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PNG Business News - March 23, 2021

K92 Mining Concerned with Increasing COVID Cases

K92 Mining said that the corporation, as well as the resource sector, is worried about the rise in Covid-19 cases in the nation. According to John Lewins, the company's CEO, it has the potential to have a huge impact on PNG's entire resource industry and, by extension, the rest of the economy. “While the major concern should be the health and wellbeing of all people, the ability of the resource industry to maintain operations is critical to the ability of the Government to combat the pandemic,” he said. “Remember that the resource industry is the major driver for the PNG economy accounting for almost 30 per cent of the GDP (gross domestic product) and over 80 per cent of exports. The sector also provides more than 20,000 jobs to Papua New Guineans, while 30,000 more are employed in landowner businesses, and other PNG businesses that support the industry.” Some of the potential effects are the following: Due to constraints or a lack of aircraft, PNG workers are unable to travel from their homes to the mine sites;  Skilled expatriate workers are unable to travel to PNG. For the next two weeks, Australia has stopped the movement of fly-in-fly-out personnel. If this trend persists, it will be impossible to keep the resource sector running safely without these skilled employees, and all operations will be forced to shut down. Covid-19 infection among skilled PNG workers, causing them to be unable to work for short or long periods of time; Locals are worried about the Covid-19 being brought in by "outsiders," causing unrest. Transportation of supplies and equipment between provinces is restricted; Delays in the release of products and equipment from ports; Impact of the Covid-19 on PNG Powe and all manufacturers and contractors PNG Power, fuel suppliers, trucking firms, and maintenance contractors are all affected by the Covid-19, as are supply chain matters from foreign vendors. “Keeping the resource industry operating is of major importance to PNG as it is the major contributor to the economy and if this is impacted or stops, this will obviously have a massive impact on the PNG economy,” Lewins said. “Imagine the equivalent of another 10 Porgera mines stopping production, tens of thousands of jobs (K92 alone has over 1,000 employees and contractors), hundreds of millions in lost taxes and royalties, loss of business for suppliers, contractors, trucking companies and the like plus impacts on local communities. The potential impact on the economy in turn affects the ability of the Papua New Guinea Government to combat the pandemic.”

Mining

PNG Business News - March 23, 2021

Lewins: Weakening gold price to Impact K92 Operations

According to K92 Mine Inc, the falling worldwide gold price means that mining companies in the country will reduce non-essential spending, which would have an effect on suppliers. John Lewins, the company's CEO, was responding to questions about existing gold prices. He added that the gold price began the year at around US$1,950 per ounce (K6,694.49/oz) and has since declined to around US$1,730 per ounce (K5,939.21/oz). According to him, mines may postpone capital and expansion projects, reducing jobs and production growth. “Any movement in the gold price affects the gold mines in PNG,” Lewins said. “The average ‘all-in sustaining cost’ of production for PNG mines is around US$1,000/oz (K3,433.07/oz) to US$1,100/oz (K3,776.38/oz), so at current prices, all the mines in PNG are still operating with good margins. Lower margins, mean lower profits, less tax to Government, less money spent on exploration and capital and lower royalty payments to communities and Government. The other point to note is that the Australian dollar has strengthened against the US dollar, so the gold price in Australian dollars has dropped even more, from AU$2,700 (K7,177.11) late last year to currently AU$2,100 (K5,582.20). Given that a lot of the costs incurred by PNG gold mines are in Australian dollars, this is probably more important than the US dollar price movement.” According to Lewins, the gold price will remain under pressure for the first half of this year, but will possibly recover in the second half. “Much depends on the performance of the US economy and others, following the shutdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said. The price of gold is expected to fall in 2021 for a variety of reasons: Central banks' physical demand for gold has declined;  Jewellery sales have been underwhelming as the covid-19 pandemic has stifled customer activity; Investors' "lack of interest" in buying gold has also been a source of market stress; Gold has been sold by a number of hedge funds; and The US dollar has strengthened, implying a drop in gold prices; and, growing interest in alternative investments such as Bitcoin. “It should be remembered that the gold price is still at a very high price relative to the average price over the last five years,” Lewins said.

