South African miner Harmony Gold and its joint venture partner Newcrest Mining on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding with Papua New Guinea. Photo: Reuters

JOHANNESBURG  - South African miner Harmony Gold and its joint venture partner Newcrest Mining on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding with Papua New Guinea to proceed with the Wafi-Golpu project.

Harmony and Newcrest each own 50 percent of the project in a joint venture which has undertaken extensive investigations and studies of the area to determine the feasibility of developing, mining and processing mineral deposits.

Papua New Guinea retains the right to purchase, at a pro rata share of accumulated exploration expenditure, up to 30 percent equity interest in any mineral discovery at Wafi-Golpu at any time before the commencement of mining.

The memorandum establishes a framework for the parties to progress the permitting of the project as quickly as possible in accordance with regulatory processes and re-affirms their intention to complete the permitting process and granting of a special mining lease by June 30 next year.

Harmony Gold CEO Peter Steenkamp said the agreement was an important step in progressing the permitting of the Wafi-Golpu project, and that Prime Minister Pete O'Neill and his government had worked with the joint venture partners in a "constructive manner".

"Our joint understanding of the terms and timeline that we are working towards as set out in the MOU is central to the commencement of the initial work program," he said.

"Harmony is committed to make a meaningful contribution to the social and economic development of Papua New Guinea and we look forward to continue working with the government and people of Papua New Guinea to complete the permitting process."

The joint venture is completing approval processes to commence a substantial work program, including the establishment of underground access for further drilling of the Golpu deposit and the construction of a bridge over the Markham River, an integral feature of the proposed new Northern Access road from the Highlands Highway to the mine site. 

Harmony Gold said the memorandum recognised that development of the Wafi-Golpu project would be of major economic significance to the people of Papua New Guinea and encouraged the development of the project in a way that would contribute to the advancement of their social and economic welfare.

- African News Agency (ANA)