Bougainville Cultural News: Mona Cultural Festival in Buka hailed as success : great images

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Story and photos by Aloysius Laukai ; additional photos Paul Wagam and Brian Semoso

The three-days Mona festival was hailed a success despite government funding allocation not released on time.

This was the message echoed by the Chairlady of the Festival Committee, FRANCESCA SEMOSO at the close of the festival yesterday afternoon.

Ms Semoso said that despite these hiccups the three-days festival was incident free and safe and was enjoyed by all who attended.

She said thanked the local sponsors who donated in cash and kind to make the festival a success.

Mrs Semoso said that show casing one’s culture was good as it identifies the uniqueness of different groups.

Meanwhile, one of the famous Bougainville actors and co-actor in the Tukana film with Francesca Semoso, MR. ALBERT TORO who was one for the festival  organizers, said that he was happy to see all the different people participate at the festival.

He said Bougainville had both the Melanesians and the Polynesians and it was good to see them participate as true Bougainvilleans.

The three-days festival was officially closed by the ABG Minister for culture, Mechior Dare.

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Bougainville weekly news summary: Mining,Mona ,Palm Oil, Sir Peter Barter and referendums

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Picture above Mona Festival which starts today in Buka

LONG TERM BOUGAINVILLE MINING LAW PROGRESSES

BY JENNIFER NKUI

A workshop was conducted in Buka last Friday to brief the ABG Cabinet and senior Bougainville public services officers on the draft Act of the Long Term Bougainville Mining Law.
The workshop was conducted by experts and the Bougainville team to seek the views of the ministers on the draft Act.
In a joint statement, deputy president Patrick Nsiria and minister for natural resources Michael Oni said the mining department has worked for seven years to develop a policy framework for a long term mining law which will meet Bougainville’s special needs.
They said the ABG’s aim was for a new law that truly meets our special needs and follows the world’s best practice or is even better than that.
They added that the cabinet members were satisfied that the long and detailed draft Act and regulations give effect to the ABG’s previous decisions on policy and give us a best practice law.
The deputy and his minister explained that the draft ‘Long Term’ Act builds on the foundation of the Bougainville Transitional mining Act.
They said it provides a framework making small scale mining by Bougainvillians legal and maintains the abolition of the Bougainville Copper Agreement, the SML created by it and all exploration licenses held by BCL since the 1960’s.
They added that the ‘Long Term’ also deals with many things that are not covered by the Transitional Act explaining that these new things were not covered in the Transitional Act because it was a temporary act.
The two pointed out that the ABG moved quickly to develop an interim mining law because it was worried about back door deals being made by unscrupulous outsiders and it also faced possible action of the National Government taking majority ownership of BCL.
They stated that the ABG is now satisfied that we have achieved what we wanted with the transitional Act and they are now very pleased to be able to move on to work hard to have a much more detailed, comprehensive and best practice law that meets Bougainville’s needs.
The ABG aims to finalize and pass the new mining Act late this year or early next year after public awareness and consultations have been made about the draft ‘Long Term’ Act which the ABG is committed to doing.

Sir Peter Barter joins Panguna planning process

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The Joint Panguna Negotiation Committee (JPNCC) has been boosted by the support of eminent businessman and former senior political figure Sir Peter Barter.

Sir Peter has been appointed as the Independent Chair of the Multi Party Trust Fund that administers the funding for JPNCC projects which include social, economic and environmental studies relating to the possible re-opening of the Panguna mine.

After an eight-year absence, Sir Peter was warmly welcomed back to Bougainville by a greeting party including a traditional dance troupe from Takuu Atoll.

“One of the reasons I have chosen to be here today is to see whether or not we can move forward and create an economy, which is needed to make this province truly autonomous,” Sir Peter Barter told the audience at Buka Airport.

“We have no autonomy without an economy.”

In his 15 years as a Member of Parliament, Sir Peter served as Minister for Bougainville Affairs and Minister for Inter-Government Relations.

He was integral in brokering the peace agreement, in 2007 relinquishing his seat in parliament to take on the role of Paramount Chief Masalahana (Peacemaker) in Bougainville.

Like the composition of the JPNCC, the board of the Multi Party Trust is drawn from the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the National Government of PNG, landowner representatives from the Panguna area and Bougainville Copper Limited.

The Multi Party Trust board meetings are held the day before the JPNCC convenes. The next meeting will be held on Thursday 2 October in Port Moresby

