Bougainville Mining News Alert : President Momis speech July 20 to House of Representatives about Rio Tinto

image2

” The PNG National Government also has serious responsibilities for the mine legacy issues. They received the biggest share of the mine revenues. As a result I expect the National Government to support the ABG as strongly as possible in applying the heaviest possible pressure on Rio Tinto to accept its responsibilities.

In addition, I demand that the National Government also accept responsibility to contribute to the costs of clean-up and other legacy issues.

We propose to discuss these matters fully in the special Joint Supervisory Body meeting we are demanding be held as soon as possible.I am calling on the members of this House, and the people of Bougainville, and all our supporters, to join us in an international campaign to force Rio Tinto to accept its responsibilities in Bougainville.”

20 JULY 2016 HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES – SPECIAL MEETING

STATEMENT (EDITED/REVISED) BY PRESIDENT JOHN MOMIS

RIO TINTO’S DECISION TO DIVEST ITS BCL SHARES, AND DENY RESPONSIBILITY FOR PANGUNA MINE LEGACY ISSUES

Mr. Speaker:

As the President, representing all Bougainvilleans, I welcome this historic meeting of Bougainville’s representative government. It is an historic meeting because we have called it to discuss deeply evil and unjust decisions about the source of the longest running problems and injustices in Bougainville – that is, the operation of the Panguna copper and gold mine.

The decisions involve the huge international mining giant, Rio Tinto. That company has decided to end its majority shareholding in Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL). It has also decided to deny all responsibility for Panguna mine legacy issues.

All members of the House must be fully informed about the issues involved in these decisions by Rio. I also want you to be informed about the consistent stand taken by me, and my government on the issues involved here. So I have directed that all members be provided with a full set of documents going back to early 2014.

Some Bougainville leaders and others – mostly people with their own economic interests in mining and a few outsiders who demonstrate deep ignorance of Bougainville – have claimed that I have some sort of link to BCL or Rio Tinto. But as I am sure you all know, that is complete nonsense.

Since the late 1960s, I have been a consistent supporter of justice for Panguna mine lease landowners. I have never changed that position. Even when I became President in mid-2010, I supported looking for alternative investors. But I was eventually – and to some extent reluctantly – persuaded by the many leaders representing the Panguna lease landowners that they preferred to deal with what they called the ‘devil that they knew’. That was BCL. Their reason was that they believed that BCL accepted some responsibility for the conflict and for mine legacy issues.

Technical advice supported the landowner view. BCL (with Rio Tinto as majority shareholder) returning to Panguna and accepting responsibility offered the best way to make sure an environmental clean-up would occur and that other legacy issues would be resolved. In addition, international treaties that the ABG is bound by would make expropriation of companies very difficult.

As you all know, this was not a matter of me, as President, or the ABG, forcing re-opening of Panguna against the wishes of the mine lease landowners, or the wishes of Bougainvilleans more generally.

Of course, there are some landowners and some Bougainvilleans from elsewhere, who do not want mining.

But there is also no doubt that the ongoing consultation by successive Presidents – Kabui, Tanis and Momis – and successive ABGs under the leadership of all three, demonstrates broad support for re-opening of the mine. That involves strong majority support from landowners of the mine lease areas, as well as Bougainvilleans from all three regions.

Re-opening Panguna is generally recognised as the best way to achieve not only a clean-up of Panguna and the tailings, but also to fund economic development for the Panguna and tailings areas, and to provide the funding needed for Bougainville to have either real autonomy or independence. And, of course, the ongoing refusal of the National Government to fund the ABG as required by the Peace Agreement has cemented that support for large-scale mining resuming. As the recent debate in this House on whether the 1971 moratorium on new mining exploration and development shows, our people and leaders have become very frustrated with PNG government failure to honour its funding commitments to the ABG and to Bougainville.

None of this means that the ABG is happy with the way that BCL and Rio have operated in Bougainville in the past – quite the opposite. As a result, we have insisted on the strongest conditions – that any future mining at Panguna must be under completely new conditions. Those fair and just conditions are laid down in our Bougainville Mining Act. In addition, we insisted that BCL have only an exploration licence over the former SML. Under our Mining Act BCL lost all other rights. That was part of the reasons why Rio decided to with draw from Panguna.

So I ask all members to accept the simple truth. That is, that the ABG has taken a strong and consistent stand in support of the rights of the people of Bougainville.

Let me now tell you more about the recent Rio Tinto decisions, and the strong responses by my Government since those decisions were communicated to us.

Representatives of Rio Tinto asked me at very short notice to go to a meeting with them in Port Moresby on the evening of Wednesday 29th June. They said it was to discuss the then ongoing review by Rio of its equity in its majority-owned subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL). That review had begun in August 2014, in response to the ABG Transitional Mining Act. Beyond that brief notification, I had no indication of the subject of the meeting.

The senior Rio employee advised me of the company’s decision of the outcome of the review of its majority 53.8 per cent ownership of Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL). Rio’s main decisions were:

First, to transfer its shares at no cost, 36.4 per cent to the ABG to hold on behalf of the people of Bougainville, and 17.4 per cent to PNG, which would result in the two governments being equal shareholders in BCL, with 36.4 per cent equity each;

Second, that Rio believes the company has no responsibility to fix up the extensive legacy issues arising from the operation of the mine

I am deeply concerned by both aspects of the Rio decisions. In relation to the shares transfer, Rio provides just one justification. In the Rio press release of 30 June 2016 the company says that equal ownership ‘ensures both parties are equally involved in any consideration and decision-making around the future of the Panguna mine’. In our meeting on the 29th, the Rio people even talked to me about the Rio decision being intended to encourage co-operation between the two governments!!!

In relation to legacy issues, they gave just two reasons for denying any responsibility. One is that BCL operated the mine under the then applicable PNG law. The other is that BCL was forced to end mining, and lost its investment at Panguna, by Bougainvilleans opposed to mining.

My government, and all Bougainvilleans, oppose the 17.4 per cent shares in BCL being transferred by Rio to the PNG government. The justification for the transfer advanced by Rio has no basis.

Rio is well aware that the ABG has previously accepted PNG retaining its original 19 per cent equity in BCL. That ensures that in any event PNG has an ongoing role in any major decision-making about the future of the Panguna mine.

Further, we need no guidance from Rio about cooperating with the National Government. We negotiated the Bougainville Peace Agreement with the National Government, and we continue to our attempts to improve our cooperation with the National Government. We need no advice on such matters from Rio Tinto. In saying their offer of shares to PNG is intended to encourage cooperation is an insult to the ABG.

Of much greater concern is the fact that in two meetings with Rio Tinto representatives in July 2015 and February 2016, I advised in the strongest terms about the dangers to the Bougainville Peace Agreement should PNG get control of BCL through receipt of shares (should the Rio equity review result in divestment of the shares in BCL). Rio has simply ignored that advice.

Equal PNG shareholding with the ABG raises the same grave dangers for the future of peace in Bougainville. Moreover, its decision on allocating shares was clearly made in close consultation with PNG, and without consulting the ABG. Perhaps they both forgot that the mineral resources BCL was established to mine are located in Bougainville. Perhaps they forgot that Bougainville is autonomous, and has full power over mining.

