National Court halts Wafi-Golpu project

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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.”

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Scott Waide

is the Lae Bureau Chief and began his career with EMTV in 1997 as a News and Sports Reporter and Anchor and has been a media professional for over 19 years. Having previously worked as a Producer and Researcher for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Port Moresby Bureau, he is a recipient of multiple awards including the Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union Prize in 2005 in Iran for best news feature, the Pacific Island News Association Award and the Divine Word University Media Freedom Award.

Scott Waide