by Theckla Gunga – EM TV News, Port Moresby
The Telefomin MP, Solan Mirisim, has challenged the O’Neill-Dion government to send an investigation team to OK Tedi Mine to investigate the laying off of employees and contractors expected to begin in Tabubil.
Mr. Mirisim said the temporary shutdown of OK Tedi would affect the 2016 Government Budget, including the Western Provincial Government Budget, and wants the government to come clean on its plans to assist the mine to export its gold and copper.
“The temporary shutdown will affect many OTML’s long servicing employees,” Mr. Mirisim said.
Mr Mirisim told parliament today that the layoff exercise is as an injustice to the hundreds of employees and contractors of OTML, who will be affected by the temporary shutdown.
He said the OTML Board had failed to inform its employees and contractors on the repatriation exercise, and as a result, the education of those students whose parents will be laid off in Tabubil or Kiunga, who will be affected.
In response to Mirisim’s challenge, Prime Minister, Peter O’ Neill, told parliament that his government was briefed by OK Tedi Mining Limited’s Board Chairman last week on the current challenges the mine is facing.
“I was briefed by OTML’s chairman last week on OTML’s challenges. At the moment, the company is incapable of extracting the ore from copper,” Mr. O’Neill.
He said the layoff is part of a cost a cutting measure the mine will be undertaking and the shutdown is only temporary.
In an exclusive interview with EMTV News yesterday, Prime Minister O’Neill said the expenditure of the mine will be controlled and there will be delays in the payment of the mine’s non-priority areas.
O’Neill said the decrease in water levels on the Fly River and the drop in commodity prices on World Market are two contributing factors to this temporary shutdown.
But there is still hope, in Parliament today, the Prime Minister confidently said once the mine picks up on its normal operations, the mine will bring back the employees that it needs.