Mine Affected Get Control of Assets


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Like many indigenous people, we in PNG are totally dependent on our land and our environment. In the picture on the top left, the women make sago. Most of their livelihood including fishing and other staple food such as sago is dependent on their rivers.  On the right (above) I sit with women leaders who gathered at Puka Duka Village to discuss the craft and capacity building workshop I run.

I wanted to re-blog this post (below) on PNG Mine Watch because I work with women in the mine affected areas in Western Province. Much of these mine affected areas have been in the news in Papua New Guinea lately. Earlier in this blog, I posted personal stories about women and violence. Some of the women I have worked with in these areas were in those stories. Under the project I am working with, there are a total of 64 villages. These women are very hard workers and they are also producers of some of the most beautiful and intricate arts and crafts in Papua New Guinea.

The project I work in is part of the Mine Closure and mine affected projects run by Ok Tedi Development Fund and PNG Sustainable Development with a contribution from the Women’s Association. The story below shows the “big picture” of what we are dealing with right now in these areas – the mine affected areas. I have watched the news keenly with a heavy heart that there are some good things happening in the affected areas and they should continue.

My role here was to research and find crafts (conducting cultural mapping) and run workshops to develop these crafts with the women craft makers so that the crafts are suitable for the export market. This job is not easy. Most of the creators of the crafts are traditional craft makers and they randomly produce items such as baskets, mats and other small crafts they use themselves. Sometimes they make some for the markets. However, markets being so far away, like a day to two days trip in the dinghy or half a day in a small aircraft. They women in the mine affected areas have very little access to – EVERYTHING!

By setting up goals and small steps we could take, I take the participants through a training where we set up a network to produce the crafts, plant raw materials, teach intangible skills (such as weaving) to younger generation and record and keep techniques that may die as part of a sustainable approach. One of the things I discovered was that many traditional raw materials were destroyed by the tailings but the women have moved seedlings and planted in new locations. We also looked for and brought back many traditional pigments which are no longer used. Instead, Western and Chinese dyes have been used to colour some of their baskets. After our last workshop in Eniyawa Village, South Fly, I can proudly say that some of the women are finding, using the old dyes and also re-planting them for the future. Once we sort out the materials, production and the preservation part; we then develop the product itself for the world market.

The recent concerns have been that many projects such as craft development may be stopped as a result of the dispute between all parties concerned – Landowners, Government of PNG, Ok Tedi, PNG Sustainable Development, and Mine Affacted Communities.

It is bad enough being far from all basic services but when the environment is also destroyed, your food, your water, your livelihood and even your art is destroyed. You become dependent on outside help.

Recent developments and court actions against the OK Tedi Mine and the PNG Sustainable Development has brought a lot into light about the people that live in these places. Now we can talk about the people, not just nameless, faceless humans whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the tailings. Here is the ABC Radio interview posted earlier by the PNG Mine Watch. I am very happy to hear that the people can now access more money and help.  This need for development and improvement to the livelihood of this area and the province as a whole has been long over-due.

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ABC Radio Australia

The people affected by Papua New Guinea’s Ok Tedi mine have gained direct control of key assets created by the mine’s wealth, for the first time.

On Friday, Sir Mekere Morauta, Chairman of the PNG Sustainable Development Program handed over million’s of dollars worth assets to mine affected communities and to the government of Western Province.

It is part of the continuing fall-out from the PNG government decision to take over the Ok Tedi mine.

Presenter: Jemima Garrett

Speaker: Martyn Namorong, Western Province Blogger who has worked for both Ok Tedi Mining Ltd and the PNG Sustainable Development Program

GARRETT: When the PNG government took control of the giant Ok Tedi copper mine in it starved the Papua New Guinea Sustainable Development Program, until then Ok Tedi’s biggest shareholder, of income.

PNGSDP was forced to shed the vast majority of its close to 80 staff.

Now, unable to continue its work as a development agency working on behalf of the people of Western Province, it has been forced to handover its assets.

PNGSDP still has legal action pending challenging the government takeover but in a statement Chairman Sir Mekere Morauta said he was aware of the desperate need for development to continue in Western Province and so wanted to gift the assets to the people in an orderly and planned way so they do not go to waste.

