We spent one full day and two nights in Daru at Kuki Hotel. Our flight back to Port Moresby was delayed on the 13th so we spent hours at Daru Airport. Finally we arrived in Port Moresby late in the evening. The next day we got an early morning flight on Air Niugini to Lihir. Unfortunately the flight was full with lots of luggage, so 3 of us stayed back for the 3pm flight. This gave myself and Steven a little free time, so we went to CHM in Boroko. Steven bought a PNG bilum, a souvenir. I called my elder sister whom I hadn’t seen for years and she came with her son, so we took a few minutes to catch up on some family matters.
The other 3 team members where in Lihir and were waiting for us at the Airport when we finally arrived after the 2 hours 30 minutes flight. After they picked us up they had lots of stories to tell on our way to Putput 1, a relocation village. Lihir is different from Ok Tedi and Fly River they told us. We went through the mining area to the village; Michael and his family accommodated us in their house, which the company built. The Newcrest mining company had approved to take us around the mine site and many other places.
From Friday it was a busy time for us, meeting LMALA, Anitua etc. At times we separated into 2 groups again to cover as many things and people within the 3 days time we had in Lihir.
Fortunately, the Lihir story is the best, my team members commented, though the loss of their land is permanent. They have the best package from the destruction to their land, and it seems that they will live mostly on store goods and food. Michael’s wife told us that their yam is getting smaller since the project came, their fruit tress too are bearing few or nothing at all. But they have enough money to buy store foods.
On Saturday the Company allowed us to sleep overnight in 2 of their camp type houses and to eat at the catering or ‘mess’house with the rest of the mineworkers. I said to Morgan, my roommate on this trip, why couldn’t the company build this type houses for the landowners so that they will relax and forget about everything when they live like a king and queen?
This brings back my memory to my teenage days in my motherland, where there were this kind of houses and everything you find in developed countries. The team members asked me if Bougainville was like this when the mine was in operation. I told them yes but much cleaner even the town centers. But the sad thing was, that was not ours, it was for the company and the scar is bigger than the income.
It’s so amazing to see a remote island so lively and much different in many ways than Fly River. We saw training colleges, lots of landowner businesses, good schools and an amazing hospital. On Lihir the tailings waste is piped into the deep ocean, which seems to have less impact that the river dumping at Ok Tedi, but I don’t know when the ocean life in that part of the country might start to run away. Finally time catches up on us and we have to leave for Namatanai.