Mining

PNG Business News - March 22, 2021

Miner Promises to Follow the Proper Procedures of Acquiring lease

According to an official, the Wafi-Golpu Joint Venture (WGJV) will follow the proper procedures before its application for special mining lease 10 is approved. David Masani, WGJV's principal community engagement advisor, stated this during the company's numerous scheduled meetings with communities that would be impacted by the K18.4 billion gold-copper project. People were using mainstream and social media to speak about the advantages and procedures, according to Masani. “Our province is jumping ahead in the process, talking about benefits, businesses and contracts,” he said. “We are not following due process; the mandated process by the government.” Moses Mambu, a representative of the Mineral Resource Authority, explained that the environmental permit was just one step in a longer phase. “An environment permit does not mean the company can now develop this project,” he said. According to Mambu, the application for SML 10 that was submitted in August 2016 is still with the government and will go through a rigorous process before being granted. A mining development contract will be signed, and a memorandum of agreement (MoA) will be developed through a developmental forum between the national, provincial, and local governments, landowners, and WGJV. “This agreement is yet to eventuate,” he said. “And two key benefits to be discussed under this agreement are royalties and equity. These are only for people living along with the pipeline footprint, SML area or the tailings outfall.” The fiscal stability agreement and the State equity acquisition agreement, according to Mambu, are two other agreements that need to be achieved. “Such things are to be considered before granting the SML,” he said.

Mining

PNG Business News - March 22, 2021

Travel Ban Will Not Affect Lihir Development, According to Newcrest

The Australian Government's ban on incoming and outgoing travel between the neighbouring countries is expected to have no effect on Newcrest Mining's Lihir gold activity in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The Lihir operation is undergoing a scheduled maintenance shutdown and is steadily resuming operations. Newcrest stated that it was working closely with the Australian Government to prevent any possible impacts from the ban. “There is currently no anticipated interruption to gold production arising as a result of the travel suspension,” Newcrest stated. A "tiny number of COVID-19 cases" has been recorded among the gold miner's PNG employees, who are being monitored and assisted by medical personnel in quarantine. “Strict hygiene, social distancing and other COVID-19 management protocols remain in place at Lihir with comprehensive testing, quarantine and precautionary contact tracing procedures enforced,” Newcrest stated. “Lihir has a dedicated isolation camp and separate isolation and treatment facility where care and support can be provided.” From the 2023 financial year onwards, Newcrest hopes to place Lihir as a one-million-ounce-per-annum gold producer. As COVID-19 cases in PNG rise, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison suspended fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) staff from flying in and out of the country as part of a broader travel ban. Australia has banned all outbound travel exemptions to Papua New Guinea, according to Morrison. “This will include no general FIFO work. If you’re there, you stay. If you’re here, you stay,” he said. “We cannot risk people going into those areas and back to Australia.” Prior to the ban, Ok Tedi Mining, a Papua New Guinea miner, imposed a two-week suspension on its international charter flights last week after its staff tested positive for COVID-19 during hotel quarantine in Cairns. After completing the quarantine time, Ok Tedi's quarantined employees were released. 

