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Papua New Guinea landowner testimonies

by David MartinezPNG interviews August 2006

� �

An interview with Mr. Poko Lege of Pium, PNG

Poko Lege and his tribe had to move for the Porgera mine to be built. They relocated to an area by the river that was soon overtaken by mine waste.

What happened when the mine first came to Porgera?

First when the company came they told the Pium land owners including myself that the company is coming to develop the gold in Porgera. So the Pium land owners are supposed to give the land to the government to develop the gold.

So, I and my people questioned the government and the company of Wistles who came to negotiate and they told us what benefit are we going to get out of the mine if we let our land go, and then they told us that we will be living in high house; we will be paid so much money; we will get business spin-off and get us into contacts with the mine; and we will have plenty of cars; and we will put their kids to school; and we will be benefiting just like the people from the mine.

Who told you this?

The company of Wistles and the Government of Wistles through mining corporation unit.
So, agreeing upon those words we gave our land to the government to develope the mining town. We gave all our land and we took a very small portion along the river. All of our land along the road was given to the government to develop.

And now that the mine is in operation that small piece of land that we have taken has been covered by Anaway waste dump. And now we have no land; we are a shortage of land; we have no place to go; we have no money; we�ve got no contract with the mine, we are just totally in bad place.

What do you hope to achieve with this group?

There are many positions that we have carried out. The negotiations should be honored they should have given me the house that they promised, they should have given me the contact they promised, they should have give me my compensation payment as they promised. And for the dump area of Anaway, the company should find new land and build the house and relocate me in that new place.�

An Interview with Nelson Akiko

Nelson Akiko, Principal landowner, explains how he feels that the company has not fulfilled their promises and calls for more transparency.

My name is Nelson Akiko I am from this Yarik village within the SML, Special Mining List area.

Tell me about your house and how you are living.
I used to live where the actual mine is taking place, Alivis. Now, I was relocated by the company to this village here, this unstable area as you can see. The place to your right left back and front, I am living here.

And what do you think of how you are living?

Well, as I just mentioned: unstable, my life is unstable. I am not living to that expectation, once the company came and said that you conditions of life would improve in terms of infrastructure developments, compensations and so forth. Everything is not what the company told me.

Why not?

Well, maybe that�s the company�s policy or our government. I�ve been talking; I�ve been going to national government, our provincial government, the company... And nothing positive, no good response to what... to me... not me, but the people.

Just look at it. Look at the replacement, my house. Look, there�s a house on your right. Just look at the people. Look at my store here. There�s nothing; it�s not stocked.

Do you have any faith that the government is going to change the situation?
We�ve been trying so many times, as I said there was no good response.
What are you going to do if things don�t change?

At the moment, I am trying to renegotiate the previous agreement that my forefathers signed when I was back in the village. I think when we review and renew these agreement is reviewed; I think things will change.

What if they don�t?

Then, I have some possibilities, but I don�t want to mention it here. There are ways.

Anything else that you want to add?

Just look around, you know, and you�ve been to some mines oversees. Within PNG we have some mines, but our mine, Porgera Mine, is different then other mines around the world.

When you look at your right, just look at it, people are dumped.

We depend on our land. You depend on money. Money is not need, it is only a want, but it is need in western society.

I live on land, which is my stomach. I grow food from this land and then I survive. But now, where can I get food?

I grow food from this soil if I have no land, I have no life. But now, where can I live? Where is my life? You cannot live with money and air without food. PNG, we have a different society. I can�t go and stay in someone else�s land, they will kill me. So I have to stay in my land grow food in there, make house in there, look after pig in there, make business in there. If there is no land, Nelson Akiko will not exist.

So everything is taken by the company, and the company has no sympathy for the genuine, for the principal landowners.
Another thing, I am paid by PJV royalties, the company royalties, equity, occupations. These are some sort of compensations that the company pays to the landowners, but these ones are not satisfied. Whether they are using the same rate, or the current rate who�s controlling the money? Myself, I�m not aware of the money, who�s controlling the money.
For example, if I am [supposed to be] paid monthly, then i am paid quarterly in royalty payments and then they used to tell me that there is technical problem and delay the time. I should depend on those royalties and the same thing applies to equity which I own 2.5 percent, with a total of 5 percent, another 2.5 percent our provincial government
gets. And then I have no record of that payment. I end up with 500 kina, 1000 kina, 2000 kina...
I�m talking about the book, I should get more for equity than royalties, occupation, compensation and so forth and then other business spin off. I�m not getting any benefit. They are totally controlled by outsiders!

