BARRICK GOLD CEO BRISTOW BACK IN PNG
by PNG Business News - October 12, 2021
Photo credit: Porgera JV
Barrick Gold CEO and President Mark Bristow will be in Papua New Guinea from 12th to 15th of October along with senior Barrick Gold executives, as a part of their quarterly review visits to Barrick operated mine sites throughout the world.
Dr Bristow is expected to meet with Prime Minister James Marape and senior PNG Government officials during his visit.
While the Porgera Mine is presently under care and maintenance, negotiations for the recommencement of mining at Porgera continue, in line with the terms of the Framework Agreement signed between Barrick and the State in April of this year.
Dr Bristow has stated that he hopes that his visit will assist in progressing negotiations past certain critical milestones and that all key agreements required prior to the re-commencement of mining will be signed soon.
He further noted that Barrick remains entirely committed to restarting the Porgera Mine under the terms of the Framework Agreement.
He reiterated his view that all parties need to be conscious of the passage of time and should work together finalize negotiations at as soon as possible to ensure an expedient mine restart. This would ensure that the Porgera Mine can start contributing to Papua New Guinea’s economic recovery impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic.
“While the current pace of the negotiations is not as rapid as we might have hoped, certain commercial arrangements, as defined under the Framework Agreement, need to be finalized to give our shareholders confidence in the reinvestment,” Dr Bristow said.
“I sincerely hope we can get these agreements signed off by the State as soon as possible, particularly given the ongoing cost of keeping the mine under care and maintenance. “We all need to put in our best efforts towards concluding the remaining agreements if we want to have any chance of restarting the mine this year or early next year,” he said.
Barrick Niugini Limited management have previously noted that should a final agreement be reached between BNL and the Government of Papua New Guinea regarding the recommencement of operations at Porgera, any information regarding recruiting processes to be undertaken by BNL will be published on official BNL websites, social-media sites and via company statements.
Article courtesy of Porgera JV
PNG Business News - April 08, 2021
Porgera Workers Receive Certificates
Last month, five senior national workers from the halted Porgera Mine operations received resident mine manager certificates. All five are part of the Porgera mine's Care and Maintenance (C&M) Leadership team Ezekiel Nori, Superintendent (Probationary) Open Pit Mining, Teddy Ulopo, Senior Mine Engineer, Deryck Akis, Alternate Manager Sorting, Ian Kaisom, Superintendent Fixed Plant Management, and Underground Mine Engineer Adam Joseph obtained certificates from the mine via the Mineral Resources Authority. Acting executive managing director David Lilley said, “It is really important and critical for us at this stage of where we’re at. It means for us now, we are really well covered for having qualified and certified people on this site at all times to meet the requirements of the MRA. Basically, when we talk about these roles, it’s about keeping the site but more importantly the people safe and protecting the assets. It is not a purely technical exercise. It’s really focused on making sure that all the right safety processes are involved so no harm comes to anybody and we protect the ore body and assets.” The method of acquiring numerous mine manager certifications started in March 2020, shortly after the Porgera Mine was shut down. With the support of the site safety department and the backing of General Manager Operations, Tim Cribb, who is also a registered mine manager ticket holder, and Jackie Kolgkia, Superintendent Project with Mine Technical Site Projects, who earned her registered mine manager certificate in 2017, initiated the process for the company. Only a registered mine manager can nominate and endorse candidates for the respective MRA examinations for Certificates of Competency. “Obviously after the mine suspension and COVID-19 restrictions, it became apparent there was a need for sufficient coverage on-site as this is a part of the operational requirement to have a certified manager’s ticket holder on-site at any time, as required by the Mining Act,” Kolgkia said. “I, therefore, nominated and with the backing of the PJV management, supported the candidates through the process toward attaining their certificates. Having a ticket is one thing but sitting in that role, making those critical safety decisions is the key part.” On behalf of the certificate recipients, Deryck thanked Kolgkia and the PJV management for understanding and encouraging their need to take the exams as a business necessity. Ezekiel has also expressed his appreciation to the company for ensuring that the mine managers' credential was obtained.
