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Hides Gas to Electricity Project landowners have given a stern ultimatum that if they do not receive overdue royalty payments worth around K4.7 million by end of this week, they would shut down the Hides GTE power plant.
This would have a serious impact on production by Oil Search and Exxon Mobil.
Oil Search is still re-positioning itself from the early 2018 earthquake impact that struck Hela causing massive infrastructure damage and loss of lives to citizens.
This GTE plant also supplies electricity for the Porgera Gold mine in Enga.
Speaking late yesterday afternoon, chief Marago Pate said: “It’s very sensitive and the landowners are frustrated.”
He is the chairman of their registered association, the Greater Hides Council of Chiefs.
Finance Secretary Dr Ken Ngangan has been blamed for not releasing their royalty payments they have been receiving since 1996 but not in the last two years.
“ Man ya sindaun antap long samting ya…bai mipela satim daun pawa na ol bai pilim(This person is delaying our payment and we will shutdown the power plant to make him pay),” he said.
Mr Pate said he represents 17 sub clans of the Tuguba and Hiwa Tribes of PDL1.
A copy of the Council of Chiefs letter to the Finance Secretary inquiring about the prolonged delay in paying their royalties was presented to me.
The letter was dated August 16, 2019.
The letter in part reads: “We expected the payment around March this year but we are still waiting in vain after five months as the department has been sitting on it for reasons only known to you.
“Further delay will result in the closure of the Hides GTE power plant and which might ignite ramifications causing unnecessary disruptions to the huge PNGLNG project which is also extracted from the same area (Hides PDL1).”
A supporting letter from OIC and Acting secretary from the Department of Petroleum Gregory Balavue was produced. The letter urges the secretary to act on it as “project security” is their concern right now.
Chief Pate said Oil Search pays royalties to the Department of Finance who then pays the Department of Petroleum who disburses it to landowners.
He said they have opted to go to the media because there has been no favourable response.