Papua New Guinea is still reeling from a 7.5-magnitude earthquake that struck on February 26, with its epicenter in Nipa-Kutubu district, Southern Highlands province. Landslides followed as well as several major aftershocks, including a 6.7-aftershock felt in the Highlands just nine days later.
Papua New Guinea Prime Minister the Hon. Peter O’Neill said the scale of the disaster is immense and that full recovery will take several years.
“There will be no quick fix, the damage from this disaster will take months and years to be repaired,” O’Neill said. “The delivery of clean water, food and shelter remains our priority, as well as the restoration of other essential services including electricity and communications.”
The earthquake claimed the lives of more than 100 people, with many still missing and thousands injured, O’Neill said.
Several mines in the area were also affected.
Barrick Gold Corp. said the power generation facility that supplies electricity to the Porgera Joint Venture mine, located 130 kilometers west of Mount Hagen, experienced significant damage during the earthquake. However, all employees and contractors had been accounted for and no injuries had been reported. Barrick (Niugini) Ltd. (BNL) is the 95% owner of the Porgera Joint Venture, and is the manager of the operation. Barrick and Zijin Mining each own 50% of BNL.
The Hides natural gas power plant is located in the Hela province and is operated by BNL. Until full power can be restored, the mine is expected to operate at reduced capacity, supported by an existing on-site diesel power station, as well as through the procurement of additional generating capacity, Barrick said.
Barrick said it does not expect this event to impact production.
Officials at state-owned Ok Tedi Mining Ltd. said operations at the open-pit copper, gold and silver mine located in the Star Mountains were interrupted by the earthquake with the access road from Tabubil to the mine and mill blocked by a major landslide. Three pipelines for the mill were also severely damaged, the company said. However, normal operations resumed on March 4 with the opening of a pioneer access road.
Repairs to the pipelines were being completed, and scheduled maintenance in the mill has been moved up, Ok Tedi officials said. They anticipated a return to partial mill operations by the end of the week and full operation next week.
The company’s board also approved a donation of K50 million to help restore services and infrastructure to the provinces and communities impacted by the earthquake.
“Given the magnitude of this disaster, and our responsibility not only to our shareholders but to the people of PNG, we are pleased to offer a helping hand at this time of great distress,” Chairman Moi Avei said. “We expect these monies will provide much needed assistance to impacted areas in Western Province, OTML’s home province and the devastated Highlands Region.”