By Ilya Gridneff
PORT MORESBY, March 2 AAP – ASX-listed m2m Corporation Ltd has dropped a $10 million merger with Carbon Planet and gone into business with a man accused of running a carbon “cargo cult” in Papua New Guinea.
Former disqualified Australian horse trainer and Philippine cock-fighting syndicate operator Kirk Roberts, and his company Nupan, is now working fortechnology investment group m2m to develop carbon trading projects in PNG.
At a volatile meeting between PNG government and forest landowners on Monday Mr Roberts, who is also under investigation by the PNG’s Forest Authority (FA),was accused by PNG’s Forest Minister Beldan Namah of promoting a carbon “cargo cult”.
But Mr Roberts, who received $1.1 million from Adelaide-based Carbon Planet in 2008, shrugs off widespread criticisms and is adamant he represents numerous PNG landowner groups who want lucrative carbon projects developed under a voluntary system.
PNG authorities are worried Mr Roberts is undermining existing forestry laws, possibly misleading landowners in remote areas all while exploiting PNG’svacuum of national legislation and policy covering carbon trading where companies can offset emissions by supporting forest growth.
East Pangia, in PNG’s rugged Southern Highlands region, is the latest carbon battle ground as Mr Roberts promises what many PNG villagers call ‘sky money’because he appears to be selling air.
At Monday’s meeting with divided Pangia landowner groups some argued for Nupan’s carbon trading, some argued for logging while a raft of governmentofficials and ministers criticised Mr Roberts’ carbon scheme.
PNG’s FA managing director Kanawi Pouru last month took out a newspaper advertisement outlining an investigation into Mr Roberts while remindinglandowners Pangia had been allocated for logging since 2002.
In July 2009 m2m announced a merger as a way for a back-door listing for Carbon Planet but the deal fell through in January this year, a month after m2mannounced that Mr Roberts’ Nupan would become their “rainforest developer”.
“It is very important for shareholders to note m2m’s existing carbon credit business will not be affected by the Carbon Planet transaction not proceeding,”an m2m statement said.
Nupan will generate about 10 million scientifically approved and verified carbon credits from 15 forestry projects in PNG over the first half of 2010,m2m said. “Completion will allow m2m to recognise about $1 million in revenue in the first quarter of next year (2010). Further trading from the 15 projects isanticipated to deliver in excess of $4 million revenue by December 2010 and positive earnings,” another statement said.
Ian Clarkson, m2m executive chairman, told AAP he would call back with a response but did not. Paul Barker director of PNG’s think tank Institute of National Affairs said PNG does not need any more carbon trade scandals.
“One would like options for the landowners other than logging operations, which have ruled the roost for years with many bad results,” he said.
Mr Roberts is linked to last year’s sacking of a top PNG climate change official and is tied to an ongoing government investigation of PNG’s nowdefunct Office of Climate Change.
Carbon Planet has replaced former CEO Jim Johnson with Dr Ross Williams while executive director Dave Sag declined to comment on recent developments”due to the confidentiality clauses that persist in our contracts”.
m2m’s current market capitalisation is about $6.7 million and its shares last traded at 0.3 of a cent.