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Oil Palm Project

Picture :The Autonomous Bougainville Government President, Chief Dr John Momis had the chance to visit the Aberdi Oil Palm project on the Philippine Island of Mindanao and located on the outskirts of Cagayan de Oro City last Saturday Anthony Kaybing
As the time for Bougainville’s Referendum period forecloses Bougainville now has to seek ways to strengthen its capacity to meet the requirements of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
With the slow negotiations on the correct calculation of the Restoration and Development Grant and the outstanding amount owed to the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the government has decided to look into possible foreign inward investment.
The Autonomous Bougainville Government President, Chief Dr John Momis had the chance to visit the Aberdi Oil Palm project on the Philippine Island of Mindanao and located on the outskirts of Cagayan de Oro City last Saturday.
The President was wholly impressed by the oil palm project which has built its own refinery to refine the palm’s crude oil and start producing products from food to cosmetics.
President Momis also had the chance to see firsthand how the processing of the palm oil takes place and refined with a visit to the projects laboratory was also included.
The President said with the palm oil industry offering a lucrative market he believes Bougainvilleans should look into this industry as an alternate cash crop.
“Bougainville can have a set up like the one at ABERDIN, while cutting off all middlemen and ensuring that we maximize the benefits for all Bougainvilleans,” the President said.
“We have a lot of arable land that we can use for extensive agricultural development, that can provide employment and revenue for the government and people alike,” he added.
With Bougainville’s own Inward Investment Act already in place, this will guarantee the ABG and the people of Bougainville are not marginalized in any awry business deals with possible foreign investors.
Bougainville’s own oil palm project at Torokina has gone into an indefinite hiatus and its future remains uncertain but the Government is still adamant it will get the project moving only and after it resolves all issues pertaining to its suspension.
The President’s visit to Aberdin was facilitated by A Brown Energy and Resources Development, Inc. (ABERDI), which is a subsidiary of A Brown Company, Inc. which is engaged in the real estate development business primarily in the Philippines.
The company operates through the Real Estate, Manufacturing/Trading, Hotel, Agriculture, Resource Development and Power segments.

BOUGAINVILLEANS ARE READY FOR REFERENDUM
BY JENNIFER NKUI

Despite the government’s attention being turned to mining, the people of Bougainville are ready for referendum.
This statement was made by Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) general Ishmael Toroama last week.
He told New Dawn Fm in an interview that despite senior leaders coming out and saying that Bougainville is not ready for referendum, the people of Bougainville are ready for referendum.
He said what the government must do now is to push the people one step ahead to make their preparations for referendum.
He added that in preparations for referendum, we cannot be ready now but we need to be prepared and the people of Bougainville need to be prepared.
Mr. Ishmael challenged the members saying the people voted for you and you should not be sleeping.
He pointed out that collective effort is needed from all Bougainvilleans if we are to achieve referendum because the agreement binds us together.
He urged the government to not divert their attention to mining but must come together and work together in order for us to achieve referendum.

Bougainville News : Testing times for Bougainville’s mining future


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A lone copper dump truck that was completely burned out during the crisis at Panguna mine. Photo by Ian Booth.

Autonomous government needs to weigh the cost and benefits of extractive industries, writes MATTHEW ALLEN. 

The recent passage of new mining legislation on Bougainville comes at an especially troubling time for large-scale mining operations in the Western Pacific.

One of the first major laws to be enacted since the transfer of a suite of powers to the Autonomous Bougainville Government under the terms of the 2001 political settlement with Papua New Guinea, the transitional mining law is a significant step towards the possible recommencement of large-scale mining on the island.

However, an assessment of how some of the region’s largest mines have been travelling in recent times makes for sobering reading and points to the need for deep and careful reflection as Bougainville contemplates a mining future. The report card reads like this.

In April of this year the PNG government declared a state of emergency at the Porgera gold mine in the highlands province of Enga – operated by the Canadian miner Barrick Gold – and launched a three-month operation to stamp out what it describes as “illegal” mining. Over a hundred police and military personnel were deployed to the region and hundreds of houses allegedly belonging to illegal miners were razed by security forces.

Two weeks ago the Chinese-owned Ramu nickel mine, also in PNG, was reportedly attacked by “armed villagers” resulting in injuries to five Chinese workers, damage to equipment and a three-day halt to mine production.

Late last year the PNG government effectively expropriated the lucrative yet environmentally and socially problematic Ok Tedi mine in Western Province, a move that remains the subject of a court challenge in Singapore.

In neighbouring Solomon Islands, the country’s only mine, Gold Ridge on north Guadalcanal, has been closed since the site was flooded during heavy rains in April. The Australian operator returned staff to the site in June but has recently pulled out again citing a serious escalation in security incidents and the presence of large numbers of “illegal miners” in the mine lease area.

Further south in New Caledonia, the Vale nickel mine in the Southern Province was closed for several weeks earlier this year following a chemical spill that triggered a series of fatal clashes between riot police and Kanak youth.

And so the list goes on.

Unfortunately there is nothing particularly new about this association between large-scale mining and violence in Melanesia (and nor is it peculiar to the region – a 2009 United Nations study found that at least 40 per cent of intrastate conflicts globally are related to natural resources). Gold Ridge mine was a flash point during the so-called “ethnic tensions” that gripped Solomon Islands in the late 1990s, eventually closing down as a result of the violence.

And of course local grievances associated with Rio Tinto’s giant Panguna copper mine on Bougainville were a major contributor to the 10-year civil war in which thousands died. The mine has remained closed since the conflict, but Rio Tinto’s subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), had, until the passage of the new legislation this month, retained its mining lease under PNG law.

Bougainville’s political leaders are in the unenviable position of having to weigh the costs and benefits of a mining future. At the forefront of their minds is the prospect of a referendum on full independence from PNG which, according to the autonomy arrangements, must take place between 2015 and 2020. A key question is whether an independent Bougainville can be economically viable without large-scale mining.

The avowed policy of the ABG’s current leadership is to actively explore the possibility of at least one large-scale mine, with the preferred candidate being the mothballed Panguna mine. The need for the ABG to be able to regulate Bougainville’s mining sector has been given added urgency by the increasing activities of foreign investors with questionable credentials and intentions, as well as by the recent boom in small-scale and artisanal mining activities.

