PNG’s National Court orders state to justify Singapore gold deal

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PNG's controversial gold deal
PNG's controversial gold deal . . . expected to change the entire landscape of the country’s gold industry. Image: PNG Post-Courier montage

By Gorethy Kenneth in Port Moresby

The National Court has ordered the Papua New Guinea government to disclose the full details of the gold refinery deal it entered into with a Singapore-based company, National Gold Corporation.

The court ordered Prime Minister James Marape (first defendant), Planning Minister Renbo Paita (second defendant), the NEC (third defendant) and Dr Eric Kwa (fourth defendant) to make full disclosure on the project agreement, which would eventually become law and change the entire landscape of PNG’s gold industry.

“The process of gold refinery, while it may be welcome news for the country as to [who is] owning it, especially when a company is proposed to be a proponent, developer or owner of resource, the country needs to know the good and bad of it and the justifications for such arrangements,” Deputy Chief Justice Ambeng Kandakasi ruled in his judgment.

The order follows a court challenge mounted by Justin Parker, owner of Golden Valley Enterprise Limited, PNG’s leading gold buyer and processor, about the validity of the gold refinery agreement between the state and National Gold Corporation.

“I was disappointed when I learnt that an agreement was signed.

“To my knowledge the foreign company will own 70 percent of the refinery whilst the PNG government will only own 30 per cent when we could own for a 100 per cent nationally owned refinery,” Parker said through his lawyer, Saulep Lawyers.

The project agreement which will eventually be made law, will completely change the landscape of PNG’s gold industry.

Accessed unsigned copy
“Coupled with the media publications, I had the benefit of having accessed an unsigned copy of the agreement relating to the Refinery Project and I note with grave concerns how this purported agreement will be very detrimental to the state, as well as all industry stakeholders.

“This agreement will totally shut the doors completely on us local businesses, alluvial miners, gold miners and aggregators around the country.

“It is dangerous to note that there will be no more open market competition and trade, being the fundamentals of democratic society and therefore our Constitution,” Parker said.

Aggrieved with information gathered overtime, Parker filed an application in the National Court on 13 December 2021, seeking :

  • A declaration pursuant to Section 51 of the Constitution that the Plaintiff has the right to have access to all pertinent and relevant information regarding the National Gold Refinery and Mint Project relating to the downstream processing of gold in the country, including, policies, statutory business papers, National Gold Corporation Project Shareholder Agreement, all related NEC Decisions (NEC Decision No 73 & 74/2021 dated 17th May 2021, NEC Decision No 267/2021 dated 20th September 2021 and NEC Policy Submission No 208/2021.
  • An order that pursuant to Sections 51 and 155 (4) and of the Constitution, the Defendants make available forthwith to all the referenced documents to Parker.

Justice Kandakasi granted these orders and further ordered that: “As the plaintiff submits, there has been no broader, wider consultation and so who stands to benefit, who stands to lose, what are the arrangements and what are the safeguards for alluvial miners or other mining interest holders?

“There is no evidence of any meaningful consultation having being occurred so a disclosure of these documents will enable the plaintiff and such other persons to work out whether they should be challenging the decisions arrived at.”

The court orders:

  • The plaintiff is granted leave to proceed ex-parte conditional on the plaintiff filing and serving an affidavit annexing the various email communication between the plaintiff and the defendants in respect of the matter coming to court today.
  • Judgment is granted in favour of the plaintiff
  • A declaration that pursuant to Section 51 of the Constitution, the plaintiff has the right to have access to all the pertinent and relevant information regarding the National Gold Refinery and Mint Project including the following information:

– (a) Department of National Planning and Monitoring’s Policy Document on the Refinery, Smelting and downstream processing of Gold in the country;
– (b) Statutory Business Papers regarding the National Gold Refinery and Mint Project;
– (c) National Gold Corporation Project Shareholders Agreement;
– (d) NEC Decisions No. 73 & 84/2021 dated 17th May 2021;
(e) NEC Decision No. 267/2021 dated 20th September 2021;
– (f) NEC Policy Submission No. 208/2021.
– Pursuant to Section 155(4) and Section 51 of the Constitution, the Defendants make available forthwith to the Plaintiff copies of all pertinent and relevant information regarding the National Gold Refinery and Mint Project, namely:
(a) Department of National Planning and Monitoring Policy Document on the Refinery, Smelting and downstream processing of Gold in the county;
(b) Statutory Business Papers regarding the National Gold Refinery and Mint Project;
(c) National Gold Corporation Project Shareholders Agreement,
(d) NEC Decisions No. 73 & 84/2021 dated 17th May 2021;
(e) NEC Decision No. 267/2021 dated 20* September 2021;
(f) NEC Policy Submission No. 208/2021.

The defendants shall pay the plaintiff’s costs of and incidental to these proceedings on a party/party basis, to be taxed if not agreed.

Gorethy Kenneth is a PNG Post-Courier journalist. Republished with permission.

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