Bougainville Environment News Alert : Rusty wrecks and major oil spill threaten Island life ,economy and environment

 

” If those responsible took notice and took heed Kieta Harbour wouldn’t be in this situation and we wouldn’t be talking about the oil spill now.

What has happened is criminal. I think it is more than criminal because even if the people responsible are arraigned and put behind bars it may not rid the Harbour of the oil very well.

ABG must formally request and assign environmental experts in oil spills to carry out an immediate survey and assessment of the spill. They can then either confirm the worst fears of the Pokpok Islanders and other coastal villages regarding the extent of the oil spill or put people at rest that the problem can be arrested and alleviated at least.”

Simon Pentanu

I am writing this with a lot of hurt and annoyance. My people’s and my worst fear is now real. The oil spill is real. It is not in Alaska or the Gulf of Mexico or in the Middle East. It is at home. The waters of the Harbour come right ashore along the village beachfront where children swim and play everyday.

Kieta Harbour is one of the most pristine, picturesque, much photographed and captivating harbours anywhere; anywhere in the Pacific Region, anywhere in the world.

The Harbour is not big in comparison to other beautiful harbours I have seen in my travels around the world. But I have always thought to myself it is a big enough Harbour for the size of Bougainville Island. Every harbour in the world has its captivating features. Kieta Harbour has hers.

I have no doubt captains and sailors of every ship, schooner, yacht, and sloop – even the penische the Germans may have used around here pre WW1 – that have come here for the first time, enter with a breathtaking welcome by the contrasting colours of the pristine blue waters and the rainforest green on all sides of the Harbour.

Because the Harbour is also a shape of a water-filled crater the oil spill is, potentially, going to have a devastating effect. The Harbour is roughly encircled at both entrances with the snout and tail of Pokpok Island almost meeting the mainland at both entrances.

It is almost like a large pond. This means any oil spill in the Harbour will get trapped in the heart of the Harbour, and spread along the coast of Pokpok and the mainland from Tubiana and all along Happy Valley and out.

The principle signatory to the business arrangement and agreement that brought the ill-fated ships into Kieta is the local member for North Nasioi and Minister for Primary Industry Hon Nicholas Daku MHR. This is his second term both as a member of BHOR and as Minister in ABG. So he is someone that has matured into Bougainville politics and fortunate enough to have a bite at the same cherry as far as ministerial portfolios is concerned. Yet, during all this time he has been conspicuous by his overt absence and muted silence.

The other signatory is an officer in the ABG Commerce division Raymond Moworu.

As a matter of fact and record this is an ABG project, a project quickly cooked up and hushed up by the Minister on the eve of 2015 ABG election. Even if the Minister and the officer signed the papers blindfolded it does not exonerate them or make their responsibility – or culpability – any less because they were acting for and on behalf of ABG in promoting the project. When all is said and events come to pass the buck stops with the Minister. It is called ministerial responsibility.

I’m very annoyed because I have personally mentioned the impending disaster to the Hon Minister Daku more than once verbally since 2016-17. I started doing this after I went around by boat to the Kieta government wharf where the ships had been berthed for some time. I first took photographs of the boats in March 2016 because I noticed they were not sailing anymore. It looked very obvious to me then the boats were fatigued and were rusting away into disrepair and wreck. I even posted the photographs with a warning on my FB Timeline observing that there were obvious signs of impending disaster and that the authorities must do something about removing the ships.

If those responsible took notice and took heed Kieta Harbour wouldn’t be in this situation and we wouldn’t be talking about the oil spill now.

 

It is futile and waste of time calling for a commission of enquiry especially when the Minister and ABG should have acted to prevent this after they were warned and could see the impending disaster was obvious out there staring into their face in broad daylight.

The Minister has been AWOL and very hard to contact when all this has been going on. With all due respect he should resign. If he does not he should be decommissioned and relieved of ministerial responsibilities and someone else that is prepared to work and is serious about ministerial responsibility appointed to take charge. Party politics, including party allegiances, should not get in the way of such a decision. IF it doesn’t happen we might as well throw the towel in because otherwise we are complicit in a style of governance that isn’t going to deliver Bougainville where it wants to go.

North Nasioi constituency also has the option to pursue the member through the recall provision in the constitution and evict him from Parliament.

When I saw myself the ships were let off afloat from berth at the Kieta wharf the least I could do is ask someone – anyone – to help after contacting NMSA whose officers to their credit immediately turned up in Buka. Before their arrival I was very heartened that the member for Selau and Chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Referendum agreed and was, also of his own volition, so ready and willing to travel to Kieta with two of my senior parliamentary staff I asked to be at NMSA’s disposal on the visit to Kieta.

The Member for Selau knows Kieta well and leaders from Kieta well. In Parliament he and Hon Minister Daku are sat next to each other. Pokpok has a historical link with Selau through Chief Keroro. Growing up in the mid 50’s I saw Chief Keroro arrive in his penische (dinghy) and would beach it in the village beachfront while he would spend time to visit and talk to our Chief at the time. These were times when Chiefs in North, Central and south Bougainville knew of each other.

The other day I posted a piece on my FB Timeline with an old photo of Pokpok Island and village looking across from Kieta in a moving speed boat in 1989. I wrote about how the Islanders are resilient and generally how the folk in the communities around Bougainville are resilient in times of difficulties, disasters and other adversities. I was deliberate in the timing of that posting as I felt a disquiet anticipation that it was just a matter of time before one of the hapless ships would sink.

This oil spill is something terribly alarming. Our Disaster office does not have the capacity to attend to it. It pains my heart to think how my people will be affected. I’m traveling away abroad on medical leave for the coming two weeks and even more pained not knowing the extent of the oil spill and its resultant effect on the Islanders and their livelihood from the sea they depend on in so many ways.

Mr Ho the ships owner must be found. His second vessel is still afloat but has no anchor to keep it anchored safely anywhere.

It is time for ABG to ask for help from GoPNG and from outside to assess and contain the spill.

 

Bougainville #Referendum and #Environment News : A choice between selling our inheritance down the river or creating a future for all

 ” The Referendum on 15 June 2019 is not just a political referendum. It is a Referendum on what kind of society Bougainville wants to have. It is a referendum on our resources and economic choices into future.

It is a referendum on how we relate and contribute to the world’s wellbeing being part of the global community.

It is a referendum on how much and for how long we want the island to prosper and what our generation will bequeath to our children and their children and their children’s children.

 We definitely do not want a Bougainville where a few benefit at the expense of the majority.

No child in Bougainville should suffer or sacrifice their future owing to poor decisions around development and management of our natural resources and our environment.

The choice is we either sell our inheritance down the river or create a future for all, always putting children and future generations first.”

Simon Pentanu

You might have seen a recent TV report showing a huge area of rainforest in Pomio, East New Britain, that has been completely logged and bulldozed and is expected to be turned into an oil palm plantation.