There are aspects of the new mining law that are innovative and clearly informed by the problematic history of the Panguna mine and the legacy of the conflict. For example, the legislation vests the ownership of mineral resources in customary landowners, who can veto exploration but not mining once an exploration license has been granted. It also contains provisions for the development of the island’s poorer regions.

That said, the legislation has not been without its detractors – in large part reflecting the highly fragmented character of Bougainville’s politics – with the parliamentary debate and subsequent passage of the bill met with an outpouring of opposition across mainstream and social media.

Opponents claim that the new law gives privileged treatment to BCL, which loses its mining lease but automatically gains an exploration license and therefore the right to negotiate for a new mining lease. Other critics have long maintained that Bougainville should follow a path to development based on smallholder agriculture and artisanal mining rather than large-scale mining.

For its part BCL’s chairman Peter Taylor has described the new legislation as a “set-back” and Rio is to review its majority shareholding in BCL. Whatever the legal status of BCL’s claim, the history of mining on Bougainville and elsewhere in Melanesia shows us that no new mining is likely to take place without the agreement of landowners, and such agreements are open to frequent renegotiation.

One thing we can be certain of is that despite demonstrable economic recovery, Bougainville’s social and economic development indicators remain well below pre-conflict levels. There are pressing human development needs on Bougainville, which only heighten the urgency of the tough choices that must be made about its economic future.

Matthew Allen is a fellow at the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia program, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific. He is conducting research on mining and political change in Melanesia funded by the Australia Research Council.

Bougainville News :Bougainville Government purchases another vessel to service outer islands and coastline

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MV Rapois Chief

Anthony Kaybing

The Autonomous Bougainville Government has embarked on the purchase of another vessel to service Bougainville’s outer islands and it’s the coastline of the mainland and Buka Island.

Christened Rapois Chief, the vessel which is being refurbished in the Philippines will carry about 53 passengers with a crew of 7 and cargo and is expected to be completed in the coming months.

Much of the vessel’s interior and equipment has not been completed yet but more importantly, its two brand new engines have already been set with the propellers and the steering and gear compartment which are also new to be fitted soon.

The vessel also has a sturdy hull made of steel which are designed to withstand the rough Bougainvillea seas.

President of the Marala Vitas Central Terminal and Shipyards Corporation in Mania, Randolph Tiangco says once the engineering aspect of the ship is completed they will proceed with the interior design and painting of the vessel.

“The vessel is virtually a new one as we’re replacing almost every bit of it to with brand new parts and redesigning it to cater for the needs of the people of Bougainville,” Mr Tiangco said

Mr. Tiangco explained that work on the vessel might seem slow as his company is working meticulously to meet PNG’s National Maritime Safety Authority standards and to guarantee MV Rapois Chief its sea worthiness.

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A Bougainville delegation led by ABG President Chief Dr John Momis who was accompanied by Minister Assisting the President, Thomas Kereri and ABG Member for Haku James Beani was also on hand to inspect the vessel on Tuesday.

The delegation expressed their satisfaction at the workmanship of the Marala Corporation and was excited at the new development which will greatly service the people of the atolls and coastal Bougainville especially west coast Bougainville which are inaccessible by road

President Momis said the coastal people of Bougainville especially those in the west coast and the atolls will now have a safer means of travel and to move their goods especially cash crops.

The President said the MV Rapois Chief will be the second ABG owned vessel purchased by his government that will service Bougainville waters and parts of Papua New Guinea.

The first vessel, MV Chebu which is a brand new ship, is near completion and will set sail for Bougainville soon.

 

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Bougainville Mining News : Rio Tinto to review options Bougainville mining and BCL

RIO Tinto

Diversified giant Rio Tinto on Monday announced that it was “reviewing” its options over its 53.83% shareholding in embattled Bougainville Copper.

Bougainville’s Parliament last week passed a new Mining Act, which devolved power to regulate the mining industry from the government of Papua New Guinea to Bougainville’s autonomous government.

The new Mining Act resulted in Bougainville Copper’s mining licences being revoked and replaced with exploration licences. The exploration licences would allow Bougainville Copper to apply for a new mining lease, subject to the outcome of negotiations with the Bougainville Mineral Resource Forum.

“In light of recent developments in Papua New Guinea, including the new mining legislation passed earlier this month by the autonomous Bougainville government, Rio Tinto has decided now is an appropriate time to review all options for its 53.83% stake in Bougainville Copper,” the miner said on Monday.

Bougainville Copper has confirmed Rio’s decision, with chairperson Peter Taylor saying that the company’s remaining shareholders would be kept informed of any decisions.

Bougainville News : Bougainville Government invests in new shipping service

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The shipping woes of the people in the New Guinea Islands will soon be at an end following the official handover of MV Chebu on Sunday to the Bougainville Government.

MV Chebu is part of the newly created Chebu Shipping Company, a joint venture between the Autonomous Bougainville Government and Hakau Investments Limited, a subsidiary of businesses owned by local Businessman, Sir Henry Chow.

ABG President Chief Dr John Momis has described the new ship as the biggest impact project undertaken by the ABG to date following the Bougainville Crises.

“This ship is something all Bougainvilleans can be proud of as it shows our willingness to progress and reconstruct Bougainville,” President Momis said.