Or... I want to know! Nobody comes here and explain to me or to my people that this is what�s happening with your royalty, this is what happening with your equity payment and occupations and so forth.

I want compensations for our guidance when the company goes into our land. What�s happening? What sort of rates are they using?
Payments we get is unsatisfactory like they used to promise, before they move us to this place here. So that�s another grievance that I have, not only me but with my people.

An interview with Mr. Egebredi Momai Andambo

Mr. Egebredi Momai Andambo describes the original land agreement made with the mine and his disappointment with how that agreement was carried out.

I am one of the 23 committees of the Porgera land region in the past when the mining was about to develop the 23 were to negotiate. At the time I was not prepared to sign the agreement, and so I was being pushed aside and the other people who were highlighted took part in the annexation.
The company does not pay or compensate our land property. We do not get any bit for all the mining, in terms of royalty, in terms of equity, or mine contracts or whatever.
We are also being affected by the gas from the mine, the pollution and noise, and we are not being treated properly. We breath the smoke from the mine. It pollutes the air system, and when it forms the cloud and comes down it poisons the tank waters. And we drink out of it and it may have destroyed some parts of our body.
We get sick. We are being affected by the gas and we have pneumonia and respiratory disease. Our rivers are being polluted; the company does not get us relocated. We do not [have] good houses to live in.
The houses built by the company are small box houses, not fit to accommodate all the families.
The executives, the developers, and the government have been incorporated and they do it to benefit themselves and not the landowners.

The landowners do not want any trucks. They do not have any good houses or any investment or any business. The PJV has not helped landowners in any way in any part of the country. There is no [PJV] department in the district; there is no good school; there is no add room or reserve electricity. They did not put any services to the district, did not provide health services, education services, power supply, did not seal the road, did nothing.

And Placer Dome that leaving us in darkness.

And now that Barrick comes up, Barrick is saying that the mine will extend another 35 years, and we do not know if that is true or if that is false.

Placer has damaged our environments and even stole our gold. And even Placer has got a loan and also Placer has got a huge claim from the land owners and Placer just disappeared leaving all of these claims and leaving the mess.

Placer is responsible for cleaning the mess that they have left but instead Placer moved on and we have responded another company by the name of Barrick Gold corporation. And now we are waiting to see how Barrick corporation will cope with us.

What are you going to do if Barrick does not cooperate?

With Barrick in place we are trying to review the mining agreement. Placer did not review the mining agreement, so now with Barrick we want to review the Porgera mining agreement and put some new clause in to best suits the people.

And if Barrick does not want to listen the landowners, we will close the mine and allow Barrick to move out.

Do you think that the government will support the cause of the people?

Government will support the developer because the developer has an agreement with the government; and the government will not support me to chase Barrick out. But, as a landowner, I have the power to close the mine.

An interview with Village Headman, Arnold Nesoclina

Arnold Nesoclina, General Secretary of a landowners association and village headman, talks about the environmental issues faced by people at the mine, and the tactics used by Placer to avoid responsibility.

My name is Arnold Nesoclina, I am one of the principal landowners here come Kiligima South Plane, and this is where I come from and this is the house where I sleep. I also work for the landowners association as the general secretary and before the mine started the agreement was signed 1989 with the landowners.

The landowners intention for signing agreement for signing the agreement was to achieve maximum benefit from the mine: economically, socially and you know all of these benefits.

But these benefits were not forthcoming and state and the developers, Placer, the parent company in Canada. And in the agreement there set of provisions there which talks about the environment and landowner benefits. And those provisions were not being delivered and the agreement did become a fake agreement. Landowners have asked the state and the developer and they say that currently the mine is taken over by Barrick Corporation, is another parent company in Canada, currently Barrick owns 75 percent of the mine, Porgera mine alone.

What actually happened was that. That was the intentions of the landowners in signing the agreement and giving away the land.

What was the intention?

