By SHIRLEY MAULUDU
THE construction phase of the K18.4 billion Wafi-Golpu copper and gold project in Morobe is set to begin after the Government granted it an environment permit yesterday.
The construction phase alone, to be undertaken by the developers Harmony Gold Mining Company Limited and Newcrest Mining Limited, is expected to cost K17.26 million.
“At this time when our economy is contracting, it is important that we must bring in a major project to (be a catalyst to) reviving the economy,” said Environment, Conservation and Climate Change Minister Wera Mori.
“And there is no better project than Wafi-Golpu which on record is one of the biggest undeveloped copper and gold deposits in the world.”
Mori announced yesterday that the project would be using the deep-sea tailings placement (DSTP) as its method of waste disposal.
However, the news was not received too well by the Morobe government led by Morobe Governor Ginson Saonu representing the landowner groups who have been against the DSTP disposal system.
Mori said the project needed to get off the ground quickly to help revive the economy.
“By law, the managing director of the Cepa (Gunther Joku), is required to grant the permit (after being satisfied that) all statutory processes involved in the granting of such permits are in place,” Mori said.
“That includes the environmental impact studies to be conducted and specific environment statements to be made.”
The deep-sea tailings method will be used.
“It was as late as last year that as minister responsible for Cepa, I gave approval in principal for the permit to be granted so that it will start the process of moving towards a mine development contract for the Wafi-Golpu joint ventures,” he said.
“Upon the granting of a special mining lease, which forms part of the permitting processes of which we are now commencing with the environment permit, it will see an injection of close to US$5billion (K17.26bil) into the economy over five years for the construction of infrastructure.”
The next phase after the granting of the permit is for the State Negotiating Team to discuss with the developers of the project the granting of a mine development contract.
“The Morobe government and the people of Morobe will be represented through their elected leaders, to ensure that they gain maximum benefits from the spin-offs that are going to be generated,” he said.
He said there was nothing “sinister” about the granting of the permit.
“It is a fulfilment of the requirements to take this project forward,” Mori said.
“The mining lease cannot be granted without the environment permit.
“Having satisfied all the statutory requirements for the granting of such, the managing director of the Cepa Gunther Joku was only fulfilling that obligation.”
By SHIRLEY MAULUDU