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BHP slams O’Neill government over forced resignation of Garnaut

Professor Ross Garnaut

Professor Ross Garnaut (left) with a former PNG prime minister, Sir Mekere Morauta. Image: The National

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Malum Nalu in Port Moresby

Mining giant BHP Billiton Ltd has hit out at the government of Papua New Guinea over an immigration ban which saw Professor Ross Garnaut resign from his position as director of Ok Tedi Mining Ltd, The Australian Financial Review reports.

According to the newspaper, BHP said in a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade document, that PNG’s treatment of Prof Garnaut sent “a very bad message’’ to companies looking to do business in the country.

The miner also took aim at PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, accusing the leader of improper dealings in the granting of of exploration licences.
“He (O’Neill) subsequently blocked our lease applications and made it clear they would only be granted if we transferred our rights to the government,” BHP said.

In November, the PNG foreign affairs department was instructed to prevent Professor Garnaut entering the country after the prime minister said the Australian was no longer welcome and accused him of insulting to the nation’s leaders.

During a grievance debate in parliament a few days before the November decision, O’Neill referred to a report in The Australian newspaper quoting Prof Garnaut as saying that with such an accumulation of wealth in PNG, it was “tempting for political figures to think of better ways of using it right now rather than putting it into long-term development”.