Newcrest forced to shut Lihir gold mine for 36 hours

Newcrest was forced to shut down its Lihir gold mine in Papua New Guinea over the weekend after “illegal actions” by local community members.

The mine was shut for around 36 hours after local landowners placed taboo ginger plants, or gorgors at the mine site.

ABC news reports gorgors are a traditional signal that the landowners want to hold talks with the company.

"What we have to be clear about is that the placement of gorgor is the Lihirian peaceful way of saying we have a dispute and we must come to the table to negotiate and resolve any issues relating to this dispute," Lihir Mining Area Landowners Association chairman James Laketan said.

Laketan said LMALA wants the Integrated Benefits Package (IBP), which lapsed in 2012, to be finalised. The package includes direct compensation arrangements.

Other areas of concern include the issuing of tenders to non-Lihirian businesses, and environmental damages.

"We are not asking for something new, our revised agreements are not new, these are agreements Newcrest has not honoured," Nimamar Local Level Government president Ambrose Silul said.

Of the dispute, Newcrest said the actions were initiated by a small subset of community and local commercial interests.

“The relevant state agency, the Mineral resource Authority (MRA), has previously provided notice that the power to disrupt mining operations resides solely under the authority of the MRA and any action outside of that is deemed illegal,” the company said.

Newcrest said although there will be some lost production as a result of the incident, production guidance for Lihir for FY15 remains unchanged at 680-720koz.

The company said it was committed to engaging with the MRA and other stakeholders, including landowners, provincial and local level governments.

It said that in May 2015, all parties agreed to an audit process, led and co-ordinated by the MRA, including a review of commercial engagement processes and benefit  allocation associated with landowner commercial activity. 

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