It is like walking through a thick and dense tropical jungle, after some hours you walk into an empty space, into an open field denuded and devoid of trees. You look straight ahead and you see nothing standing but a barren field with odour and sight of death and destruction. It is very confronting. You do not know what to think or what to say. You find it very hard to breathe because a solid lump of something has come up your oesophagus and is embedded in your throat. This is what losing whole tracts of native forests in traditional land can do to you.

Logging by foreign companies is the worst example of intrusion into traditional landowners natural habitats. These are complex habitats, including many sacred sites, that have supported lives, cultures, and that give meaning to the relationship between man and his environment. It is an existential relationship beyond any symbiotic explanation that defines why and how the world’s people find themselves settled where they are on this planet

Papua New Guinea, insofar as the world’s rainforests are concerned, is a part of the planet that is still blessed and still full of life compared to others countries that have squandered their forests and dislocated their forest people. Companies that arrive here with men, machines and plants from these countries do so with foreboding contempt of  the planet as if it is lifeless with no feelings. It is a total disregard for the people’s lifelong dependence and fascination with the places they have call home – their seas and oceans, the old growth tropical rainforests, the creatures that add life and colour to the beautiful landscape where there is sharing and caring  for  one another.

The planet is not lifeless to not be concerned  about snuffing life out of it. And yet this is exactly the behavior of loggers that come here after depleting forests in their own countries. Somehow they have succeeded to numb us, hypnotize and buy us off with the colour, smell and value of money which will never ever be enough to account for or replace what they take away and the destruction they leave behind.

 The recent report on TV also let it be known that Papua New Guinea has overtaken Malaysia to become the world’s biggest exporter of tropical hardwood

 The desolate moonscape you see on the screen used to be a living, breathing forest, providing habitat for animals and birds, filtering drinking water for villages and providing an ever-renewing source of house-building materials. Now the trees, animals, birds and clean water are gone. The wood has been shipped to China to be processed and sold in other parts of the world.

 So much damage has been done to the next generation’s inheritance through the notorious Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs). SABLs have been big money-spinners for multinational logging companies, allowing the companies to clear fell vast tracts of people’s forest and use the profits from timber to finance establishment of oil palm plantations. The plantations might look green, but they are nothing like the richly biodiverse rainforest. Rather, they are barren monocultures with a limited lifespan.

 Why do we continue to let this happen to irreplaceable tropical rainforests? And why is it up to NGOs to tell us what’s happening! Why aren’t the people we elect to represent our interests actually representing our interests?

Sadly, the lessons of the past are going unlearned. The Fly River is not the same since BHP left it for dead. The only worse river disaster in our region is the Aikwa River in Indonesia’s Papua province, which has turned thick and grey from decades of tailings from the Freeport gold and copper mine being dumped into the waterway. Mining there, which is carried out under armed military guard, looks set to continue until the entire resource is gone.

 The Jaba River in Bougainville isn’t too far behind. While there is evidence the river and its tributaries are regenerating, the banks and marshes will never be the same as they once were. Those opposing any return to mining in Panguna raise concerns about the natural environment and the legacy that will be left for future generations of Bougainvilleans.

 It won’t be long before Ramu Nickel’s effluence clogs the rivers and estuaries where everything is being dumped including the sea. Don’t hold your breath that environmental laws will protect the environment on which the bulk of the population depends for their entire livelihoods. They cannot eat effluent

 PNG is a guinea pig, the world’s first, in underwater/seabed mining by Nautilus off the waters off of New Ireland, East and West New Britain and Manus Provinces. The world should be absolutely appalled that a company that has borrowed and uses the name of a beautiful sea living creature is sending down gigantic machines, controlled from the water’s surface, to plough the sea floor, mechanically scavenging sea vents and destroying everything in their way, including the habitat of the nautilus shell.

 This is why Nautilus, a Canadian company, will not mine the seabed off Canada. If it is not allowed or is illegal to mine underwater in Canada. So, where does the company pluck the courage or get the audacity to ravage and plunder in our waters.

 The company has done its sums, while in a too familiar story in this country, the local populations are left scratching their heads, wondering just how their contented and happy lives are going to be made happier by this ravaging of their local environment. Nautilus company executives and its PNG citizen staff that are promoting and supporting this guinea pig project should be looked in the eye and asked just why this destructive project should proceed. Greed and insatiable appetite for profit at whatever cost to the local environment are the apparent underlying reasons. Enough is never enough.

 The company and its promoters seem to be wilfully blind not to want to see how much the people depend on the environment for their lives. Nothing can ever take the place of what the indigenous people have always regarded and used as their capital that has supported and sustained generations since time immemorial

 The Autonomous Region of Bougainville is in a great position to learn valuable lessons from the Panguna mine and from the violent crisis that followed. A story Bougainville is still reeling from. Bougainville must also learn from the experiences in other parts of the country and the region where resources wealth when exploited does not equal economic or social improvement for the resource owners.

 Bougainville is a small island, fragile and prone to all manners of exploitation, given its natural resources. Resource development in partnership with investors is not evil. But there must be zero tolerance when it comes to companies not complying fully with environmental laws of protection and conservation. There must not be a repeat to the worst case scenarios of what led to the Bougainville scenarios. The leaders must maintain a level of vigilance and commitment that behooves all of us to be at our best standards and practices of good governance.

 We may be already lagging in enacting relevant environmental and conservation legislation. It is simply wrong to say it is impossible to attract investment if we are strong on our statutory requirements and benchmarks for investment. It is in the interests of Bougainville and prospective investors to do sustainable business. This is not possible if the land and resources are destroyed in a one-off feeding frenzy. Careful stewardship is what sustains any business investment

 Most of all, Bougainville must beware – and be aware – and learn from its mistakes and the mistakes of others. Smart business will always pay. Mindful business will always pay. The people who need protection are the resource owners. Long before Panguna the landowners there were self-sufficient, independent of the judgment of others and wise with how they treated and used the land, the rivers, the trees and the forests.

We need the efforts and assistance of others to ‘develop’ Bougainville in a way that will last. We need investors that will build mutual trust with our leaders and resource owners. We need to educate and inform resource owners to respect laws and agreements with genuine investors. It must be a two-way street. 

The Referendum on 15 June 2019 is not just a political referendum. It is a Referendum on what kind of society Bougainville wants to have. It is a referendum on our resources and economic choices into future. It is a referendum on how we relate and contribute to the world’s wellbeing being part of the global community. It is a referendum on how much and for how long we want the island to prosper and what our generation will bequeath to our children and their children and their children’s children

 Any development at, around, and in forest rich resource areas in fragile environments like Tonolei must stand and pass the scrutiny of all stakeholders, the ABG, independent experts on land use and those that have studied the known damage to land by palm oil plantations. We must not shy away from independent critique on the potential decimation of the area, including logging and denuding  trees if an SABL-type Agreement is what is being proposed. Transparency is the key to all resources development to which governments are a party.

