By: PNG Business News August 14, 2023

Nickson Pakea

The experiences and impacts on social and economic ecosystems on local communities of mine closures of Bougainville and Porgera mines will feature during the program on Day 1 of CANCONEX in Lae on 28 August 2023.

The Bougainville perspective will be presented by prominent Bougainvillean leaders Theresa Jaintong and Paul Nerau and the lessons from Porgera by Porgera Chamber of Commerce President Nickson Pakea and Porgera District Women’s Association president Serah Erasi.

With more than 700 stakeholders of resource projects in attendance, the inaugural Community Affairs and National Content Conference and Expo (CANCONEX), will provide the platform for open and frank discussions, in the hope of sharing solutions on pertinent issues that are common across resource project areas. Among these, how local communities and stakeholders ensure resilience in their social and economic ecosystem to deal with the closure of resource projects – planned or otherwise.

In announcing the presenters for this important session, Chamber President Anthony Smaré spoke of the need to learn from the past, to assess current practices, and to plan better for the future.

“The lessons of Panguna, and Porgera, particularly in how social and business ecosystems and infrastructure survive to benefit the local communities, are critical learnings that need to be taken on board by all stakeholders to ensure sustainable outcomes for all communities from resource development in the first place.

Panguna itself provided the financial foundation for Papua New Guinea’s independence in 1975 and contributed immensely to the development of communities in Panguna, Bougainville, and in wider Papua New Guinea. Many Papua New Guineans who progressed to taking up key roles within the mining industry were trained by the operator of Panguna, BCL, and have since become leaders in other mining projects in PNG, as well as abroad.

Whilst this project provided the necessary support to PNG, perceptions of unfair distribution of opportunities, especially from Landowners, formed the basis of events leading up to the forced shutdown of this project, triggering a decade-long conflict on the island, and the loss of many lives.

Similarly, Porgera in Enga Province contributed immensely to the development of a province which was once considered the “last province” in the country, to a leader in the provision of free-education, training Engans to a level now where many hold influential positions in both the public and private sector.

The closure of Porgera in 2020 effectively removed a major economic lifeline for many within Porgera, and surrounding communities. The effects of which continue to be experienced today.

In the centre of all of this has been the efforts of landowners, and local business leaders to find a way to ensure a sense of normalcy continues, albeit in very difficult circumstances.

What are the lessons that we can learn from Panguna and Porgera, about resilience and sustainability of social and commercial investments that the community, the State and the developer make and how do we improve to ensure much better resilience for future project closures, planned or otherwise?

These are the discussions which will take place at CANCONEX – discussions which are critical for all landowners especially.”

Registration for CANCONEX is still open, with a special 50% discount off the registration price available to landowner representatives from project areas, who are endorsed by their respective project Community Affairs teams. Those wishing to participate are encouraged to register via www.canconex.com to secure their participation.

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