A PILOT small-scale alluvial gold mining project will soon begin in Western province to prop the local economy even after the closure of Ok Tedi Mining Ltd (OTML) some time in 2013.
This project is being made possible through the OTML’s partnership with the PNG Sustainable Development Program Ltd (PNGSDP), the Fly River provincial government and local communities in the mining camp’s vicinity.
The programme will be trialled in the North Fly district, the area where the giant Ok Tedi mine and the Ok Tedi river are located, before it is rolled out to other parts of the country.
It is expected the project would start after various studies have been completed.
OTML managing director Alan Breen said OTML supported the pilot project because it could sustain the people’s economic livelihood after the mine closed in 2013.
Mr Breen spoke at a meeting organised by MRA in Tabubil last week to discuss the pilot programme.
“Small scale mining along the Ok Tedi river is something that will continue for many years after the mine closes, bringing opportunities to landowners and the people of the North Fly region,” he said.
However, Mr Breen pointed out that while small-scale mining could be economically viable, it could create problems if unregulated.
He said over the years, illegal settlers migrated into Tabubil from other parts of the country to pan for gold in the Ok Tedi River, consequently causing a population boom in Tabubil and putting a lot of stress on services provided by the mining company.
He added that a regulated small-scale alluvial gold mining programme would help bring some improved management of the developing health, safety and social issues relating to illegal gold panning can be effectively managed.
MRA executive manager for regulatory operations Nicholas Powrie said the aim of the programme was to support the economic livelihood of the local people.
While thanking OTML for its support, Mr Powrie said with the mine expected to close in 2013, it was critical that the programme be implemented as an alternate income-generating activity for the people.
“This is a critical part (alluvial small scale mining programme) of the closure process and we don’t want to see the people losing their livelihood and we don’t want to see the people having a cut in their standard of living.
“We know that Ok Tedi has had a huge benefit to the communities here and all over PNG,” he said.
“We want to make this (mine closure) a positive outcome and not just a dead end.
“This is part of the realisation that Ok Tedi will shut, so we are putting in place a programme to support the communities and give them an alternative means of income,” Mr Powrie said.