MAC/20: Mines and Communities

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."

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