PNG LNG row over, says ExxonMobil

Back to work: ExxonMobil says community leaders and the government have come to a resolution in the Hildes land row

ExxonMobil has said a land dispute with residents in Papua New Guinea that halted part of the works on its $15.7 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project has ended.

"Community leaders in the Hides area have come to a resolution with the government to allow work in Hides to resume. We have begun to mobilise our workforce to recommence work," Exxon spokeswoman Rebecca Arnold said, according to Reuters.

Esso Highlands, the Exxon subsidiary which operates the LNG development, had stopped work in the Hides region of the Southern Highlands after residents demanding additional compensation for their land threatened workers at the plant.

ExxonMobil’s statement comes just hours after the Papua New Guinea government said it was preparing to deploy troops to quell the protests.

Papua New Guinea's National Executive Council agreed late Wednesday to send troops to "restore law and order," The National newspaper reported earlier on Thursday.

The newspaper said Prime Minister Peter O'Neill had originally planned to call a state of emergency in the area, but downgraded to a troop call out after local landowners agreed to lift a blockade of the Hides site.

ExxonMobil's PNG LNG plant is the country's biggest-ever resource undertaking and is expected to boost GDP by 20%.

Work at ExxonMobil sites in the Hides area has been at a standstill for about two weeks, although work continued at other project sites during the disruption.

The distribution of windfalls from PNG LNG has been a point of contention since the project's inception and early work was delayed in 2009 due to landowner concerns about compensation.

Landowners in the Hides region recently blamed ExxonMobil for a landslide which took place at the site of quarry that had been used by the company. ExxonMobil has said the recent landowner claims are unrelated to the landslide incident.

The LNG project is a joint venture between ExxonMobil, Oil Search, Santos, Japan's JX Nippon Oil and Gas Exploration, a unit of JX Holdings, and the Papua New Guinea government.

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