Papua New Guinea’s Government is seeking legal advice after the deadline passes for it to pay back seabed miner Nautilus Minerals.
It came after the miner won its arbitration case against the PNG Government following a prolonged impasse with PNG over their partnership in the Solwara 1 underwater mining project earlier this year.
Earlier this year Michael Johnston,Nautilus president and CEO, said that the miner has been willing to provide Papua New Guinea ownership of intellectual property rights.
But the problem, as Johnston told it, was that many of the deeds covering proprietary technology and subsea mining methods, which Nautilus and several partners developed over the years, did not contain clauses allowing for a third party, such as the Papua New Guinean government, to come on board as an additional partner and owner of the intellectual property rights.
Johnston described sensitive negotiations over the past few months in which Nautilus had to go to its partners,“household names” in the dredging business he gave as examples, to convince them to redraw the deeds to allow the Papua New Guinea government to gain direct 30 per cent ownership of the intellectual property rights.
Now Johnston said Nautilus has redrawn the deeds with its partners and delivered the new terms to the Papua New Guinea government.
Following this the two entered arbitration to come to a conclusion, with Murray Gleeson, AC QC issuing an award in Nautilus’ favour.
The PNG Government was obliged to pay the miner by 23 October, however the deadline has passed and now it is seeking legal advice over the tribunal’s decision and payment time frame, according to the ABC.
PNG prime minister Peter O’Neill said “since the decision was handed down, we have been reviewing it and have sought legal advice. The state is looking at its options, and we have commenced discussions with Nautilus for an amicable solution to this”.
“There are other issues connected with this project that were raised, in the local community and in Parliament, which the government was dealing with before this arbitration decision landed on us.
“So there are a whole ranges of issues we are dealing with, so we need to be careful about placing time limits on these issues,” he said.
“We respect the decision of the tribunal, and we are dealing with it in the best possible way.”
Nautilus has since issued statements saying that it is aiming to resolve the issue ‘amicably’.