Mining

PNG Business News - March 19, 2021

Ok Tedi Halts Operations in Order to Contain the Spread of Covid-19

COVID-19 has forced Ok Tedi Mining Limited (OTML) to pause operations in order to protect its employees, communities, and operations. Due to a recent increase in COVID-19 cases at the mine site and in Papua New Guinea, OTML will temporarily pause operations on Friday, March 19th for 14 days to prevent further virus transmission within its operations. This suspension, according to OTML, coincides with the PNG government's National Isolation Strategy, which will go into effect on Monday, March 22nd. The success of the control steps, as well as when the virus has been contained, will decide when regular operations will resume. The decision to halt operations reflects OTML's commitment to take all reasonable steps to ensure the protection, health, and well-being of its staff, families, contractors, and host communities, as well as to allow a stable, cost-effective, and timely resumption of operations for the benefit of all stakeholders. During the suspension, the organization will take steps such as repatriating non-essential workers to their home provinces and introducing a mass testing program for its staff. Any staff may be forced to work regular hours during the suspension of operations in order to maintain essential services or for treatment and maintenance. The suspension is expected to result in a revenue loss of about PGK210 million, which will have a direct effect on foreign currency inflows into PNG. Meanwhile, the Company is weighing its options in light of the Australian government's decision to temporarily halt the fly-in and fly-out of mineworkers based in Australia. It said, “We do not anticipate significant disruption to our operations as a result of the Australian  Government’s announcement, however, we are looking at alternative ways to repatriate  several of our expatriate employees during the suspension of operations.”   After COVID-19 cases were discovered in Queensland from international travellers in hotel quarantine, the company declared that it was suspending international charter flights into Australia. OTML hires over 1,800 people directly, with less than 4% of them being expatriates. OTML also confirmed that it would collaborate with the PNG government to help with vaccine procurement and distribution for OTML employees.

Mining

PNG Business News - March 19, 2021

NRI: Bougainville has Vast Mineral Potential

According to the National Research Institute, given Bougainville's position within the Pacific Rim of Fire, the possibilities for mining various minerals, especially gold and copper, are vast (NRI). Following the collapse of the Panguna mine, NRI noted in a recent report on Bougainville that regaining foreign investor trust in mining in Bougainville was proving difficult. “Even more difficult is the effective management of the revenues from the sale of public resources such as minerals, forestry and fishing, which has long been a challenging problem for developing countries,” the report highlighted. “The primary management problem has been with the effective expenditure of resource revenues. Therefore, a major issue for discussion in Bougainville should be on whether institutional arrangements can be devised that will ensure that the resource revenues collected by the ABG – from, say, fishing, forestry or mining – will be put to good use in developing the economy.” It continued, “We have argued for a management system where a share of mineral rents are directly paid to the public in the form of compensation for the sale of their asset. This has several advantages, including the fact that such transfers will bind the public across space and generations, concentrate attention on the returns from publicly owned assets, and create economic spillovers in the form of increased output and revenues for the budget. The model used in Alaska to manage the collection and distribution of its oil and gas revenues seems to be very worthy of consideration by Bougainville. This regime establishes a political constituency with an interest in protecting the revenues from corruption, waste, and so forth. If Bougainville is to adopt a policy of this kind, the nature of politics dictates that it should be done as soon as possible. Otherwise, if an alternative policy is adopted, it will be impossible to dismantle later as it will have formed its own constituency by then.”

Mining

PNG Business News - March 11, 2021

Chances of Panguna Mine Re-Opening Improving

The head of one of the Bougainville landowner groups impacted by the Panguna mine says it is up to the landowners to decide whether or not to reopen the mine. The Panguna Mine was at the heart of the ten-year Bougainville civil war, and it was forced to close in 1989 when it was PNG's largest export earner. But, thanks to Panguna Development Company Ltd, which has brought together almost all of the landowner parties, there is renewed talk of reopening the closed mine. An agreement has been reached to help Bougainville Copper Ltd, a former miner, in its search for an exploration license, and to offer landowners shares in the venture. There has also been widespread opposition to resuming mining at Panguna, but Therese Jaintong, chair of the Siokate landowners' party, said it is up to them to decide. "The landowners are empowered by the Bougainville Mining Act. So whatever they say they have the power with the government - all of us talking together. We are coming close to finding some good solutions," she said. According to Jaintong, they decided to put together all interested parties to discuss the mine's future. "We are very genuine that what we want to see is BCL and Rio Tinto and the National Government and the ABG to sit together with us landowners, mine-affected, and we come with some plans to find a solution to this," she said. "There's no use fighting over it and then bringing new issues, new structures, new people - so we are very genuine together." SMLOLA, which had previously backed another developer, is the only mine-affected landowner party that has declined to sign the resolution. Jeff Clason, an organizer with Panguna Development Company Ltd, said that reopening the contentious mine was still the best way for the area to develop a viable economy. He said there was support for reopening, particularly because Bougainville's other options are limited. "In this age and what we are going through, we already voted 98 per cent for independence and if they can come up with another strategy to make Bougainville we'd listen to them," he said. "But they haven't come up with anything mate. As you the bottom line is every country needs money."

