Papua New Guinea’s Ok Tedi copper, gold mine handed over to locals

Papua New Guinea’s Ok Tedi copper, gold mine handed over to localsPapua New Guinea’s Sustainable Development Program made a historical move Friday, after handing over millions of dollars worth of assets created by the Ok Tedi copper and gold mine to locals.

The forced transfer of US$5.5 million in assets, reports Radio New Zealand, comes after the PNG Government's took over the mine in 2013 and nationalized it.

The operation, target of recent legal attempts to shut it down over waste disposal practices, is the largest single source of revenue for the government, as well as the only source of income for many landowners.

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Ok Tedi sits in the head waters of the Fly River, and the failing of BHP Billiton's (ASX:BHP) tailing dam during construction of the mine resulted in hundreds of millions of tonnes of waste clogging the waterways which communities depended on for fish and water.

As a consequence, BHP pulled out of the mine and gave its shares to PNG.

Paul Barker, executive director of PNG's Institute of National Affairs, told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat the closure of OK Tedi would have had a major effect on the country's economy.

"Copper price has been down in the last year or so… the revenue has been coming to the government from a wider range of sources, so it hasn't contributed as much has [sic] been forecast for 2013-2014," he said.

"But it would have certainly had come as a major blow."

Image: Ok Tedi mine, Wiki Commons.