“I would also like to thank all those responsible for making the ship a reality especially the ABG official, Hakau investment and the Shunhai Ship Building Company for building the vessel,” the President said.

After viewing the vessel the President and Sir Henry were mutually happy with its completion and its specifications as it suits the maritime needs of the people

The President also revealed that after consulting Sir Henry they have decided to purchase another vessel for the Chebu Shipping Company in the near future.

The vessel has been built to specifications suitable for Papua New Guinea and will carry at 370 passengers including the crew and offers the latest in maritime technology that will guarantee safe passage for those wishing to travel the route.

The K15 million vessel has also been designed to meet National Maritime Safety Authority regulations such as proper safety equipment for each passengers and creature comforts including flat screen televisions in the main seating area and cabins and life jackets for every passenger and crew.

MV Chebu will be travelling the New Guinea Islands route from Buka, Rabaul, Kimber and Lae, a very lucrative route that has not been serviced since the tragic Rabaul Queen.

The joint venture company involved with the ABG in the Chebu Shipping Company, Hakau Investments limited has expressed its satisfaction at the completion of MV Chebu.

PNG entrepreneur Sir Henry Chow who owns Hakau Investments has expressed his gratitude to the Shunhai Ship Building Company for its workmanship for the last 18 months.

Sir Henry explained that the project is a joint venture between the ABG and the Chow family who have an immense experience in providing maritime services in Papua New Guinea as they own Coastal Shipping amongst their properties.

Sir Henry said he had accepted an invitation ABG President Chief Dr John Momis’ proposal to enter into a joint venture with the ABG to build a ship to service Bougainville and the New Guinea Islands.

He said Hakau Investments had done the initial design for the ship which was then given to a Singaporean firm to add the final touches to its design which has been used to complete the vessel.

Despite the vessel’s completion there have been minor technical and bureaucratic details that have to be sorted out before the vessel is set to sail for Papua New Guinea waters.

Sir Henry has given his assurance that the MV Chebu will be able to sail to PNG in the coming weeks once the technical issues have been resolved.

“Bougainville at this time desperately needs the services of a reliable ferry service one which the Chebu Shipping Company will graciously meet,” Sir Henry said.

“We are very confident this ship will provide a good service to the people of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea,” the Knight remarked.

The commitment by Sir Henry to go into business with the ABG came after the tragic loss of 300 lives, most of whom were Bougainvilleans, aboard the ill-fated MV Rabaul Queen.

Sir Henry was one of the first respondents to the needs of the survivors, providing support in cash and kind and also helped the ABG look after Bougainvilleans involved in the shipping mishap two years ago.

Sir Henry Chow was knighted by the Queen of England for his philanthropy to the people of Papua New Guinea over the years.

 

 

Bougainville Mining News : BCL expresses concerns about new Bougainville mining bill

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Press release: Bougainville Mining (Transitional Arrangements) Bill

In August 2014 Bougainville Copper Limited has submitted the following press release to the Australian Stock Exchange regarding the Bougainville Mining (Transitional Arrangements) Bill:

Bougainville Mining (Transitional Arrangements) Bill

The Chairman of Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), Peter Taylor, received a letter on 12 August from the President of Bougainville, Chief John Momis, that stated the Bougainville Mining (Transitional Arrangements) Act (Act) 2014 has been passed by Autonomous Bougainville Parliament and will come into force upon notice in the Bougainville Gazette. No date was set for publication of the notice.

The letter advises as follows with respect to section 212(2) of the Act:

“(1) Prior to that Act coming into operation, BCL is the holder of an SML over the area of the current Panguna SML, primarily by virtue of the operation of the relevant provisions of the Mining (Bougainville Copper Agreement) Act concerning the SML;

(2) As a result, when the Bougainville Mining Act commences, section 212(2) will vest BCL with an Exploration Licence for the area of what will then be the previous SML;

(3) That Exploration Licence will give BCL the right to apply for a Mining Lease under the Bougainville Mining Act, while section 66(2), the grant of such a lease will depend on the outcome of negotiations in the Bougainville Mineral Resource Forum.

Peter Taylor said, “I have made BCL’s concerns about the potential adverse impact the new Act may have on the company’s asset base known to the National and Bougainville Governments. Dialogue will continue with both Governments and landowners in an effort to reach agreement on providing the company with the assurance it needs to go forward with community and study programs that are required to further assess the viability of reopening the mine.”

BACKGROUND INFO

Interview June 2013 with BCL chairman, Peter Taylor who then remained optimistic the mine could reopen in five years.

IT is an extraordinary situation: 24 years after the world’s largest copper mine was closed due to a civil war on Australia’s doorstep, the majority Rio Tinto-owned Bougainville Copper Limited still floats on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Former combatants still occupy ground around Bougainville’s enormous open-cut Panguna mine site, which has not seen mining activity since 1989, when Papua New Guinean forces attempted to reassert control over its province and the mine, which once contributed 20 per cent of PNG’s annual income.

The civil war, which came about in part due to a demand from Bougainville rebels for higher mine royalties, and their anger at natural destruction, resulted in an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 deaths.

Since then, Bougainville has rebranded itself the Autonomous Bougainville Government, and is moving towards an independence referendum within five years.