 We must come out of the Referendum, irrespective of how the cookie crumbles, with a Bougainville that caters to everybody. A Bougainville that everyone benefits from because we all own a piece of her. A Bougainville where our inherent cultures are not so much about giving and taking but rather, more about sharing.

We definitely do not want a Bougainville where a few benefit at the expense of the majority. No child in Bougainville should suffer or sacrifice their future owing to poor decisions around development and management of our natural resources and our environment. The choice is we either sell our inheritance down the river or create a future for all, always putting children and future generations first.

 

 

 

 

 

Bougainville News : OF WORK, PLAY and REST and Pokpok Island Youth

Much like a lot of the mainland of Bougainville, Pokpok Island just off Kieta is blessed with water, small creeks and springs, large chunks of green forest areas – mostly still intact – bird and insect life and marsupials and feral swine.

In fact, because of awareness taken by the community there is more bird life on the Island than many areas on the mainland where birds are still hunted for game.

And of course the Island and the many islands nearby have beautiful white beaches and unpolluted pristine blue waters.It’s a good life here, but it can be tough with finite arable land areas to go around amongst increasing population. The sea with its shoals and reefs provides most people’s livelihood and income.

But more and more everyone is going out farther and trying harder.

Families with children working in PNG benefit from remittances, but when it’s shared around the extended family, it doesn’t amount to much. The other real benefit in remittances is in maintaining family contacts and in the way the workers are acknowledged and appreciated when they come home on vacation and special occasions.

Most people here are self-employed. Fishing by day or night, trawling, bottom fishing or night diving. Spouses, aunts, nieces and mothers sell the catch at the fish market. Beche de mer (sea cucumber) harvest time is one of the busiest times for everyone on the Island, harvesting, buying and selling in the village and, for some, selling in Buka.

There’s also copra. People take turns for each other or organise busy bees groups to do village chores within extended families and from for all of community benefits.

Wednesday is community day – a colonial legacy that still works where whole communities devote most of the day to work that benefits the collective. Repairing classrooms or teachers’ houses, or the village clinic, cleaning around the common cemetery, cleaning the beachfront, or meeting to resolve impending issues.

Every other week, that is once a fortnight, some of the expert hands do stevedoring at Kieta wharf, operating cranes and forklifts to unload Consort Shipping vessels. Kieta wharf has one of the shortest turnaround times for Consort shipping in the country. After the ships sail away, it’s time to clear the wharf.

Jomik group of companies has a permanent employee arrangement with a village company of workers from the Island. They clear and ship all cargo shipments into Arawa after the vessels sail away. Lukui Trading has a similar employer arrangements that involves another group of shippers that transport cargo to Arawa.

It has been a pleasant surprise to find out how these employer- employer arrangements have worked very based on trust – No complaints, no unions, no strikes, no pilfering. Everyone gets paid and benefits with some bonuses at year’s end and/or sponsorship of sports teams from the Island.

There is always so much to do, work and fun. The most spare time is on Sundays, when everyone is involved in one way or another in male and female volleyball teams that compete after church. The standard is high and it is good entertainment for spectators. Lately a soccer team with boys from the mainland has joined the local soccer competition at Toniva field.

There is good self management in teams that ensured everyone keeps an eye on each other to make sure no one gets inebriated the night before the games on Sunday. Those who do so (and get caught) can expect to pay a fine and be left off the team sheet for the Sunday games.

When young people have too much time on their hands with little to do, mischief can become a problem. You see this with young people drinking and doing drugs in the main towns and some villages. This doesn’t tend to be a problem in places where whole communities take an interest in young people’s activities and show young people that what they are interested in is worthwhile.

Community governments can play a role in maintaining peace in the village by supporting youth-initiated activities, like sports, one-off events, music gigs and arts projects. Everyone benefits.

There are visible and tangible dividends when communities take time and effort to organize around and inclusive of everyone as much as and as often as possible. There is a lot of common courtesy that comes and flows through as well as respect amongst everyone. Sports becomes an important tool more than just a fun activity and sports.

The fun, joy and happiness experienced by the young people flows through to the parents, the Chiefs, the clan elders and community Government Ward representatives, making everyone’s tasks less cumbersome, less complicated and lot easier.

At the back end of the village near the volleyball courts is the community cemetery. All early settlers, Kukurais, Tultuls, Chiefs rest here and are remembered by the community. To visit the cemetery is to be reminded that we can learn from cultures and societies – our own and those from far away – that have long held their peace and sanity together, and found ways to juggle the needs of young people and old, of the land and the sea, of work, of play and of rest.

Bougainville Tourism News : Bougainville remains attractive and spectacular enough as a destination for small adventure travellers and cruises like True North. #northstarcruises

 ” Tourism that brings benefits and opens up opportunities through participation by local resource custodians/owners is a good win-win concept for communities.

The world is waking up to realize that PNG, including Bougainville, is up there with the rest of the world when it comes to eco and adventure tourism with its natural habitat and traditions and cultures still largely intact.”

Simon Pentanu

Bougainville Adventure Travel

Cruise vessel True North will make its second cruise visit to Bougainville on 19 December 2017, exactly a year after its maiden cruise to Bougainville PNG last December. 

True North’s cruises to what it calls  ” spectacular Bougainville ” ,packaged as CAIRNS/ALOTAU – BOUGAINVILLE-BUKA/CAIRNS 10 day Melanesia cruise.

For further details of the visit to Kieta / Buka contact local agent for the tour, Bougainville Experience Tours at bougtours.com

On this visit a variety of local performances represented by Island and mainland cultural groups will be hosted at at Uruna Bay Retreat, Pokpok Island.

In a similar smorgasbord  of cultural performances last year North Star Cruises which owns and operates the cruises selected a local group for sponsorship to a cultural festival in Adelaide in 2018. 

The Island community benefits from  cruises here from fees for anchorage, swimming, snorkeling, diving, surfing, beach bathing, cultural performance, sale of local kulau drinks, artifact sales, etc. through their Metora Ward which is part of north nasioi community government. 

Over and above any local benefits, international cruises are also one of the best advertorials to promote and popularize what Bougainville offers as attractions in this growing industry in cruise tours in Oceania.

Bougainville Adventure Travel will be working closely with ABG Office of Tourism to help and promote resource owner participation in all tourism ventures where travelers visit local historical, traditional, sacred sites and assets and locations of interest in different regions of Bougainville.   Bougainville Experience Tours is already doing this more or less.

 In many areas the resource custodians are already involved and are participating of their own accord with local Bougainville tour companies and operators by arranging and hosting tours in their local areas.

