By SHIRLEY MAULUDU
AN economist has welcomed the progress being made to start construction work on the K18 billion-plus Wafi-Golpu project, saying it will be a big boost to the economy.
But Paul Barker, the executive director of the Institute of National Affairs, said it would be better in the short-term to focus attention on reopening the Porgera gold mine quickly. Barker said the Wafi-Golpu project would take time.
“With Wafi-Golpu, we still have much further to go,” he said.
Barker said PNG had “taken quite a blow with the unnecessary closure of the Porgera gold mine last year”.
“(Reaching) an immediate and practical agreement between the Government, Barrick and partners over equity and recommencement will have a more immediate restorative effect,” he said.
“It will enable contractors and employees to be rehired and work, production, exports and revenue to start flowing again in the relatively short future.”
Barker was responding to the announcement last week by the Environment, Conservation and Climate Change Minister Wera Mori on the granting of an environment permit for the project in Morobe.
The US$5.4 billion (K18.72bil) Wafi-Golpu project is a 50-50 joint venture between the Newcrest Mining Ltd and Harmony Gold Mining Ltd.
Barker said: “The environment plan, which clearly won’t please everyone, although the experts say that the deep-sea tailings) option would post the least impact and risks, in comparison with a tailings dam in a very technically unstable area.
“There is still a lot of work to be done leading to a special mining lease and subsequent requirements, apart from the financing of such a major venture in a difficult global capital market, especially for developing countries (especially those with some track record of uncertainty in the field of mining).”
By SHIRLEY MAULUDU