China has agreed to build a vast industrial complex in a jungle region of Papua New Guinea (PNG) with factories processing tropical foods and minerals.
A memorandum of understanding was signed in December between a group of investors from the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen and the government of PNG, a small South Pacific country that shares the island of New Guinea with Indonesia, just north of Australia.
Patrick Pruaitch, the country’s treasury minister, told Reuters that the plan was to build two processing and manufacturing plants in West Sepik province, a dense jungle region in the north of the country about 30km from the Indonesian border.
One will process timber, fish, cassava and tropical spices and the other will handle steel, cement and other industrial products.
The projects are to be developed in phases at a final cost of $3.8bn. The government of PNG said it hoped construction would start in 2017, but the plans were "very long term".
The main contractor for the parks is expected to be the Metallurgical Corporation of China, which was responsible for the main Chinese investment in the country to date, a $2bn nickel mine completed in 2012.
Chinese premier Li Keqiang met opposite number Peter O’Neil in Beijing last year (english.gov.cn)
The PNG projects fall under the heading of China’s "One Belt, One Road" strategy, which is being extended from the classical Silk Road to Europe to include the 16th-century "Silver Road" to America, developed by the Spanish navigator Andres de Urdaneta.
According to Reuters, investors from the Chinese coastal province of Fujian are close to signing a deal to build a huge industrial centre that will turn PNG’s lumber into furniture.
The nominal GDP of PNG in 2016 was around $19bn, so the size of these Chinese investments are enormous relative to the country’s economy.
Other Chinese developments on the horizon in West Sepik are a copper and gold mine – Radio New Zealand reports that mining company PanAust has completed a feasibility study and launched an application to begin work – and a dam to provide hydro power for these new sites and provide a disposal site for the mine’s tailings.
Top image: Chinese premier Li Keqiang met Papua New Guinea’s Pime Minister Peter O’Neil in Beijing last year (english.gov.cn)