PNG Industry News
PNG PRIME MINISTER PETER O’NEILL has delivered a strong message on the importance of “investor confidence and certainty” but his Mining Minister, Byron Chan (pictured), is reading from a script that seemed destined to deliver the opposite.
In a wide-ranging speech to the 12th PNG Mining and Petroleum Investment Conference in Sydney earlier this month, O’Neill said: “The undertaking I give you today is this, there will be no drastic or radical change to the laws that exist today – and there will certainly be no immediate change.”
In sharp contrast, Chan promised significant legislative changes in the coming year, including changes to the Mining Act, the Mining (Safety) Act and Offshore Mining Policy.
Chan’s presentation, which set the program for the second day of the conference back by almost an hour, gave mining company representatives a bit of an adrenalin rush when he said there were proposals for a mine closure plan to be submitted when a company applied for an exploration tenement.
The actual text suggested, more plausibly, that a mine closure plan would be required when an application was made for a mining lease.
It was not the only occasion the Mining Minister went off script. On the first occasion he quickly corrected himself after his reference to the O’Neill-Namah Government resulted in uncomfortable laughter breaking out among the audience.
In his introduction the Minister said mining had been the largest contributor to the PNG economy “for well over ten years”.
Maybe it was too hard to reflect back to the early days of independence when the Bougainville copper mine was a potent force in the PNG economy as the only major resource venture at the time.
One of the oddest plans put forward by the Minister was a suggestion that the revised mining policy would limit to 10 the number of exploration licences “that any one person can hold at any one time”, while at the same time increasing the licence term from two to five years.
The maximum area for an exploration lease will also be reduced by half from the current allowance of 250 sq km or 750 sub-blocks. These are groundbreaking ideas that could only stifle the exploration sector.
Minister Chan appears inclined to take a prescriptive approach to future exploration activity. Socio-economic and environmental impact assessments would be made a requirement at the exploration phase, when explorers will have little awareness of the nature and scale of mineralisation they may discover.