Mining

PNG Business News - March 11, 2021

K92 Mining Has a K50M Budget for Exploration in 2021

In 2021, K92 Mining will invest K50 million in exploration. Exploration dollars are critical, according to John Lewins, chief executive officer and director of K92 Mine, because they extend the project if good prospects are discovered. The mine was re-commissioned in 2017 and announced commercial production at the start of 2018, according to Lewins. So, it's been running as a commercial profitable mine for three years and has turned a profit. “What’s important for Papua New Guinea is that the recognition of the potential that we got here in PNG,” he said. “And that, I think it’s been forgotten to a certain extent over the last few years and we have seen exploration expenditure dropping over several years.” Lewins also said that they would like to see that start up again because there will be no more mines unless there are more explorations .“So exploration dollars are important,” he said. “This year, 25 per cent of all exploration dollars come from our company. I believe, we are the single largest company in terms of our expenditure in exploration and that’s our commitment.” When the company's explorations linked the kora North deposit to its main ore body, it reached pay dirt and turned around its fortunes. He said, “Its only Kora North but we are busy looking for a number of other deposits and we are not focusing just on Kora and the mine. But we got over 700 square kilometres of ground to run and our budget is K50m on explorations. We are spending a lot of money on exploration and that’s the profit that we made or money that we made is put back to look into it or production in Papua New Guinea”.

Mining

PNG Business News - March 11, 2021

PNG Technical Team Will Work on Assessment on the Wafi-Golpu Mining Project

By the end of the month, a technical team from the Papua New Guinea technical (PNG) Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) will soon be tabling an assessment on the details regarding the construction of the Wafi-Golpu Mining project to the mining advisory council (MAC) According to MRA managing director Jerry Garry, “Permitting of a special mining lease for large projects will require a different pathway than permitting a medium scale to small scale mine under the mining lease,” he said. “For a special mining lease, requires three distinct pathways for permitting. One, environmental permitting is a mandatory requirement and is done independently through the environment act under the custody of the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (Cepa). That process has been done and Cepa has issued the environmental permit for the Wafi-Golpu project. “The other is technical, from the mining perspective,” he said.  “That includes looking at structures to be built on the ground, the roads the buildings, the processing plants. Because it will be an underground operation, we will also look at designs to critically ensure that the integrity of the structures and any development met the expected standards. Once that is done and we are satisfied, we will give the green light for them to go and construct. During construction, we also provide that oversight to ensure that it is done safely. We have looked at all the proposals. Our technical team is about to table the technical assessment to MAC for the council to deliberate on. We anticipate that process to conclude by at least the end of March.” Garry added that if it goes to the MAC and the council was okay with it, then the council would deliberate on the application. The third stream was the mining development contract, he said.  “It’s between the State and developer to go by the books in terms of the benefits and any fiscal stability that they want,” he said. “When that is locked in, then we have a lower level called a development forum which will then involve MRA and State team to negotiate with the provincial government, LLGs and landowners in terms of benefits.”

