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Chapter 5 :  Employment and Training at Porgera Mine

By:  Benedict Y. Imbun - UPNG Press 2000.

The mineEqual employment opportunity & affirmative actionThe PorgeransMajor eventsPorgeranisation of workforceCompany Motivation and Employement CostsExpatriates & localisationChapter 5 SummaryTable of contents |

Employment and Training at Porgera Mine

Chapter five discusses the impacts on the Porgeran people of the establishment of the mine in their area. In particular, issues concerning, employment and recruitment, training, and relationships with PJV, the mine operator are examined. The discussion also looks at the mine's responses to the demands of its host society and how it has come to deal with the complex issues. The discussion will also reveal what other mines have experienced in their attempts to structure a labour force, given the scarcity of skilled labour in the country, particularly in their regional and local areas of operation. The Porgeran case will show again what has become the most challenging and problematic stage of human resource development in any large scale mining development in any large scale mining development in the country, recruitment.

The magnitude of the Porgera mine's recruitment problem also contradicts the opinion of Kerr et al. (1960) who were overly optimistic in predicting a ready availability of labour. Although the cash economy and the acquisition of western consumer goods provided a basic incentive to join the labour force, clan and ethnic loyalties carried over into the structuring of the workforce. At the same time, national recruitment and employment policy has become more complex than the Kerr et al. Model suggests. Nor will the discussion show that a commitment to industrial life style in Kerr eta.1's Sense of a separation from ancestral patterns of village life, has been achieved in the Porgera mine. As in Kerr et al.'s model, the workforce, many of whom freshly recruited and uprooted industrial workforces, are provided with public or company housing on a mass scale. At Porgera, and other mines such provisions have only been limited. Preference for local employees has meant that mine workers often remain commuters from their traditional villages and for may, 'commitment' to the industrial way of life is still partial and viewed as temporary despite the attractions of the cash economy.

The nature and experience of the Porgera mine's management and local workforce, including its social environment and political significance, has not been studies by any social scientist. The present account is the result of my interviews on various research visits to the Porgera mine since 1992. Among the points raised in this chapter, one interesting facet of the Porgera mine is its adherence to an ethnic affirmative action program which apparently favours Porgerans and Engans for employment and training and other benefits generated by the mine. Unlike other PNG mines, Porgera mine has an explicit employment policy which systematically discriminates against non-landowning people unless their skills are those very much in need by the company. The practice which is accepted as 'proper' and right by the government and even the ordinary Papua New Guineans is very ironic given the country's equity policies and most importantly the general world trend in outlawing ethnic and racial discrimination in the employment and other areas of services. But first the mine.

The Mine

The Porgera gold mine is located in an isolated area of Enga province, in the central highlands of PNG. The Ipili-speaking people of the Porgera district, numbering some 10,000, are hosts to the mine. It is a joint venture project, in which the PNG government is one of the four owners. It is managed by Placer Niugini, a subsidiary of the Canadian mining giant, Placer Pacific. The mine officially commenced production from both an open pit and an underground operation in 1990, after a two-year construction period which cost more than K700 million. Mineral processing facilities include leading systems such as edge pressure oxidation and autoclave technology. Porgera is one of the most profitable gold producers in the world, with gold extraction costs at US$250 an ounce and average world gold prices at about US$340 an ounce. In 1996, the mine produced 850 000 ounces of gold. Mineable reserves as at 1995 stood at 9.4 million ounces, which on current projections means Porgera will be operating into the next century.

An aerial view of Porgera gold mine with Mt Waruwari open pit in the background

Purchase book and see picture

Source: PJV, 1997

The mine operates on a commuter roster of 20 days on site followed by 10 days fieldbreak off-site for the expatriate, Porgeran, and other Papua New Guinean (national) employees who make up the 2100 workforce. Expatriate employees, mainly Australians, travel to and from Cairns, Australia, while the majority of the Porgeran employees commute daily from the adjacent local villages to the mine. PNG national employees other than Porgeran, travel to and from their province of origin on the same basis as the expatriates. Apart from Porgeran employees, the company provides mostly single accommodation units for its workforce.

Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action

In most developed countries such as United States and Australia the employment of individuals in an equal and non-discriminatory manner is mandated by public policy. Although equal employment and affirmative action policies have emerged slowly over the years in such countries, it was only in the 1970s that non-discriminatory employment became a major social concern. Nankervis, Compton and McCarthy (1996) mentioned ILO conventions, changing national values and research on economic disparity between men and women and other racial minority groups as major factors that have influenced equal employment opportunity in the Australian context. Governments have enacted legislation pertaining to race, sex, disability, marital status and on other areas which may negatively influence one's employment opportunities. These policies explicitly set out the specific grounds of discrimination and the situations in which it is unlawful to discriminate. Equal employment opportunity has not only become a major concern for governments but also a critical motivation area for human resource managers to rectify past unfair employment practices and at the same time conform to existing fair employment policies. The penalties imposed for breach of equal employment policies by courts and various anti-discrimination tribunals is often so 'harsh' that commercial, government and other organisations endeavour to abide by equity policies (Goss, 1995).

