A LOT of people, particularly landowners and their political leaders, have been put into a frenzy of confusion whenever agreements between the Government and the project proponent are being signed.
For instance, the recent signing of such agreements over the Wafi-Golpu project in Morobe and the Papua LNG project in Gulf.
This is simply because these people are not being made fully aware of what type of agreements are there to be signed on the areas to be explored and ultimately developed.
And this is an area that the government’s needs to be fully explained to the people as part their community affairs stakeholders, engagement, consultation and disclosure process.
Firstly, the exploration license holders of areas or land where exploration is taking place or are to be conducted, negotiates with the land rights owners for what is or are known as Compensation Agreements (CA).
These CA are drafted with the assistance and presence of relevant government field officers as well as landowner clan leaders.
The CA mainly covers for any economical food crops, plants and trees, water source, grave sites, sacred ceremonial sites, surface land damages, severance or loss of access right of way or easements, initial bush damages, etc, that are directly impacted by the exploration activities by the licensee, and to which are assessed and accordingly paid to the owners.
Secondly, there is the Development Agreement, (DA) or the Mining Development Contract (which confused landowners and some political leaders) between the Government and the developer.
These are accepted and executed following subsequent approval by the government of the project feasibility studies, the environment impact studies (EIS), among other requirements provided by the project proponent.
The DA signing do not involve the provincial government, local level government and the landowners.
This is where the project proponent and the national government reach some common understanding to ensure that the project is developed in line with the tentative schedule time given.
The DA provides for the developer to present to the national government all the development aspects to develop the project, the project size and life span, method of project development, financial considerations, types of infrastructure required, etc.
Thirdly, the agreement that had mostly been confused with the DA mentioned above, is the Memorandum of Agreement, Benefits-Sharing Agreement (BSA).
This MoA BSA is between the national government, the provincial government and the local level government in which province and area the project is located, and the customary landowners of the area where the project is to be developed.
These parties will discuss this benefit-sharing agreement (MoA) through the development forum processes to be organised by the relevant government department at a location within the project area and easily accessible to all stakeholders.
Fourth, there is the project’s equity agreement, which is for the national government to acquire if it exercises its rights to take up equity in the project.
The provincial, local level government and the landowners are not financially capable of acquiring equity, hence are not impacted here.
Many of our landowners and their political leaders thus complaint that by they not been involved in signing of the second agreement (DA), they had now been left out of any opportunities, such as training, business participation and employment.
The agreement that is of relevance to them is the MoA BSA agreement, which will allow them avenues to discuss during the development forum, their opportunities in job training, business participation and employment, what type of benefits they are to receive and how much would they each share from the project’s proceeds with the project stakeholders.