PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT

Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i


PORGERA GROUP APPLAUDS CALL FOR MINE DEATHS PROBE

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 20) - A Representative of the Porgera and Mt. Kare people in Papua New Guinea has commended the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader for calling for investigations into 21 reported deaths at the Porgera gold mine in the past 15 years.

Porgera and Mt. Kare Young Generation Association Inc. chairman Jonah Puli Kipu, however, condemned misleading statements by one Mark Ekepa.

The latter is the chairman of the Porgera Landowners Association and is facing police charges for misappropriation. He was arrested in Mt. Hagen last week and is out on a K5,000 (US$1,600) bail.

Ekepa is alleged to have known about the deaths of these 21 villagers but did nothing to investigate, or even speak out against the killings to ensure justice is done.

It was only after his arrest in Hagen that Ekepa made statements relating to these deaths.

Kipu said the landowners’ chairman must be blamed for hiding information on those that have been killed, others maimed for life and those that are still recovering.

He also disputed the existence of the Porgera Special Mining Lease Landowners Association, which is not registered with the Investment Promotion Authority. Ekepa has also claimed chairmanship of the association.

Kipu said records were checked in May last year and Company Registrar, Teup Goledu, said the organization was not properly registered.

An election was held last year where William Gaupe was elected chairman of the Porgera Landowners Association. The matter is now before court. Prime Minister Somare is understood to have written to Government Secretary Joshua Kalinoe on March 21, 2005 directing him to review the existing memorandum of agreement saying that reports reaching him indicate that multi-million kina spin-off benefits were not being properly accounted for over the years.

"The lack of proper administration and financial control has resulted in the genuine landowners being deprived of their royalties, spin-off and other equity benefits.

"Hence the opportunity for tangible development is hijacked by third parties and the so-called middlemen," read Sir Michael’s letter.

Kipu said they now want to rearrange everything and draw up a new memorandum of understanding with the mine and Government for royalty and equity to go to the landowners.

Akali Tange Association Inc (ATA) is another organization that wants to take Porgera mine to court for the 21 deaths and others now recovering.

April 21, 2005

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