In other to promote equal access to employment at the workplace by all people governments have also specially enacted affirmative action policies to pave the way for some of the formerly disadvantaged groups from the population to achieve fair and balance opportunities. Still (1988) and Kramar (1995) mention the 1986 federal Equal Employment Opportunity for Women Act in Australia as a significant piece of legislation to ensure women are treated and promoted through more systematic means in full consultation with management, unions and employees. This and other similar legislation aimed at other disadvantaged and minority groups requires employment decisions to be made without regard to race, sex, and religion.

However, despite the prevalence of equal employment laws, a number of countries go beyond these 'equal share' provisions. The most widely recognised approach in this area of policy making is 'positive discrimination'. This is a process whereby steps are taken to ensure that predetermined 'quotas' of under-represented groups are present in specified bureaucratic and industry positions. If these quotas are not met the appointment of members of such groups on the basis of their social (ethnic) status rather than their ability to do the job is required. For example, as Roberts (1994) points out Fiji and Malaysia harbour 'biased employment policies' where the employment acts allow employers to take 'affirmative action' to remedy workforce imbalances between native Fijians and Malayans and Indians and Chinese respectively. The practice is in contrast to affirmative action policies of other countries such as Australia and the United States where the aims is to provide members of under-represented groups with the skills and credentials necessary to reach employment eligibility, and once there, to compete equally on merit alone. In other words, these are pre-selection devices (programs) intended to level the playing field which would allow everyone from diverse backgrounds to have equal access and opportunity in applying for jobs.

In contrast to both the equity and the 'biased employment policy' models is the PNG situation, which is quite unique and paradoxical when it comes to shaping and implementing employment opportunity policies. Like most countries, PNG has equity policies which allow men and women to have equal but unrestricted access to employment. However, the sudden sprouting of major mining projects in some very isolated pockets of the country has resulted in the development and practice of ethnic affirmative action by mining companies in the allocation of mine work. The people who benefits the most from these apparently discriminatory employment policies are those who live adjacent to and within the vicinity of the projects. Although quite contrary to the national equity principles, the PNG experience demonstrates that ethnic affirmative action in employment and training opportunities results in running economical and safe mines. This practice would have generated controversy and legal challenges if it was practised in mines in Australia or other developed countries. In PNG such discriminatory employment policies are passively but grudgingly accepted by the entire population as proper and 'fair'. The Porgera mine provides an example of personnel policies which allow local people from project areas to have the upper and in employment and other opportunities generated from the projects. But who actually are these Porgerans whose identity has become one of the major criteria for employment determination?

The Porgerans

Like most people of PNG's interior Highlands, the Progeran people have a relatively short history of European contact But during this period they have had almost continuous contact with the white alluvial gold miners who frequented this outback since the mid-1930s. They occupy the second largest district in area, which is more spacious than the other five populated districts which makes up the province of Enga. They are scattered in small defensive hamlets in contrast to the larger, denser populations of Tari and other southwards, and the Laigaip in the east. They value social bonds (like marriages and kinship linkages) as crucial tot he incorporation of individuals into clan groups. Meggit (1958:46) mentioned that a clever manipulation of the social network has provided a defensive system with the result that the neigbouring tribal warfaring clans found it hard to conquer the Porgerans. (See Table 1 for a brief modern history of the Porgeran people).

Table 1: Chronology of major events associated with Porgera and Porgera mine
Table 1: Chronology of major events associated with Porgera and Porgera mine
Year Event
1934 Fox Brothers first enter Porgera valley while on an (unauthorised) gold expedition. They were the first Europeans to come face to face with Porgerans.
1938-9 First documented contact occurred during the Hagen-Sepik patrol led by Australian patrol officer, Allan Black. Interim Report mentions of ‘some gold mineralisation’ in the Porgera valley.
1943 H.J. Ward, an Australian Bureau of Mineral Resources geologist, located the source of the gold and mapped mineralised areas around Waruwari.
1946 First gold claims being staked on the upper Porgera by Joe Searson.
1948 A small ‘rush’ followed where mostly Australian prospectors entered the areas with Administration permission.
1949 Proper large scale exploration commenced by an Administration geologist and a party of Bulolo Gold Dredging Company officers.
1952 Establishment of a permanent patrol post at Laiagam meant more regular Administration visits to Porgera.
1962 Catholic mission established first station at Porgera
1966 Placer Pacific and Mount Isa Mines enter the areas as a joint venture and acquired Searson’s leases. They put two adits into Waruwari in 1970
1970 MIM transferred its leases to Placer Pacific
1979 Present Joint Venture formed. Subsequent intense geological, metallurgical and economic investigations followed by the Porgera Consortium.
1985 High-grade ore zone discovered and a sizeable mine became a viable
1987 Project entered feasibility. Shedden Agribusiness completed a Socio-Economic Impact Study in August.
1989 14 November Mining Development Contract signed by PJV partners and PNG government, including Enga Provincial Government and Porgera Landowners. Also Special Mining Lease granted. Construction of the mine began immediately.
1990 5 March PAMWU registered as an industrial organisation. First gold poured out from Anawe plant and was on schedule.
1991 Three autoclaves were commissioned. Supply of electricity from the Hides gas plant started late that year.
1993 Initial award re-negotiations between PAMWU and PJV began. Fourth Autoclave and new ball mill commissioned.
1994 Dyno Westfarmers explosive factory explosion in 3 August. Eleven workers, five Australians and six nationals died. K11 million damage bill and another K20 million in production loss for the six days the mine was shut.
1995 Early January PAMWU and PJV signed new Award. In 2 December five PJV national employees died in a tragic plane crash while on route to their villages for fieldbreak.
1997 June mine closed for two weeks due to drought caused by the El Nino effect which devastated the whole country for some eight months.
Source: Young, 1996

