New Guinea Gold Corp. said it had to temporarily halt operations at a project in Papua New Guinea after representatives of landowner associations occupied the mine site.

Shares of the junior explorer and miner were down 17 percent at 5 Canadian cents in late-morning trading on the Toronto Venture Exchange.

New Guinea Gold said it received a letter on Dec. 12 from lawyers on behalf of Lulai Nakama Association over outstanding royalties. The letter warned of shutting down New Guinea Gold's mining operations at the Mt Sinivit project if the company fails to pay the royalties.

The royalties were released, but the protesters remain in occupation of the site, the company said. New Guinea Gold is currently seeking court orders for their removal before pursuing a negotiated settlement with the Lulai Nakama Association.

New Guinea Gold said it also received a second demand for the payment of compensation for alleged environmental damage.