PNG Business News - April 12, 2021
PMAWU Embraces Mine Reopening
The reopening of the Porgera Gold Mine at the earliest, according to the Porgera Mining and Allied Workers Union (PMAWU), is good news. This comes after the PNG government announced that Barrick Niugini Limited would ink a new deal for the reopening of the Porgera Gold Mine. The PMAWU Executives said in a statement that those directly affected have suffered since the mine's closure. “The mine workers, who have been directly impacted since last April, have been struggling to make ends meet,” they said. “Those who were not able to secure an alternative job have been depleting their superannuation savings. They have the necessary skills and experiences to operate the mine when it resumes. Any news to reopen the mine, at the earliest is welcome news for the Union and its impacted employees.” They expressed their delight at the news that the state is ready to ink a Porgera Mine Reopening Framework Agreement with Barrick. Following the mine's closing, the PMAWU Executives said that the Prime Minister made many promises to them. Employees who have been affected will get financial assistance. “The PMJM has made several commitments, on media and also during our meeting with him on the 25th July 2020 at the Airways Hotel, that his government will consider a monetary solace for those impacted employees, as such the union, with the help of our mother body being PNGTUC, have been following up with PM & NEC Department by way of an NEC Submission but to this date, our welfares have not been looked into yet. The trucking contractors were fairly compensated for their losses but not us.” Another assurance was to include a clause in the framework arrangement ensuring that all affected workers are immediately reinstated to their previous positions prior to the redundancies. The PMAWU Executives have already presented a briefing paper on improved terms and conditions, and they expect their complaints to be heard and properly addressed in the proposed Framework Agreement. “The union also submitted a Position Paper concerning same to all relevant stakeholders in the negotiation tables. If the country is heading for better deals for its citizens, then the workers who will spin the wheels to run the production must be fairly remunerated as well.” “The Union has an option to refuse to resume operations if the above considerations are not met in the final Framework Agreement once settled. Consideration of this option may or may not happen subject to sighting of the final Framework Agreement.” Following a settlement in talks between the State and Barrick, Prime Minister Marape announced on April 5 that PNG would get a "far superior offer" than the previous agreement, which lasted from 1989 to 2021. “I can assure our country that this is a far superior and better deal, meaning our landowners and Enga Provincial Government will get more, and the balance of equity through Kumul Minerals will mean we hold a majority in equity. “Other benefits include securing an increased and upfront tax with no concession as is the case with other resource projects, an increase in royalties as well as a better handle on environment and resettlement issues at Porgera and a Barrick exit option. Prime Minister Marape added that “If the last round of negotiation is good, then I intend to meet Enga Provincial Government and all SML and LMP plus impact area landowners at the earliest to discuss the benefits sharing.” Marape has reported that Barrick and has settled a 10-year withdrawal clause in the current Porgera deal. The Prime Minister's statement made no mention of affected mine employees.
PNG Business News - April 06, 2021
Government Ready to Sign Porgera Reopening
Prime Minister James Marape said in a statement that the government is willing to sign an agreement with Barrick Gold to reopen the Porgera Gold Mine in Enga, which has been closed for a year. The mine was abandoned after the State declined to extend Barrick Niugini Limited's mining contract (BNL). PM Marape said there was a breakthrough after dealing with BNL, with Papua New Guinea seeing a “far better deal” than in the first 31 years of service, from 1989 to 2020. “I’m announcing to our country that within the principles of my Government, which includes getting more from our natural resources, we are in a better position now to sign an agreement with Barrick for what will be a new Porgera,” the Prime Minister said. He added, “I can assure our country that this is a far superior and better deal, meaning our landowners and Enga Provincial Government will get more, and the balance of equity through Kumul Minerals will mean we hold a majority in equity. Other benefits include securing an increased and upfront tax with no concession as is the case with other resource projects, an increase in royalties as well as a better handle on environment and resettlement issues at Porgera and a Barrick exit option.” He noted, “Kumul Minerals Holdings, since being granted the Special Mining Lease (SML) over Porgera, could have started but many court cases Barrick had filed caused delays to reopen Porgera, hence we entered into these negotiations. We are almost at the point of signing an agreement with Barrick. If the last round of negotiation is good, then I intend to meet Enga Provincial Government and all SML and LMP plus impact area landowners at the earliest to discuss the benefits sharing.” "To those who questioned Government and Kumul Minerals Holdings on why this turn in Porgera, I inform all that we have every capacity to operate Porgera like we are doing in Ok Tedi right now,” he added. "But with Barrack’s court cases, we had to go down this path. Barrick has agreed with us on an exit option in the new Porgera agreement 10 years from now."