The pre-mine Porgeran economy was dominated by subsistence agriculture and alluvial gold mining. Subsistence agriculture is still the predominant activity and major source of livelihood. But the impact of at least four decades of contact with the gold economy was evident. Alluvial gold mining and employment opportunities generated by the mine were virtually the only cash earning opportunity available to the Porgerans. Pacific Agribusiness (1987:3) predicted that alluvial gold mining places some K3 million annually into the local economy which has dramatically altered the consumption patterns of the villagers involved. The soil infertility and the frosty climate have prevented Porgerans from venturing into agricultural cash crops. Because of isolation and partly due to a lack of education, Porgeran out-migration to the other parts of PNG has been low.

PJV's Employment and Recruitment Dilemma

When PJV wanted to commence construction on the Porgera project in 1988 it was faced with a 'recruitment dilemma' that became a stumbling block to the smooth construction of the project. There was a virtual nonexistence of a local labour market. The Porgerans generally were illiterate because of long neglect by all levels of government and a poorly developed education system. An earlier consultancy report pointed out that 'there will be a few candidates from Porgera available to compete not only for jobs in the construction period but also for the mine workforce in 1991' (Pacific Agribusiness, 1987:12). Accordingly, it was envisaged that the majority of these positions were inevitably to be filled by people from other areas of PNG.

However, PJV found that employing non-Porgerans was going to cause much resentment within the local community. Already Porgerans through the Porgera Landowners Association (PLA) and other associations showed their dislike for what they called 'intruders' (other Papua New Guineans) into Porgera. They asserted that because the project was on their land and the 'owned' the gold it was only 'fair and square' they be given the opportunities to advance themselves and to be where other Papua New Guineans were' (Enga Nius, 10/6/1991). On a lesser scale, but also of concern to PJV, was the fact that the rest of the Enga people voiced similar sentiments. If the rest of the Enga people were denied employment, some of them vowed to take the law into their own hands and 'block off the highway' (the lifeline of the project) which brought all the project supplies from the city port of Lae. The threat had some credibility because the 600 kilometre road had to pass through some populous areas of the province to get to Porgera. The magnitude of this recruitment problem was particularly serious given the fact that almost the entire population (99.6 percent) of the 200 000 Enga people were not in any formal employment situation. Unemployment at Enga (and other areas of the country) has been relatively high, partly because of restricted opportunities for employment, especially for young school leavers. The uneasiness of the tribesmen can be understood since Porgera presented one of the rare opportunities for them to acquire a cash income and thus the envied western consumer goods that are in great demand in the country (Interview, Tapala). These sentiments directly influenced the call for preferential employment for Porgerans and Engans at the 1989 Porgera Forum.

The Development Forum

Unlike other earlier PNG mines, in 1989 Porgera became the first mine to go through a pluralist style of mine development negotiation process to devise policies on the anticipated distribution of the benefits from the mine. The negotiating parties were made up of representatives from the PLA, Department of mining and Petroleum and other relevant departments, the Enga Provincial Government, developer representatives, and the National Executive Council. The policies of the Porgera Forum, as it was called, were also to be applicable to all major mining projects to be developed in PNG. For the two existing major mining projects (Ok Tedi and Misima) it was too late. Nonetheless there were community expectations that benefits would in some way be provided (West, 1992). Out of the several policies on the distribution of benefits ranging from royalty distribution to infrastructure and social improvements funding, the forum also called for preference in employment, training and business to be given to local people. They argued they were most affected by the adverse impacts such as disruptions to lives, culture an environment by the mining activity. Above all, they were the traditional owners of the mining lease land and they argued that, as such, they were to have first preference in receiving the material benefits from the mine (Porgera Agreement, 1989:45). In Porgera's case, subject to normal commercial and operating requirements, priority was to be given, in order, to landowners, people from the mining area, from the (Enga) province and finally to nationals (other Papua New Guineans).

In fact, the Porgera mine agreement was the first written employment policy in the country, systematically stipulating who should (and should not) gets preference in employment opportunities in the mine. For the existing mines it legitimised the tacitly yield affirmative policies they used by encouraging them to employ more locals around the project areas. In some sense a discriminatory policy, it did not provide a backlash from the public as one might anticipate. But some legal and academic observers labelled the affirmative action employment policies as 'overtly segregative policies' which would create a 'them' and 'us' type of relationship between landowners and non-landowners in an already volatile country. They saw the policies as a dangerous precedent which would deny many non-landowning people access to employment. Furthermore, they warned that any inconsistency in the distribution of wealth from resource projects could be contradictory to the 'Eight Aims' which stand for equal participation in job opportunities by all Papua New Guineans (see Chapter One). They mentioned the potential of a repeat of the Bougainville experience where 'outsiders' were referred to as 'redskins' by 'blackskin' Bougainvilleans', contributing to the prolonged discontent on the island. In turn, the Forum called for a criteria where balance in job allocation from the resource projects be maintained to ensure landowners and non-owners have equal access especially to the mining labour market (Post-Courier, 6/5/1989).

