Ramu NiCo’s coming to Madang province will compensate the eventual exit of Ok Tedi Mining Ltd from the country’s economy, Mining Minister Sir Puka Temu said yesterday.
The company’s cobalt and nickel project in Madang came at a time when Ok Tedi mine, the largest contributor to the local economy, was at its closing phase, he said.
Sir Puka, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, was especially thankful to the management and staff of China’s Ramu NiCo MCC led by its president, Madam Luo Shu, for having confidence in PNG to pursue the project.
Projected to prop the province’s economy after Ok Tedi exit, the project is expected to be commissioned later this year with operations expected to start early next year, he said.
Sir Puka was speaking during Ramu NiCo’s “milestone celebrations” yesterday afternoon at the Chinese Embassy in Port Moresby.
“Ramu nickel project investment is the largest from the People’s Republic of China, especially as an investment in the public sector,” Sir Puka said.
He also said the global financial crisis had posed threat on the nickel and cobalt prices in world markets where, like other minerals, their prices plunged.
“But it was now good news that prices were picking and by the time Ramu NiCo started operations, earnings would be better,” Sir Puka said.
The visiting China’s Vice-Premier Li Keqiang said the project was a landmark for co-operation between PNG and China.
Mr Li, who spoke in Mandarin that was being translated, said the Chinese government was confident that the existing agreements and discussions held with PNG would come into fruition.
“China and PNG are the same as they are working to improve the livelihood of their citizens,” he said.
Madam Lou, while outlining progress of the mine to guests, revealed that since the large-scale construction started in 2007, they have about 3,500 workers on a daily basis, both local and expatriates, and among them being Chinese technicians.
“They share the ideals of respect to one another, working together, building friends and sharing success,” she said as she thanked the staff of both countries for their tireless efforts during the construction phase.
She expressed two wishes of Ramu NiCo which are:
1) To strengthen economic co-operation between the two countries especially in realising project development targets and identify more co-operation projects in mining; and
2) To forge a deepening cultural exchange where they hoped Madang could be developed into an international air and sea transport centre for PNG.