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Sir Mekere not backing down on PNG Governments claim on Ok Tedi Mine

SIR Mekere Morauta has vowed to fight tooth-and-nail to defend the Western people’s US$1.6 billion (K3.97 billion) share in the Ok Tedi Mining 
Ltd (OTML) from being taken away by the Government.
Parliament yesterday passed the Mining (Ok Tedi Tenth Supplemental Agreement) Bill 2013 with 62 votes to nil to give the Government full ownership of the giant mine.
Sir Mekere, the PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP) Ltd chairman, also accused Prime Minister Peter O’Neill of planning to control the US$1.4 billion in PNGSDP’s longterm fund which was being kept in Singapore.
But a spokesman for O’Neill yesterday said the people of Western, through their elected leaders, had voted in Parliament to approve the State’s 100% ownership of the mine. 
Sir Mekere yesterday said despite the Government having the overwhelming majority to pass legislation to take control of the mine, the PNGSDP, as custodian of the Western people, would not give it up without a fight.
“I can only defend,” he told a media conference.
“Under our constitution, the state can expropriate private assets if it is in the national interest but a fair compensation has to be paid.
“He (O’Neill) has to convince us that it’s in the national interest. If it is in the national interest, he has to pay. That’s under the constitution.
“I hope he’s the last prime minister to expropriate his own people’s assets without compensation.”
Sir Mekere said O’Neill had the PNGSDP firmly in his sight.
“He’s not only trying to take US$1.6 billion by expropriating these shares, he wants to take control of US$1.4 billion in the long-term fund, saved from past dividends for expenditure in future after mine closure.
“He wants to take control of that as well as start spending now. It doesn’t make sense to me. Why is he so unkind to the people of Western?”
In yesterday’s sitting, O’Neill said the transfer of 100% shareholdings in OTML was in the best interests of the people of Western and PNG.
“According to the Ninth Supplementary Agreement, BHP gifted its shares in the mine to PNGSDP. This meant that PNGSDP held 63% of the shares in Ok Tedi and the State held the remainder. The intention of this was that the mine would effectively be owned by the State. The mine would belong to the people of Western and its proceeds would be used for their benefit.   
“However, PNGSDP has not operated as intended and BHP has continued to have a hand in PNGSDP. This is wrong. We are a sovereign country and can be trusted to manage our own resources and affairs. The State must be able to act on its own accord.
“It is time to review the operation of PNGSDP. 
“The state is not taking these shares – it will be providing some compensation to PNGSDP.” 
O’Neill said regardless of the amount of compensation, the people of Western would not be disadvantaged as the dividends from OK Tedi would be used to fund development projects under the Western Province Development Plan. 
“We are simply returning an asset that was gifted to the people of Western back to them, so that they can fully benefit from it, and begin to rebuild their lives.”
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