Proponents of a planned hydro power project in Chimbu appeal for government backing to develop the province’s huge potential.
By IWAKS KAWAGE
FOLLOWING years of conclusive research and feasibility studies, the Simbu Hydropower Joint Venture (SHJV) and the provincial government are petitioning the National Government and other relevant agencies to give priority to their plans for a clean energy company.
The petition follows recent revelations that the Government’s Kumul Consolidated Holdings (KCL) had entered a 50-50 joint venture with Mayur Resources, a coal mining multinational company to burn coal in Lae to also generate electricity and sell to PNG Power for the Ramu grid.
On March 11, during a shareholders sit-in protest meeting at Mt Wilhelm Toursit Hotel in Kundiawa, for PNG Power Ltd to release to the joint venture a power purchase agreement (PPA), leaders from the three project areas have all agreed to petition the Government for an equal distribution of business opportunities.
They pointed out that unlike the rest of the Highlands region, Chimbu wa very mountainous with limited agricultural land and also lacked minerals or hydrocarbons.
However, there is also great potential for hydropower and the production of lime for cement. These are the only two main resources the province has and over 10 years of research and development have proven their economic and commercial potential.
Joint venture project leader, engineer and managing director of Kair Engineering, David Herman Nime said, “On May 30, 2019, the new Marape-Steven Government declared to take back PNG within 10 years. Prime Minister Marape had announced on the floor of Parliament that his government would empower provincial governments to raise their own internal revenue by getting into businesses and improve their tax collections. For this reason, we have invited our provincial government into a joint venture.”
The shareholders of Simbu Hydropower comprise of churches, project site landowners, Kair Engineering Ltd and the provincial government.
Governor Michael Dua, Natural Resources Chairman Thomas Bare and the Kundiawa town mayor, Teikundia Bagle, have endorsed the joint venture as government partners.
“This is in line with the new government policy for the development for our Province, our people and the country,” Herman said.
“While the main Ramu grid transmission lines pass through Chimbu, it is unfair for other provinces enjoying incomes from many other natural resources to also generate electricity and send it over our heads to generate incomes while we are taken as ignorant people,” landowner spokesman Joseph Kaman Buyer said.
“It is time we present our petition to the Government for equal participation. Simbu has to sell our hydropower into the Ramu grid,” he said.
Coal vs hydro power
The meeting of concerned joint venture partners proceeded un a banner placed on the front entrance and the wall of the conference room which read: Lae Coal Power vs Simbu Hydropower.
The coal power plant in Lae will be a 50-50 JV partnership between KCL and Mayur Resources of Australia. They propose to the PNG government for a 50 Megawatt coal power generation from their Western Province coal mining project. According to the company’s May 10, 2019 ASX release, they will expand the coal power station to increase to 200MW. They will also produce cement and quicklime.
Herman stressed the importance of abiding by the PNG constitution and its provisions.
He said the failure by the Government to accept their proposal was contrary those principles.
“It is against the constitution, the five main goals and directive principles which clearly outline the need for integral human development, equality and participation for all citizens to have equal opportunity, national sovereignty and self-reliance, political and economic independence and self-reliance.
“The goals and directive principles specifically spell out for our leaders to make decisions in the national interest.
“All government bodies, which includes PNG Power Ltd and KCL are required to base their planning and internal interdependence and solidarity among citizens, and between provinces, to be actively promoted, where citizens and governmental bodies to have control of the bulk of economic enterprise and production with strict control of foreign investment capital. Point 4 on natural resources and environment,stresses on the protection of the environment and replenishment for the future generations. Point 5 declares the use of PNG forms of social, political and economic organisations.
“Chimbu already experiences continuous power outages in Kundiawa town, particularly when PPL has recently entered into arrangements for cheaper and efficient energy businesses for provinces,” he said .
Nime said he was suspicious of PNG Power Ltd unfairly bending towards political directions that were blocking the market from their joint venture company which is pushing its proposal based on 10 years of research and development.
“When they are in the process of negotiating for giving permits and licenses to multinational companies that is a let down for our national company.”
He said they have identified and done feasibility studies on four rivers: Wara Singa which has potential to produce (7megawatts);,Wara Simbu (25 MW); Wara Waghi (160 MW) and Wara Mai (6MW). The combined electricity generated amounting to over 200 MV would be sold to the Ramu grid to power the Highlands and Momase regions. ‘
Nime said it has come to his attention that a multinational company with a mining permit was going through government agents for a PPA to supply power to the Ramu grid.
Thomas Bare, the provincial Minister for Natural Resources, Mining and Climate Change says the Simbu Hydro Power is a very important project and is urging the Government and PNG Power to seriously consider issuing the project a PPA.
Bare says as a veteran of the provincial assembly who has served for over 30 years he would like to see his province going into business opportunities of such a scale for economic sustainability and for the benefit of future generations.
The sit-in protest and meeting was attended by landowners from all project sites including Kamareku in Kundiawa-Gembogl, Wara Simbu in Sinasina-Yongomugl Distruct and Dom-Kagul in the Gumine and Sinasina-Yongomugl districts.
Representatives from business houses, the provincial government and administration, churches, youths, women and the media also attended the gathering.
- Iwaks Kawage is a freelance writer.