Australian giant, Orica operating on illegal SABL land
Orica, one of the leading publicly-owned companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, is operating on land outside Port Moresby acquired through illegal Special Agriculture Business Leases (SABLs), according to local landholders.
The accusations have come from the people of Papa village, close to the Exxon Mobil LNG site, who have seen their land illegally occupied for quarrying and provision of other LNG support services. The villagers are now demanding their land be given back.
SABL leases are at the centre of a huge land grab in PNG in which more than 5 million hectares of land has been illegally acquired from customary landowners. A government instigated Commission of Inquiry, which reported in 2013, found almost all the leases are unlawful with widespread instances of fraud and a general failure by government Departments to follow proper procedures.
According to the Commission of Inquiry, the land on which Orica is said to be operating, Portions 2465C and 2485C, was acquired through “misrepresentation and fraud” [SABL Commission of Inquiry Final Report at p164] and the forging of landholders signatures “was a criminal act” [at p151]. The lease was “fraudulent and improper” [at p156] and government officers “deliberately decided to ignore and by-pass the existing protocols and practices” in a process “riddled with defects and flaws” [at p157].
The Commission of Inquiry called for those responsible for the unlawful leases to be held to account and recommended the SABLs be revoked. [SABL Commission of Inquiry Final Report p 143-166 and p166-174. See also SABL Case Study 11: The Kassman family and their fraudulent LNG Land deals]
The PNG government has promised several times since 2013 to cancel all the SABL leases and return land to customary landholders, but has so far failed to implement those promises.
Orica claims on its website “Our commitment to the safety, health and wellbeing of … the communities in which we operate underpins everything we do”. But the people of Papa want Orica off their land and on Thursday they held a peaceful protest march to the premises where Orica and another company, Longevity Commitment Reliability Group operate.
The Papa landholders are calling on the government to honour its promises and take action quickly to formally cancel the special agriculture business leases over their land.
Chairman of the local integrated lands group Vanemate, Joseph Baeau, said Parliament had already moved to cancel all SABLs and revert the titles back the landowners therefore the companies should not still be on their land.
“We the people and all other concerned landowners in Papa village carried out this protest to fight for our land and also make awareness on the status of land leases,” Mr Baeau said.
“We are calling on the Minister responsible to fast track all formalities to effect cancellation and notices to illegal lease holders,” Mr Baeau said.
Orica is one of Australia’s oldest companies and is, it claims, the global leader in mining and civil services, with a workforce of around 11,500, servicing customers across more than 100 countries.