For years, BCL has been accused of providing equipment that assisted PNG forces in attacking the rebels. BCL chairman, Peter Taylor, denies it, and remains optimistic the mine could reopen in five years.

In this edited interview, Taylor talks about the obstacles to reopening the mine and what it would mean to Australia. He warns that investors may not view Bougainville’s likely independence as a positive step for the mine.

Q: It’s been more than two decades since the mine was operational. Yet your annual ASX filings are optimistic. Why do you see hope?

TAYLOR: I get the impression that more people in Bougainville are coming onside with reopening the mine, but having said that, there are still some – in the minority – who are opposed to the mine reopening, for a range on reasons. Some are opposed to mining on principle. Some have a family history as a result of what happened when the crisis occurred. But I think more are coming on board with the idea of getting the economy going.
Q: The mine is still in the hands of rebel forces, some of who may be slowly surrendering some of their weapons. Is that your understanding?
TAYLOR: It’s all a bit muddy, this concept of rebel forces. The original group under (deceased Bougainville Revolutionary Army leader) Francis Ona has dissipated. Those who are left from the revolution days call themselves Mekamui, a local word, so they’ve changed from their title. I don’t think rebel army is the right term. They’re ex – combatants and some are simply disenfranchised. There’s nowhere for them to go. I haven’t been to the mine site for a long time, I just don’t think the time is right for people like me to go there. But a number of Australian diplomats have been there, and contractors can go there. But there’s a big difference in someone like me going there, because of the symbolism attached to that. There is a place called Morgan Junction where a group of guys extract a toll to go up the road. But I think they’re opportunists trying to extract a buck for going up the road, rather than any political philosophy.
Q: Historically, the largest royalty share from the mine went to the PNG government. It distributed a 1.25 per cent royalty payment to Bougainville (five per cent of that was distributed to land owners, the remainder going to the provincial government). Have you put an offer to Bougainville that is significantly better than that?
TAYLOR: There’s been no offers made by either side, and there are more than two sides, actually. You’ve got the Autonomous Bougainville Government, which didn’t exist in the old days, so it’s a new entity and people may or may not decide whether they want it to be independent. They are the principle party that deals with the landowners. There are six identified landowner groups, and three others, who aren’t on the mine lease but the fringes of it. One of them is supposed to represent the ex – combatants. The Bougainville Government’s idea is to get all nine groups to form a single united body that can then negotiate with the Bougainville Government and the national government (which owns 19 per cent of BCL). We really haven’t got to the stage where everyone’s put their wish – list on the table, but there is jostling. Six of the landowners groups have signed up officially. The people who aren’t onside yet are the people around the Panguna area.
Q: Do you in – principle agree with a larger royalty, or larger royalty equivalents through better education and health facilities?
TAYLOR: I do agree that the people of Bougainville should get a larger share of the proceeds than they did in the past. How they take it is a question for them rather than for me. They’ve got to decide: is the royalty the way to go? Shares in the mine? Royalties upfront? We used to pay it to the national government, which would distribute it to the provincial government. The dispute wasn’t about the quantum, but the distribution.
Q: Are you satisfied that allegations that Rio/BCL provided equipment to the PNG forces during the war have been put to rest?
TAYLOR: This is the allegation in a US court case that BCL provided helicopter gunships? It’s not true. BCL never owned a helicopter. We chartered them, we never had them. The helicopters that get most attention are ex – Australian military helicopters that were given to PNG on the condition they be used only for humanitarian purposes. My understanding is the PNG government ignored that and put guns on them.
Q: How would Bougainville’s independence affect your operations?
TAYLOR: It’s an important question for me as a potential investor. When I need to raise the money for this mine, by going to banks and investors, wanting to raise billions of dollars, they’re going to say: “Tell me about Bougainville.” If Bougainville is the world’s newest nation, with no track record of managing projects, as opposed to PNG which has a long track record, it’s going to be easier to raise the money if Bougainville doesn’t go down the independence route. I wouldn’t even go to the market at this stage, because I can’t tell the market what they’re investing in.
Q: But isn’t independence an inevitability?
TAYLOR: I don’t know. You’ll get Bougainvilleans who’ll say, “We spilt blood for independence.” There is an element that will say, “We don’t want to be part of Papua New Guinea.” But if you’re an economic rationalist, you might be better off having big brother in Port Moresby bankrolling you. And even if Bougainville votes for independence, the PNG government still has to change its constitution to allow it to happen. And there’s a question as whether they’ll do it.
Q: You’re a mine chairman with no mine. Is your daily work a constant push to restart the mine?
TAYLOR: Absolutely. On a daily basis we’re talking to PNG, Bougainville and landowners. There’s process to begin ethnographic surveys of the landowners around the mine site so we actually know who our constituents are. That hasn’t been done. That’s just one project. And we know a lot about the ore body, but it won’t be the same technology as before. We’ll modernise.
Q: Have you tried to negotiate directly with the intransigent ex – combatant group? What is their bottom line?
TAYLOR: They’re not organised. You’re dealing with individuals who have particular wants. Some want to be included in the workforce. Some want a school. A hospital. Most of what they want are not things I find unusual. If you take away the title “combatant”, it’s the sort of stuff you’d expect anybody who’s having a major operation like this moved into their area to be asking for.
Q: This long – lasting event so close to our shores was horrific. How did it feel to be part of it?
TAYLOR: I think it took not just the company but the Australian Government by surprise. I don’t think anybody saw it coming. I’ve thought about it many times: “How did it actually happen?” There’s no simple answer. A whole lot of things aligned. I don’t believe Francis Ona, the leader of the rebel group, wanted to close the mine. He wanted a bigger share. He didn’t think landowners were getting a fair cut.
Q: BCL continues to trade at around 50 cents a share when the mine has been closed 24 years. That’s unusual, isn’t it?
TAYLOR: I think there’s more justification for the BCL share price than I do a lot of other speculative companies in the mining sector who haven’t even discovered anything. We know what the value of our ore body is, based on current metal prices. The punters are saying, “Well, if we can ever commercialise that, it’ll be a good return.”
Q: Australia has taken the view since the time of Whitlam that there should be fewer smaller states in our region that could potentially fail. Is that your understanding?
TAYLOR: I’ve never heard Australia say it that way but I think it’s right. There’s this division throughout the region, of which first nation looks after which developing nation. If you look at Australia’s patch, its got some pretty terrible examples small nations: it has this dilemma with Fiji, it’s still pouring money into the Solomon Islands, it’s got Bougainville and other micro states which depend almost entirely on Australian and New Zealand aid. And at the political level, all these little states have one vote at the UN, which creates another dynamic: who is going to be the influential power, China or the West?
Q: How do you keep going, day to day, when the project is still so far off?
TAYLOR: This is not a job for someone who wants a result by Friday. In our industry, we take a long – term view. We have projects which can last 50 to 100 years. You don’t want to be in a screaming rush, you’ve to get it right. And there’s a pretty salutary lesson to be had from when we didn’t get Bougainville right.
Q: BCL is a PNG company, though listed on the ASX for historical reasons. If I was a prospective PM, such as Tony Abbott, why would I care about the success of the reopening of this mine?
TAYLOR: There’s not a cash flow to the Australian government. What there is, is PNG being closer to self-sufficiency so Australia doesn’t have to keep providing aid. The idea is to make them economically sustainable, rather than keep having to hand out money. That’s what’s in it for Australia.

