| Radio New Zealand | Edited
AUCKLAND - Papua New Guinea's prime minister James Marape has urged patience while negotiations continue over the contract for the Porgera gold mine.
Canadian company Barrick Gold Ltd, which operates the mine in Enga Province with China's Zijin Mining Group, is pushing to renew its contract.
The Laigap-Porgera MP, Tomait Kapili, asked Marape to move all negotiations to Porgera so landowners' views and the extent of problems around the mine could be gauged.
Kapili spoke of serious law and order problems which he linked to a surge of outsiders to Porgera since the expiry of the special mining lease in August.
"Since the expiry of the SML there's hundreds and thousands of people coming from afar, outside the valley, claiming that the extension of the license - while we are negotiating - is not in order,” Kapili said. “They are illegally mining, so we also want to illegally mine."
Marape replied that the government was well aware that a majority of landowners want Barrick's lease not to be renewed.
He said the government had received many written and oral representations from landowners indicating that over 90% of them were against Barrick staying on.
"I intend in the new year (for) an announcement to be made to the status of what will happen in Porgera," said Marape, adding that he would consider the Laigap-Porgera MP's request.
"Let me assure the member that I look forward to considering his recommendations in the positive, that all discussions, if not all major discussions, will take place in Porgera, be held in the Porgera valley up in Enga Province. So those recommendations are taken on board."
Since last year, Porgera landowners have conducted a number of public protests to demonstrate their opposition to Barrick's continued involvement in the mine.
They have complained about lack of compensation for environmental damage caused by the mine over almost 30 years of operation.
Marape urged landowners to maintain composure while the government concludes its discussions with the mine operators.
His government is seeking a greater share in the mine.