ExxonMobil has suspended work near a liquefied natural gas (LNG) site in Papua New Guinea after four local villagers were killed in a tribal dispute.

The clash between two rival coastal villages near the capital Port Moresby occurred in an area where ExxonMobil is to build a plant to liquefy, store and load gas for shipment overseas.

The incident has forced the shutdown of road building works being undertaken by Curtain Bros, an Australian construction firm, to the planned plant site.

The fight erupted on Saturday afternoon after drunken Borea village youths threw stones at Porebada villagers as they were gardening in the area, half an hour's drive west from Port Moresby.

Porebada villagers went to Borea village later that day to resolve the dispute, but four of them were shot dead.

PNG's National newspaper reported the fight was linked to ongoing tensions regarding land ownership and LNG leases.

PNG's Post Courier newspaper reported the two villages met on Sunday night, and Porebada clansmen vowed to close down the nearby LNG-related activities until the dispute was settled.

A spokesman for ExxonMobil in Port Moresby said a police investigation would provide more information about the "tragic event".

"The safety and security of our workforce and the communities in which we operate are of the utmost importance and we are monitoring the situation closely," he said.

"The project has temporarily suspended work in the area out of respect for the victims and their families."

Last week the Post Courier reported 11 villagers were killed in PNG's Southern Highlands Province (SHP) in a tribal fight tied to a land dispute over the LNG project.

ExxonMobil emphatically denied any LNG connection, while Oil Search, a partner in the $16 billion LNG project, said only two villagers died in the SHP clash.

Thousands of landowners from a variety of groups are set to profit from the LNG project, which will pump gas starting in 2014 from SHP to the plant site near Port Moresby 600km away, before shipping it to mainly Asian buyers for an estimated 30 years.

Landowners spent weeks last year cutting a deal with the PNG government, but some parties believe they missed out or were excluded from the talks.

The West Australian

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