Prime Minister Hon. James Marape says his Pangu Pati-led Government’s vision to build a gold refinery and mint factory in the country is a bold move in the right direction to take back more from our gold resources and reserves.
It also includes having a gold bullion bank into the future.
PM Marape was responding to questions from Opposition Leader, Belden Namah, on the full details of the signing of a proposed PNG Gold Refinery and Mint Factory and accusations of him selling PNG gold rights.
He said of all the natural resources PNG was blessed with, gold was the highest-valued asset in the country, and a secure form of bankable commodity that PNG could use to secure its economy from economic shocks.
PM Marape said since the 1800s, gold was harvested in the country, and the country had been exporting gold since but never saw and or knew how much gold was produced in country.
The Prime Minister said he was stepping into a new frontier where past governments, leaders, and prime ministers had never trod: to take back more for our gold through downstream processing which would add value to our economy.
He told Parliament that the proponents of the PNG gold refinery and mint factory and the Government had signed an agreement for the business, but the deal was a work in progress, not final, and open to scrutiny to any suggestions for improvements so as not to harm the national interest.
“The agreement that we have signed with the proponents of the proposed PNG Gold Refinery and Mint Factory can be relooked at if it is not in the best interest of our country and nation, " PM Marape said.
“We do not owe a bar of soap to the proponents.
" They have been pushing this proposal in the last eight to nine years through past governments and ministers.
"The former Prime Minister’ Cabinet approved the project in 2014 through NEC Decision 297/2014, and my Government has reviewed this to get better benefits.
“The former Prime Minister knows about it.
" They have been going and coming back and forth with their proposal, and they wanted an 80-90-year exclusivity right to mint and refine all gold in PNG and export overseas.
" Under the review that my Government put through the State Negotiation Process, we have arrived at a much improved version that includes an equal 50-50 ownership, with Refinery Holdings Ltd putting up the entire capital to construct the refinery and associated business.
"The 50 per cent State equity will be split between Mineral Resources Development Company for landowners, as well as an option for alluvial miners and Kumul Minerals
"Contrary to what many speculate, the agreement is for a 30-year period with another option of extending for another 30 years, and in all material time State has option of paying the investor partner out.
“All our normal State processes, including State Solicitor clearances, were done, hence, NEC processed the submissions.
"We are now allowing industry and stakeholder consultation, and a review on what we are doing so we get it right in this direction we are moving."
PM Marape also instructed the proponents to ensure that they were fully-linked and compliant to world gold industry bench-markers like the London Gold Bullion Association and their market rules.
“Government intention is correct, as this will link to international benchmark for gold bullion and refinery trade, and this is the right and first step in that direction that we are taking,"he said.
“The agreement we have signed is not the final document, but continual due process will take its course, including consultations with gold industry stakeholders.
" This includes big operators and our small alluvial operators, so that our intention to downstream our gold adds value to both their business and our economy.
“I give my country my assurance that we will not sell and sign off our country’s birthright.
"We do not owe a bar of soap to the proponents, and if there is room for improvements in the agreement in our national interest, then those improvements will be made.
“We can review the agreement and or any agreements we have signed if it is not consistent in law, it is only the 10 Commandments that you don’t change.
"But as far as the advice that Cabinet and my Office received, all due process were complied with thus far, and we are now consulting for the legislation to be promulgated to embrace this venture."
PM Marape appointed a committee of leaders to headed by Governors Gary Juffa and Dr William Tongamp, Hon. Don Polye and Hon. Manasseh Makiba to go through what was agreed to ensure national interest was secured.
He also met the Chamber of Mining today, led by Mr Richard Kassman, on this matter and gave assurance that this proposal would not be rushed through without stakeholder consultation.
"This is because the industry must appreciate the shift in my Government’s focus towards downstream processing of raw resources and for export of finished products," PM Marape said.
“My stand is very clear, and as the Prime Minister, we want to add value to the benefits from our resources like gold, oil, gas and others.
" Our industries must now realise that downstream processing of resources will be the way of business for us in PNG, and gold is no exception.
“All stakeholders will be consulted and their views taken on board, and review the agreement to add value to our gold resources. "