Tuesday, 28 May, 2024

Clan gun battles erupt near PNG goldmine



Three-days of clan fights in the town of Paiam and nearby Porgera of Papua New Guinea have killed at least 17 people.

In 2019, at least 24 people — including two pregnant women and their unborn children — were killed in Hela province when highland clans clashed, apparently over control of local gold deposits in the region's mineral-rich soil.
In 2019, at least 24 people — including two pregnant women and their unborn children — were killed in Hela province when highland clans clashed, apparently over control of local gold deposits in the region’s mineral-rich soil. (Reuters)

Security forces have moved to halt gun battles between rival Papua New Guinea clans that police said had killed at least 17 people near a major goldmine in the rain forest-blanketed highlands.

Clans also torched buildings in the town of Paiam and nearby Porgera during the three days of fighting, according to police, who were backed by troop deployments in the volatile region.

Two mobile police units were "containing the situation in Porgera town and have moved into the mine site, too," Police Commissioner David Manning told AFP on Monday.

Defence force personnel were assisting police on the ground, Major General Mark Goina said.

Police in Porgera said at least 17 people had been killed over the three days.

Four bodies had been taken to the morgue at Paiam District Hospital since the fighting began, medical superintendent Jerry Hoga told AFP.

READ MORE:At least 24 killed in Papua New Guinea tribal massacres

Porgera is the site of a large gold and silver mining operation, in which Canadian mining firm Barrick Gold is seeking to take a 49-percent stake.

The mine has been in "care and maintenance" for two years, the company said in a recent update.

The government had reportedly been hoping for a resumption of full mining operations as soon as last month, but no official timetable has yet been announced.

Barrick Gold said last month it had signed a shareholders' agreement to take a 49 percent stake in the goldmine but was still awaiting the signature of landowners for the deal to come into effect.

War cries

Under the deal, parties in Papua New Guinea — including government nominee Kumul Mineral and landowner representative Mineral Resources Enga — would take the remaining 51 percent.

It was unclear if the violence would affect the resumption of mining operations.

The fighting began with attacks between individual members of the rival Aiyala and Nomali clans, Police Commissioner Manning told Papua New Guinea's Post-Courier newspaper.

On Saturday, clashes escalated into a large confrontation between the clans in Paiam, with multiple shots fired and several homes torched, he said.

A mine employee told the paper that gunfire and war cries could be heard echoing through Paiam on Sunday evening.

AFP contacted Barrick Gold seeking comment.

Tribal conflicts are a frequent occurrence in Papua New Guinea's highlands, but an influx of automatic weapons has made clashes more deadly.

In 2019, at least 24 people — including two pregnant women and their unborn children — were killed in Hela province when highland clans clashed, apparently over control of local gold deposits in the region's mineral-rich soil.

READ MORE:Political disarray in Papua New Guinea rocks Oil Search shares

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