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This past Thursday in the village of Tari in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea a delegation of senior government ministers and members of Parliament were pelted with stones by an angry mob. The police fired several shots in the air, which were met by a single shot from the crowd. No casualties were reported. The group was in Tari to hold a forum on the agreements, currently under discussion, for sharing of benefits between government and local landowners from a huge project that will take gas from the Southern Highlands, transport it by pipeline to the capital, Port Moresby, where it will be converted into liquefied natural gas and shipped to China, Japan, and other markets. Universally referred to as “the LNG,” the project, led by ExxonMobil in partnership with several other companies and the government of Papua New Guinea, will cost an estimated $10 billion to develop, and will produce direct government revenues from royalties, taxes, and the government’s equity stake, of about $30 billion over the 30-year project life. This is a lot of money sloshing around in a country of 6.5 million people. Oil already accounts for a significant chunk of export revenues and there is another, even larger, gas project in the planning stages and several huge mining projects, which together are expected to at least quadruple the country’s GDP over the next 30 years or so. [click to continue…]

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