Fijians told to leave Simberi gold mine

National, Normal

THE 14 Fijian mercenaries who were flown to the Simberi mine in New Ireland province have been told to leave.
Immigration officials investigating their presence in the country have found that the Fijians did not have work visas, and cannot remain and work at the mine.
Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Sam Abal told The National last night that the Fijians had entered the country on business visas.
He said they have been engaged and carrying out work at the mine, but do not have work visas.
“They have flouted their visa.
“They have been told to leave. They will fly in (to Port Moresby) tomorrow (today) and leave for Fiji via Honiara,” Mr Abal said.
Mr Abal expressed concern about the conduct of the mining company, and the manner in which it brought in the Fijians.
“Companies must respect and honour the laws of this country.
“They must learn to live and deal with our people within the laws and accept our customs.
“Legitimate concerns raised by the people about the way they do business must be addressed through the proper process, not using heavy handed and intimidating tactics,” he said.
Mr Abal described the visa breach as a serious matter that is being handled well by officials in his and other relevant Government departments.
The presence of the Fijians was first raised by New Ireland provincial police commander Supt Ephraim Tomonmon in a brief to the Islands Regional Command and police headquarters in Port Moresby.
According to the report, Supt Tomonmon warned the police hierarchy of threats of “a private army” being brought in by the miner to challenge landowners.
The Simberi mine was closed last year by the Mineral Resource Authority (MRA) over health, environmental and safety concerns raised by villagers.
The arrival of the Fijians on Jan 7 surprised the provincial government and villagers who were working with MRA and the mine to resolve the issues raised.
Allied Gold Limited yesterday rejected the allegations relating to the “hiring of Fijian mercenaries” as totally misinformed, defamatory, and without any factual basis.
In a statement last night, executive chairman Mark Caruso said the media speculation was “designed to incite and cause the company maximum disruption to its operations and reputational damage.
“All Simberi employees and consultants are engaged under official Government issued legal visas,” he said.