The National, Friday 30th December 2011
CANADIAN gold miner, New Guinea Gold Ltd yesterday said it had stopped work at its Sinivit site in East New Britain after landowner groups occupied the mine site.
The announcement came as Governor Leo Dion said the implementation of the revised 2008 memorandum of agreement between New Guinea Gold Ltd, landowners and the East New Britain provincial government was very important.
The company said representatives of the Wild Dog Mining Area Landowner Association and Lulai Nakama Association had occupied the mine-site and forced its temporary closure.
It said all staff had been stood down safely and police presence was being maintained on site.
Dion said the MoA was very important because of the many benefits going to the landowners and other parties and it was the mine’s responsibility to see that the concerned parties received their benefits.
Last week landowners had threatened to shut down the mine and take over assets, claiming the company owed them K3 million in royalties and K700,000 in compensation for environmental damage.
They claimed there had not been any royalty payments since the mine began commercial production.
Despite receiving a court order from the mine to allow the company management and staff access into the mine site on Wednesday, landowners still wanted their demands for royalty and compensation to be met.
Dion said while he supported the landowners and their list of grievances, the action they had taken to move into the mine was wrong.
He called for a conference with all parties and for the MoA to be revisited.
Dion said he was concerned by the lack of consultation by company officials with the provincial government and administration.
“This is what you get when there is a lack of consultation between the parties concerned and I must admit that I am in the dark regarding the operations of the mine and the implementation of the MoA.”
The company said it had received a letter on Dec 12 from the landowners’ lawyers demanding that outstanding royalties be paid to the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) within 48 hours, failing which the landowners would shut down New Guinea’s mining operations.
New Guinea Gold said it had been waiting on a court settlement between the landowning clans since early 2010, following instructions from the MRA to pay the royalties to the WDMALA.
“Despite assurances and undertakings from NGG that their demand would be met and the funds would be paid to the MRA, the landowners, following a meeting with the mine management on Dec 21, occupied the mine site on Dec 22,” the company said in a statement.
It said the royalties had been released to the MRA the same day but the landowners remained in occupation of the site.
The company is seeking court orders to remove “those persons occupying the mine site illegally” before pursuing a negotiated settlement of landowner grievances.
Acting CEO Greg Heaney commented: “This is a very disappointing situation and the company was left with little choice but to ensure the safety of its staff and to cease operations until such times as those illegally occupying its mine and associated premises are removed by the lawful authorities.
“We are progressing matters on all fronts seeking an expeditious conclusion to this matter.”