The National, Monday November 4th, 2013
THE Community Mine Continuation Agreement (CMCA) and mine villages in Western have buried the hatchet and joined forces with the government.
The villagers, who recently took sides with the PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP) Ltd chairman Sir Mekere Morauta and were threatening to close down the Ok Tedi mine, had a meeting with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in Port Moresby on Saturday and they emerged as the best of friends after that.
The 162 CMCA and mine villagers, representing 110,677 people, had demanded that the government give them back the 63.4% shareholding in Ok Tedi Mining Ltd (OTML), which was taken away from PNGSDP by the Government last month.
All that appeared to be water under the bridge at a joint press conference at which O’Neill announced that a mediation team led by former Prime Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu, former Lae MP Bart Philemon and Public Service Minister Sir Puka Temu had been set up to start discussions with BHP Billiton.
“I want to thank them for joining us in opening up discussions about the continued operation of Ok Tedi mine and, of course, issues surrounding the PNG sustainable development programme,” O’Neill said.
“I want to say that the discussions have been very fruitful and that it has been very open and very cordial in the sense that we all agreed that the way forward from now is to continue with discussing the issues surrounding the benefits and the shareholding of the Ok Tedi mine.
“We’ve agreed that the landowners must have direct shareholding in Ok Tedi mine because the benefits must go directly to them and not through any other agency.
“We’ve agreed that the sustainable development programme will be set up to directly benefit the landowners and the people of Western, so that negotiations that are now going on between sustainable programme and the government must be concluded in a timely manner.
“All in all, I can say that we are very happy that we have a lot more in common than the differences that we had.”
Landowner leaders Richard Zumoi and Joel Dankim concurred with O’Neill.
“I’ve been very vocal on what was supposed to be done,” Zumoi said.
“We acknowledge that going forward, we should leave that behind and look at coming to the table.”
Dankim said: “We’ve been going to the press and elsewhere but today’s meeting has given us good indications that we will actually work with the government to see changes in Ok Tedi operations and within PNG sustainable and its subsidiaries.”