There are only a few places in the world that have not been adversely affected by mass tourism by their isolation and a determination to protect their lands, cultures, traditions and a continuing sense of self preservation. Bougainville – and the rest of the country – remains attractive and spectacular enough as a destination for small adventure travelers and cruises like True North. #northstarcruises

 

 

Bougainville Mining News : Rival companies ramp up battle to reopen controversial #Bougainville mine

 

” The Bougainville Government is holding a crucial mining warden’s hearing at the abandoned copper mine which sparked a decade-long armed insurgency against the Papua New Guinea Government.

Key points:

  • RTG Mining chairman Michael Carrick says a proposal by the Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited consortium is more realistic and “for the benefit of the people of Bougainville”
  • But BCL company secretary Mark Hitchcock says the consortium’s conduct is “less than honourable”
  • Bougainville’s Mining Secretary Shadrach Himata says all landowners will be asked for their views

Rival companies ramp up battle to reopen controversial Bougainville mine By Papua New Guinea correspondent Eric Tlozek See Part 1 Below

” ABG Vice President and Minister for Mining, RAYMOND MASONO is calling on Panguna leaders, PHILIP MIRIORI and LAWRENCE DAVEONA to know that the Panguna mine is no ordinary mine.

He said that the Panguna mine has a bad history that has crippled the economy of PNG and Bougainville and with many lives lost fighting for it.

The Vice President said that the Panguna mine no longer belongs to the landowners because Bougainvilleans blood were spilt over that particular mine.

DO NOT MEDDLE WITH PANGUNA SAYS MASONO By Aloysius Laukai see Report Part 2 Below

Rival companies ramp up battle to reopen controversial Bougainville mine

The Bougainville Government now owns part of Bougainville Copper Limited and wants it to redevelop the mine, but a rival consortium is challenging their bid, and said it has the support of key landowners from Panguna. RTG’s chairman Michael Carrick said the group’s proposal was more realistic and better-supported by the people of Panguna.

RTG Mining has told the Bougainville Government that BCL’s exploration licence for Panguna has expired and legally cannot be renewed.”For the first time in 30 years a mining company has been endorsed and supported by the SMLOLA,” Mr Carrick said.

He said the landowners would present a 2000-signature petition in opposition to BCL.RTG Mining said the dispute had been settled with their preferred candidate, Philip Miriori, in charge; the Bougainville Government said the mediation had failed and that the matter is still before the courts.

The Bougainville Government has also criticised the consortium for paying landowners who support them and implied it is not respecting the approval process.”… The ABG rejects companies that think they can bribe their way into people’s resources by giving certain individuals money to gain landowner consent.”

Michael Carrick from RTG Mining says the consortium has been dealing openly with the Bougainville Government and that landowner payments are wages for its employees.”The joint venture is a commercial operation and landowners, like anyone else, are able to work and to get paid for their services.

Mr Carrick said the intent of the travel ban against Mr Duncan appeared to be to help Bougainville Copper Limited.Bougainville Copper Limited is deeply unhappy with RTG Mining and its partners.

He said BCL’s licence application was legal, and wasn’t processed on time because the Bougainville Government wasn’t ready to implement the processes of its new Mining Act.”It now has all those facilities in place.”

Mr Hitchcock said many landowners do support BCL, but are not being properly represented.

Bougainville’s Mining Secretary Shadrach Himata said all landowners will be asked for their views as part of the approval process, not just the leaders of the association.”It won’t be affected by the leadership tussle of the SMLOLA landowners.””Right now, the only legal applicant on the exploration tenement is BCL,” he said.

The eventual decision on the exploration licence will be made by the Bougainville Executive Council, the regional government’s Cabinet, probably sometime in 2018.

“Until that process is completed, there are no other applicants or applications over the same tenement. That’s the position of Government.”

Crucially, Mr Himata, said BCL is the only company currently being considered by the Bougainville Government.

“The warden’s hearing is a process that will engage the views of all the landowners in the resource areas,” he said.

“From what we’ve seen, there is widespread support for mining in Panguna and mining with Bougainville Copper,” he said.

Landowners set to weigh in on hearing

“The department didn’t have the resources to manage the application at the time it was taking place,” he said.

“We think they’re less than honourable in how they’re carrying on their conduct and their activities in the area,” BCL company secretary Mark Hitchcock said.

“It is clear the ABG, on the appointment of the new mining minister, supported BCL and the temporary banning of Renzie, I assume, is designed to limit the support that could be afforded to the landowners of Panguna,” he said.

“Our dealings with landowners have been completely transparent and professional.”

“The wages paid are in respect of services rendered to the joint venture,” he said.

The ABG has had the PNG Government ban the key executive from Central Exploration, Sydney lawyer Renzie Duncan, from coming to Papua New Guinea.

“The Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) will not entertain companies who use the back door or break and enter through the window using self-centred individuals who think they have a monopoly over the people’s resources or represent their interests,” Mining Minister Raymond Masono said in a statement.

There is a legal dispute over who rightfully chairs the landowner association.

RTG Mining said longstanding resentment against BCL over the conflict and the ongoing environmental problems caused by their sudden withdrawal would prevent the company from being able to operate the mine again.

It wants the Bougainville Government to consider its application instead, saying the landowner association for the mine pit, the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA), backs its bid and would present a 2,000-signature petition in opposition to BCL.

“[It’s] a sensible and well-supported and economically deliverable proposal to develop the mine for the benefit of all the people of Bougainville,” he said.

That consortium, Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited, includes ASX-listed RTG Mining.

The hearing will help determine if the company Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), which was forced to abandon the Panguna mine in 1989, should retain an exploration licence for the site.

Part 2 DO NOT MEDDLE WITH PANGUNA SAYS MASONO

By Aloysius Laukai | New Dawn | 6 December 2017

ABG Vice President and Minister for Mining, RAYMOND MASONO is calling on Panguna leaders, PHILIP MIRIORI and LAWRENCE DAVEONA to know that the Panguna mine is no ordinary mine.

He said that the Panguna mine has a bad history that has crippled the economy of PNG and Bougainville and with many lives lost fighting for it.

The Vice President said that the Panguna mine no longer belongs to the landowners because Bougainvilleans blood were spilt over that particular mine.

He said that whilst the resources in Panguna and other parts of Bougainville might belong to the people, the ABG has a responsibility to protect its people from unscrupulous companies whose sole interest is to exploit our people for their own economic interests.

The Vice President said that we have seen how Bougainvilleans were exploited by foreigners since colonial days and the ABG does not want a repeat of the past.

He said that he was surprised that certain individuals can so easily sell their birth right for as little as FOURTY THOUSAND KINA a month to a foreign company when foreign exploitation was one of the issues against which our people fought and died.

Also the ABG rejects companies that think they can bribe their way into the people’s resources by giving certain individuals money to gain landowner consent.

PANGUNA WILL BE DEVELOPED SAYS VICE PRESIDENT

The ABG Vice President and Mining Minister, RAYMOND MASONO says that the PANGUNA MINE in Central Bougainville will be re-developed under the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 and by a developer or developers who respect the Autonomous Bougainville Government and its laws.

