“We should not be rushing to open Bougainville to unrestricted exploration and mining. Some Bougainvillean groups (and small foreign investors) are keen to see unrestricted exploration immediately, and so advocate complete lifting of the Moratorium in all parts of Bougainville. But many others remain suspicious or uncertain about, or opposed to, unrestricted exploration and mining development.
That, to my mind, is another good reason for proceeding gradually, by partial lifting. “
STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT JOHN. L. MOMIS TO THE BOUGAINVILLE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, JUNE 2016
See critics below and Bougainville News
As President of our Autonomous Region, I am pleased to participate in this major debate about one of the most important sets of issues facing Bougainville.
I remind the House that the Bougainville Peace Agreement says one of the main objectives of autonomy is to “empower Bougainvilleans to solve their own problems, manage their own affairs and work to realize their aspirations”.
The ABG’s Bougainville Mining Act 2015 involved the ABG taking over the powers needed for Bougainvilleans to solve our own problems and manage our own affairs in relation to all aspects of mining. In doing so, the Act aims to facilitate the realizing of our own aspirations.
The Bougainville Mining Act was passed by the members of the second House. They were representing the Bougainvilleans that elected them. They deliberately included a section in the Act to continue the 1971 moratorium that prevented mining exploration and development in most of Bougainville.
Mr. Sam Kauona is a critic of the moratorium, and of our debate about it. He claims that the section that continues the moratorium was secretly included in the Mining Act. His claim is completely untrue. In the debate about the Act, in 2014 and early 2015, several members were very concerned to make sure that the Moratorium continued. For example, in the seminar for members to discuss the draft Act held in this chamber in March last year, the member for Kongara asked for clear assurances that the moratorium was still included.
I am proud that we, the members of the third House, are back here now, debating what the future of that moratorium should be. This House represents the people of Bougainville. The House is the right place for discussion of the big issues facing Bougainville. So the House is an institution of great importance. I want to see the House taking a much more public role in debating the issues that face us.
In fact, Mr. Speaker, I want to propose that in every future session that this House agree on an issue of importance to Bougainville which it will debate in the following session. That will ensure that we all think carefully about what those big issues are, and what the ABG should be doing about those issues.
As for the Moratorium, I need to remind this House that although the Mining Act continued the operation of the Moratorium, it also continued the operation of some aspects of mining rights and activities. They were exceptions to the Moratorium, things that were already recognised by the previous law. They included small-scale mining, and just a small part of the mining rights held by Bougainville Copper Ltd before the Bougainville Mining (Transitional Arrangements) Act 2014. Before that, BCL had the rights under PNG law over the SML, many leases for mining purposes, and exploration licences over extensive areas north and east of Panguna. But under our Mining Laws, BCL has nothing more than an exploration licence over the area of the previous SML.
Mr. Kauona has been saying that the ABG included the Moratorium in the Act to make sure that only BCL will have rights to minerals in Bougainville. As is usually the case when he talks about ABG mining policy, Mr. Kauona is completely wrong. BCL now has very limited rights in Bougainville. It will not move from having just an exploration licence to being able to re-open Panguna unless Panguna landowners and the ABG are both in agreement with the conditions under which it will resume.
We must remember that the Moratorium was imposed in 1971 at the request of Bougainville leaders aiming to protect Bougainville from unlimited large mines. They were concerned that unlimited exploration licences could have seen many mines established all over Bougainville. Those same concerns remain valid today. Many people still share those concerns. That is why this debate is so important.
Our 2015 Mining Act gives the BEC power to lift the Moratorium, wholly or partially. Before it makes a decision, BEC must receive advice from the Bougainville Mining Advisory Council, and allow a debate in the ABG parliament on its proposed decision.
The debate that we are having today is NOT part of that official, or formal, process for making a decision on the future of the Moratorium. That formal process has not even begun yet. Instead, our debate today is part of the BEC’s efforts to ensure that there is wide public debate on the issues involved here.
Mr. Kauona claims that I am making the decisions about the Moratorium. That is complete nonsense. The BEC has that power. And BEC has not even decided its position on the issue. So far the only thing BEC has done is decide that there should be open public debate on whether the Moratorium should be maintained, or lifted. Because we have no funds to conduct a public awareness and consultation, we have instead asked this House to debate the issues involved. Then BEC can take full account of the views expressed here, and by the public, when it does make a decision.
