Porgera’s new lease
A special mining lease for the Porgera gold mine will be issued to a state-owned enterprise, but the Government is giving the operator the option of negotiating “how it can remain”.
Prime Minister James Marape in a statement yesterday explained why the mining lease renewal sought by Barrick Niugini Limited (BNL) had been rejected, and why a special mining lease would now be issued to the Kumul Mineral Holdings Limited (KMHL).
The operator BNL is challenging in court the non-renewal of the special mining lease it applied for on June 29, 2017.
Marape said BNL’s lease expired on Aug 16, 2019, and on the recommendation of the Mining Advisory Council, it was not renewed.
The BNL and the KMHL then applied to the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) for a new special mining lease.
“(The MRA) decision was in favour of KMHL,” Marape said.
He said BNL “has all rights to contest our process in court and it is in all parties’ interest to conclude the matter fast”.
“But if Barrick feels they want to be still at Porgera, then it is now up to them to meet KMHL to discuss how they could remain in Porgera under KMHL’s special mining lease,” Marape said.
“(The) equity plus operatorship option is on the table subject to negotiations.
“My government’s policies to empower our citizens and our country take precedence when opportunities (arise) and with the expiring of lease and through the failure of lease renewal by a legitimate process, we had no option but to progress in the manner we have done as far as Porgera is a concern.”
He assured the landowners and the Enga government that they will benefit from the new arrangement.
Opposition Leader Belden Namah called the Government’s move “devious, ill-advised, ill-timed and a fatal blow to investor confidence”.
Former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said the decision would further destroy the country.
“This government must be stopped from making more damage to the nation.
“We have no capacity or funding for this madness,” O’Neill said.
Mining Minister Johnson Tuke said he could not comment on the matter.
Namah said to issue a special mining lease while BNL was challenging the matter in court meant that the refusal to extend the lease was “devious and ill-intentioned.”
He warned that this decision “now pre-empts the matter in court and might be held to be sub¬ judicial to the whole case”.
He said if KMHL was the State’s choice to develop Porgera, then who would be the operator?
“Instead of resolving the issue with BNL over the granting of a new special mining lease, the Government has granted a new one to KMHL,” he said.
“By this ill-advised and ill-timed decision, the hope of an early reopening of Porgera mine has now faded.”