PNG Business News - October 26, 2021
Australia buys Digicel, PNG’s mobile monopoly
Photo credit: Devpolicy by Stephen Howes Yesterday, Telstra announced that it was buying Digicel Pacific. Telstra itself is only paying $270 million, and the Australian government $1.33 billion. Yet, Telstra is obtaining 100% ownership. The deal is certainly an attractive one for Telstra. But does it make sense for Australia, and for the Pacific? Digicel has had a transformational impact in the Pacific, but now has too much market power. As the Telstra release explains, it holds the dominant position in all the Pacific countries in which it operates, except for Fiji, where it is in second place. In Papua New Guinea, which I know best, and which is by far Digicel's biggest market, the company has a 92% share of the mobile phone market. That makes Digicel effectively a monopoly in PNG. And that is why it is so profitable: like any monopolist, it exploits its market power. Australian and PNG researchers have been tracking mobile internet prices in PNG since Australia gifted it a new underwater cable . Their conclusion is that since the completion of that cable in December 2019 to today there has been no decrease in mobile internet prices. The reason is simple: the lack of retail competition. Michelle Nayahamui Rooney, Martin Davies and I last year exposed Digicel PNG’s predatory loan scheme. Digicel lends phone credit to its customers. They pay it back when they next top up. Our estimate is that Digicel made a 17% return from such loans every week, which is equivalent to an unbelievable 351200% a year. Is this really the way in which Australia want to engages in the Pacific – owning an enterprise that keeps prices high for consumers, and rips them off when they are desperate to make a call? Any monopolist is necessarily engaged in a battle between the consumer and their profits. At some point, Telstra will end up going toe-to-toe with the PNG telecom regulator, NICTA, as Digicel has done several times. It’s going to be awkward for both Telstra and the Australian government. Many will welcome the investment as a sign of Australian commitment to the Pacific. However, if we want to invest in the telecom sector in the Pacific, we should be backing alternatives to Digicel, to push prices down and improve services, not buying out the dominant player. Amalgamated Telecom Holdings based in Fiji is the Pacific’s second biggest telecom provider. It is currently planning to enter the PNG mobile market with support from the Asian Development Bank. This is the sort of investment we should be financing. That Australia has bought Digicel shows the extent to which the Pacific is now viewed through a China lens. That’s unfortunate. China is a massive economic power. Its companies will have increasing stakes in economies around the world. That is a fact we have to accept. The Australian government also needs to decide if its only goal is to counter China or if it is still seeks to promote Pacific development. When I was AusAID's Chief Economist, Digicel was the new kid on the block in the Pacific, and it was successfully challenging state-owned telcos that until then had been dominant. In 2006, in Foreign Minister Alexander Downer's flagship Pacific 2020 report, we wrote glowingly about the competition that various Pacific countries had recently started allowing in the mobile phone sector. Our analysis was right then, and remains relevant today. Yet here we are, in 2021, doing the opposite: rather than supporting greater competition in the telecom sector, subsidising the purchase of the incumbent monopolist. The decision to buy Digicel Pacific should be reversed. If it is too late for that, the Australian government should at least – in return for all its cheap and risk-reducing finance – oblige Telstra to operate Digicel for the benefit of the people of the Pacific rather than solely for its shareholders through an agreement that makes it clear that the Australian company is not only expected to return the cheap loan it has been given, but also reduce prices, and end rip-offs. This article appeared first on Devpolicy Blog (devpolicy.org), from the Development Policy Centre at The Australian National University. Stephen Howes is the Director of the Development Policy Centre and a Professor of Economics at the Crawford School.
PNG Business News - October 26, 2021
Taureka Replaced As Managing Director
Isikeli Taureka's position as managing-director (MD) of Kumul Consolidated Holdings (KCH) was terminated by the National Executive Council (NEC) recently. Professor David Kavanamur has been appointed as interim MD until a permanent appointment is made, and Moses Maladina, the current chairman of PNG Power Ltd, has been named as acting chairman. Taureka was removed after 20 months, according to Prime Minister James Marape, due to poor performance by KCH and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) and missed national project deadlines. “The reforms of the SOEs were endorsed by the Government in October 2019,” he said “We see it as the most-significant reform programme to be undertaken by any Government since the corporatisation of the state utilities and the creation of the Independent Public Business Corporation (IPBC), now KCH. “Building governance and accountability must go hand in hand with successful project execution. These are viable projects that can fundamentally change the accessibility and affordability of services and benefit the welfare of our people. “Extensive unexplained delays to major projects by KCH and SOEs are not acceptable. The Government understands that SOE issues cannot be immediately resolved as they take time. “That is why the NEC provided well over a year for KCH to work with SOEs to support the development and execution of strategies. We had hoped more would have been achieved during Taureka’s tenure. We regret to take the difficult step of severing the MD’s appointment. However, the NEC felt it had to be done. “The Telikom merger and partial privatisation with majority ownership and board control to be passed onto the super funds, for example, is one major issue the Government has been pushing since 2019 when we took office. “The merger of Water PNG and Eda Ranu is another matter that has been outstanding and not yet resolved. This merger is to take on a subsidiary structure where 20 percent of Eda Ranu is to be owned by Koiari landowners and 10 per cent each by Central Province and the National Capital District. “This decision was taken in 2019 but has not been implemented to date. “As for PNG Power and its continuous performance issues, these have been ongoing and evident. “These are badly-needed reforms within the SOEs and responsive policies have been launched by the Government, yet, very little or no progress have been made. “Out of respect to Taureka as a leading Papua New Guinea son, I had reached out to him for a meeting but there was no response forthcoming. Hence, the announcement of this decision (termination),” he added. Those nominated to crucial positions, according to Marape, must grasp the larger picture and act quickly to fulfill the government's goals.“For others in key leadership roles, whether as chair, members of boards, departments or agency heads, you are not here to pass the time or warm seats. Everyone must step up. “The Prime Minister’s Department is working to take stock of work done. So, if you feel you have not met your key performance indicators, I suggest you start thinking about resigning before the NEC asks you to leave.” According to Marape, Kavanamur had previously served as the chairman of KCH and had a thorough awareness of the organization's issues as well as the government's goals. Reference: The National (22 October 2021). “Cabinet Axes Taureka”.