Before considering whether to lift the Moratorium, wholly or partially, it is important to remind ourselves what lifting the Moratorium would involve. I ask all members to be mindful of two important points.
The first such point is that the Moratorium does NOT stop two main activities or rights, and they are:
- Small-scale mining, most of which was illegal under the PNG Mining Act, but made legal by the 2014 Transitional Mining Act, and what was legal under that Act continues to be legal under the 2015 Mining Act, but only until October 2016, when it is supposed to be covered by the new Community Mining Licences;
- The BCL exploration licence over the former SML. But that gives no rights to BCL for anything except negotiation of the conditions for future mining, which is all on hold anyway, while BCL majority shareholder – Rio Tinto – decides the future of its equity in BCL;
The second important point is that the Moratorium DOES prevent six main forms of mining related licence or mining lease being granted:
- artisanal mining licences, which are available only to Bougainvilleans – they are a step up from community mining licences, and cover small areas up to 5 hectares, dealing mainly with gravel, earth and perhaps rock, allowing work to a maximum depth of 10 metres (and so not allowing extensive open cut or tunnelling); and
- reconnaissance licences, that allow people merely to make a preliminary examination, without any right to do drilling or other intensive exploration for or proving of minerals;
- exploration licences, usually directed to finding enough minerals to justify an application for a mining lease;
- mining leases, either large-scale or small-scale mining leases which are for mining deeper than 10 metres, and usually involve either open-cut mining, or underground tunnelling;
- quarry leases;
- leases for mining purposes (roads etc.) and mining easements.
In debate in this House on 5th April, I recommended lifting the Moratorium partially. Amongst other things, that would give the Bougainville Mining Department time to build its capacity to manage the new system for exploration licence applications.
More important, the Department has not yet developed administrative arrangements needed for handling international tender of exploration licences, and for the whole significant new system of Community Mining Licences for small-scale miners. If the Moratorium is lifted in full, then exploration licences for large-scale mining would be available for the whole of Bougainville. Once exploration licences are granted for the prospective areas of Bougainville, the Mining Department will not be able to implement those very aspects of the Mining Act, in the areas where exploration licences are operating.
I continue to recommend partial lifting of the Moratorium. But, I have also refined my thinking. It can be partial lifting in two main ways.
First, the moratorium could be lifted in full for some categories of licences for the whole of Bougainville. In particular, I see no reason why reconnaissance licences and artisanal licences should not be lifted. The same could be true for quarry leases. By lifting the Moratorium in this way, most Bougainvilleans interested in doing something more extensive than current small-scale mining will be able to do so.
But second, the Moratorium could be initially lifted partially for exploration licences (for possible open-cut or underground mines) and for mining leases. This would initially be lifting the Moratorium only for perhaps two or three special areas. Opening just limited areas to applications for exploration licences or mining leases would give the Mining Department time to test its tenement administration arrangements in those areas.
But main reason for this proposals for initial limited lifting of the Moratorium would be to allow the Department to establish the international tender and community mining licence arrangements. In particular, the Mining Department clearly needs time and resources to concentrate on the very important matter of establishing the community mining licence arrangements.
Let’s be clear here – I am not recommending that international tender be the only way exploration licences are granted for the whole of Bougainville. No. The idea with the international tender arrangements is for the Department to identify particular highly prospective areas of Bougainville, and to have geological survey carried out over those areas. Then if it is judged as worthwhile to do so, those areas can be advertised, and the geological survey material made available, as part of a process of inviting tenders for licences. This might generate significant revenue in exploration fees. But it is intended to be restricted to just a few areas where it is judged worthwhile to incur the expense and make the considerable effort likely to be involved.
But if we do not set up the arrangements first, then it is likely that much of Bougainville will be covered by exploration licences, which would make it almost impossible to identify areas suitable for dealing with through international tender. More important, we would then only be able to grant our new small-scale mining licences – the Community Mining Licences – only with the consent of exploration licence holders. That consent will probably be very difficult to obtain.
The partial lifting, in relation to exploration licences and mining leases, should only be for a short time – only for the year or two needed until arrangements for grant of community mining licences and international tender of exploration licences are in place.
But at the same time, I would recommend strongly that we make small but important amendments to the Bougainville Mining Act.
The first amendment would be to limit the number of small scale mining leases. At present the Act restricts the number of large-scale leases tow no more than two at any one time – that is for mines like Panguna or Ok Tedi or Lihir. But there is no restriction on the number of small-scale mines (which, we must all remember, will usually be open-cut or tunnelling mines).