PJV's Implementation of Mine Employment Policy

It was not surprising that at the commencement of construction the company was inundated with applications for employment. May of the applicants were not from the Porgera area and there were already allegations from the PLA and some Porgeran elders that Porgerans were not being given preferential employment opportunities. There were also allegations that non-Porgerans were planning to establish squatter settlements or put undue pressure on the existing accommodation in the Porgera area. Actually, there were an estimated 2000 people who flocked into the tiny township of Porgera in anticipation of employment (Robinson, 1994:1). To manage recruitment and to discourage Engan job seekers coming to Porgera, PJV decided to set up a recruitment office in the provincial capital, Wabag. Late in 1989 the company implemented the preferential employment policy which the Porgera Forum had just established after much consultation with the PLA and the various Porgeran groups claiming to represent women and youth. Written and explicit employment policies and accommodation arrangements were followed by 1996. Like the tacit policies on Bougainville, at Ok Tedi and Misima, the criteria for employment were the same in that landowners and others in the vicinity of the project were preferred with second preference extended to other residents in the province and then to other nationals.

The policy document announced that: a) The Company will recruit Porgerans through the recruitment office established at Porgera station. All non-Porgeran applicants are advised that they must apply through the Company office at Wabag or in writing. b) A register of Porgeran applicants will be maintained and where a Porgeran has the skills required he or she will be given employment in preference to non-Porgerans. c) If a Porgeran is not available to fill a particular position then, if possible, an Engan will be recruited in preference to another Papua New Guinean. Any employee not from the Porgera district will be given camp accommodation. Porgeran employees are expected to live at home and are not provided with camp accommodation (PJV Human Resource Activities, 1989).

Not surprisingly, the recruitment strategy posed some initial problems. PJV's endeavour to tie contractors into the recruiting procedures were met with mixed reactions. In an effort to boost efficiency and to finish their work on schedule contractors brought their own skilled workforce, and in some cases recruited nationals. Where there was a need for Porgeran labour for mostly skilled work the contractors imperfectly applied the mine's employment policy. They recruited anyone who claimed to be a Porgeran provided they had the necessary skills and experience. This opened up an avenue for non-Porgeran people to use trade and marital connections with the Porgeran people in order to get jobs. Others resorted to bribing Porgeran elders and recruitment officials and in a few cases, quick marriages by non-Porgeran job seekers to Porgeran women occurred in order to qualify for a job. Whatever means they used to pass as Porgerans, these job opportunists comprised a small but significant group and were often referred to them by others as 'other' Porgerans.

The contractors, however, did recruit Porgerans for unskilled jobs but not without having prejudicial attitudes. Not used to keeping pace with the workforce, some Porgerans sneaked off early when their meagre diet could not sustain them for the tedious and long hours. Constant complaints from contractor foremen and managers about Porgeran work performance referred to poor punctuality, absenteeism and low productivity. What seemed to be the Porgeran workers' odd behaviour often led to unfavourable perceptions and ridicule from others in the workforce. Little formal work experience and easy money coming from huge compensation payouts by PJV to mine lease landowners and other spin-off earnings gave a lot of Porgerans a half-hearted approach to work at the time (Banks, 1993b, 1996). Despite this, significant number of Porgerans were employed in the two year construction phase, but a number of them in positions of little responsibility, requiring little skill, such as camp assistants, security guards, gate keepers and general labourers. See Table 2.

Table 2: Construction workforce employment by origin in 1988 and 1989

see tabLe and analysis - purchase the book

Table 2 shows the number of employees by their ethnic origin for the full years of the mine's construction. Porgerans comprised a significant portion of the entire workforce in that period. Included in the figures, but not distinguishable, are those 'other' Porgerans who also got jobs in the mine because of some sort of association with Porgeran people. They were mostly skilled workers who came from the adjacent Tari, Laigaip, and other parts of Enga and Southern highland areas and used marital and trade connections with the Porgerans people as qualifications to assume Porgerans identity. Others also sought jobs as Porgerans through some dubious means including bribing of Porgerans elders and recruitment officers and 'quick' marriages to Porgeran women (Interview, Tapala). All this happened particularly during the period when jobs were plentiful and the skill deficiencies of the Porgerans meant they either did menial jobs or were on training programs offered by PJV. In PJV's construction workforce Porgerans also remained the single biggest ethnic group in the two year construction period.

The data also show a strong presence of Engans in the workforce followed by other nationals and expatriates accordingly. All were recruited in line with the company's recruitment policy. The high turnover rate of expatriates and other nationals at the end of 1988 in both areas of construction was obvious as most of them left after the completion of their designated work. Porgerans and Engans actually joined or remained in PJV's workforce as it was preparing for the mine's operations in late 1989.

