New Guinea Gold (NGG) has recommenced mining and processing at its Mt Sinivit copper-gold operation, in PNG’s East New Britain province, after landowners forced a shutdown at the plant in December.

Local police officers helped NGG staff re-enter the site and take back control of the plant, machinery and facilities on January 4. A safety assessment was completed, with mining and processing operations resuming the next day.

Representatives of the Wild Dog Mining Area Landowner Association (WDMALA) and Lulai Nakama Association took occupation of the plant on December 22, stating that the company had failed to pay royalties to the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA).

NGG says it has been waiting on a court settlement between the landowning clans since early 2010, after the MRA instructed the company to pay royalties to the WDMALA, which is not recognized as the landowners’ representative in the MoU between stakeholders.

The company released the royalties to the MRA, but landowners remained in occupation of the site. NGG ensured the safe closure of mining and processing operations and stood down staff.

It also received a second demand for payment of compensation for alleged environmental damage, despite operating within the conditions of environmental obligations in its mining lease and a zero discharge regime.

NGG’s acting chief executive officer Greg Heaney says contrary to some reports in the media, there have been no leaks from any of the processing vats or heaps on site before, during or subsequent to the occupation. NGG remains extremely diligent with respect to its care of the environment.

“Whilst it is pleasing to have resolved the situation on site, there remains a significant amount of work to do to re-establish cordial relations with the landowners. NGG is committed to its social responsibility and will use all available resources to ensure a fruitful and cooperative working framework is in place for the mine’s future,” he says.

NGG says all royalties have been paid in full to the MRA, which is now responsible for their distribution. All other claims will be addressed in the coming months in negotiations with the landowners and other stakeholders.

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