On the evening of 2 June 2020, I received intelligence from Porgera that Barrick (Niugini) Limited (BNL) had moved gold and silver products from the mine and was going to export the products out of the country.
This is contrary to Mr. Lave Michael, Chief Inspector of Mines report of 2 May 2020, after examining the Gold Registry kept by BNL, which showed zero gold. The Registry showed last shipment of gold by BNL on the 29 April 2020.
This intelligence was and is disturbing as BNL no longer has the right to process and export any gold after the Porgera Special Mining Lease Licence lP (SML lP) expired on the 28 April 2020.
Pursuant to section 145 of the Mining Act 1992, "on the cancellation or expiry of a tenement (SML1P), all rights conferred by or enjoyed under the tenement shall cease as from the date of cancellation or expiry".
On the morning of 3 June 2020, I instructed the Chief Inspector of Mines, (CIM) to contact BNL and verify the intelligence I received.
At about 8.45am on 3 June 2020, CIM sent an email to General Manager, Operations (GMO) of Porgera Mine who was on site and copied the Executive Managing Director of BNL to verify the allegations of shipment of gold from Porgera Mine.
At about 8.47 am on 3 June 2020 CIM called GMO on Digicel mobile but there was no response after several attempts.
At about 1 l.43am on the 3 June 2020 CIM made contact with GMO on his Australian mobile phone number and he verbally confirmed undisclosed quantity of gold on site.
He further advised CIM that he would respond the email after he sought legal advice from BNL's Legal Counsel.
At about about 4. 55 pm on the 3 June 2020, Ashurst Lawyers, who act for BNL in this proceeding, responded to CIM'S email to GMO . Ashurst wrote that "we (Ashurst) were instructed that our client did not presently intent to export product from the country and never discloses details of gold movement for security reasons."
At about 5pm on the 3 June 2020, the Managing Director was informed by CIM with evidentiary material confirming that BNL attempted to export K 46 .55 million worth of gold and K 70, 000 worth of silver out of the country.
On Monday 01 June 2020, an employee of BNL, presented Form FEC-G, Serial No. 3508 (Specific Authority to Export Gold and Silver from Papua New Guinea) ( the Form) under the Central Banking Act 2000 and the Central Banking (Foreign Exchange and Gold) Regulation to the MRA for its endorsement and records.
The Form was received by MRA officers who questioned why Barrick nor PJV never presented such a Gold Export Form over the last 30 years of their operations.
The Form confirmed the following details:
- K 46, 555.059 worth of gold to be exported to Perth Mint Refinery by BNL;
- K 70,010 worth of silver to be exported to Perth Mint Refinery by BNL;
- The minerals will be airlifted by Tropic Air to Port Moresby on the 3 June 2020;
- The minerals would be delivered to Perth Mint Refinery by 4 June 2020;
- There are 23 gold bars weighing a total of K 332. 02 kilograms; and
- The minerals were recovered during the month of May 2020.
My Officers confiscated the Forms from BNL employee and questioned him as why BNL presented Form FEC-G to the MRA after 30 years of mining and especially after BNL no longer has the right to mine and export gold from Porgera Mine.
BNL employee when questioned, stated he did not know the requirement for exporting gold and he was only following instructions. He admitted that BNL tried to use one International Export section of TNT to facilitate the shipment out of the country but unfortunately he was unavailable so he was advised to seek assistance from the BPNG.
On the 4th June 2020, I instructed Chief Inspector of Mines to contact the BPNG regarding Form FEC-G, Serial No. 3508 and to advise the BPNG that the mineral resources, stock pile reserves and partially processed precious minerals after 28th April 2020, the day when SML 1 P expired have become the property of the State.
On the same day 4 June 2020, the Deputy Governor of BPNG was informed and he wrote to me in a letter dated 4 June 2020 and advised as follows:
BNL refused all these years to comply with the requirements of Central Banking Act 2000 and instead relies on the Mining Development Contract dated 12 May 1 989 to directly export gold out of the country.
- In May 2020, BNL approached BPNG of its intention to export gold.
- BNL was advised to comply with all the requirements of BPNG and MRA through Form FEC-G
- After discussio ns with the MRA, it was agreed that the shipment of the gold bars unlawfully produced will not proceed.
The 23 gold bars about to be exported belong to the State and their actions to circumvent the government process without any respect for the Laws of this land has been cause of refusal for their Special Mining Lease.
We will seize the product and forfeit the commodities to the State. Based on legal advice we will be filing criminal proceedings against Barrick Niugini Limited and other individuals relating to this matter and more importantly, the Ashurst Lawyers for lying and providing misleading information to the State.