Before we deal with anything else, let’s be clear on one thing. That is, that the Panguna mine generated huge profits for Rio Tinto – and also massive revenues for PNG. All loans for the cost of setting up the Panguna mine were repaid by BCL in its first three years of operating.

 

So while it is true that mine closure resulted in Rio losing its investment at Panguna, that investment was by then already repaid many times over. And how was it paid? By Rio digging up and selling Bougainville’s minerals, and by doing that without regard to the terrible impacts on the people of the mine lease areas.

The mine also generated huge revenues for the second largest shareholder in BCL – the PNG National Government. Of course, PNG was the regulator and taxing body as well.

Figures provided in a 1991 book written by BCL’s former Managing Director, Paul Quodling, shows that total mine revenues between 1972 and 1989 were distributed as follows:

For the National Government, 61.46 per cent of total revenues – over K1 billion at a time when the Kina was worth 8 or 10 times more than it is now;

Other private investors received K577 million, or 32.9 per cent of total revenues – which means Rio and the small private investors who held 27.2 per cent equity also received significant revenues;

For the North Solomons Provincial Government (on behalf of the people of Bougainville), just K75 million, or 4.28 per cent of total revenues;

For the mine-lease landowners, just K24 million, which was an insulting 1.37 per cent of the total revenues. We all know that the mine was forced on Bougainvilleans, very much against the wishes of the landowners of the lease areas. It was established and operated under grossly unfair conditions. Landowner of the mine lease areas, and of adjacent areas, suffered massive mine impacts.

Yet they received what is now clearly acknowledged as a grossly unfair amount of compensation. The mine was closed as a result of action by landowners, mine workers, and people from adjacent areas.

They wanted BCL and the National Government to negotiate a new basis for mining – one that would be much fairer for both landowners and the rest of Bougainville. They had no intention to close the mine permanently. It was the brutal violence of PNG police mobile squads, and later PNGDF elements, that turned the conflict into a far wider uprising.Now, 27 years on, it is the landowners of the mine lease areas and adjacent areas that are dealing with terrible legacy issues.

They include immense and environmental damage caused by:

the huge mine pit;

the nearby unstable tailings dumps and the large ‘lakes’ behind some of them;

the destruction of the Kawerong and lower Jaba rivers by dumping of billions of tonnes of overburden and mine tailings;

a massive delta of tailings that juts 15 kilometres into the sea on the west coast of Bougainville;

deteriorating chemical storage areas;

and so on.

 

This is complete hypocrisy!It is grossly unjust – completely unacceptable – for Rio to now refuse any responsibility for the long-term impacts of the operations of its subsidiary, BCL.

They told me they can walk away because they operated the mine under the PNG legal standards of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. But it was clear in the 1980s, at least, that the standards of the day were appalling.

It was the injustice of those terrible standards that caused the conflict. The whole point of the wonderful ‘corporate social responsibility standards’ and ‘sustainable development’ principles that Rio claims to subscribe to, is that mining companies accept that their responsibilities go well beyond prevailing legal requirements.

Further, it is a grave misrepresentation to claim that the Panguna mine was closed by Bougainvillean opponents of mining.Yet Rio Tinto held on for 27 years, from 1989 to 2016, always hoping it could come back and make more profits. So why has Rio decided to walk now? It is mainly because of its own assessments of how it can best use its financial resources to make more profits.

It has large copper and other mining projects in other parts of the world where it assesses it can better use the US$8 billion needed to reopen Panguna.In addition, low commodity prices and sovereign risk issues of investing in Bougainville have contributed to the Rio Tinto decisions.

Those same issues mean that it is now increasingly unlikely that the Panguna mine will re-open in the short to medium term, and perhaps even beyond that. Those facts make the legacy issues even more important.

How will the legacy issues get dealt with now? The ABG does not have the resources needed.Rio Tinto is the parent company of the mine operator, BCL, that generated so much revenue that the mine was the ‘jewel’ in the Rio Tinto ‘crown’.

For the historical reasons that I have just discussed, Panguna never had a proper mine closure program. If the parent company wants to leave now, it has serious mine closure responsibilities, just as it would in a normal mine closure situation, arising when a mineral resource is exhausted, or no longer profitable.

The PNG National Government also has serious responsibilities for the mine legacy issues. They received the biggest share of the mine revenues. As a result I expect the National Government to support the ABG as strongly as possible in applying the heaviest possible pressure on Rio Tinto to accept its responsibilities.

In addition, I demand that the National Government also accept responsibility to contribute to the costs of clean-up and other legacy issues.

We propose to discuss these matters fully in the special Joint Supervisory Body meeting we are demanding be held as soon as possible.I am calling on the members of this House, and the people of Bougainville, and all our supporters, to join us in an international campaign to force Rio Tinto to accept its responsibilities in Bougainville.

We will discuss the possible approaches to such an international campaign later. But I have already begun by a letter to the International Council of Mining and Metals – a mining industry association that Rio belongs to.

The letter calls on that Council to investigate Rio’s departure from Bougainville as a failure to honour that council’s sustainable development principles. As this body is no more than a mining industry association, we probably cannot rely on it to do much. But the letter is a start to raising international awareness of the shameful decisions that Rio Tinto has made.But let’s go back now to the BCL shares issue.Mr. Speaker:

As I have made clear in the past, the ABG does have important protections available under the Bougainville Mining Act. The main protection arises where there are dealings in more than 25 per cent of the shares of a company holding an exploration licence.

Then the ABG Secretary for Mining must initiate proceedings to terminate the licence. BCL’s only Bougainville tenement is an Exploration Licence over the area of its former SML. So a notice of termination will be served on BCL shortly. If the National Government continues to hold the 17.4 per cent equity in BCL transferred from Rio Tinto, termination of the licence will certainly occur.

The key issue here is not the re-opening of Panguna, or any commercial considerations about investment in Panguna. No – the key issue is the future of peace.

If the National Government agrees to the ABG holding the full former 53.8 per cent Rio Tinto equity in BCL, it will be clear that the National Government agrees to Bougainville having full control of decisions about Panguna and the future of mining in Bougainville. That will help change views of the National Government amongst Bougainvilleans. It will end what is now the deep suspicion that in the lead-up to the Referendum, that the National Government is seeking to keep control over Bougainville’s affairs.

Yet as I have informed the Prime Minister in my letters to him since 30 June and my meeting with him on 2nd July, the distribution of Rio Tinto’s shares offers a remarkable opportunity to help end the problems, divisions and conflict for good. It can be done in ways that directly benefit both the National Government and Bougainville.

The issues here are not just symbolic. There are also major practical concerns. In particular, the Peace Agreement gives Bougainvilleans a right to freely choose their political future in the forthcoming Referendum. If the National Government insists on having equal control of Panguna through ownership of BCL shares, Bougainvilleans will undoubtedly believe that it is trying to maintain its financial control of Bougainville. That appearance alone is a grave threat to the faith of our people in the Peace Agreement.

The readiness of at least some in the National Government to accept Rio Tinto’s initiative to place PNG in equal control of BCL, and therefore of Panguna, raises a grave threat to peace in Bougainville, and peace between Bougainville and Papua New Guinea.

Panguna involves the most sensitive issues for all Bougainvilleans. They are deeply emotional and highly symbolic – for all of us. They are at the heart of the problems, divisions and conflict in Bougainville, which are not yet fully resolved.