Bougainville News: Bougainville government legal advisor responds to critics

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BY JENNIFER NKUI

The legal advisor to the Autonomous Bougainville Government Anthony Reagan explained clearly to the ABG members of the House of Representatives yesterday that he is a lawyer by profession and is working as a legal advisor for Bougainville.

Speaking during the one day workshop of the ABG members on the new mining law in Buka, he said he is not an agent for Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) as claimed by Philip Miriori through an article in The National newspaper.

He added that he has never worked for a mining company and has never received any money from any one.

Mr. Reagan said he only gives advice and he does not tell the ABG or the president and his ministers what to do or what to include in the laws.

He explained further that the new mining law came about from lots of work from lots of officials after much consultations and field work.

He then pointed out that laws are interpreted differently from normal sentences and therefore lawyers alone can interpret laws properly and accordingly but not anyone on the streets.

He said he is in Bougainville as Bougainville’s legal advisor and not as an agent for Australia or BCL.

Bougainville News: Why Bougainville landowners oppose BCL return

Why Bougainville landowners oppose Rio Tinto’s return

State Crime

KRISTIAN LASSLETT | International State Crime Initiative

ONCE more Rio Tinto subsidiary Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) is in the headlines, after the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) passed transitional mining legislation that seemingly continues the momentum towards the re-opening of the Panguna mine.

The legislation has provoked strong condemnation from the landowning communities that will be directly impacted by the mine’s prospective reopening. They fear BCL’s return is now unstoppable.

Their opposition has been given powerful form in the Parakake Resolution, and in the poignant commentaries written by the Nasioi people’s own organic intellectuals, such as Chris Baria.

Bougainville’s President John Momis has dismissed this opposition on Radio Australia; he claims it is being stirred up by certain backdoor mining interests.

While it is hard to know whether a particular individual has or has not signed a MOU, as Momis claims, the vast majority of people in the mine affected areas have no interest whatsoever in these backdoor players.

 

Their opposition is principled and rooted in a history that is yet to receive the public attention it thoroughly deserves, and which if recognised would provide essential context, missing from current debates.

At the bare minimum this history extends back to BCL’s so called ‘alleged’ involvement in PNGDF military operations that were conducted during 1989-90, after the mine was closed by landowning communities through a campaign of industrial sabotage (although this essential history goes further back still, to the mine’s construction and operation, including its seismic impact on land, environment and culture).

This remains an extremely emotive issue on the ground in the mine area, because these military operations were replete with some of the most atrocious war crimes imaginable. Indeed, they were so graphic, and so horrible, it would be insensitive to describe them here – as I have learnt the trauma survivors endure is foreboding and ever-present.

Nevertheless, respected regional commentators have cast doubt over these allegations levelled against BCL. For example the celebrated ANU scholar, Anthony Regan – who was contracted to draft the controversial mining law passed through Bougainville’s parliament last week – noted in 2003, ‘despite some claims to the contrary, there is as yet no credible evidence that BCL took any direct part in the [military] operations against the BRA [Bougainville Revolutionary Army]’.

Regan maintains this position today, stating ‘credible evidence is yet to emerge. Perhaps such evidence will emerge one day, but I’m yet to see it’.

