NEW IRELAND Governor, Sir Julius Chan has urged resource owners on the gold-rich LIHIR Island to plan for life after the mine and not allow the windfall takings and the good life to cloud their judgment about the real need for sustainability into the future.
"There are no benefits from a mine if those benefits only last as long as the mine lasts and disregards the future generations of Lihirians and New Irelanders."
"We have learned we need to prepare for the end of the life of a mine. We have learned we need to make good investments, sustainable investments throughout the life of a mine if our people are to live better, not only for the next ten or fifteen years but for many, many years after the mine has closed," said Sir Julius.
This is the underlying concern of the Governor conveyed to Lihirians recently in his address at the launching of the Health Infrastructure Improvement Project by the Lihir Sustainable Development Programme, LSDP, which is the arm of the Lihir Mine Area Landowners Association.
Under the project, the LSDP has decided to extend the benefits from the mine to Lihirians outside the mining lease area in the form of funding maintenance and improvements to all health centers and aid posts and ultimately to the mainland of New Ireland Province.
To affirm his message, SIR JULIUS related his experience during his visit of Virginia City in the United States, which was one of the largest silver mines in the world.
He said "at one time in the late 1800s Virginia City had the highest per capita income of any city in the United States, which means it had the highest per capita income of any city in the world."
"But what is it today?" "It is what Americans call a ghost town full of ghosts of people who were once rich but who died poor and destitute."
SIR JULIUS said "all the millions, the billions of dollars that went through that town made no difference in the long run."
He said for this reason, LSDP is more than just a programme. "It is more than just a series of projects." The LSDP is potentially the vehicle by which we ensure that the people of Lihir, the people of Namatanai and the people of New Ireland really, really benefit from the mine."
"As one of the last frontiers in mining development with riches not fully determine, PNG must give resource owners the full benefits and I had put this before the National Parliament to effect under proposed amendment of the Mining Act 1992.
"They are the people who will suffer the consequences of the mining activities and must be fully equipped and resourced under law to plan their future.
Sir Julius said the benefits sharing arrangement proposal is the only tangible vehicle so far that promises greater responsibility and autonomy for resources owners and the provinces to manage their affairs without the dictates from Waigani and foreign operators.