THE Porgera Landowners Association (PLA) has come out in attack of the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA), saying it is partly to blame for a recent spike in illegal mining activity at the operation.

With almost 400 illegal miners trespassing on the site daily, PLA chairman Tony Mark Ekepa said a failure to clamp down on the situation meant there was no deterrent for the illegal workers.

“The [Special Mining Lease Landowners Association] have always maintained that this kind of illegal activity is manageable through provisions in the Porgera Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) review,” he said.

“Steps have been taken by the stakeholders through the Porgera Mine MOA review but that review has been stalled. The State, through MRA, is to be blamed for the recent increase in illegal mining activities for not fasttracking the MOA review.

“For political convenience, the State has created an unnecessary impasse on the MOA review and illegal activities at the mine site has escalated to a new level as reported by the mine operator.”

Mr Ekepa went further, suggesting the increase in illegal activities at the Porgera mine site was a by-product of ignorance over many years “and a refusal to address the problem pro-actively.”

Mr Ekepa said deploying mobile police to control the situation was not the answer.

“It is a problem that needs to be eliminated at the root,” he said.

“Simply, fast track the MOA review and the stakeholders in the review will mutually undertake a resettlement program that will address the illegal miner’s problem once and for all.”

PLA was speaking out about the illegal miners at the site in the wake of the MRA confirming the Porgera joint venture had raised concerns about the huge increase in the number of illegal miners who had accessed both the stockpiles as well as the open pit area.

The activities have resulted in unnecessary fatalities to illegal miners and injuries to both illegal miners and the company not to include the loss of revenue for all stakeholders of the project.

Porgera, operated by Barrick Gold subsidiary Barrick Niugine, has been hampered by the illegal activity as operations aren’t able to run as effectively.

“A team of government officials including MRA were on site early this week to reassess the illegal miner situation on the ground in Porgera and we can confirm that the situation has now escalated such that the normal daily mine operations are being significantly hindered and the mine is not able to operate at its full production capacity,” MRA Acting Managing Director Philip Samar said.

Barrick is so concerned about the rate and the manner at which illegal miners were operating it has requested urgent assistance from the government to restore the law and order so the mine avoids facing more serious issues, such as shutting down.

Mr Samar said the MRA in consultation with relevant state agencies would consult affected stakeholders and put together a submission to the National Executive Council (NEC) through the Mining Minister Byron Chan, with appropriate recommendations to resolve this issue.

Mr Chan, who said he would shortly be receiving the set of recommendations from the state team, appealed to illegal miners to cease their illegal activities