Crater Gold Mining has caused a stir among conservation groups, having applied for a licence to mine one of Papua New Guinea’s most significant wildlife reserves.
With 180 square kilometres of exploration licences in and around its namesake , Crater Mountain, Crater Gold says the area could be PNG’s next large-scale copper and gold reserve, and is looking to fast track in the area to fund development.
Crater Mountain is an area of globally significant biodiversity, which was declared a wildlife management area in 1993 after local leaders became concerned the declining fauna in the area, including birds of paradise.
Crater Gold managing director Greg Starr said they have identified Crater Mountain as a project that can go into production in the near term, and will take up only one and a half square kilometres of the 2000 square kilometre reserve.
“Ongoing work has shown the potential for a multi-million ounce resource, and if like other gold-porphyry systems, could be many millions of ounces,” he said.
The Research and Conservation Foundation of PNG spokesperson Robert Bino said the mining will have a dramatic impact on wildlife and rivers in the area, and has the potential to disrupt and even kill off forest-based businesses.
"Some of the tourists that have come to Crater because of pristine conditions, to come and see the wildlife in the forest and experience village life with the people," he said.
"I think if we have mining in Crater it may affect potential to attract tourists – that's what I think."
Mr Bino said the PNG government should live up to its obligations to protect the country's biodiversity.
"There should be more commitment from the government to exclude those other competing activities within those areas designated as conservation areas, or protected areas throughout the country," he said.
"What we see is that we have gazetted areas throughout the country but there is also this competing activities encroaching onto those so-called protected areas.
"So we would like to see more political will to support these initiatives to protect biodiversity and our biological resources."
Greg Starr said the mine will bring benefits to the area, and is confident that landowners will agree to change to boundaries of the wildlife management area.
"We will work with the landowners to discuss with them the issues that they see and the impact on the environment and if that is something that we all agree is appropriate, then that will be the case but we will go through the process.”