Mining

PNG Business News - March 09, 2021

Singaporean Company withdraws interests to Mine Sand in Madang

The Singapore company exploring sand mining opportunities in Madang in Papua New Guinea has withdrawn its interests.  According to the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) Jerry Garry, the company had told them of its intention to pull out.  “The (mining advisory) council has not deliberated on the withdrawal application,” he said. “As and when it’s received and tabled before the mining advisory council, we will then affect the withdrawal of the licence, what we technically call a ‘surrender’. They have written to our technical branch stating their intention to surrender the tenement. But it has not come to the attention of the mining advisory council. It is highly likely that it will come to the council in the next meeting which will be about three weeks from now. It is a voluntary withdrawal by the proponents and it has nothing to do with MRA. We didn’t force them to withdraw.” He added, “Unless and when we see that the project proposal has detrimental consequences to people and the environment, the council has the power to force them to reconsider their application in terms of demarcating, realigning their boundaries. In the case of the sand, it’s really an exploration license that they applied for not a mining lease.” Meanwhile, the Madang tourism industry association chairman Sir Peter Barter said the mining would affect the environment. “These types of projects, especially to do with our marine ecosystems, will affect the leatherback turtle sanctuary in the Sumgilbar LLG,” he said.   

Mining

PNG Business News - March 01, 2021

Landowners Support National Government on Wafi Golpu Project

The Wafi-Golpu landowners have finally voiced out their support to the National Government on the environmental permit given to mine developers. The five associations chairmen - Victor Geactuluc (Yanta Development Association), John Nema (Hengambu Landowner Association), Jack Raban (Babuaf Development Corporation) of the Special Mining Lease (SML) area including Joseph Tetang (Wampar Pipeline Association) and Gae Galang (Wagan Outfall Association) - said they want the project to proceed and are asking Morobe Governor Ginson Saonu to desist from any purported court proceedings against the Sate about the deep-sea tailings placement (DSTP).Saonu, however, said that Morobe’s position still stands. “I will do what is right, just and fair for everyone,” he said.According to an independent body monitoring and evaluating process for the last four years, the landowners shouldn’t rush into things. The leaders argued that this process may cost Morobe and the provincial government millions of kina and added that the mining forum is the best place to discuss this problem. Nema said that he has lost more than 20 of his community members to common natural calamities and lack of basic health services. “I am against the move by our governor to register another court proceeding against the National Government while my people are suffering and dying without seeing any real developments or benefiting from their land,” he said.Geactuluc said that they don’t support the intention of the governor to take this to court. “We urge the good governor to refrain from wasting his time with his consultants and advisers but instead commit his time and resource to mobilise the SML, Pipeline and Outfall landowners through their associations in preparation for the upcoming Wafi Project MoA,” he said.For his part, Tetang urged the governor to have a discussion on how he intends to recognise the Huon Gulf coastal communities benefit-sharing instead of fighting a losing arrangement to prevent DSTP. “That is why the developer has chosen DSTP because it is much safer and could not harm the marine resources or the coastal communities based on the research and studies conducted,” he said.

Mining

PNG Business News - February 23, 2021

St Barbara Transitions from Mining Oxide to Sulphide

St Barbara Ltd’s Simberi operations in New Ireland is set to transition from mining oxide ore to sulphide. The mine which has been producing gold since 2009 said that its social and environmental impact studies (SEIS) are presently being finished for submission to the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (Cepa) and Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) in March.Sulphide mining is predicted to extend its mine life for at least another 10 years and produce more benefits for stakeholders.St Barabara managing director and chief executive Craig Jetson said, “We are at an important stage of operations at Simberi, as we continue to productively mine the oxide deposit and plan for a bright future via the Simberi sulphide project.”He added, “Iso will capably lead us through this transition as we support our Simberi community, contribute to New Ireland and deliver on our commitments to PNG.”Meanwhile, the firm said that since 2009, the mine has brought K84.3 million in royalties, paid an annual 0.5 per cent production levy and contributed over K97.4 million in contracts to landowner businesses.“In 2020, the company paid over K28 million in income tax,” according to St Barbara. “Other community benefits delivered since 2012, when St Barbara acquired the mine, amount to over K119 million. They include health and education infrastructure development, roads and bridges maintenance, cocoa farming, mariculture projects, education scholarships and employment and training.”

