Settlers,cops stealing gold, say villagers

Lae News, Normal

The National- Monday, January 24, 2011


VILLAGERS from Wau are alleging that settlers and police are stealing gold bearing granites from their land.

Villagers from Kwembu and Biawen of the Biangai tribe, said the land at Kemelanga, 10km out of Wau near the McAdam National Park, was customary land.

And an exploration licence had been granted to Morobe Mining Joint Venture (MMJV), developer of the Hidden valley gold mine to search for gold.

But settlers from Menyamya, who had been settled by the Kwembus and Bingais to plant coffee, had been prompted to go into alluvial gold mining when Morobe Mining started drilling.

MMJV has four drills in the area.

The gold rush started in December last year and continued unabated with the help of police, the villagers said.

They said Wau-based police officers were involved.

Under the house of one policeman, a person living with him, was photographed pounding granites with cast iron pestle and mortar. 

Villagers said that after the rock was pound ed to dust, it would be placed in dish and separated with mercury. 

They said the policeman and one of his superiors provided security to gold thieves using 

state “vehicles and guns”, fuel and houses, while neglecting their duty to maintain law and order.

They called on Momase divisional commander, assistant commissioner Giossi Labi and provincial police commander Peter Guinness to intervene and discipline the officers.

The MMJV and members of the local level government held a meeting last Saturday and warned the miners to stop stealing by the end of this month.

Their order was met by assertions by the settlers that they have alluvial mining lease licences for the area.