The National- Tuesday, January 25, 2011
By PATRICK TALU
EXXONMOBIL Corp, operator of the multi-billion-kina PNG liquefied natural gas project, said the Hides 4 LNG conditioning plant site will remain shut.
ExxonMobil’s subsidiary Esso Highlands Ltd public affairs manager Miles Shaw yesterday said “as a result of this illegal action, we are instituting a shutdown at the Hides gas conditioning plant site”.
Shaw said during the shutdown, the company would “discuss the necessity of a safe and secure operating environment with the government and local leaders and the requirement to use established processes in place to manage any dispute”.
“Any use of violence is unacceptable,” he added.
Miles also confirmed that a group of people illegally entered the project camp at Hides 4 petroleum development licence (PDL) 7 last Friday evening and allegedly attacked four workers who sustained minor injuries.
In related events, members of a mobile police unit stationed at Hides 4 last Saturday allegedly beat a man in relation to last Friday night’s event.
The man was said to have died from his injuries, causing more fear among workers that relatives would retaliate.
A government ministerial delegation was expected to fly into the area today.
Acting Police Commissioner Tony Wagambie said last night more police personnel would be sent to the area today (see reports on Page 3).
The national planning committee, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Sam Abal, would be briefed by the company today.
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration Minister Don Polye said in a statement yesterday that he had been tasked by the prime minister to lead a fact-finding mission to the plant site today.
Polye said his objective was to negotiate for the immediate resumption of work at the project site while talks continue among all parties to find a lasting solution to the issues raised by the landowners as well as other stakeholders in the project.
Polye would be accompanied by Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma and Treasurer Peter O’Neill.
Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru said yesterday that the government needed to get its house in order and that it was part of the problem.
Too many ministers were responsible for different aspects of the project and for payments to the people, which was creating confusion among the people, he said.
Agiru said the government must appoint one person to liaise with the people and project developers. He recommended Abal.
Today’s national planning committee meeting would focus on the ExxonMobil matter as well as unbudgeted commitments by the ministers.
Friday night’s intruders were removed by police while all personnel in the construction camp had been accounted for.
Miles told The National that there was no damage to the camp facilities and equipment.
“The motivation for the invasion remains unclear; however, local village leaders have apologised.
“Police have initiated an investigation and we are providing our full support,” Miles added.
The initial shutdown occurred last Friday over the death of a four-year-old boy who allegedly consumed a powder-like substance used for drill blast at a quarry site near Hides 4.
Sources claimed angry relatives demanded that CCJV, contractor of the LNG plant site, accept liability. When this failed, the villagers allegedly forced their way into the camp and stopped all work.
Meanwhile, attempts to contact Gigira Hides 4 Joint Venture chairman Erick Ayule and other leaders were unsuccessful.