Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, says BHP Billiton must be subject to the rule of law.
He made the comment today in parliament when answering a question regarding Ok Tedi mine.
O’Neill said there is no reason why any landowner or anyone should not take BHP to court for environmental damage.
The Prime Minister was responding to a question raised by the Governor for NCD, Powes Parkop, regarding Ok Tedi’s former owner BHP’s immunity from claims of environmental damage.
The immunity came after landowners from Western province sued BHP in an Australian court alleging that BHP’s operations at the Ok Tedi mine caused environmental damage and destruction to traditional lifestyle.
Prime Minister O’Neill said that particular immunity has already been reversed and BHP can be taken to court.
He said the PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP) was established for the benefit of the people of Western province, with the aim of letting the people manage their money.
With the court cases happening in Singapore and the final hearing in October this year, O’Neill said the government has a strong case and is confident of a favourable outcome.
The Prime Minister said the government made the right decision, taking over the Ok Tedi Mine because of its importance to Papua New Guinea’s economy.
He said when the government took over the mine two years ago; it was valued at less than US$500 million and had a debt of US$200 million.
From recent briefings with the mine’s management, the debt level has reduced to US$15 million. O’Neill said within 12 months, the value of OK Tedi will be US$3 billion.
The Prime Minister said it is important that future trust funds for landowners are not subject to this kind of manipulation and mismanagement.