Latest agreement puts Wafi-Golpu copper/gold project back on track


A landmark memorandum of understanding between the Papua New Guinea government and the Wafi-Golpu Joint Venture participants, Newcrest Mining and Harmony Gold, marks a key step towards the granting of a special mining lease for the copper-gold mine, the application for which was first lodged back in August 2016.

wafi golpu

Prime Minister Marape and key representatives of his cabinet, the Governor of Morobe Province and Harmony Gold and Newcrest Mining representatives celebrate the Framework Memorandum of Understanding for the Wafi-Golpu project. Credit: Wafi-Golpu Joint Venture

‘A framework has been established whereby Newcrest and Harmony, and the State – on behalf of the Morobe Provincial Government and landowners – will progress Wafi-Golpu mine development so that it can start at the very earliest,’ said Prime Minister James Marape in announcing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) last week. 

‘This is a major resource, with substantial gold and copper, which will anchor our country for the next 40 years and beyond.’ 

In addition setting the project’s long-term investment framework, the MOU outlines the PNG government’s stake in the project, royalty and tax rates, plus commitments by the venture partners to invest in local infrastructure and social development.

PNG to be the biggest winner

The Prime Minister describes the MOU as an improvement on the one his predecessor Peter O’Neill signed in 2018, with the country now expecting a 55 per cent take of the economic benefits of the project. 

‘With an estimated mine life of 28 years, Wafi-Golpu is forecast to produce 320,000 ounces of gold and 150,000 tonnes of copper annually.’

Assuming that the State and Morobe Province take up their maximum stakes, the final equity split on Wafi-Golpu will be 35 per cent each for Harmony and Newcrest, 20 per cent for the PNG State and 10 per cent for Morobe Province and Landowners.

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David Wissink, Head of External Relations at the Wafi-Golpu Joint Venture, tells Business Advantage PNG that Newcrest, Harmony and the PNG Government will help with funding of that equity interest through a loan agreement yet to be finalised.

While Newcrest and Harmony have committed an additional US$394 million for social community infrastructure, David Wissink notes the government is yet to advise the province and landowners of the size of a future Infrastructure and Business Development grant which, according to recent announcements, could be worth as much as K1.2 billion.

Fiscal arrangements covered by the MoU include: 

  • State equity in the project of 20 per cent
  • 10 per cent carried equity for Morobe Province and landowners
  • 2 per cent tax for fiscal stability on top of the full 30 per cent tax to be paid
  • Royalty at 3 per cent with no deductions

A Special Mining Lease (SML) for the project will be issued for an initial 30 months only, with investors needing to complete Front End Engineering Design (FEED) and a Final Investment Decision (FID) in order to qualify for a further extension.


‘The commitment of Prime Minister Marape, his Government and the Morobe Provincial Governor to this MOU gives us the confidence that permitting will progress constructively and in a timely manner to the grant of an SML,’ says Newcrest interim Chief Executive Officer, Sherry Duhe. 

‘We will then move swiftly to update the 2018 Feasibility Study and commence engineering towards development.’ 

Existing estimates suggest the mine, which would be the first in PNG to be developed using the underground ‘block cave’ method, contains around 28 million ounces of gold and 13.7 million tonnes of copper. With an estimated mine life of 28 years, Wafi-Golpu is forecast to produce 320,000 ounces of gold and 150,000 tonnes of copper annually.

‘Positive news’

John Byrne, President of the Lae Chamber of Commerce tells Business Advantage PNG that the MOU represents a major commitment from the Morobe Provincial Governor Luther Wenge, the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and the negotiating teams on both sides to reach a deal that suits the community, stakeholders and investors. 

‘While this is exceptionally positive news, I don’t expect any progression on this unique underground mine until next year at the earliest,’ he says. 

Previous estimates by PNG’s Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) suggest Wafi-Golpu will take five-and-a-half years to construct, and involve the creation of 2600 jobs.

Environmental permits granted

Like Newcrest’s sister mine at Lihir, the Wafi-Golpu project is expected to rely on a deep-sea tailings placement (DSTP) method. In May 2019, objection to the proposed DSTP caused the Morobe Provincial Government to launch legal action, which effectively stalled the project’s permitting process.

Wafi-Golpu Joint Venture participants have since received a Level 3 Environment Permit to undertake all proposed project activities and there are currently no fresh challenges, with local landowners supporting the MOU deal signed last week.


  1. Dennis Augustine, Mapelu Clan, Hengambu tribe SML 10. Morobe provincial.. says

    I have seen the MOU Signing of WAFI Golpu Project between the National Government and Developer, for the MDC & MOA are yet to be sign, but the National Government has announced the FID 30 months process to hold back the Lease License for the Wafi Golpu Project, does it affect..?

  2. Derrick Nagul says

    Can this MOU be made public so we can all see what the conditions are?

  3. I just saw a press release that the owners of Waffi golpu sign a frame work agreemen with Government to move forward ( I tried to download it, but I can’t; sorry) The Governor of Morobe was described as being at the centre of the deal..He doesn’t say anyting about the Power Source to supply to waffi-golpu

  4. Edward Jebo Gisoba says

    Please explain more in detail how principal land owners will benefit, participate in construction of mine I. The first five years, explain more in detail the direct ILG Management of land owners team and developer for the first 5 years,


    Edward Jebo Gisoba

    CONTACT: +675 75268045 Or +675 79378994

    • Chris Haumi says

      Please do contact me on this number:+675 70673029 for further information on your thoughts

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