For the rest of the Engans, a company recruitment office (staffed by two full time personnel officers) was set up at Wabag to handle job applications. As expected, there was an influx of enthusiastic job seekers to the Wabag office. Many were there just to try out luck' (Interview, Timbi). As expected, the establishment of the office did dilute the extreme sentiments some section of the Enga population (especially the young school leaders) had towards PJV for giving more attention to the Porgerans. But actually those who were hired from the office were people who had previous training in technical blue collar work and some of the displaced former Bougainville mine employees from Enga. Selected applications were forwarded to PJV and the various contractors. These Engans provided the core of the construction workforce.

Only when some of the skilled jobs were not filled by Porgerans or Engans did PJV and the various contractors advertise in the media. The target group were the former employees of Bougainville mine, numbering nearly 3000 who were scattered across the country. A company recruitment team actually went to Bougainville at the peak of the civil unrest on the island and managed to recruit experienced BCL employees in the areas of supervisory, professional and trades. The company also managed to transfer some of the mine's apprentices who happened to be from Enga and the other Highland provinces to Porgera. In both cases, the company recruitment policy was taken into consideration in order not to recruit into areas where Porgerans and Engans were to provide labour. In the case of the transfer of indentures, only 3rd and 4th year apprentices were considered as PJV intended to keep the commitment to commence training Porgeran apprentices in 1990 (PJV Human Resource Activities, 1990).

In Enga and the neighbouring provinces, the high expectations the project had generated quickly anti-climaxed. For PJV, the danger of raising further false expectations in the region was realised after the implications of the total collapse of the Bougainville mine. Mine management now had to consider the avoidance of civil unrest. As an initial step, PJV carried out a comprehensive awareness campaign through its community relations office dissuading people from leaving their homes for Porgera (Interview, Stevens). This was to no avail because it only inflated the public furore over employment and recruitment practices in Porgera. In fact Engans from the border areas of Southern Highlands province wanted the company to 'compensate' them for missing out on Porgera (Post-Courier, 4/7/1990). The company was left with little choice but to extend the concept of social responsibility into its management practices. Consequently, PJV has extended its public relations role and implemented many infrastructural projects in areas where hitherto there were no direct economic benefits from the Porgera mine since 1990. These included education and health projects (Interview, Walters).

Porgeranisation of the Workforce

In the operation phase of the project, PJV has had a systematic program to facilitate the advancement of Porgeran workers in the mine since 1988. As expected, PJV strictly adhered to the established recruitment policies, with Porgerans from the immediate vicinity of the mine and Engans from the more distant environments given employment priority. Prior to construction, the project employed a Porgeran only when accompanied by a known Porgeran elder who confirmed the applicant's Porgeran origins and identity (Interview, Tapala). But this system was often abused by some elders who recommended non-Porgerans to get jobs after they were bribed with money and other goods. The presence of 'other' Porgerans was surprisingly not an issue. But a 1991 survey done by the company to gauge the views of Porgerans on its recruitment practices concluded that the locals generally did not trust the company to promote rapid 'Porgeranisation' at the expense of other national and expatriate workers (PJV Recruitment Policies Appraisal, 1991). Consequently, a screening committee on Porgeranisation in the mine was established, including representatives of the company and PLA, under the chairmanship of the only university educated Porgeran. As a result of its own inquiries and consultations, this committee made the bold forecast that 'a significant portion of the workforce had to be Porgerans' by the end of 1994 when the mine reached its full production stage (Interview, Paraia). This projection was to be achieved by preferential sponsorship and training of Porgerans in educational institutions in the country and also by guided on-the-job training of Poregrans at the mine. As for the recruitment of Porgerans for the mine's operation, PJV's personnel officers liaised with the employment committee which kept the job register of employable Porgerans. The Engans were only employed when no skilled Porgeran was found. On some occasions, an unfilled job had to be advertised nationally and a few engineering and technical jobs were canvassed overseas (Interview, Samtai).

A particularly difficult aspect of the Porgeranisation issue involved the treatment of those non-Porgerans who were recruited to do certain jobs. Some of them who were hired mainly in semi-skilled jobs such driving, catering, and cleaning because of their former extensive experience complained of rapid layoffs when recently trained Porgerans were slotted into their positions. These workers, mainly other nationals, were there for a pre-specified period of not more than two years. Usually Porgerans understudied them. The disgruntled workers complained at times of discrimination to the management but given the explicit employment policy favouring Porgerans over others they did not get far with their complaints. Even the skilled non-Porgerans were apprehensive of losing their jobs. Some of them were also laid off as educated and trained Porgerans came to the mine to work (Interview, Pyapeta). As a result of these changes Porgerans comprised a significant portion of the workforce even as early as 1990 when the mine began actual operation (as Table 3 shows).

Table 3: Breakdown of Porgeran and other ethnic portion of mine workforce from 1990-1996

See table and analyis notes - purchase the book

Table 3 shows the first seven years of the mine's operation. The Porgeran segment of the workforce grew at an average of 5 percent annually followed by other nationals 3 percent while Engans and Expatriates registered a decline of 2 percent and 3 percent respectively. Conversely, in real terms, there were significant increases in employment in some years, for example in 1993 expatriates totalled 466 which was higher than in the previous and subsequent years. Engans totalled 332 in the same year but an attrition rate of 7 percent per annum was apparent. The data show a strong trend towards the Porgeranisation of the workforce as more and more Porgerans 'relocalised' jobs held by Engans and other national workers.

