By Andrew Hobbs, Group Editor
IN JUNE 1991 the first edition of PNG Resources rolled off the presses in Perth, Western Australia, as part of a new venture for Energy Publications.
The 32-page first edition featured stories predicting a strong future for a gold mine on Lihir Island, while reporting that Papua New Guinean companies had supplied goods worth over K89 million to Ok Tedi Mining.
Today the Lihir operation is wholly owned by Newcrest and is expected to produce between 870,000 and 920,000 ounces of gold for 2016-2017, while Ok Tedi Mining’s rate of procurement from PNG businesses was worth over K789 million in 2014.
In that time, the average size of PNG Resources has grown too – reaching 144 pages in this edition – as resource projects have developed and the nation has broadened its focus and outreach to the outside world.
It goes without saying that much has changed in the 25 years the magazine has been published, but the constant truth across that time is that PNG is a place for entrepreneurs – for companies willing to take a risk in establishing large projects and for the smaller businesses willing to serve them.
While there is no denying oil and gas markets are currently in a slump, many working in PNG today have seen slumps before, surviving and going on to later flourish in better times.
Today, companies continue to work to develop new solutions to ongoing problems such as access to infrastructure.
Private and public partnerships have seen roads and buildings developed, including the opening of a 45 kilometre highway linking Aiambak Port with Lake Murray this quarter by Ok Tedi Mining.
Efforts to improve PNG’s agricultural production in cocoa and rice are currently underway, while the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority is taking bold steps to reinvigorate the tourism sector.
However, a number of groups have also called for PNG to diversify and encourage small to medium enterprises if it is to pursue its growth agenda through to its full potential.
In my interview with Kramer Ausenco founder Sir Frank Kramer for our 25th anniversary celebration, I unwisely asked him if setting up as an independent engineering consultancy in 1978 was an audacious move.
“I never saw the concept of running one’s own business as ‘audacious’,” he said.
“Putting up my shingle only four years after I completed my engineering degree may sound audacious in a developed economy, but really it was not in an emerging economy, particularly in 1978 when PNG was only three years into becoming an independent country.”
In those terms, PNG is not an emerging economy today – nor was it in 1991 – but times of change are still afoot.
More and more jobs on site at resources projects are being filled by PNG citizens and suitable candidates for new jobs are being found from around the country.
At the same time, small to medium sized businesses are emerging – but they are doing so at a difficult time, when funds are tight and project funding is scarce.
Despite this, it is vital that entrepreneurs are given that same support in today’s economy that Sir Frank enjoyed in 1978 and that PNG Resources enjoyed in 1991 – after all, you never know where it might lead.