In a press statement, MR. MASONO said that the developer must also come through the main door.

MR. MASONO made these remarks when commenting on a statement by RTG of a deal supposedly made between MR. PHILIP MIRIORI and LAWRENCE DAVEONA to support RTG to develop the PANGUNA mine.

He said that it seems ironic that two people who were fighting over the leadership of the Osikayang Landowners Association in court, a mediation case which is still the subject of a court decision can suddenly reconcile to support a company that does not respect the legitimate government and its mining laws.

The Vice President said that the ABG, the landowners and the people of Bougainville will not entertain companies who use the back door or break and enter through the window using self-centred individuals who think that they have a monopoly over the people’s resources or represent their interests.

He said that the landowners will decide who the preferred developer would be through a transparent process undertaken by the ABG Department of Minerals and Energy Resources currently underway.

MR. MASONO said that the process has not yet been exhausted and any deals supposedly made between landowner leaders,companies,or the National Government and in particular RTG are premature at this stage.

Bougainville News : War and Peace : The Bougainville peace process must succeed , we owe it to our future generations

  ” There is a very good reason why the Bougainville peace process must succeed. The Bougainville Peace Agreement is a joint product, a joint creation between PNG and like-minded leaders of Bougainville. The PNG Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government are beholden to the BPA and committed to its success. We owe it to our future generations to make it succeed.

The Bougainville Referendum is as much about sustainable peace as it is about the people’s political choice. Whatever the outcome it is also about a peaceful coexistence and respecting that choice.

Our Parliaments – the PNG National Parliament and the Bougainville House of Representatives – must bear witness and exercise the ultimate call to commit to a lasting peace, by their deeds and actions, in the spirit of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

We have this opportunity to show the world how difficult issues can be resolved – fully, successfully and locally. This would provide a stark contrast to the numerous international examples where similar opportunities have been squandered “

Simon Pentanu

Anything war can do, peace can do better. There is no triumph in war. No victors. No winners. No joy. No glory.

Big and so called little wars are a menace to life on earth. They scorch the landscape, cause enormous damage to individuals and societies wherever and whenever they occur. They drench and gut humanity in irreparable ways. They leave untold mental and physical wounds that remain open and infected over generations.

Humans never seem to learn history’s lessons about the terrors and untold damage that come from fighting wars. The only lesson we seem to take away is, if another war has to be fought, it has to be fought harder, better, quicker and smarter. This lesson – which is no solution at all – feeds itself in never ending spirals that lead to more feuds, more fights, more wars. Examples of this are stark and real. They are dotted across every corner of the globe.

All wars do more harm than good. War is the most harmful and despicable form of terrorism against humanity. War even twists our language, as war mongers create euphemisms and meanings that suggest there are justifications for going to war and that friendly fire, collateral damage and injuries are par for the course, expected and normal. 

The rules of engagement – yes, you must follow the war rules – favour the wealthy and strong, and disadvantage the meek and weak. Guerrilla warfare tactics have emerged to counteract this disparity. The Viet Cong were a guerrilla outfit. The BRA was a guerrilla outfit. Fidel Castro started out in his military fatigues thinking, employing and deploying guerrilla tactics. Comrade Mugabe, who recently reluctantly resigned as President of Zimbabwe, was still baffling the world with bellicose rhetoric as if he was still in a guerrilla resistance against his one-time Rhodesian enemies

Latter day religious fundamentalists also drill themselves into a similar state of combative and defensive preparedness laced with religious fervour to fight their enemies.

All wars – conventional, non-conventional or guerrilla – leave disastrous effects and consequences. PNG and its one time province – now the Autonomous Region of Bougainville – are still reeling from a civil war in peace time. Let us not call the Bougainville crisis just a conflict. Both sides lost lives. Bougainville lost 20,000 or more people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bougainville International Tourism News : Drones are flying high to film a 10 Day Bougainville Experience Tour

 November Issue: Bougainville International Tourism News

1.Australian film crew releases first of many Bougainville tourism experience short films to international tourists

2.Flights lights for Aropa Airport to increase tourism Central Bougainville

3.Pacific Islands Tourism Professional Fellows Program in 2018-2019

1.Australian student film crew releases first of many Bougainville tourism experience short films to attract international tourists

The Autonomous Region Of Bougainville

There aren’t many places left like this in the world.

This is a project I have put my heart and soul into.

The film documents my personal experience in this beautiful part of the world.

Or VIEW HERE

A film by Zane Wilson

Exploring what this place has to offer, from the untouched tropical islands to the remote mountain villages and all the amazing people that come with it. This is an experience I will never forget.

10 days so far in the autonomous region of Bougainville. Coming into this trip not knowing what to expect, it has been an adventure like no other.

See the full details 10 day Bougainville Experience Tour below

Experiencing village life in the mountains, being the first person in history to fly a drone over certain villages and showing the people their home from above for the first time was truly a special moment.

Then moving to the coastal life, watching kids paddle their way to school on canoes and live sustainably from the ocean and the land. Their way of life eye opening and something people all over the world can learn from.

Bougainville is home to the friendliest people on earth, being treated like family everywhere we go.

It was hard to say goodbye to such an amazing place.

A huge Special thanks to Zhon Bosco, Colin Cowell and the team of Bougainville Experience Tours and all the sponsors (see Listed Below ) for supporting this film project, thanks to them I have been able to capture moments I have only dreamed of.

Stay tuned for more images and a full feature film coming soon. I cannot wait to share this experience with you all.

Zane Wilson 18 year old Student Port Macquarie Australia (Assisted by Sam Magennis) Follow Zane Here

https://www.facebook.com/wilsonvisuals/

Principal Sponsor

1.Bougainville Experience Tours

www.bougtours.com

A massive thank you to the team behind Bougainville Experience Tourism for supporting this project. If you are interested in going on a similar expedition like this, get in contact with them and they will assist you in every way possible.

Enjoy the film

2.ABG Bougainville Office of Tourism the land. Tourism Manager : Lorena R Nanei

http://www.bougainville.travel/

3.Kuri Resort Buka

http://kuriresortbuka.com/

4.Rotokas Eco Tourism

https:/rotokasecotourism.com/

5.Uruna Bay Retreat Pok Pok Island

http://bougtours.com/tourism/accommodation-2/pokpokisland/

6.Topinang Village Guesthouse

http://bougtours.com/tourism/accommodation-2/topinang_village/

7.Rising Sun Lodge Arawa Town, Central Bougainville

Bougainville Background

Bougainville has a population of approximately 200,000, occupying two main islands, Buka Island and the larger Bougainville Island with groups of islands known as “The Atolls”, (Nissan, Carteret, Mortlock) scattered to the north east of the main islands.

The landscape of Bougainville Island is rugged, punctuated by two active volcanoes, Mt Balbi and Mt Bagana. The coastline features beautiful, sandy beaches, often fringed by dominant coconut trees. Many fresh water rivers run from the mountainous central corridor, down to the east and west coasts of the island.