For all Bougainvilleans, the idea that the National Government hold either majority or equal shares in BCL involves a totally unacceptable degree of control over decisions on the future of mining. This is where we face the danger to the Peace Agreement, and to the whole peace process.

For the National Government to have equal equity in BCL with the ABG is equally unacceptable.

There is a deep history of conflict and bitterness in Bougainville over the impacts of the Panguna mine. As members will see from the documents distributed to all members of this House, since 2014 I have been advising the Prime Minister, in the strongest terms, that it is impossible for Bougainvilleans to accept National Government control of Panguna through control of BCL. I gave the same advice to Rio Tinto officials in my two earlier meetings with them.

 

Its main reason for not following those principles here is that when BCL was doing the terrible damage that generated its profits, it was following the laws of the time. But clearly those laws were completely contrary to those same wonderful principles it claims to honour now.

But according to Rio the admirable principles that it now so proudly follows do not apply in Bougainville!!

By it’s own standards, Rio Tinto cannot realistically think it can just walk away from its responsibilities at Panguna. Since 1989, in part because of recognising how its very inadequate operating standards contributed to the Bougainville conflict, Rio Tinto (and other major mining companies) have adopted much improved corporate social responsibility and sustainable development standards. Rio Tinto now publicly claims to operate under those standards, world-wide.

It’s true that Rio and its subsidiary, BCL, lost assets and funds and sources of profits when the mine closed. But it’s also true that the landowners and the coalition of other Bougainville groups working with them were not seeking permanent mine-closure. Rather, they were desperately trying to get the National Government and BCL to listen to their pleas for justice. If their pleas had already been heard, the Bougainville conflict would never have occurred.

Rio says that they obeyed the laws of the time. But they know full well that those laws were unjust. What’s more, we know that BCL also understood the injustice at that time. That’s because BCL management was more open than the National Government to the arguments for change that were coming from the landowners and the Provincial Government in the 1980s.

What I am describing here is just a small part of the terrible consequences that our people are living with as a result of the mine. This is the same mine that put so much money into the pockets of the National Government, Rio Tinto, and a few others amongst the small shareholders in BCL. Yet they deny any responsibility for the damage that they did while generating that money.

At Morotona, where the Jaba River mouth people were relocated, there are major land and resource tensions between the large number of settlers, and the increased numbers of the host community. The original settler houses were flooded out years ago. Those people now live in basic bush material houses, with very little gardening land, no access to sak sak, no water tanks. Their drinking water comes from polluted soaks in the ground, contributing to their suffering many health problems.

The houses of the villages in the SML were all destroyed by the police in 1989. They now live in houses rebuilt from scrap. Their garden areas are miles away. Their water and sewage arrangements are hopeless. In Moroni, the septic tanks have been full to the brim for years. When it rains, raw pek pek (sewage) runs through the village.

Conditions for those relocated village people are far worse in 2016 than they were in the 1980s. Numbers in the relocated villages have grown dramatically. So they are much more overcrowded and have even less resources than in the 1980s.

The people of the many villages relocated by BCL – against their wishes – live in the most terrible conditions. This involves villages such as Moroni, Dapera, Pirurari, Kuneka and the Jaba river mouth. Today, the ongoing loss of their land and relocation to new village sites means we are talking here about many thousands of people. They lost not just their land for houses, but also land for gardening, timber, sak sak for roofing, and so on – all the resources of their land. They were forced into tightly packed areas with inadequate housing that was not maintained by BCL. No provision was made for rising populations and newly married couples. So there was terrible overcrowding. BCL ignored our Melanesian cultural values of deep respect for ol tambu. In-laws were forced to live in the same houses.

Fish life in the Kawerong and Jaba rivers, and also in all the many rivers and creeks that run into them, has been dead for 40 years. The levy banks built by BCL to contain the flooding of nearby areas arising as the bed of the Jaba river rose (because of the depositing of vast amounts of tailings) were breached by flood waters over 15 years ago. River water polluted by acid leached from the crushed tailings now floods huge areas of our people’s land all along the lower Jaba.

When I met the Prime Minister on Saturday 2nd July, I was not aware that the National Government had already accepted the transfer of 17.4 per cent equity from Rio Tinto.

I was initially reassured that he understood the serious dangers involved in the National Government accepting the 17.4 per cent equity. I believed that he understood our concerns and was ready to consider the shares coming to Bougainville.

But later that day, I received the information that the National Government had already accepted transfer of the shares. I immediately wrote to the Prime Minister, demanding that the shares be transferred to Bougainville.

I became much more concerned by the statement of the former Minister responsible, Mr. Ben Micah, reported in the Post Courier of 12 July. He alleged that the negotiations with Rio Tinto about equity transfer had been under direction of the Prime Minister. Micah said that he had ‘been in discussions with Rio together with the Prime Minister and we have kept Mr. Momis abreast of our discussions’.

If there was cooperation between the Prime Minister and Mr. Micah, that would be very worrying. But more importantly, it is completely untrue that the Prime Minister and Mr. Micah have kept me advised of their discussions. To say so is a complete lie. My last discussion with them was in December 2015. At that time I was advising them of the ABG’s strong opposition to the National Government taking over the Rio Tinto’s 53.8 per cent equity in BCL. (They were then proposing to pay Rio Tinto US$100 million for those shares.) I also opposed their argument that the ABG say nothing about Rio having responsibility for environmental and other legacy issues. They feared that such concerns could damage their ‘commercial negotiations’ with Rio Tinto. My last communication with them on the issues was my letter to the Prime Minister of 10 December 2015, a copy of which is in the documents provided to all members.

Since then I have not had a single word from them about their thinking about the BCL shares. If, as Mr. Micah says, they have kept working on this, then they have done it in complete secrecy, with not a word to me or the ABG. That secrecy in unacceptable to Bougainville, for they are playing with rights to Bougainville’s resources as if the issues do not have anything to do with Bougainville.

But in a response to my letter to the Prime Minister of 3rd July, received through his Chief of Staff, the Prime Minister provided assurances to me that:

  1. He was not aware of the acceptance by National Government-owned company Petromin, of the transfer of the 17.4 per cent equity; and
  2. He was willing to ask the NEC to re-consider the issue of that transfer of the equity.

Whatever happened in negotiations between PNG and Rio Tinto, my demand is that the Prime Minister honours his most recent assurances. So he must ensure the earliest possible decision to transfer the 17.4 per cent equity to the ABG.

If that does not occur, then the relationship between the ABG and the National Government, indeed, between Bougainville and Papua New Guinea, will come under terrible pressure.

I wrote to the Prime Minister again on Monday 18th July, strongly advising him that he now has an opportunity to end the tension developing over the shares issues. In a single move, he can develop a new and more positive relationship between his government and Bougainville. A copy of that letter is the last of the set of documents provided to all members.

I have urged the Prime Minister to resolve the issues, once and for all. I have asked him to do so in advance of the motion of no confidence on Friday 22nd July. This is an opportunity for him to counter allegations against the Prime Minister and his government. He can send a strong signal to the whole country of his creative and unifying leadership, and of hope for the future.

In my letter to the Prime Minister of 3rd July, I also demanded the earliest possible meeting of the Joint Supervisory Body to deal with the Rio decisions. That means dealing with both the shares issue, and the mine legacy issues. I am insisting that the National Government both take its share of responsibility for those issues, and support the ABG in its strong actions to apply pressure on Rio Tinto to take its responsibility for the long-term damage it caused by its profit-making.