Company Motivation and Employement Costs

The company's preferential employment policy reflects the realities of the labour supply as well as affirmative action strategies.
PJV has been influenced by economic and other factors to employ Porgerans and Engans. It is cheaper for the company to hire Porgeran and Engan workers than to recruit from outside the province, provided other things are equal. The company's savings on resettlement and recruitment are significant when little more than half of the workforce is from Enga. This is despite a yearning for Porgerans and Engans to see a 'proper' mining town established in Porgera rather than the current 'fly in, fly out', mode of residence in temporary camp accommodation. The accommodation issue was one of the acute issues in the 1993-5 award re-negotiation dispute between PMAWU and the company. However, security and lack of economic viability were PJV's reasons for not putting up a mining town with full amenities (Post-Courier, 23/5/1995; see chapter six). The company does not pay travelling allowances and other associated inconvenience allowances which the commuting employees get. PJV does not have to provide accommodation for Porgerans or proper accommodation for Engans since the employment policy disqualifies Porgerans from camp accommodation. Based on hiring costs alone, the incentive to employ Porgerans seemed great for PJV. As an expatriate senior mine employee acknowledged, recruitment costs alone of non-Porgerans and Engans outweighed the wages of Porgerans and Engans in a year. In fact, employing of locals is a blessing in disguise for PJV mainly in the mine's vicinity and neighbouring areas (Interview, Botts).

Training Schemes for Porgerans and Others

Motivation and commitment to involve the Porgerans in the mining venture is evidenced in the company's training and development program. As mentioned, PJV has met its requirements for skilled labour by recruiting nationals and expatriates. The company has established a comprehensive training program for the bulk of the operational and administrative jobs. The lack of sufficient local skilled labour was a major concern which led the company to expedite training especially for Porgerans when the mine commenced production in 1990. PJV's training program is based on an apprenticeship scheme and on a scholarship scheme which funds students attending universities and colleges in the country. On top of that it also gives cash donations to meet school fees for disadvantaged Porgeran school children. The whole manpower training and development program is administered by a training and localisation section in its personnel department. In fact, PJV's training programs are geared toward skilling the workers to replace costly expatriate held jobs.

Most of the training has been the usual on-the-job training given by foremen and supervisors. The company employed twenty eighty people as training supervisors or training instructors in equipment operator training and underground training in 1989. Emphasis was on plant operator training for the open pit and underground mine. Group training has been the most successful. Difficulties were experienced in employing female trainees because of a lack of basic education and also because of fears in some Porgerans' villages that relationships may develop between them and non-Porgerans employees (Interview, Pyapeta). Despite the reservations, secretarial and cleaning work has become popular for female Porgerans. In 1990 there were 15 female Porgeran trainees in secretarial duties and 60 in the cleaning and laundering jobs.

Porgeran school leavers were recruited through the Recruitment Screening Committee. They underwent various hands-on training schemes in areas such as truck hauling and heavy equipment operation. Similar training was given in the areas of maintenance, mill operation and security. There was also general training given on Fist Aid courses, rescue training and fire fighting. After the completion of these short courses, certificates and licences were issues. From 1988-1995 more than 700 trainees were absorbed into the workforce (PJV Human Resource Activities, 1995).

In 1991, PJV expanded its training program with the introduction of a proper apprenticeship scheme. The apprentice intakes were initially recruited from technical colleges in the highlands region but later recruitment extended to other colleges in the country. Out of the initial intake of 23, only one was from Porgera and 11 from other parts of Enga, while the reminder were from the other three Highland provinces. More intakes followed in the subsequent years and in 1993, a record of 60 apprentices were undergoing training in several trade areas in preparation for the mine's Stage 4 construction. They were trained in the trades of heavy equipment, electrical and motor maintenance while some did metal fabrication, welding and other domestic trades.

Discipline continues to be a problem for the new intakes. The intensive apprentice system is stressful for the recruits. Many apprentices have left while others have been suspended for idleness and theft at the workplace. Apprentices have also been suspended for over staying the usual ten days off after spending twenty gruelling days on the site. The long-distance commuting by land transport for some of these apprentices and the 'fly in, fly out', system for mine employees, means that in some circumstances unreliable transport delays them from arriving at the site. Often some have complained of 'lack of attachment' and 'temporary supervision' (Interview, Neptao). IN 1995, 10 apprentices were suspended for unauthorised absences and another two for idleness. These problems were also seen in the Bougainville mine where job monotony, physical fatigue and low pay were major reasons for on-the-job trainees being absent from work (Mamak and Ali, 1979:81). As a direct response to the problems, PJV has established a counselling section to assist in these areas. Those who have completed their four year indentures are mostly absorbed into the mine workforce.

