MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Porgera Mine Deaths Prompt Call for Independent Probe

Published by MAC on 2005-05-11

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".

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