In that JSB, we will also raise PNG’s responsibility to contribute to what will undoubtedly be the huge cost of dealing with mine legacy issues. PNG owes a huge debt to Bougainville. That arises not only from the massive financial contribution to PNG independence from Panguna, but also from its cocoa and copra production over many years, and from ol save man blo yumi, who contributed so much to PNG both before and after Independence. Now is the time for that debt to be honoured, so that the mine lease landowners –  the people who suffered most in the making of that contribution – are  not forgotten, not left in misery!!

 

I am yet to receive any response from the Prime Minister to my demand, made on 3rd July, for holding an urgent Joint Supervisory Body meeting

 

Mr. Speaker:

Bougainville has come full circle. We are back to where we were in 1997, at the beginning of the peace process. Then we were deeply divided. Only by unifying and working together could we successfully negotiate the Peace Agreement.

 

But in the period since the BPA was signed, it has become clear that some divisions remain. We have two groups of Me’ekamui people that oppose one another in claiming to be the true government of Bougainville. The leader of U-Vistract a failed Ponzi fraud scheme claims to head a kingdom of Papa’ala, that he says is somehow in charge of Bougainville.

 

We have small outside mining interests, with very poor track records, that have linked up with small Bougainville factions. We have a greedy adviser to a silly landowner leaders, causing new divisions. We have a small group now of 7 or 8 former combatants from outside the Panguna area claiming that they will decided what happens there.

We even have a supposedly educated Bougainvillean, who has been outside Bougainville for years, now coming back and trying to scare our people with false ‘awareness’ campaigns, telling complete lies. They include claims that the Bougainville Mining Act is against the people. She tells former combatants that the amnesty under the Peace Agreement will end in 2020, and that they will then face the death penalty under PNG Law.

 

What nonsense! The Mining Law offers the most complete protection to landowners – more than any mining law anywhere in the world. And the amnesty and pardon will not end in 2020. They are provided fully under the Peace Agreement and the PNG Constitution, and will continue beyond 2020, whatever happens. Awareness cannot be created by a person with complete ignorance of the truth.

 

Mr. Speaker:

We, the true leaders or the only true government of Bougainville, must unite against these unfortunate, deluded, and irresponsible people who are seeking their own advantage by sowing division and confusion. Only by uniting can we make real progress in the next stage of our efforts to build lasting peace in Bougainville.

 

So, members, I am asking you, as the elected leaders of Bougainville, to work with me to unite the people of Bougainville around two main issues.

 

First, we must unite in demanding that the whole of the Rio 53.8 per cent shareholding in BCL be transferred to the ABG.

 

Second, we must unite in developing the strongest possible international campaign to apply all necessary pressure on Rio Tinto to accept its mine legacy issues such as the needs of relocated villages. At the same time we must work to persuade the National Government to accept its responsibilities for Panguna legacy issues.

Bougainville Peace Building News : Quest for truth, justice and reconciliation in Bougainville

 PNG

” Peace and reconciliation efforts since the 2001 peace agreement, supported by international donors including Australia, which plans to spend about $50 million on aid here in 2015-2016, have been rolled out in a data vacuum.

Now, a referendum in Bougainville on independence from Papua New Guinea looms within the next four years. It is a key pillar of the peace agreement, together with disarmament and the granting of autonomous government. But people across the islands have real concerns that unaddressed wartime abuses could undermine unity. Emotions and expectations of political change run high.”

Catherine Wilson The Saturday Paper 16 July Australia
Picture above   : The Prime Minister of Papa New Guinea’s Peter O’Neill visit to the autonomous island of Bougainville in 2014  – the first trip by a sitting PM since the end of the civil war in 1997 – has been warmly received by locals and ex-combatants : At one event the leaders of Bougainville and PNG both broke a bow and arrow across their knee to reaffirm the end of hostilities.

Since being ripped apart by violence and civil war, Bougainville’s attempts at reconciliation have barely scratched the surface. Fresh calls for more traditional ‘truth telling’ are bringing renewed hopes for peace.

He has suffering and fury in his bloodshot eyes, which are brimming with tears as he talks about his life in Bougainville, the eastern autonomous region in Papua New Guinea, which emerged 15 years ago from a devastating civil war, known as “the Crisis”.

Peter, in his 60s, from Keriaka village on Bougainville Island’s distant west coast, is standing in Buka, the northern capital, surrounded by market-going crowds. He is unleashing a tirade against corruption and lack of development in his remote rural area. The can of South Pacific Lager in his hand ejects an arc of spray as he gestures wildly to make a point. Curious onlookers are now intently watching our very public interview.

“We are paying taxes and in return we have nothing … and the content of the peace agreement is not being implemented as it should. How can we move toward the future while these issues of the past are not being addressed?” he says. Visible in his face is the trauma that still grips him after he fought and suffered during the decade-long conflict.

In 1989, civil war erupted after an armed uprising by local landowners shut down the Panguna copper mine, majority-owned by mining giant Rio Tinto and the Papua New Guinea government. The massive mine, located in the mountains of Central Bougainville, was operated from 1972 by Australian subsidiary Bougainville Copper Ltd, but within 16 years it was the centre of indigenous protests about loss of customary land, environmental destruction and local stakeholders’ negligible share of its revenue, which peaked about 1.7 billion kina ($700 million).

Papua New Guinea blockaded Bougainville in 1990 and the conflict raged on for another eight years, as the armed forces and revolutionary groups fought to gain control of the region.

Estimates of the death toll range from 15,000 to 20,000 people, or 10 per cent of the population. But there has been no inquiry into wartime atrocities and no accurate information is available of how many people died or suffered abuses.

“When we talk about the Crisis-related problems, our ideas are all mangled together and we are just talking on the surface, not really uprooting what is beneath, what really happened,” Barbara Tanne of the Bougainville Women’s Federation tells me. “Unless we sort out everything, we come with the truth telling, we cannot progress to the next level.”

Later, escaping the relentless humidity under a tree at the Catholic diocese offices, I meet Alex Amon, president of Suir Youth Federation in North Bougainville, who agrees with Tanne. “I am 100 per cent going for that,” he says. “I am supporting a truth commission to be established before the period of the referendum, because we cannot walk across the land of milk and honey when there are differences.”

Secessionist sentiment, evident in Bougainville since the 1970s, was reflected in Bougainville president John Momis’ assertion in a speech last year that the peace agreement “provides us with an exclusive right to self-determination”.

Transitional justice mechanisms, such as truth commissions or criminal trials, are considered important for postwar reconciliation. Victims of human rights abuses have a legal right to know the truth of events and see perpetrators brought to justice. In its absence, experts warn, there is a high risk of trauma and mistrust festering and resurfacing in further violence or unrest.

Helen Hakena, one of many women who persuaded combatants to lay down arms before the 1998 ceasefire, now strives tirelessly through the Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency, which she founded, for peace and development.

“There are victims,” she tells me. “They know the perpetrators but the perpetrators are walking freely right in the communities … It is really an injustice when you, the perpetrator, are moving on with your life as though nothing has happened but I cannot move on.”

