The National Court has put a halt to the Wafi-Golpu project until all matters relating to the signing of the project Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) are heard.
The decision also bars agents of government like the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) from conducting any forums between landowners and other stakeholders of the project.
The application for leave for judicial review was sought by lawyers representing the Morobe Provincial Government. The Provincial Government went to court after the project MOU was signed in Port Moresby despite their opposition. Governor Ginson Saonu had expressed that the Provincial Government wanted a 15 percent stake the mine and wanted to raise the financing for it.
“As governor of the province, we have to participate in this project. We cannot be spectators who watch while the project goes ahead.
“People have to be consulted. The Provincial Government has to be consulted.”
The National Government through the Mining Minister, Johnson Tuke, is said to have sped up the process with the State Solicitor, Daniel Rolpagarea, providing a ‘clearance letter’ that is now being questioned by the Morobe Provincial Government.
The National Government was looking to sign the MOU with project developers, Newcrest, during the Annual Mining conference in Sydney in December 2018. According to court documents, the Prime Minister summoned the Morobe Governor, Ginson Saonu and the Mining Minister, Johnson Tuke, to the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney and requested both leaders sign in front of project developers. Governor Saonu refused as not aware of the terms of the MOU.
Governor Saonu, says there has been very little consultation between the national Government, landowners, the provincial government and the developers. The disagreements triggered the temporary closure of the Wafi-Golpu project site by locals and the Provincial Government.
The National Court determined that the concerns raised by the provincial government were genuine and that the Provincial Government had sufficient interest and standing to represent the concerns of the people.
“We wrote to the MRA and the National Government but they ignored us. So we got support from the Provincial Executive Council and the Tutumang because it represents 30 ward areas.”
As much as possible, the Morobe Provincial Government wants the most participation from local clans and other districts of Morobe. Governor Saonu has argued that the MOU in its present form excludes people from participating in a big way.
“We must avoid what happened on Bougainville, on Misima and in Pogera.”