Although the company maintains that its training programs are some of the best in the country, there have been various concerns expressed about the credibility of the training package and the trainers. One of the most vocal critics, the local spokesman for the Porgera Mine and Allied Workers Union (PMAWU) which represents the mines' blue collar workers, mentioned that the company's training programs do not foster education and professional development that is rigorous, comprehensive and relevant. Training in PJV is done on a 'needs' basis. Because of the absence of a theoretical component and the very short duration of most of the training programs, employees find it difficult to justify training programs they are authorised to attend. Most of the reservations trainees have are to do with the absence of teaching of general skills which makes them unemployable when they leave the mine. They feel that PJV does little in terms of preparing them to perform several related tasks and upgrading their skills to give them better chances of finding jobs elsewhere in the event of job lay-offs (Interview, Erapan).

On the other hands, it was alleged that a few expatriate supervisors were hesitant to train subordinates because of their lack of technical expertise in the subject matter. Critics claim that the training of expatriates on the mine machinery, job techniques, and computer software brought to the site takes preference over the training of national employees. Some expatriate trainers have been blamed for 'negative' attitudes towards national trainees and for failing to understanding different values and attitudes to work. Such grievances range from 'half' commitment or lack of enthusiasm towards training of nationals, arrogant attitudes, and the assumption that 'everyone knows the stuff' with little consideration for the scant knowledge of some of the nationals from subsistence farming backgrounds (Interview, Mukin). PJV encourages trainees to report negative behaviours by trainers and it has also provided induction courses emphasising training in cross cultural situations for the trainers where their expectations and Papua New Guinean expectations are explored (PJV Employee Handbook, 1994).

For its white-collar employees, PJV has run various on-the-job courses to up-grade knowledge and skills. There is an in-house graduate development program that trains recruits and employees in relevant areas of work using training staff and contract specialists. On various occasions, the company has sent several of its employees to Australia and New Zealand on work attachments and for short term training on general computer systems and computer based maintenance planning systems. An-on going work attachment program is being developed with two mines (Mt Isa and Kidston) in Australia to train both white collar and blue collar workers in various jobs. There are always other short term target courses going on at the mine emphasising particular areas of supervisory, security, safety and general training for all the employees on all aspects of mine work. The company has also sponsored employees to go and attend conferences and meetings both in the country and abroad which are directly related to their jobs.

PJV has, since the development of the mine, sponsored students in educational institutions in the country. In line with the mine agreement, preferences is give to Porgerans and Engans to attend colleges and universities. The company has provided financial assistance to those who have enrolled for business, engineering, and geology courses, and to secondary students from the Porgera area. The sponsored students have participated in vocational training programs at the mine. These programs have included periods of work experience, generally two months of school holiday break spent doing on-the-job training with PJV employees. The visits have been found to be beneficial in increasing awareness of future job opportunities and in helping to improve the confidence of tribal youth in communicating with strangers. In the 1994 summer break, 25 students were employed at the mine. In 1995 vocational training was further extended by the introduction of a trainee-link scheme which allowed students from vocational centres in Enga to spend a month in paid employment at the mine (Ipili Waii Pii, 3/7/1995).

PJV apprentices during a training session

Source: PJV, 1997

Expatriates and Localisation

Like other mine employees, Porgera mine workers doubt the sincerity or good faith of PJV with respect to its programe for training and promotion of Papua New Guineans. This is despite a rapid localisation of expatriate jobs over the years as a result of the company's various training and sponsorship programs. Some sections of the workforce and the PMAWU have been concerned that the localising of expatriate jobs has not happened as rapidly as they could have liked for some essential jobs (Interview, Lapo).

For a mine that commenced operation in 1990, the localisation of the workforce has been rapid. In the year following the tow year construction period, 75 per cent of the 1361 operation workforce were citizens. The subsequent years saw an increasing turnover of expatriates as their jobs either ceased to exist or became localised. Hence, at the end of 1996, citizen employees constituted 86 per cent of the 2100 operation workforce (see Table 3). This high rate of citizen participation reflects the rapid achievement made, especially in the technical blue-collar jobs, which were much in demand in the days of Bougainville and Ok Tedi mines. The localisation rate has been consistent over the past few years, despite workforce changes in construction turnovers and continuous recruitment of expatriate technical expertise for a limited period in a few areas of the mine. The bulk of the jobs that are occupied by Porgerans and other nationals are those in trades and in the sub-professional areas of chemistry, civil, environmental, geology, metallurgy, survey, administration, supply and warehouse and public relations. What has become a concern and, in fact, a contentious issue regarding localisation is the 'snail's pace' in localising the few exclusively expatriate held professional jobs, both in administration and the prime technical areas of the mine (Interview, Mukin).

Table 4: PJV's localisation of operation workforce in 1996

See table and analysis notes - buy the book

Table 4 shows the Porgera mine's localisation achievement in 1996. Eighty six per cent of the 2100 jobs at the mine were held by citizens. The rest (17 per cent or 320 positions) were occupied by expatriates, some of whom were in middle and top management areas of the mine. Apart from the vital management and technical jobs, some of the operator trainer jobs and others held by expatriates are to be localised immediately once Papua New Guinean have acquired the skills and experience necessary.

