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PNG deposes Aussie chairman of Ok Tedi Mining via entry ban

One of Australia’s most renowned and influential economists has been forced to resign as chairman of Papua New Guinea’s most profitable mining concern after PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill banned him from entering the country.

The Australian
reports O’Neill declared in parliament two months ago that Professor Garnaut was prohibited from entering Papua New Guinea until mining giant BHP “surrenders control of PNG Sustainable Development Program to the government and people of PNG.”

In his resignation letter Professor Garnaut lamented the PNG government;s use of immigration powers to “[force] changes in the board of a major private company.”

At the time of his barring from PNG Garnaut had just resigned from the position of chairman of PNGSDP, the vehicle through which BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) exerts control of the Ok Tedi gold and copper mine, yet retained his position as chairman of Ok Tedi itself.

The Ok Tedi gold and copper mine has an annual output worth around AUD$4.5 billion and is Papua New Guinea’s biggest earning company, yet operation has been severely hampered in the past by environmental controversies.

PNGSDP holds a 63.3% equity stake in the mine, with the remainder in the hands of PNG’s federal and provincial governments.

While BHP recently loosened its control of the company, ceding appointment of PNGSDP directors to the board of the company itself, the diversified mining giant remains responsible for determining the core terms of reference for the mine’s operation.

Ex-prime minister Mekere Morauta succeeded Professor Garnaut as chairman of Ok Tedi on the weekend, after replacing him as chairman of PNGSDP in November.