mysterious diseases. These river systems are used by the mine as its tailings and waste neutralizing plants.

What is also worrying is that Placer Dome's style of paying cash compensation to people of its own choice without complying with the 1996 Ministerial Determination continues to claim lives of innocent people.

The Somare Government should not treat this matter lightly. Hence, the Government's decision to allow a committee to look into Porgera mine deaths instead of a royal commission of inquiry is totally unacceptable.

The Government must establish an independent commission of inquiry to do a proper investigation and present its finding without fear or favour.

Opis Papo,
Kairik Village,
Porgera, Enga province

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