Porgera police arrest 45 people panning for gold

National, Normal

The National – Tuesday, February 1, 2011

PORGERA mine police have arrested 45 locals along the river used as tailings by the mine after they were caught panning for gold yesterday morning.
According to reports, the locals were landowners living in the special mining leased area (SML) who went looking for waste gold to sustain their lives after they had been denied relocation.
A source from Porgera told The National yesterday morning that the local landowners have been living in the SML area as they have not been relocated since the granting of the SML and the issuing of the mine licence 20 years ago.
The source said the people’s land that was once used for gardening and hunting was taken over by the mine while their traditional gold panning sites have also been covered by debris and sediments from the mine.
The source said that the quarterly royalty payments obtained from the mine was insufficient for the growing population of which many were second and third generations of the original population.
He said many of them were not included to receive payments as there was no mine review in the past 20 years.
“This people have no way to cater for their needs and wants, especially food and drinking water. Thus this entire community is forced to go into the nearby mine waste tailing sites to obtain gold to be traded.
“As usual, the entire village had set out to the tailing mouth to find gold and suddenly a group of fully armed men who surrounded the area and arrested men, women and children, including school students, as they were panning for gold along the waste tailing river; the police then locked them up in cell,” the source said.
He said members of the community demanded the mine management to release the people but that had fallen on deaf ears and negotiations were continuing.
The villagers blame the mine for creating an artificial environment that made it hard for them to survive.