The mine area communties take control of almost 6 million dollars worth of housing in the Star mountains town of Tabubil.

PNGSDP’s 25 per cent share in the Ok Tedi Developoment Foundation goes to the wider group affected by the mine – more than 100,000 people living in 156 villages.

PNG blogger Martyn Namorong who is from Western province applauds the move.

NAMORONG: It was the right thing to do. Those assets in the end belong to the people of western province and had to be transferred over otherwise they deteriorate without funding coming to PNGSDP.

GARRETT: Martyn Namorong says the community control of the 25 per cent stake or one share in the Ok Tedi Development Foundation (or OTDF), is particularly significant.

NAMORONG: It will mean communities will have direct board representation on OTDF whereas previously they only had associated directors on the board of the Ok Tedi Development Foundation. That will also have an impact on decisions that are being made on development programs throughout the Fly River communities.

GARRETT: Do the communities have the resources they need to get the advice they need to run these institutions effectively?

NAMORONG: Yes, they do have money in their trust funds. They can get the right people. The interesting thing has been the transfer of one share in OTDF, which means the communities will now have a director on OTDF and have a direct say in the application of their resources. They do have the financial capacity to get the experts that are necessary to run those projects. So if it is done properly it should work out well for those communities.

GARRETT: Control over the biggest asset PNGSDP’s 100 per cent equity in Western Power – which provides mobile phone and television transmission, as well as electricty – was given to the Western Province government.

In recent months blackouts have become more frequent and and Western Power’s ambitious expansion plans have been on hold.

In his acceptance speech, Western Province Governor Ati Wobiro promised to use the company to extend electricity supplies across the province.

Sir Mekere Morauta says there is ample income from the Ok Tedi mine for all the projects PNGSDP to continue but that may not happen, especially with the Western Province government short on staff and expertise.

Five million dollars has been spent by PNGSDP on design and equipment for a water and sewerage system for the people on Daru Isalnd and piles have been laid for the Tawao’o Point wharf.

Martyn Namorong says the continuation of the water and sewerage project is particularly important.

There is money in the Western province dividend trust fund, there is hundreds of millions there that the provincial government can apply for the benefit of the people of Western province.

GARRETT: Why is that water and sewerage program so important?

NAMORONG: Around 2010-11 there was a cholera outbreak in Papua New Guinea and the impacts were worse around daru because at the moment there is a night-soil waste disposal system. Basically, human waste is collected in buckets and then transferred out. There is no proper sewerage. The water supply is iregularly, irregular. we have about one hour of the water being turned on on the island. People collect the water and then for the rest people don’t have water going to the island. So it creates a huge public health risk. That is a very vital project that needs to get off the ground to improve the quality of life of the people of Daru island.

2 thoughts on “Mine Affected Get Control of Assets”

  1. Very interesting read of this blog that appeared today 11the Feb,2014.Interesting because I am only new to your blog and thought you only write stories(referring to recent stories off women and yourself) and you interest me in that area where you actually went into the villages faraway from your own area.I am impressed with your work you did with those women of Western Province.
    I made a political comment on the facebook concerning the millions and billions of kinas held by the PNGSDF.I do not altogether understand the economics nor the ifs and buts,whys,when,whats etc but yes,western province is an area that needs a lot of looking into; in terms of its deteriorating infrastructure of government buildings themselves(for example the hospitals,the classrooms in town and government houses for public servants).Government services and delivery of essential every day living is so very hard to access(as you know),infact in every facet of todays modern standard of living is non existent for the past 30 years or more.Western province like many other provinces in PNG have been left deteriorating and the worse affected are the villages and those who live there.Dire attention is needed.
    Sorry I did carry on a bit up there(above passage) but the statements i made in the facebook was why has those billions of kina be sitting in the Fund while there is dire needed in the western all these years province?Has the Fund made the lives of those in the province any better, is there any real physical evidence of improvement of any kind in the overall aspects of their day to day living standards?If not than why the existence of the fund?I see Sir Mekere and the PM Oneil are making inroads already in some areas of the Fund.Just hope the PM Oneil and his ministers do not mismanage this Fund as they have mismanage PNGs coffers.It is a sad dilemma for this piece of paradise that it has been neglected for so and be even worse if the Funds are left sitting there or are mismanaged.

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