She anticipates consequences if atrocities aren’t addressed. “It is happening now … The elderly people are passing on their negative experiences to their sons, who have not experienced that [the Crisis] and they will continue to hate the perpetrator’s family. Some of these kids will not know why they hate these people and there will be repercussions years later.”

The Bougainville government’s acting director of peace, Stephanie Elizah, acknowledges that previous discussions about transitional justice have never been acted on. There is particular sensitivity around the topic, particularly with former combatants, for whom the partial amnesty period from 1988 to 1995 is contentious.

In 2014, the government launched a policy to provide assistance to families still searching for loved ones who disappeared during the conflict, but it does not support justice or compensation measures.

Investigating human rights abuses soon after a fragile peace was declared would have entailed some risk, given that several armed groups did not sign the peace accord, nor surrender their weapons. However, Elizah admits the government’s current approach to peace and reconciliation, which will be reviewed this year, has fallen short of addressing deep-rooted grievances. “Those who have been involved in some form of injustice to the next human being – some of them have been allowed to just go and be forgotten.”

The situation is now backfiring, with “a resurgence of human rights abuses … also new forms of payback, torture and sorcery killings”, reports the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Nearly one in five men in Bougainville had engaged in sorcery-related violence. One in two men, and one in four women, had been witnesses, according to a Bougainville study released by the UN Development Program last year. One in three men and women said there is lack of peace in their communities.

South of Buka, the central town of Arawa, located 26 kilometres from Panguna, saw intense fighting. Walking towards the heaving central fresh produce market, the sound of a helicopter cuts the air. Passers-by gaze silently skyward as it soars into the mountains in the direction of the mine. No longer do helicopters induce fear of being strafed by gunfire.

But last October, the rural community of Domakungwida, not far from Arawa, was stunned by brutal shootings. One male villager, accused of witchcraft, was murdered. Then a relative of the victim picked up a gun and shot the person believed to have led the killing. Arson and further violent retribution followed.

Local resident Rosemary Dekaung told me that witchcraft accusations related to events during the Crisis are
not uncommon. “People have been accused of killing others during the Crisis and that has carried on in the form of recent killings.”

She is adamant that customary truth telling and reconciliation processes, employed following clan wars for generations and led with remarkable success by local leaders recently in Domakungwida, should be rolled out consistently to address the Crisis.

When I ask Rosemary Moses at the Bougainville Women’s Federation in Arawa if this is actually happening, she replies that “unfortunately this is where we have let ourselves down. We have let other people drive the [reconciliation] programs that are for our people.” She says that the lure of donor money, rather than local ownership, has overshadowed hundreds of reconciliations. Internal revenue accounts for only 10 per cent of the Bougainville government’s yearly budget of about 300 million kina, making it heavily reliant on international donors and the PNG government to fund peace and development programs.

The Catholic bishop of Bougainville, Bernard Unabali, suggests customary and modern truth-telling mechanisms may be needed, but the former must come first. He reserves judgement on the truth and reconciliation commission launched in 2009 in the neighbouring Solomon Islands, which had its own civil conflict from 1998-2003. He says time is needed to see if it has made a difference to lasting peace. Nevertheless, he does not dismiss the idea of taking those guilty of mass abuses to court. Nor does Moses, who believes it would help restore a sense of justice in Bougainville. “The voice of the common people is so low…” Moses says. “At the moment there is a lot of fear in terms of what they can say, especially when it comes to atrocities.”

At the bottom of the mountain road that leads up to the Panguna mine, where it all started 27 years ago, youths in camouflage fatigues swing on the boom gate as we drive through Morgan Junction. The valley is scattered with rusting mine infrastructure and gutted buildings. Amid the ruins a young man proudly displays a garden of flowers he has grown and schoolgirls throw a ball around a deserted car park. And I wonder about the world they will inherit in another decade.

Bougainville News from the Speaker : ” A week in politics is a long time “

Kubu

 ” We have a generally happy, relatively well-to-do and forward looking population. If there is a bridge to build or a catalyst to work up and apply much of this work and action falls fairly and squarely on the laps of leaders in the VAs, communities, churches but utmostly on the political leaders in the House.

I can see and tell you about positive, progressive changes we are making in the Legislature as one of the three arms of Government and in the parliamentary service which is the administration that serves and supports the MHRs, including Ministers. For now I just want to say that the Bougainville House of Representatives – the People’s House – will be an important catalyst for improvement and positive change in the way MHRs play and deliver their roles.

When we are clear what we expect of our elected leaders it also becomes much more clear how we should serve and assist them.”

A LETTER FROM KUBU, BUKA From Simon Pentanu Speaker of the House AROB

Most of us that greet the red rubberball-like sunrise to begin the day here may think (or be fooled into thinking) that the world is like this everywhere.

Buka town yesterday was choco-blocked with moving and mingling crowds that descended here from south, central, west and north to compete, watch and meet in the boxing/kick boxing tournament hosted in town.

The shouts and sights of encouragement for the competitors chasing to pummel and kick each other to the floor in the limited ring space was a spectacle for many that crowded around to watch. If there weren’t any tournament rules the pairs of these fist and leg combatants should be all declared winners.

Thanks to the tournament organisers like Robert ‘Imam’ Semoso, Buka town was a winner. Buka Market was the busiest I’ve seen on a Saturday and the women were doing a roaring trade in kulau at 50t to K1 per green fresh nut, in peanuts and other edibles. The shops nearby were doing likewise selling carbonated cold drinks in cans. Taxis were very visible moving bodies around town and beyond.

I don’t know who won the tournament in the ring. Or which Region won most bouts. But everyone went away in the happy knowledge that it was a good day enjoyed by all. No one was killed. I didn’t see any body bags being carted out of the tournament area.

We are so blessed and fortunate in Bougainville and in this country that we do not have to face the wrath and mindlessness of suicide bombers killing and maiming us. We do not have to wake up to the news and the scene of chaos and death and see authorities cleaning up maimed body parts which is not unusual in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and, not infrequently, in the Holy Lands. France too, it seems has been marked out as the brunt of terrorists wrathe, anger and pay back.

Turkey has had its share of bombings. As if that isn’t foolish, ghoulish and despicable enough some of its soldiers and airmen just rolled into the streets in tanks ploughing into defiant crowds and took to the air with choppers and fighter jets and dropped explosive bomb on their Parliament which killed a lawmaker. There are other countries in the region that are steeped in a precarious balance when it comes to sanity and stability.

Are we too harsh on ourselves? After spending exactly one year, one month in the presiding role in our House I think we often are. This is also how long it has taken me to move into the speaker’s residence at Kubu. The long wait is unacceptable but it’s not something that has stressed me and I haven’t dropped dead. There are more important and urgent matters to do with our people to attend to than moving into a house. From this experience however, my assurance is I will never put my successor through the same waiting experience.

We have a generally happy, relatively well-to-do and forward looking population. If there is a bridge to build or a catalyst to work up and apply much of this work and action falls fairly and squarely on the laps of leaders in the VAs, communities, churches but utmostly on the political leaders in the House.

I can see and tell you about positive, progressive changes we are making in the Legislature as one of the three arms of Government and in the parliamentary service which is the administration that serves and supports the MHRs, including Ministers. For now I just want to say that the Bougainville House of Representatives – the People’s House – will be an important catalyst for improvement and positive change in the way MHRs play and deliver their roles. When we are clear what we expect of our elected leaders it also becomes much more clear how we should serve and assist them.