A concern shared by employees in Ok Tedi and Misima mines is that the localising of the senior mine jobs is generally regarded as not in the best interests of the mine management. Porgeran workers who have had lengthy training in mining and similar work experience believe the management's stubbornness is an insult to their professionalism (Interview, Mukin). In Porgera, the former BCL employees who make up a significant 30 per cent of the skilled salary and wages employees and a few others continuously voice the opinion that the PJV's training enthusiasms has not been felt in the management areas on par with the apprentice training. Similarly, the PMAWU spokesmen on various occasions also voiced the opinion that the company's localisation policy was nonexistent and consequently 'expatriates are perpetuating their stay here at the expense of experienced national's (Post-Courier, 3/1/1993). There is some evidence to support this view concerning senior jobs because the company does not have a separate management cadet system to train promising nationals to take over after expatriate incumbents are gone. This is despite its policy that every non-citizen who is employed at the mine will as one of his or her objectives, train a national employee to take over the position after their departure (PJV Training Manual, 1994).

The inherent dilemma of training nationals by expatriates concerned about their own job security is obvious. In the very important area of on-the-job training and also in the middle management echelon of the various mines and other sectors of the economy expatriates are concerned and feel unsatisfied. One survey found that 22 line managers in various sectors of the economy were appreciative of the localisation concept. However, most of them disagreed with manner in which the localisation program was expatiated because of the understanding and responsibility of the jobs. To them this process of localisation should require national workers to pass various competency levels before ultimately replacing them (Bondi and Titlelman, 1991). At Bougainville mine at the time of operation, expatriate employees expressed very little interest in passing on their skills because they would be 'training themselves out of a job' (O'Fairchellaigh, 1984:57).

It Porgera, discontent over localisation has arise in part out of the nonexistence of a systematic monitoring system that would ensure that skills are being imparted to apprentices and other subordinates. Hence, localisation may be slow in various jobs where expatriates have a vested interest. This argument finds support in the non-localisation of the top 25 management jobs in the company. It is assumed by the PNG citizens of Porgera that top management does not want to confront and threaten its highly skilled expatriates for fear of causing dissatisfaction amongst them.

PJV's official view on this issue is somewhat defensive of its training and localisation program. Spokespersons claim that the mine is still 'young' and so is the workforce. They argue that it is a gradual process by which Papua New Guineans acquire the right experience to hold the senior jobs. Advancement into the ranks of senior management should require professional training in addition to many years of practical experience. Above all, the company's primary concern is to maintain efficiency and that can only happen at present by employment of a committed and experienced expatriate workforce. The concerns expressed by former BCL employees and PMAWU fail to acknowledge the high localisation level and the actual high percentage of turnover of expatriates every year. The most appropriate way forward to for individual personnel departments in conjunction with the training and localisation to elevate able individuals to higher position once they have demonstrated higher degrees of competency and loyalty in their jobs (Interview, Joyce),

Despite the rapid localisation of the mine's workforce, it seems Porgera mine will not do without skilled expatriate employees for an indefinite period to come. In certain crafts and technical trades, in which there are skill deficiencies in the country, expatriate labour will continue to demonstrate. This is particularly the case for senior professional management staff. Since advancement into the ranks of senior management normally required professional training in addition to many years of practical experience, the issue of localisation will continue to be acute at Porgera and other mines in the country. Even though a near complete localisation of jobs does occur at Porgera, still a certain number of expatriates will be needed in some of the very critical areas of the mine.


Porgera mine was not unusual in the challenges in faced before commencing operation. Other earlier PNG mines went through the same development process, simultaneously responding to the employment expectations of the local population and scrambling for the very little available skilled manpower in the country's small labour market. But Porgera stands out as the first mine to have come up with a written policy giving preference in employment and other business spin-off opportunities to locals. This affirmative action policy has positively discriminated in favour of the Porgerans in terms of training and localisation of positions at the mine. For PJV the policy has offered advantages in terms of cost minimisation where Porgeran employees can economically replace expensive other nationals and in some instances expatriate labour. The occurrence of such a situation was not envisaged by Kerr et al. (1960) nor did they forsee the process of replacing expatriate labour with qualified nationals as a contentious issues.

Although the ethnic affirmative employment policy and other practices by PJV seem controversial in many ways, quite surprisingly, they have not become issues. It seems that in theory the country's equity policies prevail, but in practice the government is quite content with the way land owning people and project operators go about establishing and implementing their own employment criteria. This would not be likely if it was in Australia or another developed country. However, because of the deprivation in the areas where projects are located, affirmative action in employment and other benefits is viewed legitimate recompense to landowners.

The imperatives of community relations, coupled with pressures for effective training opportunities and the rapid localisation of jobs require that PJV provide a vigorous and proactive human resources policy. However, as mentioned, this and other employment issues will not easily disappear given the recent development of the mining industry and also given the location of the projects in some of the isolated parts of the country. All these issues point to the fact that the 'logic of industrialisation' and the development of an industrial workforce in Porgera and elsewhere in PNG continues to challenge the forces of conservatism; though in sometimes quite different processes and institutions that those outlined in Kerr et al.'s model.

   Benedict Y. Imbun - UPNG Press 2000

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  • 1999 the Canadian Globabl Almanac / John R. Colombo, general editor - Macmillan Canada, Toronto - ISBN 0-7715-7616-1 - pp.478

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