Management of Occupational Health and Safety in Papua New Guinea Mining: With Special Reference to OK Tedi, Porgera and Lihir Gold Mines

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ABSTRACT

Occupational Health and Safety (OH & S) is a topic of considerable relevance for the Papua New Guinea (PNG) mining industry. The unique environments in which PNG mining operates has confronted the industry with particular dilemmas that have attracted a range of investments to mitigate the problems associated with OH & S. This paper discusses OH & S management in the PNG mining industry with specific case studies of Ok Tedi, Porgera and Lihir gold mines. The content deals with the designing of effective OH & S regulations and policies that can benefit all mining industries through the provision of examples of practical innovative ideas on managing OH & S at three mining companies. Caught in the political obligatory aspects of meeting the ever present government regulations, and competing for best practice are dynamics this paper analyses and in doing so highlights some progress made by Ok Tedi, Porgera and Lihir gold mines. This paper also discusses the OH & S policies and practices in official and unofficial courts representing a series of expanding circles to which the implications and consequences belong. In doing so this paper highlights the forsaken areas for both academic and applied studies from global and local perspectives in the PNG mining Industries. The latter sections articulate the relevance of the information provides by the three case studies in the wider context of OH & S. A final conclusion promotes a perspective that a great deal more investment will be required by all stakeholders.

INTRODUCTION

A major challenge for the mining companies, which are operating in PNG, is how to effectually administer OH & S. One substantial contributing feature, that heightens this conundrum, is the geographical magnitudes of isolation and remoteness of the mine sites. Ramachandran (2004) and Crispin (2006) stressed that these two dominant elements contribute to complexities that are associated with minimising levels of risk in the mining operations as well as addressing the serious difficulties with ensuring the physical and psychological welfare of those associated with the mining sector. Consequently, human resource management practitioners, of the mining companies in particular, have the onerous responsibility of presenting notions, ideals and concepts to delineate how these organisations should respond to provide congenial work environments for the benefit of all stakeholders (Dannies & Randall 2004, Eddington 2005).

Isolation and remoteness of the mine sites is foundation for insulation from and neglection by outsiders. These circumstances are likely to lead to disturbing states. For instance, the evaluation of OH & S in PNG mines has seldom attracted rigorous research interest that has potential to give credible disclosures and useful relevant information. Possibly, the appropriate authorities (government, OH & S consultants) have not gone to the sites to conduct indepth physical inspections in order to make incisive recommendations because these personnel believed the areas of operation were too primitive, there was a prevalence of infectious diseases in the region or because there were long distances to travel (Eddington 2006, Gratton 2007). An alternative scenario is the government departments and the managements of the mining companies may prefer not to disclose to the wider community the OH & S practices, and hence, do not encourage visitors. Indeed, isolation and remoteness puts the mining operations 'out of sight' and 'out of mind' from external interference. Consequently, Huselid (2006) and Kalinoe (2007) precisely stated that OH & S in the mining industry has so far been a neglected area for both scholarly and applied studies.

Bureaucratic practices provide underpinning for a third reason for a lack of guiding prescription how to administer OH & S in PNG mines. The extensive and complex nature of the institutional and regulatory frameworks is excessive and restrictive (Kalinoe & Mellam 1997, Kalinoe 2007). …