Risky business

PNG has dived from its 30th ranking last year to 59th place in RESOURCESTOCKS magazine’s 2012 World Risk Survey.
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Published in the November 2012 PNG Report magazine

The various events of politically troubled PNG in the recent financial year - which included a brief government flirtation with the concept of amending laws to transfer resource ownership from the state to community-based landowners - clearly had an impact on the 2012 results.

On the more concerning issues - with higher scores implying greater risks - last year PNG scored 2.4 for each category of financial risk, sovereign risk, land access and infrastructure.

Resource sector respondents this time scored PNG 2.84 for financial risk, 2.93 for sovereign risk, 2.69 for land access and 2.56 for infrastructure.

PNG also fared worse in the other categories. Unlike last year, it scored more than 2 for the issues of green tape, land claims, red tape, social risk, civil unrest and labour relations.

The earthquake and landslide-prone country only went up from a score of 1.2 last year to 1.4 this year in the risk category of natural disasters, despite a spree of such events in 2012.

Site disruptions at PNG's Porgera mine and at the PNG LNG project clearly impacted this year's survey - with PNG's labour relations' score skyrocketing from 0.8 in 2011 to 2.06.

PNG's green tape score surged from 1.2 in 2011 to 2.21 this year, while its land claims score soared from 1.8 to 2.54.

The civil unrest category jumped from 1.8 to 2.36 this year, while perceptions of its social risk hit 2.32 compared to 1.8 last year.

Overall, the total score and ranking puts PNG after 58th-ranked Turkistan and slightly ahead of war-torn Sierra Leone at 62.

PNG's ranking also places it firmly in the bottom half of the 73 countries ranked in the survey, with pirate-infested Somalia coming last, followed in order by Pakistan, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran and Nigeria.

RESOURCESTOCKS editor Anthony Barich said that PNG was something of a "double-edged sword", because investors see the inherent value in the country's superior geology despite operators on the ground often reporting difficulties there.

"Some of the world's bigger backers out of London and Australia have confidence in PNG because they believe there are some genuinely good assets that they can make money out of," Barich said.

"While the PNG government has tried putting royalties on then took them off, it has now settled on an arrangement where it takes a 30% stake in the project and contributes to it - and investors have reported to us that this arrangement is ‘fair and reasonable' and that this business model seems to align the government more with shareholders.

"Landowner and security issues seem to be common when people talk about PNG, which is backed up by operators telling us that it's not the easiest place to work. But companies like Indochine Mining appear to have learned these lessons by doing things like a land holder investigation study and the locals really seem to respond well to that."

Barich added that Finland's third World Risk Survey win in five years in 2012, which was also its second consecutive win, was achieved despite its new mining act, which had received mixed reviews from industry.

"However, local operators are encouraged by the fact that the Finland government seems willing to roll up its sleeves and get the job done. There are even moves within the country for the government to get involved in investing in new mining projects," he said.

While Australia held on to its seventh place ranking from last year, Canada rocketed up the table, going from ninth to third. Rounding out the Top 10 was Sweden (2), the US (4), Chile (5), Norway (6), the UK (8), New Zealand (9) and Brazil (10).

The full results from the 2012 World Risk Survey and associated commentary are published in the October edition of RESOURCESTOCKS, which is part of Aspermont's stable of publications, which includes PNG Report.

While PNG has a long history of mining and a competitive legal and tax framework to help attract explorers and mining houses, low risk ranking scores have the potential to scare off new investment.

A key concern for explorers in PNG can be how a harsh country risk ranking impacts its ability to secure finance, or possibly adds a new premium on to the cost of securing finance. In what made earlier bad publicity, Toronto-listed Aldrige Minerals exited PNG in July for not receiving a licence renewal application for its Kili Teke copper-gold project. It told the world PNG is "too volatile" and has since concentrated its efforts on its properties in Turkey.

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