LNG project site remains shut

National, Normal

The National , Tuesday, May 31, 2011

LANDOWNERS shutting down the PNG LNG project will be a great concern, Esso Highlands’ managing director Peter Graham says.
Speaking to Radio Australia yesterday, Graham said landowners from the Hela region, especially Hides PDL1 and 7, had threatened to shut down if the national government did not deal with a long list of grievances.
“With the death of Tuguba paramount chief Himuni Homogo, tensions are arising and landowners are saying immediate action is needed or the consequences will be serious,” he said.
Graham told presenter Jemima Garrett that overall, ExxonMobil had a very good experience in investing in Papua New Guinea.
“Obviously making an investment of this size, some US$15 billion, we looked very carefully at the security of investment in the country before we started.
“PNG has a strong history of honouring all the agreements it makes with investors and certainly that has been our experience.
“We feel confident that the agreements we have in place with government and with landowners are agreements that have been put in place in good faith and that there is a genuine commitment to stand by those agreements,” he said.
When Garrett asked what the project was contributing to PNG in terms of government revenue, jobs and business opportunities, Graham said in the long-term, “the impact is quite substantial on the economy of PNG”.
 “Obviously there is a large impact on employment. Today, we are employing more than 5,000 nationals working on the project and we are spending substantial amounts of money in the country.
“To date about K2 billion or around US$800 million has been spent in PNG,” Graham said.
But Garrett said the landowners she had spoken to were angry about the failure of the government on business development grants and other money issues and they were actually threatening to shutdown the project. 
She asked how great a concern that was to him. Graham replied: “If they were to shut it down, it would obviously be of great concern and it certainly becomes an even bigger concern as we get more and more workers in the field.
“The impact is obviously greater. My sense is rightly or wrongly that we have strong support from the grassroots people in the community.
“They want to see the project succeed but they want their entitlements from government. I think government is addressing that issue, admittedly belatedly. I think government recognises the issue and is trying to do something about it,” he said.
Reports from Hides were that the project sites remained shut.
EHL did not want to comment on that.