Planned PNG gold refinery and mine not appealing to some

The Papua New Guinea government’s plans to establish a gold refinery have drawn withdrawn widespread criticism.

Finance Minister Rainbo Paita said the idea was first floated in 2014 and the current government has endorsed it as part of its “take back PNG policy”.

PNG’s Chamber of Resources and Energy president Anthony Smare said the proposed National Gold Corporation bill would grant exceptional powers to the company involved.

That company, Refinery Holdings Ltd, from Singapore but with significant Australian shareholding, would, under the deal, set up a refinery and a mint, through which all gold produced in PNG would flow.

The company would also be allowed to bring in its own security and armaments.

PNG Institute of National Affairs executive director Paul Barker said the gist of it is the government wants to get more out of the gold the country produces.

“[It’s] feeling that the gold all departs the country and that we are not getting accumulated foreign exchange reserves and the benefits to the extent that PNG might be able to gain if it was doing both processing and then ostensibly storing it and building up a PNG gold reserve,” he said.

However, he said the documents show this company would be given a free rein over PNG resources.

“That is extraordinary. It is reminiscent of the 1990s characters that we used to have knocking on the door on a constant basis.”

He said the Institute of National Affairs would not want this scheme to go any further.

“It really damages PNG’s credibility,” he said.

“It will certainly frighten off major investors in the resources sector, which are already pretty scared by law and order issues and uncertainty over a range of policies and so on.”

Barker said the government would do well to take a step back and focus on what the government’s priorities are.

“PNG has an atrocious health situation, we have some of the worst health indicators in the world.

“I think it’s the worst immunisation rates, the third worst access to health services according to WHO and so on. The education system, which is pretty basic.

“And if [government] could focus on that, and having standard consistent sound taxation arrangements, rather than trying to take over all the functions in the private sector, which government is not good at, then PNG might actually start getting revenue, create some investments, stability and go places,” Barker said.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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