PORGERA Gold Mine operator Barrick (Niugini) Limited (BNL has initiated conciliation proceedings before the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) to settle its dispute with PNG arising out of the PNG Government’s decision not to extend the Porgera Special Mining Lease (SML).

BNL says it exercised its legal right to apply for an extension of the Porgera Special Mining Lease in June 2017.

The company alleges that the Government’s decision to reject the application in breach of BNL’s right to renewal of the Special Mining Lease, which was announced publicly without appropriate processes or even notification to BNL on April 24 this year, and the consequent cessation of mining at Porgera as required by provisions of the Mining Act (1992), have already resulted in financial damages to BNL and in significant job losses and damage to the local, provincial and national economies of PNG.

BNL said that through this conciliation it seeks to reach an agreement for extension of the Porgera SML on terms that will be mutually beneficial to the Company and to all PNG stakeholders.

As stated in BNL’s Request for Conciliation: “This conciliation proceeding is not intended to, nor can it, displace the judicial review proceedings that are properly pending before the National Court of Justice in PNG.” Thus, BNL will continue to prosecute the Judicial Review action pending before the PNG National Court of Justice in which it seeks an order quashing the decision not to extend the Porgera SML.

Meanwhile, BNL noted that it is aware of a claim lodged by members of the Tuanda Clan of landowners raising allegations of environmental impacts and economic losses, but believes that these allegations are unfounded and entirely without merit.

The company said it intends to contest the claim.

The company said that the Porgera Mine has always operated in compliance with the conditions of its environmental permits and the laws of Papua New Guinea, and has never received any notice of non-compliance from PNG regulators.

“The Mine relies on world-class science, government regulations and stakeholder engagement to inform its environmental practices,” BNL stated.

“The company conducts a variety of environmental audits and independent assessments of impacts, many of which are performed by third-parties. These audits verify that management systems are adequate to ensure performance commitments are achieved, and that the operations are in compliance with government regulations and internal standards.

“The company notes that environmental management practices at the Mine were studied and approved by the Government prior to the grant of the Special Mining Lease. The PNG Conservation and Environmental Protection Authority (CEPA) has carried out regular audits of the Mine and has always found it to be in compliance with its permits.

“The company further notes that is has always paid appropriate land-use compensation payments for lands that are required for mining operations, as required by the relevant laws of Papua New Guinea.

“In regards to the current status of the Mine, and related judicial review proceedings in the National Court, the company notes that the mine remains in a care and maintenance mode, and that legal proceedings remain ongoing.

“As the matter remains before the courts, the “ompany cannot provide further comment at this time.”