I would like to think that PBA’s role and its efforts in hosting the June 15 AROB Day annually is an important catalyst and pointer in this direction.

The recent period leading up to the Court ordered resumption of the National Parliament meeting has attracted a lot of good and bad attention. It also included a short period of madness in UPNG campus which also spread to other campuses and violence in some towns. An innocent student’s life was taken away in his sleep at UNITECH. For what! UPNG campus was closed before more buildings could go up in flames. A combined effort of PBA, NCOBA, ABG officials and relatives and friends has seen Bouginville students come home.

It’s a seven day itch and wait for the Oppostion from Friday 15 July to Friday 22 July. For those that want to see the back of the incumbent PM they require some miraclulous intrusion into the minds of MPs still in the Government ranks to find out how they will vote on the Motion of No Confidence. But it won’t be difficult given that this is very obviously and obtusely a numbers game. I don’t think you even need the guesstimates of number crunchers of yesteryears that used to add and substract from 109 MPs then, when the numbers were close.

If the Motion is called up and taken to its conclusion we will have the coalition Government numbers on the right and the opposition and its stock of numbers on the left of the Speaker’s Chair. From where the Speaker is sat he looks straight down the middle of the Chamber to the Bar of Parliament at the back and the back entrance into the Chamber. In the past this is where backbenchers were allocated seats. They had a role to play then including providing the numbers to decide when the VONC hung in the balance. But not today. The backbencher in the PNG Parliament is an extinct species.

As I sit and write this in the surroundings of a picturesque setting looking out from atop a cliff dwelling to the main entrance into the Buka Passage, I just received a text saying the Government and coalition numbers are at 91. This is an increase from what I was told by another friend from Port Moresby yesterday. I don’t expect to be told the same numbers by different people.

A week in politics is a long time. A week in politics trying to shore up numbers to oust a Government that is confident of its rank and file support is not easy. For the Government they can well say this will turn out to be a Vote of Confidence.

In the intervening days in trying to decide whether or not to cross the floor, jump ships, sit aloft a fence or stay put, some Members will have either cooked their goose, or shot themselves in both feet or will have had their proverbial cake and eaten it too.

Bougainville Women’s News : Alcohol, gender and violence in #Bougainville #PNG

Women

” The Bougainville conflict had a deplorable impact on gender relations. Violence against women increased dramatically during the crisis period, when women were subjected to humiliation, physical and psychological violence, rape and other forms of sexual assault.

The respect that women held previously due to the matrilineal system of descent has been undermined and rates of violence continue to remain high, suggesting that violence has been normalised and that violent masculinities have become common.

Published July 12 DevPolicyBlog AUSAID

View all Bougainville News Women’s Articles HERE

Download report HERE PDF

alcohol-gender-violence-bougainville-20160712

The 2013 Bougainville Family, Health and Safety Study reported for the year 2012 that 22 per cent of women had experienced physical violence and 19 per cent of men had perpetrated it. This study also reported that 85 per cent of men had ever perpetrated physical, sexual or frequent emotional or economic violence against a partner, and three-quarters of women had experienced this.

This post reports on research undertaken in Bougainville in October 2015.[1] Unlike previous studies, this research specifically explored the relationship between women’s economic empowerment and violence against women through in-depth qualitative interviews.

Interviewees included business women in the urban context of Arawa (Kieta District) and rural women involved in informal marketing and alluvial mining (Panguna District) and in informal marketing and cocoa farming (Tinputz District).[2] Preliminary analysis reveals a strong connection between men’s excessive alcohol consumption and violence against their intimate partners.

Alcohol and violence

Two decades ago, Mac Marshall (1993) pointed out the widespread social problems associated with alcohol use in the Pacific, including domestic strife, crime, community fighting and disruption, and accidents while drink driving.

The relationship between alcohol, gender and violence has also been highlighted by researchers writing on Papua New Guinea (Dernbach and Marshall 2001:30). In the highlands, wife-beating was most severe when men were drunk, according to Larry Grossman (1982:66), while Christine Bradley (1985:60) reported that the Tolai of East New Britain saw male drunkenness as the cause of wife-beating and of other problems, such as damage to property, shortage of money, infidelity and other conflicts.

International research has also found a strong link between alcohol and violence against women. The World Health Organization’s 2013 study Global and Regional Estimates of Violence against Women [pdf] notes that the ‘harmful use of alcohol and violence are intertwined’ (p. 24). Recently, Lucia Hanmer and Jeni Klugman (pp. 255–6) reviewed demographic and health survey data for 22 countries, and found that husbands’ use of alcohol is systematically related to violence against wives and that women who report that their husbands are often drunk are five times more likely to be subject to violence.

The Bougainville case

The women we interviewed in Bougainville considered that alcohol consumption by their partners was a major resource-depleting activity and was central to marital discord and violence. By far the most violence was connected to men’s use of alcohol, usually excessive consumption in episodes of binge drinking.[3]

Several women reported that their husbands became violent if they refused to give them money or questioned their spending on alcohol. Several women who had never experienced violence themselves also stated that decision-making about money, especially resource-depleting consumption of alcohol, usually resulted in violence. Men, who often do not contribute to the household, become violent if reproached by their wives for wasting money on themselves and depriving the family.

One woman in Arawa advised her married daughters not to talk to their husbands when they were drunk because, as she said, ‘the sense has gone out’.

Prior to drinking sessions some men control their spending on alcohol by giving money to their wives to safeguard. One woman from Panguna remarked that her husband was ‘good’ because when he drinks he gives her the money so that he won’t spend it all.

However, men who adopt this strategy sometimes demand the money back when drunk and will become violent if it is not forthcoming. Several women reported this, including one whose husband spent all his income from his car repair workshop on beer and demanded money from her income whenever he was drunk.

Another woman from Arawa reported that when she and her husband were both in employment, he spent most of his salary on beer and demanded money from her when his was spent. When she refused, he would destroy belongings in the house. A woman from Tinputz said her husband would destroy their belongings when he came home drunk if there was no food for him and she lamented that many women faced this problem today, because the drought had made food scarce.

It is important to note that these reports of drunken violence do not mean that alcohol is the fundamental cause of violence (Bradley 1985:60). The point is that alcohol consumption intersects with already existing negative gender relations which position women as subordinate to men. Furthermore, alcohol consumption is layered upon forms of masculinity that license extremely assertive and aggressive responses to any slight, no matter how small.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, our Do No Harm research shows that it cannot be taken for granted that women’s economic empowerment will reduce the risk of violence.

The stories of violence we heard in Bougainville confirm that when women bring economic resources into the household, they do not inevitably become more empowered or suffer less violence.

A key lesson to be drawn from the Bougainville case study so far is that women’s economic empowerment programs need a wider focus beyond giving women access to economic opportunities. If women are to be truly empowered, work on gender is required, in particular the role of gender norms and practices in the context of marital relationships, and this must include an effort to address the excessive consumption of alcohol by male partners.

SSGM logoRichard Eves is a senior research fellow with the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) Program at ANU. This post was originally published as SSGM In Brief 2016/15.


Notes:

[1] The research — ‘Do No Harm: Understanding the Relationship Between Women’s Economic Empowerment and Violence Against Women in Melanesia’ — is a collaboration between SSGM and the International Women’s Development Agency and funded by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Pacific Women program.