Regan is a lucid and perceptive commentator with a strong devotion to the region, so it is difficult to understand how he, and other regional experts, can maintain this position, when so much compelling evidence is now publicly available, and presented in a range of scholarly publications.

Nevertheless, given the serious doubt regional experts have cast over these allegations, it is perhaps understandable that the media has failed to give them much credence.

In that light it is worthwhile bearing witness, once more, to the robust empirical evidence charting BCL’s past conduct, hyperlinked where possible to the primary sources (it should be emphasised here, because there appears to be confusion, this evidence has primarily emerged from independent fieldwork, and is not in any way reliant on affidavits produced for a US class action against Rio Tinto).

On 26 November 1988, the day after landowner leaders initiated a campaign of industrial sabotage, BCL petitioned the government to deploy Mobile Squad units, to deal with these ‘acts of terrorism’ (BCL’s meeting minutes are available here). This was a high-risk move given the Mobile Squads’ human rights records.

According to one BCL General Manager interviewed in 2006, they were aware of the risks: ‘We knew the riot squads were heavy handed, that was well known in PNG. That’s how they worked. If you threw a rock at them you would get ten rocks thrown back. They were very heavy handed in the way they handled disputes in the Highlands … We knew that the heavy handed thing wouldn’t work if they were there [on Bougainville] long term. It was a case, somebody has to come. They were the only ones that could come, and put a lid on this thing before it got out of hand’.

When Prime Minister Namaliu informed BCL’s Chairman, Don Carruthers, that his government wanted to send a peace delegation to Bougainville – as opposed to active deployment of the Mobile Squads – the Chairman threatened to withdraw Rio Tinto investment from PNG.

In a memorandum to company directors dated 6 December 1988, the Chairman states: ‘The PM’s priority was to “appease” the landowners. I expressed the view that CRA [Conzinc Rio Tinto of Australia] would want to review its assessment of PNG as a place to invest. In all, it was an unsatisfactory meeting’. BCL’s Chairman also complains to company directors that the PNG government appears ‘unwilling or unable to assert its authority’ on Bougainville. The memorandum is available here.

In June 1989, following a Cabinet reshuffle, the PNG government declared a state of emergency, which paved the way for a PNGDF offensive to reopen the mine, and rout the Bougainville Revolutionary Army. BCL was informed by PNG’s Minister for State that the PNGDF was prepared to employ ‘brutal firepower’ (see BCL meeting minutes here). The first offensive, operation Nakmai Maimai, began on 3 July 1989. According to evidence provided by BCL’s own executives team from this period, extensive logistic assistance was provided to the armed forces.

One General Manager from the 1989-90 period observed in an interview conducted during 2006: ‘The reality was, “we [PNGDF/RPNGC] can’t do our thing because we haven’t got vehicles”. So we’d give them vehicles. “Ah we haven’t got radios so we can’t communicate”. So we’d give them two way radios. “Ah we can’t support our men over here, we haven’t got enough provisions”. So we’d put them in the mess, we’d feed them in the mess, we’d provide them with accommodation. We did everything they asked of us to make their life more comfortable, and better able to manage through, with transport, communications, provisions, whatever, fuel. You know we gave them everything, because as a far as we saw it we were hoping that they were going to solve the situation, so we could start operating again. So we supported them every way we could’.

This testimony is corroborated by a senior official from PNG’s Prime Minister’s Department also interviewed in 2006: ‘We relied heavily on some of the civilian facilities provided by the company. They did everything, I mean we spent lots and lots of money, to provide backup support services for the operation, but the defence force was not properly equipped at all’. A senior PNGDF officer involved in the operation confirms, ‘the support of the mine was so significant, it augmented where the national government was lacking’.

The above oral testimony coheres with information included in affidavits provided by the former Commander of the PNGDF, Jerry Singirok (see here), in addition to PNGDF intelligence officer, Yauka Aluambo Liria (see here).

Over the course of 1989-90, BCL regularly met with PNGDF commanders and PNG government officials to discuss the counterinsurgency operations. During one meeting which took place on 13 July 1989, BCL’s Managing Director told PNG’s Prime Minister, ‘offensive activities OK and should continue’. He also identified targets to be ‘apprehended’, including the prominent Chief, Damien Dameng who BCL’s Managing Director describes as ‘the charismatic cult leader’ (see meeting minutes here). An example of the strategic discussions frequently held with the PNGDF command can be viewed here.

When BCL’s Chairman, Don Carruthers, was informed a military blockade was to be placed around Bougainville, cutting off all goods and services (this included medical aid), he is alleged by Sir Michael Somare to have said ‘[let’s] starve the bastards out’ (see here) (current Bougainville President John Momis has also made a similar allegation, see here).

A senior BCL manager interviewed in 2006 outlines two central concerns underpinning this alleged support for the blockade, ‘there were two things we were worried about. One was the ability of the militants to get more weapons to increase the level of their militancy. And the second was that there was always these threats that they were going to sell off the mine equipment’.

It is incredible to think in light of this powerful oral testimony and documentary evidence from a range of highly credible sources (i.e. senior BCL managers, PNG government officials, PNGDF officers, BCL internal records), which are detailed in full here, that these accounts have failed to be included in the most recent public debate (although it is very much part of discussions at the village level). Indeed, certain journalists have implied the allegations against BCL are so tenuous, they have reached a point where they can ‘be put to rest’.