The 10 Day BET Features

  • Over nights stays in 3 “traditional” villages (mountain and island)
  • Experience Melanesian, sustainable, ecofriendly community living
  • Experience and share language, cultural activities and performances
  • Experience all aspects of village life from gardening to cooking
  • An island retreat with fishing, water sports and relaxation
  • Travel across island from Buka to Arawa
  • Environmental bushwalks experiencing unique flora and fauna
  • We will take you on a journey to the “core of culture

Includes

  • All airport tranfers,4WD transportation and boat hire
  • All accommodation in village style comfortable guesthouses
  • All meals both western and traditional style
  • All entry fees paid to traditional owners of regions visited
  • All guiding fees and travel expenses such as bottled water and snacks
  • Visits to your interest areas such as health, education, women’s issues etc.

Day 1:

              Fly to Port Moresby PNG from anywhere in the world

Day 2:

              Fly Port Moresby to Buka

               Accommodation:  Kuri Resort

Day 3:

            Travel to Mt Balbi Rotokas Ecotourism

 Tour: Travel down the east coast of Bougainville to Wakunai stopping at village markets and other points of interest. When then travel off the main road for 2 hours to your home for the next few days at the foot of Mt Balbi. Visit Togarau Fall

 Day 4

             Experiencing mountain village culture – Rotokas Eco Tourism

  • Experience Melanesian, sustainable, ecofriendly community living
  • Experience and share language, cultural activities and performances
  • Experience all aspects of village life from gardening to cooking

 Accommodation: Togarau community guesthouse

Day 5

Tour: Travel by car and then a short boat ride Bakawari Island, also known as Pokpok, is just off the coast of Bougainville, located near the Kieta Wharf in Central Bougainville. It is only a 5 minute boat ride from the mainland to the island and most people use canoes to go back and forth.

The sea is an integral part of the life in Pokpok Island and everyone who lives on this island is a waterman. Many people from mainland Bougainville think that fishing is a job for men, but on Pokpok Island anyone that knows how to swim and dive can find whatever food they need from the sea.

Day 6

Experiencing coastal/island village culture – Pok Pok  

Dinner: Traditional island welcome feast including crayfish in season

Accommodation: Uruna Bay Retreat on Pok Pok

Day 7

Experiencing Mountain Village Topinang

Activities:

  • Experience Melanesian, sustainable, ecofriendly community living
  • Experience and share language, cultural activities and performances
  • Experience all aspects of village life from gardening to cooking 

Dinner: Traditional welcome feast

Accommodation: Topinang Guest House

Day 8

Experiencing Mountain Village Topinang

Tour: Visit Arawa and Panguna Mine

Lunch: Picnic lunch

Accommodation: Rising Sun

Day 9

Travel back Arawa to Buka airport

Tour: Spend afternoon visiting Buka and Sohano Island, Buka Market, New Dawn FM Parliament House

Dinner: Kuri Resort

Accommodation:  Kuri Resort

Day 10: Thursday 16 November

Fly Buka to Port Moresby 

2.Flights lights for Aropa Airport

The installation of flight lights at Aropa Airport would allow visibility and provide guidance information to help pilots acquire the correct approach to the airport.

Member for South Bougainville, timothy Masiu, presented a part payment cheque of K100,000 of the total funding component to Air Niugini and NAC on Friday for the installation of Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) flight lights at Aropa Airport, Kieta, South Bougainville.

Once these lights are installed, Air Niuguni would be able to operate jet aircrafts into Aropa Airport.

This airport is one the oldest airports in PNG and the busiest because of the Bougainville Copper Mine.

It was during the crisis when the airport and its facilities were tampered with, which later had to be rebuilt.

Masiu said the government, though the leadership of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, rehabilitated the airport and runway and Air Niugini began its services with the Q-400.

Masiu said air services into Bougainville are very important.

“It’s part of the development that is taking place in Bougainville along with education, health facilities being redeveloped and brought up to another level now.”

He said after the crisis, most of the services were received in Buka Island only, which meant that the whole of Bougainville had to travel to Buka to get a plane out.

“For the planes to begin landing again we needed these facilities and as partners in development, it would be in the best interest of the people of South Bougainville to assist.”

Masiu has made another commitment for another K100,000 to be put into the refurbishment of Aropa Airport to help facilitate for the PAPI lights.

National Airports Corporation general manager, Jacob Anga said it is very encouraging to see especially during this economic time when provincial members come out to help their people.

“Its good for the people of South and Central Bougainville going forward and as for NAC, as the owners and operators of the airports in PNG, which includes two airports in AROB, we are committed to ensuring the compliance, safety and maintenance of the airport consistently and we can service the people by ensuring that Air Niugini does a safe landing and safe taking off”, Anga said.

Air Niugini general manager for grounds operation, Marco MC Connell, said : “Once this gets underway, the jets resume ops back into Bougainville, Aropa Airport. It ‘ll make it more conducive for business opportunities.”

3.Pacific Islands Tourism Professional Fellows Program in 2018-2019.

 Applications Due November 30, 2017

The East-West Center’s Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP) is pleased to announce that applications are now being accepted for the first cohort of the Pacific Islands Tourism Professional Fellows Programin 2018-2019.

Program Description

The East-West Center’s Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP) received a grant from the Professional Fellows Division in the Office of Citizen Exchanges at the U.S. Department of State’Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to conduct the Pacific Islands Tourism Professional Fellows Programin 2018-2019.

This program will bring two cohorts of tourism industry professionals from the Pacific Islands to Honolulu, Hawai‘i for intensive six-week programs that build significant new capacity and facilitate enduring professional bonds between industry leaders in the United States and the Pacific Islands. The Pacific Islands Tourism Professional Fellows Program will draw broadly and deeply upon Hawaii’s unique position as an American state with one of the world’s premier tourism industries. It is designed to build capacity across the Pacific region by creating strong and enduring connections between 32 mid-level Professional Fellows from 13 Pacific island countries and no fewer than 13 Hawaii-based Americans in private and public tourism-related organizations.

Dates

Spring Cohort

  • April 23 – May 29, 2018  Activities/Placement in Honolulu, Hawai‘i
  • May 30 – June 1, 2018  Professional Fellows Congress in Washington, DC
  • Fall Cohort
  • October 8 – November 13, 2018  Activities/Placement in Honolulu, Hawai‘i
  • November 14–16, 2018  Professional Fellows Congress in Washington, DCEligibility

Applicants must:

Be citizens/nationals/permanent residents of one of the eligible countries

Be between the ages of 25-40

Be currently employed in their home country and have a demonstrated history of at least 2 years of employment in the tourism industry

Be willing and able to obtain a J-1 visa and spend 6-weeks in the United States

  • Be committed to returning to their home country after the program
  • Have a track record of making an impact in their organziation, company, or community
  • Be capable of creating an action-orientated plan to address a specific business problem or policy challenge being faced in their country
  • Have sufficient spoken and written English language proficiency to effectively function in an American workplace.Eligible Countries

For the Spring 2018 cohort applications will be accepted from the following Pacific Islands countries:

  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Fiji
  • Kiribati
  • Marshall Islands
  • Nauru
  • Palau
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Samoa
  • Solomon Islands
  • Timor Leste
  • Tonga
  • Tuvalu
  • VanuatuDeadlineHow To Apply  

For all the details and an online application form go here.

