THE PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP) is a step closer to winning restitution for losing its stake in the Ok Tedi mine after an international arbitrator rejected government attempts to have the case thrown out.

PNGSDP started arbitration last October against the Papua New Guinea Government in the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a branch of the World Bank.

The arbitration aimed to regain ownership of their formally-held stake in the mine, shortly after the government expropriated PNGSDP’s 63 per cent stake.

The government applied in July to have the arbitration proceedings thrown out, claiming that they had no legal merit.

PNG Sustainable Development Program chairman Mekere Morauta welcomed the tribunal’s decision to allow the case to proceed.

“This is very good news for the people of Western Province,” he said.

“It means that the second of PNGSDP’s court battles to protect its investments is off to a strong start.

“The ICSID decision gives the people good reason to hope that PNGSDP will ultimately be able to resume sustainable development in the province funded by the dividends from the mine.”

Sir Mekere said PNGSDP looked forward to the case going ahead, seeking either the return of its stake in the mine or adequate compensation.

“We welcome the ICSID decision and look forward to putting our arguments in the next phase of the proceedings,” he said.

“The O’Neill Government’s expropriation of PNGSDP’s investment in Ok Tedi, and other actions the government has taken against PNGSDP, have unlawfully and immorally deprived the people of Western Province of the sustainable development benefits to which they are entitled through PNGSDP.

“PNGSDP will continue to fight for the rights and benefits of Western Province. We have a legal and moral duty to do so,” Sir Mekere said.