The quote from PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill is telling: “11 years ago, BHP Billiton was done an enormous favour by the then PNG government and allowed to exit ownership of the Ok Tedi Mine without accepting any financial or moral, responsibility for the enormous environmental and social damage that occurred in the 20 years it operated the mine.”
Some may claim it is a little late, and also question – as the company does – whether the interests of the community are really behind this move (given there is a US $1.4 billion fund composed of BHP Billiton’s share, which is expected to increased to more than $3 billion by the time that the mine closes). But it is clear there is an issue of who should really have control here. The PNG Government is right to question whether BHP should still control the board.