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Mining

PNG Business News - February 23, 2021

Iso Ealedona Appointed General Manager for Simberi Mine

St Barbara Limited’s Simberi operations in the New Ireland province has a new general manager in the person of Iso Ealedona.Ealedona was previously the head of operations for the past seven months and is a mining engineer and pioneer of the PNG University of Technology mining degree program. With over 26 years of experience in the industry working in Australia for Rio Tinto Iron Ore and in PNG at Misima, Ok Tedi, Hidden Valley, Lihir and St Barbara’s Simberi Operations, his expertise includes operational leadership, technical services, maintenance, safety management and business transformation.“As a recognised employer of choice, we are proud to be the first public company (ASX listed) operating in PNG to entrust this important role to a capable Papua New Guinean with the right skills and experience to lead our 1200 strong workforce at Simberi,” he said. “We are at an important stage of operations at Simberi, as we continue to mine the oxide deposit and plan for a bright future via the Simberi sulphide project. Iso will capably lead us through this transition as we support our Simberi community, contribute to NIP and deliver on our commitments to PNG,” said Craig Jetson, St Barbara’s managing director and CEO.”He said, “It’s an honour to lead, on behalf of St Barbara, a mining operation in my home country. With the St Barbara executive, Simberi leadership team and the workforce behind me, I am determined to lead Simberi safely and successfully through this transition period of oxide to sulphide mining for the benefit of all stakeholders.”

Mining

PNG Business News - February 18, 2021

Kingston Resources Strengthens Misima Gold Project Management Team

Kingston Resources has appointed Geoff Callister to help lead the social responsibility programs and project approval at its 3.6-million-ounce Misima Gold Project in Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea.This will further expand Kingston’s in-country management team as the project moves further through regulatory approvals and mining studies. Among the responsibilities of Callister include steering the preparation of the environmental impact statement (EIS) and mining lease application for the project and managing the critically important engagement with the government, local communities and landowners. He will also work with the Misima exploration manager, Andrew Harwood, a geologist who has 30 years of vast experience. According to Kingston’s managing director Andrew Corbett, “Following the completion of the highly successful Misima PFS in late 2020, we are absolutely delighted that Geoff has accepted this key position with Kingston to accelerate the next stage of project development. Geoff brings a set of vital skills around positive social and community engagement and environmental and mining approvals to the Kingston team. Besides, he has extensive professional experience working at Misima Island and more broadly within Papua New Guinea. Geoff’s experience includes five years working with Placer Dome as the sustainability planning and mine closure officer at the Misima Gold Mine.”He added, “He has also worked at the Lihir Gold Project, the Porgera Gold Mine and on the Frieda River Project – all landmark PNG projects. We are very much looking forward to Geoff joining the Kingston team as we move to the next exciting stage at Misima.”Meanwhile, Callister is a social performance manager with 20 years of experience and his expertise includes project implementation, stakeholder and government engagement, community development and natural resource management.

Mining

PNG Business News - February 18, 2021

Mapu: Porgera Closure Affects Surrounding Communities

The closure of the Porgera gold mine has caused its people to feel the pinch. “We are feeling a lot of effects such as power outages, deteriorating roads, businesses shutting down and many schools and aid posts closed,” said acting district administrator Jerry Mapu, who added that the Paiela-Hewa local level government had all but closed down with an aid post the only service still open.“Public servants do not want to come and work here,” he said. “We are the only ones here working.”Mapu said that all stakeholders needed to learn their lesson. “The Government, company and landowners must come to a round table discussion to discuss some way forward for the future of Porgera,” he said. “Otherwise, we don’t have a future. We are suffering. The bulk of the population is suffering.”According to the district administration, the district indirectly and directly benefits from the mine. The impact of the closure had doubled the effects that the people feel, he said.“The bad road conditions from Wabag to Porgera has also made it difficult for businesses and trucks to bring in services such as fuel and others,” Mapu said. “It is also hard to travel, how can teachers, doctors and workers get here? It’s important that the Government gives priority to Porgera for the maintenance of the road.”School fees was another challenge as landowners and beneficiaries of the mine’s SML trust fund had lost their means of paying for their children’s education, among other things. He added that the government should make a decision fast to solve these problems.

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