[2] The research team (Steven Simiha, Irene Subalik, Genevieve Kouro) completed 45 interviews with women, 20 with men, and 20 with key informants. The focus here is on the interviews with women, as they show up the relationship between violence and economic empowerment particularly.

[3] Not all violence involves alcohol and the women interviewed gave a variety of reasons for their husbands’ violence against them, including jealousy, not doing their work or not doing their work to their husband’s satisfaction, among others. It should also be noted that some husbands beat their wives regardless of whether they are drunk or sober.

References:

Bradley, C. 1985. Attitudes and Practices Relating to Marital Violence among the Tolai of East New Britain. In S. Toft (ed.) Domestic Violence in Papua New Guinea. Law Reform Commission of Papua New Guinea Monograph No. 3. Port Moresby: Law Reform Commission of Papua New Guinea, 33–71.

Grossman, L. 1982. Beer Drinking and Subsistence Production in a Highland Village. In M. Marshall (ed.) Through a Glass Darkly: Beer and Modernization in Papua New Guinea. Monograph 18. Boroko: Institute of Applied Social and Economic Research, 59–72.

Marshall, M. 1993. A Pacific Haze: Alcohol and Drugs in Oceania. In V.S. Lockwood, T.G. Harding and B.J. Wallace (eds). Contemporary Pacific Societies: Studies in Development and Change. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 260–72.

2

Bougainville Tourism News : #PNG Minister for Tourism launches Buka Town Tourism Development Initiative

Buka 1

National Minister for Tourism, Arts & Culture, Tobias Kulang in partnership with his colleague ABG Vice Minister for Tourism, Robert Hamal Sawa, today officially launched the Buka Town Tourism Development Initiative 2016- 2020.

Photo and Text Augustine Minghai Kinna

Buka 3

Bougainville culture at its best! The YUMI YET BAMBOO BAND from Haku Constituency of Buka District performing in today’s launching of the Buka Town Tourism Development Initiative 2016- 2020.

Buka 4

The initiative will be a strategic roadmap towards making Buka Town a tourism hub by 2018. This is an on going programme that aims to pursue not only remarkable but tangible developments through to 2020 and beyond by establishing the Solomon Seas Tourism Zone Initiative which will enable cooperation and links with the wider Pacific.

Buka 2

The onus is now with the people of Bougainville to take ownership of the initiative in supporting the ABG government and other relevant authorities with the programme. Tourism is a hidden pot of gold in Bougainville that needs to be tapped into to be realised. Today’s launching signifies the start of greater things to be achieved by the tourism industry in Bougainville and Papua New Guinea has a whole.

And a visit to South Bougainville

Text and Picture Sasha Tahei Pei-Silovo

Oic 5

The Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture Honourable Tobias Kulang being welcomed by cultural groups in Buin-South Bougainville earlier today.

The Minister accompanied by a delegation of representatives from the Ministry, Tourism Promotion Authority, National Cultural Commission and Office of Tourism, Arts and Culture, and ABG Members met with Tourism stakeholders in Buin to discuss ways forward in developing Tourism in the area.

The Minister is officially touring the Autonomous Region visiting South, Central and North Bougainville and will also launch the Bougainville Tourism Programme and Buka Tourism Plan on Friday in Buka. #PNGTourism #AROB #Buin #TobiasKulang #Pacific #tourism #Bougainville

 

Bougainville Peace Building News : Autonomous Bougainville Government Parliamentarians return from peace building training in Fiji

ABG

“The training was a major success and an eye opener for Members of the Bougainville. Most of us in Bougainville are not aware of the high level of perception that the international community especially in UN circles has of the Bougainville Peace Process.

It was a major learning experience about how successful our peace process on Bougainville has been despite some setbacks. We came out of the training proud that Bougainville can be a model for peace-building on the world stage and it has encouraged us to work harder with our people to build peace”

David Braun, ABG Member for Tinputz.

Members of the Bougainville House of Representatives including the Regional Member for Bougainville and Minister for Bougainville Affairs Hon. Joe Lera, and the Clerk of the Bougainville House of Representatives Mr. Robert Tapi, recently returned from a five-day training organized by the United Nations Development Programme on Parliament and Peacebuilding. The training was held from 20-24 June 2016.

Training focused on the role of Parliament in the process of national peacebuilding. It covered a range of issues, including the oversight functions of the Parliament, social accountability, inclusion of civil society and citizens as tools for effective peacebuilding approaches to gender mainstreaming and more.
During their stay, the Parliamentary team paid a courtesy call on the Speaker of Fijian Parliament Dr. Jiko Fatafehi Luveni, and also met with parliamentary committees including the Law, Justice, and Human Rights and Natural Resources committees.
A Bougainville Parliamentary spokesman representing the team hailed the training programme as a major success. According the spokesman, besides the training on peace, stability and mediation, the team was able to witness the differences in structure of the Fijian Parliament and that of the Bougainville House of Representatives.
This included transparency of the law-making process in the Fijian Parliament, the linkage between the customary and formal government, the effective management of land tenure systems, the growth and development of the tourism sector as a major revenue earner and many other innovative parliamentary insights.
UNDP supported participation of the parliamentarians as part of its wider efforts on peacebuilding in Bougainville. Funded by the UN Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), which provided more than $8 million USD since 2014, it aims to support the peace process in Bougainville and help to create an enabling environment for a credible and inclusive referendum, together with other UN agencies on the ground.

Bougainville Mining News: Momis slams PNG Minister’s statement as “misleading and mischievous nonsense “

Micah

Mr. Micah’s statement that Kumul Minerals will keep the shares until then is nothing but misleading and mischievous nonsense. It is intended to give the impression that somehow he and Kumul Minerals are in control of the share, and concerned to look after Bougainville’s interests. Nothing could be further from the truth.

‘Mr. Micah has been trying to get control of Rio Tinto’s BCL shares for over two years. He has had secret dealings with Rio.

I call on the Prime Minister to overrule his irresponsible minister. He must protect the peace process by transferring the 17.4 per cent shareholding to the ABG.”

Bougainville’s President, Dr. John Momis, described a statement on the Tinto shares in BCL by Ben Micah, Minister for Petroleum and Energy ( Pictured above with PNG PM O’Neil ) as ‘misleading and mischievous nonsense’.

He was referring to public debate following Rio Tinto’s recent decision to divest its 53.8 per cent majority shareholding in Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL). Rio has transferred its shares to a Trust, with 36.4 per cent available to the Bougainville Government, and 17.4 per cent to the PNG government. With its existing 19.3 per cent shareholding, this would make PNG equal shareholder with Bougainville. The PNG government shares were accepted by Petromin the day Rio announced its decision. Bougainville has yet to announce its decision on the shares.

But on 7 July Mr. Micah was reported as claiming that PNG owned company, Kumul Mineral Holdings Ltd will keep the 36.4 per cent offered to Bougainville until the ABG accepts the shares.

President Momis said:

‘Kumul Minerals Holdings, Mr. Micah, and the National Government have no role in relation to the 36.4 per cent BCL shares available to the ABG. Those shares were transferred by Rio Tinto to an Australian-based Trust – Equity Trustees Limited – under a Shares Trust Deed. The ABG has two months in which to decide whether to accept the transfer of the shares.