Your application must be received by midnight November 30, 2017 (Hawaii Time).

Bougainville NEWS : #ABG owed 1.2 Billon kina as #PNG Government fails to meet Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) obligations

“After twelve years of autonomous government we are still constrained in our ability to govern effectively because of the inaction of the National Government,

With the JSB now set for the 14 and 15 of December, the ABG and the National Government are still at loggerheads over the formula for Restoration Development Grant of which close to a K1 billion is owed to the ABG which is a basis of the BPA, the other outstanding funding is the Special Intervention Fund of K500 million with an outstanding of K201 million.

The National Government has consistently failed to meet its obligations under the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA),”

President Momis Press Release part 2 below

Ministers and Members of the House travelled back to Buka to attend a meeting of the House of Representatives on Wednesday, November 22.

The main purpose for the meeting was for the President, Chief John Momis to brief the House of ABG’s position on matters to be discussed in the forthcoming Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) meeting on December 14-15, as well as the referendum preparations.

The President also used this opportunity to listen to the people’s representatives on ABG’s position on matters before the JSB meeting.

The Speaker called on Members to attend the meeting of the House on Wednesday so they can also be briefed on a direction from the Ombudsman Commission on the duties and responsibilities of the leaders and receive an update from the United Nations Peace Building Fund Coordinator on the second trench of the Peace Building Fund.

President Press Release

The ABG has been consistently let down by the National Government on its continued deferral of the Joint Supervisory Body Meeting and its refusal to engage on important matters relating to the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

ABG President Chief Dr John Momis said that as a legitimate autonomous government afforded specific constitutional powers this was unacceptable.

“The National Government has consistently failed to meet its obligations under the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA),” President Momis said.

“The JSB was established as the primary mechanism under the Bougainville Peace Agreement through which ABG and the National Government must consult and resolve disputes,” he added.

Momis further expressed his disappointment in saying that the National Government has failed to respect the role of the JSB instead using it as a rubber stamp to push through its own views at the expense of the Bougainville people.

“After twelve years of autonomous government we are still constrained in our ability to govern effectively because of the inaction of the National Government,” Momis said.

Over the course of these last twelve years the JSB has not yielded anything of substance except for the negotiations for several drawdown of powers and functions and the implementation of several high impact projects.

With the JSB now set for the 14 and 15 of December, the ABG and the National Government are still at loggerheads over the formula for Restoration Development Grant of which close to a K1 billion is owed to the ABG which is a basis of the BPA, the other outstanding funding is the Special Intervention Fund of K500 million with an outstanding of K201 million.

The ABG’s main focus for this JSB will be on the referendum preparedness by both sides; the ABG has already taken steps to meet the terms of the BPA which will qualify Bougainville on eve of the referendum.

The National Government’s slowness in addressing the terms of the JSB and the Peace Agreement has greatly hindered the ABG’s drive as everything regarding the referendum must be carried out in agreement with the National Government.

Despite these setbacks the President was pleased with the momentum displayed by the ABG’s Department of Peace Agreement Implementation in its referendum preparedness.

“Inspite of these seemingly dark times I call on the people of Bougainville to focus on the noble ambition of self-determination and to commit to achieving our ultimate goal,” Momis said.

 

 

 

 

#Bougainville #Tourism #Environment News : We must protect our paradise islands for future generations

“If there is one memory that still reoccurs and revisits my mind more than any other, it is this. This is a nice place to grow up in. I have never stopped going back and re-living that childhood to this day.”

Simon Pentanu

Pokpok Village. Pokpok Island.
photo credit: Stephen Hurd

Uruna Bay Retreat – Pok Pok Island Bougainville PNG

For information and bookings

Dense forest, with tall trees creating huge canopies as they competed for sunlight, used to come down right to the village backyard. As kids we were cautioned not to wander alone into the hills. There were too many unknowns in the untamed forest.

However, one thing was certain. The trees, vines and shrubs had to give way to gardens. And people always chose the best land areas for garden plots.

The forest was cleared and the produce harvested by mothers and daughters was always plentiful and colourful. Nature never failed to provide sustenance to our community on Pokpok Island.

Slash-and-burn gardening continues today, although there is some reprieve with the coming of consumer goods and processed edibles now readily available in village tucker shops and trade stores. It’s a small island, so human impact on it is quite obvious. The land and surrounding waters bear the burden of an increase in population. Much of the island is rocky and rugged. Arable land is very limited.

Where today there is secondary forest, starting from the beaches and village backyards, there was once primary forest. During storms, especially when it was windy, you could hear the whole forest howling, sounding like a thundering underground train preparing to come to a stop at the platform. After continuous heavy tropical downpours the sound of the flowing creeks in the forest and bushes was more like a jet aircraft pulling up to park at the bay to disembark its passengers – a hissing noise throttling in between.

A little away from the main village, the possums used to come down along the tree tops to the trees by the beach. Birds’ nests were everywhere, some from birds we don’t see anymore. Among the trees and shrubs were wild berries and fruits for the picking, although most were not picked, but left to provide natural decor to the bushes because garden food and fish from the sea was always plentiful. The forest provided more than enough for possums, flying foxes, fruit bats and other nimbling creatures.

The reef you see in this photograph used to be fully laden with colourful coral all the way along its edge. Starfish, schools of different fish, weed and sea grass meadows and varieties of edible sea urchins shared their natural habitat with the children of the village.

What is now largely white sand under water was mostly covered with long sea grass where squid laid their eggs. Parents would tell us to look out for the squid eggs and avoid them. Much of the tall grass is gone and squids don’t spawn around here anymore. In fact, the whole reef area, which makes the whole village seafront beautiful, was larger, richer and prettier than it is today.

Around the reef perimeter was coral of every kind, fully alive and breeding. The sea anemone with its clown fish tenants were plentiful. Other colourful small marine creatures contributed to an underwater aquarium of teeming small colourful fish complementing the living beauty of coral.

As kids we grew up swimming and canoeing around here. Today it is no different. It still is a playground for every child who lives here. It is always hard to get children out of the waters, even after sunset.

The noticeable difference to our generation is the whole reef area has shrunk. The best parts of the live coral all around the village, which naturally extended the reef out under water, are almost gone. Washed away. Bleached. Dead. Disappeared. Even the crown of thorns and a whole array of star fish that were part of the reef aren’t here anymore. Fish are still around, but not in the numbers, colours and varieties we used to see and enjoy.

