THE issue of “social mapping” as a prerequisite to the PNG LNG project continue to be raised by various bodies, individuals and landowners.
This has the potential to derail the licence-based benefits sharing agreement (LBBSA).
The Oil and Gas Act calls for social mapping as prerequisite to project entry in an area.
There is a need to clarify what really is social mapping.
Social mapping is basically the mapping of a prescribed area to identify or find out who is living on the land – landowners or land users, government service like health centre, aid post, schools, roads, community-based organisations (CBOs), business entities, etc.
The question now is there really need for a full-scale social mapping requirement for the present LNG project?
For the benefit of those who are not familiar, the LNG project is 100% happening or will be built within the existing oil and gas fields of Southern Highlands and Gulf provinces.
The landowners of the present oil and gas fields have already been identified by Chevron and Oil Search Limited and are currently receiving rental, royalty, equity and all other benefits.
The only new land areas to be acquired or leased will be for the pipeline routes between Juha well-head to Hides, Angore well-head to Moran oilfields and the pipeline route between Gulf (Kikori) to Central province.
This means the Department of Petroleum and Energy does not need to carry out a full-scale social mapping for the entire project.
All the social mapping information required are already within the custody of Oil Search Ltd and its JV partners.
This means all the information and data required to compile a social mapping report is already known and available.
The only sections are the pockets of land mentioned above.
A social mapping for these pockets of land will be required which will then add up to produce the full-scale mapping for the entire LNG project.
Finally, certain individuals should not be playing cheap politics with landowner issues.
They must be reminded that what they are doing is detrimental to the genuine customary landowners of the present oil and gas fields who are already the beneficiaries.
In other words, re-opening the landownership for existing licences is like opening up the floodgates that will invade the fabric of the customary land ownership structures.
There is danger that outside interests stand to claim landownership through this so-called social mapping process.