By CLIFFORD FAIPARIK
THE managing director of a company developing the Woodlark mine in Milne Bay has resigned amidst reports that it has provided inadequate housing for 1,500 displaced villagers.
Geopacific Resources Ltd (GPRL) managing director Ron Heeks said his resignation was effective as of Friday but he would continue for a few months in an advisory capacity until a replacement was made.
GPRL chairman Ian Clyne also confirmed Heeks’ resignation saying that the board was not aware of the type of houses built for the displaced villagers until local media showed pictures and reports of the dwellings last week.
Clyne said he had been in charge for only few days when the news of the housing situation had broken.
“I have only been in charge since Thursday, and I’m very focused on addressing the single housing issue which I totally agree was completely inadequate,” he said.
“The board was only presented with the larger house versions and was shocked by the pictures.
“We now accept responsibility and are taking immediately actions to rectify,” Clyne said.
“I believe the Woodlark project is an extremely good project, albeit a small one compared to Wafi and others, that deserves to get built for the benefit of all stakeholders who very much include the local residents on Woodlark Island and people of PNG.”
Clyne said as chairman he had temporarily stepped into running the day-to-day operations until the recruitment process for a new chief executive officer (CEO) was completed. Samarai-Murua MP Isi Henry Leonard stopped the relocation of the villagers after visiting the mine area on May 29.
He said the relocation programme on Woodlark Island was poorly managed and the houses were substandard.
“Relocation involves people’s lives and the materials used and design of the houses for 1,500 villagers from Kulumadau village is unsuitable,” Leonard said.
He said the company was in the process of building 180 houses and had completed three when the villagers raised their objections.
“The houses that were constructed two months ago are very small,” Leonard said.
“We are Melanesians and we have big families and the spacing were very small and inadequate.”
Leonard claimed the Woodlark mine developer was rushing the relocation programme without the Samara-Murua’s concerns.
By CLIFFORD FAIPARIK