Of course at Panguna people need no reminding of BCL’s role, they still remember the hum of BCL trucks laden with PNGDF troops, coming down the road to torch their villages.

Yet in a curious twist Bougainville’s President has often said it is the communities in the mine-affected region who have specifically petitioned his office to have BCL returned as the mine’s preferred operator. The phrase ‘better the devil you know’ has been put on high rotation; sadly those who should know better often quote this phrase as if it is axiomatic at the village level.

It is not. In fact I have never come across a villager in the mine-affected region who uses this phrase in support of BCL’s return, indeed so raw are the scars that even the notional prospect of BCL’s return tends to elicit panic and near universal condemnation. Whoever presented this view to the President (we are yet to find out), was not accurately relaying the beliefs widely held within the mine affected communities.

Compounding the confusion, journalists rarely travel to these villages, relying instead on media releases and political statements. When they do, as the intrepid Antony Loewenstein discovered, a very different narrative emerges, one seared by a great yearning for cultural sovereignty and self-determination, underpinned by a painful history of dispossession and marginalisation.

Indeed, these are not a people who suffer from a ‘lack of understanding’, as certain leaders have claimed (coupled to this, it has also been implied rural communities lack the ‘expertise’ to determine what is in their own best interests). Villagers in the mine-affected area have a breathtakingly nuanced understanding of their past, and they fully recognise the complexity of the conjuncture they are currently faced with.

It must also be said, these people are not dupes being manipulated by foreign activists (which is another condescending allegation circulating in the media); they have witnessed first-hand the destructive consequences of believing grandiose promises delivered by outsiders with ulterior motives, and as a result have an unwavering belief in the strength and vitality of their own wisdom (and quite rightly, too).

So it is time to pause for a moment, and truly listen to the voices of Panguna. It is time to bear witness to their suffering, and to hear their cries for justice. It is time to move beyond the sleek sound-bites supplied by governments and miners, and actually study the primary evidence and actually visit the communities, to allow them to speak for themselves. It is time for BCL and its parent company, Rio Tinto, to acknowledge the past and to atone without strings.

It is time for truth, it is time for justice, and it is time to respect the dignity of the land’s custodians; a dignity which so many, have sacrificed so much for.

Dr Lasslett’s book ‘State Crime on the Margin’s of Empire: Rio Tinto, the War on Bougainville and Resistance to Mining’ is available via Pluto Press.

Bougainville Government strips Rio Tinto subsidiary BCL of all exploration and mining licences

Rio Tinto subsidiary Bougainville Copper has been stripped of all its exploration and mining licences by the Bougainville Government.

The company’s Panguna mine was once one of the biggest in the world but it was also the spark that lit a decade-long civil war in the 1990s in which 20,000 people died.

Bougainville’s parliament initiated the move when it passed a new Mining Act on Friday.

The legislation devolves power to regulate mining from the Papua New Guinea government to Bougainville’s Autonomous Government but at the same time it strips Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) of its seven exploration licences and its special mining lease over Panguna.

Although the company retains first right of refusal on negotiations to operate the mine, the legislation will put the Bougainville Government in a stronger negotiating position.

“We have invited them to come and negotiate with us and if they don’t meet our mutually acceptable terms then they are welcome to go,” Bougainville President John Momis told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat.

John Momis

“That is the only thing they have; first right of refusal.”

President Momis says the decision to cancel the licences came after wide-ranging consultations with the community on Bougainville.

“If we didn’t [cancel the licences], the landowners and the ex-combatants wouldn’t have allowed BCL to come back,” President Momis said.

Some ex-combatants and grassroots groups are worried by the legislation.

“This mining Bill will likely lay the foundations for another Bougainville crisis,” the Panguna Veteran’s Association said in a statement shortly before the Act was passed.

“Rio Tinto/BCL owned and controlled our minerals before and it led to the war.

“Under this Bill, Rio Tinto/BCL owns and will control our minerals – why would the result be any different this time?”

The chairman of the Me’ekamui Government of Unity, one of the groups descended from those started by civil war leader Francis Ona, is also concerned.

“This is a dangerous and destabilizing move and is not acceptable to the Me’ekamui,” Philip Miriori said.

President Momis says the critics who believe the new legislation leaves too much power in the hands of Rio Tinto and Bougainville Copper have been given the inaccurate information.

I think [the critics] are being misled deliberately by outsiders who have a vested interest

John Momis, president of the Autonomous Bougainville Government

“The critics are totally wrong – we have stripped Bougainville Copper of all powers,” he said.

“I think [the critics] are being misled deliberately by outsiders who have a vested interest.”

Some landowners groups have signed agreements with small unregulated mining companies.

Bougainville is due to hold a referendum on independence between 2015 and 2020.

Landowners and other groups that support mining see it as one means to obtain the economic self-reliance needed to have a real choice in the referendum.

Earlier this year, Mr Momis told the Australia Papua New Guinea Business Forum, he was not assuming that the Rio Tinto-owned copper mine on Bougainville would re-open or that Rio Tinto or Bougainville copper would be the operator.

However, now Mr Momis says extensive consultations have shown that landowners prefer to deal with BCL rather than a new potential operator.

“They talk of preferring the devil they know and not a new devil,” he said.