PNG PM urges patience over Porgera mine talks
Papua New Guinea's prime minister has urged patience while negotiations over the contract for the Porgera gold mine continue.
James Marape was responding to questions in parliament from Laigap-Porgera MP, Tomait Kapili.
Canadian company Barrick Gold Ltd, the co-operator of the mine in Enga province with China's Zijin Mining Group, is pushing to renew its contract.
Mr Kapili requested that Mr Marape move all negotiations to Porgera itself, to adequately gauge landowners' views and the extent of problems around the mine.
The MP spoke of ongoing "serious" law and order problems which he linked to a surge of outsiders to Porgera since the expiry of the Special Mining Lease in August.
"Since the expiry of the SML there's hundreds and thousands of people coming from afar, outside the valley, claiming that the extension of the license - while we are negotiating - is not in order, 'they are illegally mining, so we also want to illegally mine'."
The prime minister answered that the government was well aware that a majority of landowners want Barrick's lease not to be renewed.
He said the government had received many written and oral representations from landowners indicating that over 90 percent of them were against Barrick staying on.
"But we are mindful that our partners are operating the mine and they have the asset up there in the mine itself, so those discussions will bring to full conclusion when we consult everyone.
"I intend in the new year (for) an announcement to be made to the status of what will happen in Porgera," said Mr Marape, adding that he would consider the Laigap-Porgera MP's request.
Porgera landowners protest against Canadian company Barrick Gold Ltd Photo: Supplied
"Let me assure the member that I look forward to considering his recommendations in the positive, that all discussions, if not all major discussions, will take place in Porgera, be held in the Porgera valley up in Enga province. So those recommendations are taken on board."
Since last year, Porgera landowners have conducted a number of public protests to demonstrate their opposition to Barrick's continued involvement in the mine.
They have complained about lack of compensation for environmental damage caused by the mine over almost thirty years of operation.
Mr Marape urged landowners to maintain composure while the government concludes its discussions with the mine operators.
His government is seeking a greater share in the mine.