The intention was to receive the maximum benefit to directly participate in the mine, not indirectly. But those promises were not being delivered, not honored. And landowners now see that as a result there are a lot of social change, their way of living, cultural changes, the land is overcrowded, littering people, more disease, Papua New Guineans migrating into Porgera, of course all of the social problems. A lot of this is man created us, damage to the environment, water pollutions. You know, nobody really cares about the poor people here. Especially in Porgera mine. If it was in other country like
America, and Australia or Canada, and this company was operating Porgera mine, it would have been a big problem. And of course a lot of our damages is because toxic waste into the river. And very important thing here is that people here very depend their life on the land itself, I mean to Papua New Guinea, especially we Engans, we depend our life on the land. Land is our life, but to the western world like America and
Australia and Canada and all these places, there life is money.

But to us especially Porgerans and Engans money is just a word to us and land is our life. And taking into consideration the governments and the corporations that have done something, we anticipated that the benefits would be coming to us originally when the agreement was signed; but it never came.

Whatever promises that they made was not delivered and landowners have now prove that there were favors for state and with the government. Even in 1999, the agreement was signed the company was not made party to the agreement.

Companies and developers and the owners in Canada should�ve been made a party to the agreement so that they actively participate in ruling the provisions of the agreement.
That was not done it was deliberately.... the landowners wanted PJV to be party but something went wrong and the developer which was Placer was deliberately omitted from being party to the agreement. And the state was made party to the agreement so that the company indirectly honored some of the provisions of the agreement through the directives through the national government of Papua New Guinea

This was a big trick played, by the developer and the state.

So the company was not present at the agreements when they were made?

The company were actually there, was actually present there and they agreed to be party to the agreement and the draft was done. And some people who got involved in the Department of Mining. I could name one.... I can recall his name it is Joe Ritt and David Evanson. They all benefited out of PJV as a result of successfully negotiating this agreement by not making PJV party to this agreement. So, some of these guys are enjoying a luxury life at the expense of the poor landowners here in Porgera mine. And the agreement was signed and PJV is enjoying the benefits through the profits for the mine and the PNG government is enjoying from the taxes that they collect from the mine.

What else, the poor landowners suffer and don�t get the benefit from the mine.
I don�t know this only applies to Porgera mine or this applies to mining all over the world. And that is not known, but we are still working on it to find out where we can be miss out because we are the legitimate land owners who really own the mine, and the gold and the land.

And that is not only the case. As a result of the mine activities, the company is deposit all of this waste. Wasting through the river system Cyanide, Mercury, you name all of the chemicals that they use in the mine, to extract the gold. You know and all of these got through the river system in Porgera River and all around the perimeter of the special mining lists area. There is a mining law that people should mining list should be allowed only for the operator of the mine. Because it is very dangerous for people living next to the mine.

What are you doing now to make that happen?

What we actually trying to do is... we have already put in submissions, position papers to the state so that some of these environmental issues, resettlement issues, social issues. And landowner rights problems all this will be addressed at the forum, by reviewing the MOA. And that now before the national government of PNG, I believe some of them will be this week.

So... we want them, the state and developer, to come very positively with our position papers because even with resettlement problem and land rights problem and environment problem is, we are also asking the government to at least address these problems. I mean nobody cares because the government is looking for getting the taxes and companies is not a government, where it will care about the people, they are here to make profit,
they make profit and they are gone.

So poor people who are landowners back at home, they suffer.

William Gaupe Income Chairman for Porgera Landowners Association

Whats going on with you and the landowners?

The landowners are really being used. the landowners are being represented by PEAK committees and these PEAK committees are rubber stamps. They are being used by key people in Port Moresby and they are known as national executives, and they get all of the benefits that landowners deserve and landowners get nothing.

Now we are trying to tell the company is that we do not want the PEAK to exist. And that the company should deal directly with the landowners and whatever decisions that they make should be between the company and the landowners.

Not any middlemen to stay in the middle to speak on behalf of the landowners.

So those people are the representative of the landowners?


How do you feel about the benefits of the mine that are given out to Porgera?

The benefits are not being given fairly the landowners are being miss out. The landowners are not benefiting from the mine. Totally, they are not benefiting from the mine. Instead of the landowners, the benefits are going to the middle-people.
These middle people are not landowners, they are supposed to be custodians. They are not direct representatives.

So what we are trying to do, what me and my group are trying to do is direct the benefits for the landowners directly to the landowners through forming alleeges (sic) in Porgera land groups.

So, we have already formed in alleeges, there are 61 alleges and these 61 alleeges will be the people who will represent the interests of the landowners and each of the alleeges humans will become the committee of that region.

And by doing that we think that the benefits will go directly to the landowners and everything be different with the landowners rather than having the PEAK.
Video of the testimonies


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