The National, Thursday July 18th, 2013
A JOINT working group has been established to oversee the development of the Solwara 1 deep sea mining project in the Bismarck Sea.
The group called the New Ireland Nautilus Mineral Working Group (NINMWG) consists of three representatives from the New Ireland provincial government (NIPG) and Nautilus Minerals Ltd.
The group was established under a memorandum of understanding signed yesterday in Port Moresby by representatives of the provincial government and Nautilus Minerals.
New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan described the MoU as “historic, first of its kind and penetrating into new time” involving the NIPG from the initial stages of the Solwara 1 project.
“We want to set the cornerstone for future arrangements in similar extractive industries.
“Before anything happens, NIPG, the elected representatives of the mine affected areas will directly involve from the start.
“Spirit of cooperation is very vital. I’m very pleased that from here on, the spirit of misunderstanding is removed.
“Here we are upholding the spirit of consultation as required by the Constitution and Organic Law of Provincial and Local Level Government.
“Life after development (mine life) is important. This is an aspect the stakeholders must consider in the whole process,” Sir Julius stressed.
Ministers Ben Micah (State Enterprises) and Byron Chan (Mining) pledged their support and cooperation with all stakeholders for the maximum benefit of the people of West Coast, New Ireland and PNG.
Country Manager for Nautilus Minerals Mel Togolo stressed that “what we do must be of greater benefit to the people”.
CEO of Nautilus Minerals Niugini Ltd, Mike Johnston thanked Sir Julius for being the driving force in ensuring that the people and provincial government gained maximum benefit from the project.
“It is important to understand the challenges and issues involved at the early stages of the project so that all stakeholders benefit,” Johnston said.
Previously, the provincial government opposed any new mining and exploration activities in New Ireland following continuous failure by the National Government to honour its financial obligations and project commitments under the Lihir Memorandum of Agreements (MoA) of 1995.
That MoA specified for, among others, the National Government to allocate each year major infrastructure grants, special support grants and major infrastructure projects.
The infrastructure projects include an international airport, an international seaport, a modern well-equipped hospital at Namatanai and major redevelopment and sealing of the Bulminski Highway.
To date, none of these projects have been undertaken and Sir Julius has warned on a number of occasions that “the agreement you sign is not worth the paper you’re signing, if the State is not going to honour its obligations”.