August 31, 2008

Papua New Guinea Nickel Project Denies Chinese Workers Fled

Text of report by Papua New Guinea newspaper The National website on 29 August

[By Anton Huafolo]

There has been no work stoppage at Ramu Nickel's mine site and construction is ongoing, mine manager Ramu Nico Management Co said. The company was reacting to The National's front page report yesterday that Ramu mine has shut down after locals attacked Chinese workers at the mine site over poor working conditions and a demand for a 50 per cent pay increase.

"There has been no stoppage of work at the Kurumbukari (Ramu) mine site," a company spokesman, who requested anonymity, said. "The construction work is ongoing," he added.

"There is no fleeing of Chinese workers to Madang in fear of attacks. Separately, we have had consultations with certain workers over their concerns ... this is internal management issue," he stressed.

But the problem faced by Ramu Nico last Monday [25 August] was at its Basamuk refinery site, where local employees attacked three Chinese employees, seriously injuring them.

"In Basamuk refinery site, the situation has been quiet but construction has not restarted yet, following Monday's incident," the spokesman said.

"We understand the Madang provincial government officials are on site today, together with the police, to consult and pacify the locals, and to resume construction within this week," he added.

Meanwhile, Ramu Nico has confirmed it has received a notice from the Mineral Resources Authority that the memorandum of agreement (MOA) review will commence on 1 September in Madang.

There was a consultation meeting yesterday in Madang, led by MRA. But there were reservations by Ramu Nico.

"We are disappointed and concerned over what had happened, and what has not been addressed," the Ramu Nico spokesman said. "We recognize the role of MRA as the convening party to the review, and support their resolve to get the process going. The failure to timely organize and convene the MOA review is the main cause for landowners' frustration and extreme behaviour.

"In past several months, we observed with a heavy heart the divided positions between project landowners and Madang provincial government over the timing, venue and chairmanship," he said.

"Our joint venture partner Highlands Pacific Ltd [HPL] and MRDC [Mineral Resources Development Company] shared the same sentiment.

"Out of great concerns, HPL has sent letters to the PM (prime minister) and DPM (Department of Prime Minister), asking the government to intervene to ensure a smooth MOA next week, and make sure the operation of this important Ramu project and the substantial benefits to all stakeholders are not unduly delayed," he added.

Originally published by The National website, Port Moresby, in English 29 Aug 08.

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