PNG Business News - October 26, 2021
Digicel Pacific to be Acquired by Telstra
Telstra has announced that it will buy Digicel Pacific for $US1.6 billion, plus up to an additional US$250 million based on business performance over the next three years, subject to government and regulatory approvals. In its six South Pacific markets – Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Nauru, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu – Telstra, Australia's leading telecommunications and technology company, will continue to invest in and operate the business under the Digicel brand name. Telstra International CEO Oliver Camplin-Warner said the agreement will allow Telstra to expand on Digicel Pacific's regional leadership and increase mobile connectivity in Papua New Guinea. “Denis O’Brien and the Digicel team have built a phenomenal business that’s centred on providing exceptional customer service, the best coverage and leading digital experiences. Telstra will add to these strengths and the team’s local knowledge with our more than one hundred years’ experience connecting the vast expanses of Australia to continue delivering great experiences for Digicel’s customers across the Pacific.” “We have 19.5 million retail mobile customers in Australia and our 4G network is the largest and most reliable in country. It covers some of the remotest parts of Australia – from the coast, to the outback and the Torres Strait Islands, just off the coast of Papua New Guinea. And we’re in the process of building Australia’s largest 5G network that now stretches to more than 240 towns and 75 per cent of the population,” Camplin-Warner said. There will be no employment losses in the region as a result of the transaction, and the present Digicel Pacific team will continue to manage the company on a day-to-day basis. Denis O'Brien, the current owner of Digicel, will continue on the Board of Directors. “We will invest our know-how and capital to further expand coverage and over time bring the benefits of 5G to Papua New Guinea. But we’ll retain the same Digicel brand the people of PNG know and love today with the same team and services they have come to rely on,” Mr Camplin-Warner said. The purchase, according to Camplin-Warner, is in line with Telstra International's expansion plan, which now comprises operations in 20 countries outside of Australia and thousands of clients, including businesses, governments, and some of the world's largest technology firms. “Beyond Australia Telstra also has the most extensive subsea telecommunications cable network in the Asia Pacific. And we’re one of the biggest providers of voice and data services connecting the South Pacific to the rest of the world through our Southern Cross cable.” “Network traffic is growing faster than at any other period of time and digital technology is changing our world. We are at the centre of this, and so is Digicel Pacific. We are committed to delivering the best technology on the best network for PNG,” Mr Camplin-Warner said. The people and businesses of PNG will benefit from Telstra's experience rolling out a world-class 5G network and connecting diverse geographies, according to Colin Stone, CEO of Digicel Papua New Guinea. “Telstra’s network innovation has played a critical part in Australia being ranked first in the global Mobile Connectivity Index which assesses networks based on performance, affordability and availability. We look forward to working with Oliver and the Telstra team,” Mr Stone said. The two firms' ideals, according to Camplin-Warner, were likewise matched. “Digicel Pacific and Telstra are both committed to building a connected future so everyone can thrive and this includes supporting some of the most vulnerable in our communities.” “Digicel Pacific has taken community development to the next level through the Digicel Foundation’s investment in health, education and community-based programs. We look forward to continuing this work, just as we do today with the Telstra Foundation and its commitment to using technology to support young people and help to reduce the digital divide.” “We will also bring a commitment to addressing climate change to help drive better environmental outcomes for the people of PNG,” Mr Camplin-Warner said. Despite the fact that the transaction is funded by the Australian government, Telstra will remain the only owner and operator of the company. Reference: Loop (October 25, 2021). “Australia’s biggest telecommunications company to acquire Digicel Pacific”.