At its best this area acted much like mum’s garden in the hills. It provided fish, shells, clams, seaweed and varieties of sea urchins. The unique smell of the sea flavoured the village. It was a constant reminder that you lived by the sea.

The ground level photos and the pictures from the air are stunning. There is no doubt about that. They are some of the best sea scenery photos you can get. But much of the real, live natural beauty underwater is gone. We often recognise our own reckless and perilous ways when it is too late to save what we have lost.

The village is still a beautiful and serene habitat. But it was even better, as people of my generation remember.

Some things can be restored and nature is, as we know, capable of replenishing itself. Given space and left alone to regenerate, forests and even reefs can revive. But they will only get the opportunity to do so if we humans acknowledge and change the things we do that are hurting our own Mother – the source of our life – the Earth.

Simon Pentanu

Bougainville Mining News : Have plans to restart the giant Bougainville mine stalled ?

SYDNEY, October 6 (Reuters) – Plans to reopen one of the world’s biggest copper mines, shut by a civil war on the Pacific Island of Bougainville in 1989, have run into trouble.

The quarter of a million people of Bougainville are tentatively scheduled to vote on independence from Papua New Guinea in June 2019, and revenue from the reopening of the Panguna mine is essential for the otherwise impoverished island to have any chance of flourishing if it becomes the world’s newest nation.

But there is now a struggle over who will run the mine between Bougainville Copper Ltd – the previous operator now backed by the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the Papua New Guinea government – and a consortium of Australian investors supported by the head of the landowners who own the mineral rights.

The dispute is opening old wounds – and is almost certainly going to delay any reopening. That could help to drive copper prices higher as many forecasters expect that demand for the base metal will exceed supply in the next few years.

The battle lines have been hardening on several fronts, Reuters has learned.

Papua New Guinea has told airlines that Sydney businessman Ian de Renzie Duncan, who set up the consortium, is banned from entering the country until 2024, according to a Papua New Guinea government document reviewed by Reuters.

The request for the ban was made by the Bougainville government, three sources with knowledge of the document said.

The consortium has also acknowledged for the first time that it is paying some landowners a monthly stipend and has pulled in some big backers that have not previously been disclosed.

They include Richard Hains, part of a billionaire Australian race-horse owning family which runs hedge fund Portland House Group.

In a sign of how ugly the row is getting on the ground, local opponents of BCL becoming the operator – and some who are opposed to the mine reopening altogether – blocked Bougainville government officials from entering Panguna in June.

They had hoped to get key landowners to sign a memorandum of agreement that would have endorsed BCL as preferred developer, according to a copy of the document reviewed by Reuters. The proposed agreement also stipulated the mine would be re-opened by June 2019, ahead of BCL’s own timeframe of 2025-26.

The Papua New Guinea government didn’t respond to requests for comment for this story.

Bougainville’s main political leaders say getting the mine reopened is critical. “If the independence of the people is to be sustained then we need Panguna to run,” Bougainville Vice President and Mining Minister Raymond Masono told Reuters in a phone interview.

He said he believes BCL has first right of refusal to operate the mine under laws passed three years ago, and only if BCL declined to take up that right should an open tender take place.

 For a graphic on Panguna mine on Bougainville island, click tmsnrt.rs/2yYCkTt

DEEP RESENTMENT

The abandoned copper and gold mine contains one of the world’s largest copper deposits. During its 17-year life until the closure in 1989, Panguna was credited for generating almost one-half of Papua New Guinea’s gross domestic product.

The civil war was largely about how the profits from the mine should be shared, and about the environmental damage it had caused.

There was deep resentment among the indigenous Bougainville people about the amount of the wealth that was going to Papua New Guinea and to the mine’s then operator, Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd, a forerunner of Rio Tinto.

The mine was forced to shut after a campaign of sabotage by the rebel Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

The conflict between Bougainville’s rebel guerrilla army and Papua New Guinea forces left as many as 20,000 dead over the following decade, making it the biggest in the region known as Oceania since the Second World War.

A supplied image shows locals taking shelter from rain under a local administrative building at the former Bougainville Copper Limited’s (BCL) Panguna mining operation located on the Pacific Ocean island of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, March 29, 2017. Picture taken March 29, 2017. BCL/Handout via REUTERS

Rio Tinto divested its stake in BCL in 2016, and the listed company is now just over one-third owned by the Bougainville government and one-third owned by Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O‘Neill said last year his government would gift the shares received from Rio, or 17.4 percent, to the people of Bougainville, although that is yet to take place.

“NEVER AGAIN”

The challenge from the Australian consortium that now includes listed gold and copper explorer RTG Mining was made public in June. Duncan and his fellow investors have joined forces with a group of Panguna landowners, the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowner Association (SMLOLA) led by Philip Miriori.

Miriori was in the Bougainville Revolutionary Army as the private secretary to the late Francis Ona, the former BCL mine surveyor who became leader of the resistance.

Ona had declared that BCL should “never again” be allowed to run the mine and Miriori, Ona’s brother-in-law, still supports that stance.

“They have caused a lot of damage, they don’t have the money and they are not telling the truth and so I wouldn’t accept them,” Miriori said in a telephone interview from the Bougainville town of Arawa.

 

PAYOUTS TO LANDOWNERS

Duncan, a former barrister with a background in mining law, heads an entity called Central Exploration that has a half share of the consortium.

Duncan’s consortium has been paying money, described as a stipend, to some of the landowners, but denies this amounts to bribery.

“We are really talking about people receiving a couple of thousand kina ($608) a month,” said Duncan, who added that the money helps the landowners to travel and find accommodation in towns where Panguna negotiations take place. “It’s not bribery, it’s business,” he said.

BCL claims to have the support of eight other landowner groups in Bougainville with an interest in the project. They have land rights covering access roads and the port site, among other areas, though crucially not the mine site itself.

FINANCING DOUBTS

The uncertainty is going to make it difficult for either group to raise the capital that will be needed to get the mine restarted.

In 2012, BCL estimated the cost of re-opening at $5 billion. With few of its own assets, the company would need to secure the mining rights before tapping capital markets.

The Australian consortium may be in a stronger position, according to Hains, who is a 15 percent owner of RTG. He said the consortium has strong access to the North American capital markets and could re-develop Panguna in a “highly timely fashion”.

As it stands, BCL has no mine without the support of the owners of the minerals, and Duncan’s group has no project without road and port rights as well as government support.

Anthony Regan, a constitutional lawyer at the Australian National University and an adviser to the Bougainville government, said the immediate outlook for the mine is bleak. “The need of Bougainville to have a significant source of revenue if it’s to be really autonomous or independent has become hopelessly enmeshed with the future of Panguna.”

Reporting by Jonathan Barrett in SYDNEY; Editing by Martin Howell

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