Landowners: Probe deal

National, Normal

The National, Tuesday October 8th, 2013

 OK Tedi mining lease area principal landowners want government-sanctioned investigations into BHP Billiton’s exit and the establishment of PNGSDP terms of reference to cover environmental damage and lost benefits for mine-pit landowners.

The Kimka Sepiyan Sub-tribe Land Group Incorporated (KSSLGI), through its spokesman and interim chairman Paul Eddie, called on the investigation team to establish whether a proper agreement was signed before the start of mining operations in 1976, and importantly, why the mine-pit villages had not been included initially as major beneficiaries.

The Kimka Sepiyan are a long-neglected landowner group who have just been recognised as true principal landowners of Ok Tedi Mine’s special mining lease area in a court victory against Biul Kirokim (another landowner from Bultem, Star Mountains) and Ok Tedi Mining Ltd by the Kiunga provincial land court.

The landowners said such a probe would reveal that neither social mapping nor proper landowner identification process was followed to determine the true owners.

“I call upon Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s government to extend the investigations in order to establish if there was any agreement signed at the initial stages of mining.

“And if so, why were the principal landowners not consulted.

“The state has a duty to protect the rights of the people, especially resource owners and it is a crime on the part of BHP not to have consulted with the genuine landowners,” Eddie said.

“I urge the investigation team to leave no stone unturned to uncover and penalise any individual or group that had received benefits single-handedly from the start of the mine operations.”

The mine-pit landowners want these benefits in the form of equity payments, dividend and business development grants that purportedly went into the wrong hands over many years to be fully reimbursed by OTML and state agencies and entities such as Mineral Resources Development Company and Mineral Resources Authority. 

Lawyers representing the Kimka Sepiyan sub-tribe, Warner Shand Lawyers, urged other landowners and villages impacted by the Ok Tedi Mine to contact their office for an impending litigation case against BHP.