Once the Moratorium ifs lifted generally, if exploration licences are granted for all the prospective areas of Bougainville, it could become very difficult to limit the number of small-scale mines. The reason is that there will be pressures from licence holders, and some landowners, for developments to go ahead, so they can get the money on offer from mining.
Without restrictions on small-scale mining leases, we could face huge pressures to approve numerous mines, wherever minerals are discovered in exploitable quantities. We could perhaps have 10 or 20 such mines operating at the same time. The social and environmental impacts could be massive. Further, most of the available mineral resources could be extracted very rapidly, in the space of a generation.
My second suggested amendment would be simply a clarification that when considering lifting the Moratorium partially, the BEC may do that either by reference to category or tenement (e.g. full lifting of reconnaissance and artisanal licence and partial lifting of other tenements) or by reference to area for particular categories (e.g. in relation to exploration licences, mining leases and leases for mining purposes).
We should not be rushing to open Bougainville to unrestricted exploration and mining. Some Bougainvillean groups (and small foreign investors) are keen to see unrestricted exploration immediately, and so advocate complete lifting of the Moratorium in all parts of Bougainville. But many others remain suspicious or uncertain about, or opposed to, unrestricted exploration and mining development.
That, to my mind, is another good reason for proceeding gradually, by partial lifting. Then, when the very necessary, and highly important arrangements are in place for the grant of community mining licences and for inviting international tendering for exploration licences in selected highly prospective areas, we can review the situation again. We can then consider further lifting of the Moratorium.
Mr. Speaker, in summary, I recommend:
- Partial lifting of the Moratorium, in relation to grant of reconnaissance licences, artisanal licences, and quarry leases, for the whole of Bougainville;
- Partial lifting also in relation to grant of exploration licences, mining leases, leases for mining purposes and mining easements, initially restricted to two or three specific areas of Bougainville;
- Amending the Bougainville Mining Act:
- to clarify that partial lifting of the Moratorium by reference to categories of tenement is permitted;
- to restrict the number of small-scale mining leases that can be in operation at any one time.
This suggested approach to lifting the Moratorium and making minor amendments to the Act would allow most Bougainville mining interests access to minerals through artisanal licences. It would see continued protection against establishing many open cut and underground mines. That was the original aim of the Moratorium. It continues to be an important aim.
Lifting of the mining moratorium on Bougainville has hoodwinked the majority of people on Bougainville.
In March 2016, the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), knew that the decision on the future of the mining moratorium on Bougainville was a major concern and “that there should be wide public debate on the issues involved”.
This was reiterated again as stated by Patrick Nisira, Vice President of the ABG in his public leture on 28 April 2016 in Canberra.
Yet in his next breath, Patrick Nisira advises, “but we don’t have the funds necessary for an extensive public awareness and consultation program”.
Instead, the decision to lift the mining moratorium was done without the majority of people on Bougainville even knowing, therefore, appears they were deliberately left out of the decision.
They have been intentionally ignored on purpose to allow BCL (Bougainville Copper Ltd) and Rio Tinto to return to Bougainville.
So, if BCL returns to operate the Panguna mine, like it did in the past, will BCL and Rio Tinto be providing payment and compensation for the deaths and destruction it caused under the unfair Bougainville Copper Agreement?
The National,Thursday June 9th, 2016.
By FRANCIS PULU
ONLY time will tell when the Panguna Mine will be reopened after the Autonomous Bougainville Government House of Representatives lifted the mining moratorium in Parliament session on Tuesday.
Member for Hagogohe Constituency, Robert Hamal Sawa told The National that the decision was done in consultation with the people who agreed that the moratorium be lifted.
Sawa said the next task was for the Bougainville Executive Council, Bougainville Copper Limited, Government and the Panguna landowners to negotiate on how well the mine would operate in accordance with the new Bougainville Mining Act.
He said as the lifting was constitutionally amended, one condition of the lifting was for the Panguna Mine to be reopened.
“We decided that for the moratorium to be lifted and for Panguna Mine to operate again, only BCL will be allowed back because they know the operation back then,” he said.
Sawa said they did not want to engage another company apart from BCL which did not understand the situation in Panguna. For areas that have minerals, it was up to the resource owners to organise and decide which mining activity either in alluvial or exploration should take place.
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