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Ni-Vanuatu at Ok Tedi Gold Mine buys land in PNG

Moli Pakoro, 33, of Malo Island is the only worker from Vanuatu driving a giant crusher at Ok Tedi Gold Mine in Papua New Guinea (PNG). He is married to a ‘meri’ from the giant Melanesian country and has four children.

Entrance to Ok Tedi Gold Mine. Photo: Ok Tedi page

His wife is a childhood sweet heart from Kamewa Primary School on Santo where they both went to school. Her PNG parents arrived in Vanuatu to work for Vanuatu Copra and Cocoa Exporters (VCCE) Limited in Santo.

At 18, Pakoro became a seasonal worker under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme in New Zealand. “I supported my wife to graduate from university in PNG,” he recalled.

Asked what his first sight of something in PNG that he had never seen before in public, he replied, “Guns because here in Vanuatu, we don’t see anyone with guns in public.

“But on my first arrival at Jackson Airport, I was not afraid because I was there to meet my girlfriend and her family.”

They had been apart on different countries for a while.

“We had not seen each other for two years so on my arrival I searched the huge colourful crowd for her while she also searched for me,” Pakoro said.

“I turned my head and there she was standing next to me without even knowing that I was next to her. I placed the palm of my hands over her eyes. She knew it was me. We took a plane then landed at an airstrip and took a bus and travelled for a whole day to arrive in her village!

“I trialed for heavy duty and I chose to drive a crusher and did my three months training in Cairns, Australia. I came back and drove a crusher at Ok Tedi Gold Mine.

“I enjoy working on the machine. A giant boulder is loaded on the crusher but it is smashed without any problem into sand. It is deposited into a kind of strainer and with water, gold is separated from waste matter.

“I touched and held gold in my hand. It is heavy. Sometimes it is found from panning in a river.

“At times we go down to my wife’s bubu’s place at Sepik and panned for gold in the river there, pack the grains of gold in small Panadol-like containers and sell the gold at Jayapura in West Papua, on the border of Indonesia.

“In PNG, you can drive through Wewak, Vanimo and Jayapura. You can pay approximately VT10, 000-VT15, 000 by bus and drive through”.

Asked to talk about the minimum wage of Papua New Guineans, Pakoro said, “In PNG, the standard of education is higher than Vanuatu and as the second best salary paying country in the Pacific below Australia, their people are better educated than us here in Vanuatu too.

“For instance, my small ‘tawi’ went as far as Year 6 in Santo but on their return to PNG, he started at year four to meet their standard”.

Pakoro said this explains why in PNG, their people own huge shops and super markets and expand even as far as the United States. This is because they are very well educated to compete in the market place. Their academic education is the key to their economic success.

“Look at my own case. I dropped off at Year 9 at Santo. If you enjoy a cook’s recipe, don’t keep going back to eat at the same restaurant but learn how to cook the same recipe yourself,” he said.

“I have assisted a little girl that my wife and I had adopted and we cared for her until she entered university. She is completing her law course next year to graduate with her Law Degree.

“What a satisfactory feeling knowing that you have contributed to this success story for her to graduate to enter the professional workforce.”

His advice to young Ni-Vanuatu like him is to study to climb up the ladder of success

“I decided I wanted to drive a heavy duty vehicle and travelled to learn how to drive it,” he said. “The pay is good and I studied in Cairns in Australia and came home with my qualification to control this machine. Good pay. No problem.

“Now at 33, I have yet to touch kava or cigarette or ‘lif tabak’. I take beer just to socialise and that’s it. Kava is selfish because after drinking your kava, you return home and eat of the food that your wife and children have eaten. Your family do not drink kava and you spend a lot of money on your kava and that is selfish.

“We all go overseas to work to earn money for our families so please let us earn to save and not spend.

“Know how and when to communicate with your supervisor about any challenges that you or your team face. You must show your concern to stand for your colleagues’ rights”.

His advice to Vanuatu seasonal workers in New Zealand and Australia is for them to save their earnings to invest it by going into business in the national Capital or Provincial Capitals to create employment opportunities for their families and or ‘wantoks’ towards reducing the number of young people leaving to do seasonal works overseas.

“My father-in-law is involved in agriculture so I asked if we could set him up in agriculture and he agreed. I invested in my first 200 hectares of land and went into cocoa farming, pawpaw farming and poultry farming,” he concluded.

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