‘Mr. Micah’s statement that Kumul Minerals will keep the shares until then is nothing but misleading and mischievous nonsense. It is intended to give the impression that somehow he and Kumul Minerals are in control of the share, and concerned to look after Bougainville’s interests. Nothing could be further from the truth.

‘Mr. Micah has been trying to get control of Rio Tinto’s BCL shares for over two years. He has had secret dealings with Rio. In December 2015, he told me that the National Government must buy the Rio shares for US$100 million, in order to stop Rio selling the shares to outside interests. When I subsequently questioned Rio representatives in February they denied any such deal.

‘As President of Bougainville, I have no trust at all in Mr. Micah having any role in relation to these shares. If, as reported on Friday, the Prime Minister has no knowledge of the transfer of the 17.4 per cent of BCL shares from Rio to Petromin on 30 June, then clearly the evil and irresponsible move to make PNG equal shareholder in BCL together with the ABG has been cooked up between Rio and Mr. Micah. That deal must now be undone.

‘I call on the Prime Minister to overrule his irresponsible minister. He must protect the peace process by transferring the 17.4 per cent shareholding to the ABG. The ABG will then be majority shareholder, with PNG still holding its existing 19.4 per cent. The ABG accepts that the National Government should retain a role in BCL, but only if the ABG controls mining policy, and the company that owns the Panguna mine. ~`

‘BCL hold only an exploration licence over the former Special Mining Lease at Panguna. Under the Bougainville Mining Act, if 25 per cent or more of shares in a company holding an exploration licence are transferred, the ABG MUST initiate action to terminate the lease. The transfer by Rio to the Trust means that the termination process must now begin. The ABG Minister for Mining, Robin Wilson, has given instructions to the Secretary of the ABG Mining Department to issue a notice to BCL to show cause why its licence should not be terminated.

‘If the National Government keeps the 17.4 per cent shares, then nothing will stop the termination process being completed. Then BCL will have its cash and its Panguna drilling data, but no licence in Bougainville. That would be a bad outcome for everyone. We prefer to work with the National Government. But that must be on a basis where the ABG is in control of Bougainville’s mining.’

The President also referred to Mr. Micah’s claims of great support for the PPP on the basis of the very recent victory of PPP party candidate, Timothy Masiu, in the by-election for South Bougainville Open. He said:

‘The result does not indicate strong support in Bougainville for PPP – far from it. Instead it was a victory for a well-known person from a well-known Buin area family, who happened to have strong financial support from MR. Micah’s PPP party. The policies of the PPP and the roles of its leader, Mr. Micah, do not have support in Bougainville.

‘If the voters of South Bougainville had known at the time they cast their votes that Mr. Micah was arranging with Rio Tinto for the National Government to become equal largest shareholder in BCL, then Mr. Masiu would have been completely rejected as a PPP candidate.

‘I call on the new MP, Mr. Timothy Masiu, to explain to Mr. Micah the deep sensitivity amongst Bougainvilleans about the future of the Panguna Mine. I call on him to convince Mr. Micah to support the transfer to the ABG of the 17.4 per cent shares in BCL. Mr. Masiu must persuade Mr. Micah to transfer the shares if he is to have any chance of returning as a PPP MP in 2017.’

Hon. Chief Dr John L. Momis, GCL, MHR

President, ARoB

10 July 2016

Bougainville Mining News : President Bougainville, Dr. John Momis, lashes out “greedy irresponsibility” of Rio Tinto

bouganville_2009

Rio has advised me that it is free to ignore the damage it caused because its subsidiary (BCL) operated Panguna according to the laws of the 1970s and 1980s. It therefore does not regard itself as bound by the much higher corporate responsibility standards of today. Rio also say that BCL was closed by Bougainvilleans opposed to mining.

‘Bougainville rejects those argument. The corporate responsibility standards that Rio accepts today largely result from what it learned from its Bougainville experience.”

President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Dr. John Momis, lashed out today at what he termed the “greedy irresponsibility” of global mining giant, Rio Tinto. He has requested the Speaker of the Bougainville House of Representatives to call a special meeting of the House in Buka next Wednesday, 13th July

He was discussing Rio’s decision of 30 June to end its majority shareholding in its subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL).

He released his letter of 4 July to the International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM) Chair.

See Attached

Momis to ICMM – 4 July 2016

It complains of Rio’s failure to meet the ICCM’s Sustainable Development principles.

President Momis said:

‘Rio Tinto’s predecessor, Conzinc RioTinto Australia (CRA), made immense profits from operating the Panguna mine – so much so that BCL was often described as the “jewel” in the CRA crown. But in operating the mine, it was Bougainville that bore severe environmental and social costs.

‘Environmental damage includes the massive pit, kilometres wide and hundreds of metres deep, never remediated in any way.

It includes the vast areas filled by billions of tons of mine tailings tipped into the Kawerong and Jaba rivers, now lifeless as a result of acid rock leaching. Fish life in the many rivers and creeks running into the two main dead rivers has also been destroyed.

The tailings filled river valleys. The levy ban built to contain the tailings was breached more than ten years ago. Huge swamps have swallowed forest and farm land. Large dumps of chemicals are yet to be cleaned up.

‘Social impacts include the appalling living conditions of the thousands of people involuntarily resettled by the mine.

‘Rio refuses to accept any responsibility for these and the many other negative impacts that were the costs of its vast profits. In their greedy irresponsibility they now propose to walk away from Panguna without further thought about the damage that they caused.

‘ICMM’s website http://www.icmm.com/our-work/sustainable-development-framework claims that by ICMM membership companies such as Tio Tinto commit to “implement and measure their performance against 10 sustainable development principles”. The ICMM says that it conducts “an annual assessment of member performance against their principles”.

‘ICMM Principle 3 commits Rio to “Uphold fundamental human rights and respect cultures, customs and values in dealing with employees and others who are affected by our activities”.

This committs companies to “minimize involuntary resettlement and compensate fairly for adverse effects on the community where they cannot be avoided.”

BCL paid the derisory compensation levels to relocated villages required in the 1970s and 1980s. But not only is it clear that these levels were far too low then, in addition, the relocated villagers suffering has continued and increased dramatically since the 1980s, with no compensation.

And Rio plans to walk away with no thought as to their future suffering, all caused by a mine these people never wanted.

‘ICMM Principle 6 requires Rio to “rehabilitate land disturbed or occupied by operations in accordance with appropriate post-mining land uses’. No rehabilitation has occurred.

‘ICMM principle 10 requires Rio to ‘provide information [to stakeholders] that is timely, accurate and relevant, and to engage with and respond to stakeholders through open consultation processes. Rio has completely failed in these responsibilities. It has not provided any information to Bougainvillean stakeholders about its review or its plans.

‘Rio has advised me that it is free to ignore the damage it caused because its subsidiary (BCL) operated Panguna according to the laws of the 1970s and 1980s. It therefore does not regard itself as bound by the much higher corporate responsibility standards of today. Rio also say that BCL was closed by Bougainvilleans opposed to mining.

‘Bougainville rejects those argument. The corporate responsibility standards that Rio accepts today largely result from what it learned from its Bougainville experience. The war in Bougainville was not about ending mining – it was a cry for mining on just terms, similar to those that are delivered by good standards of corporate responsibility. To ignore today’s standards is hypocrisy.

‘In a situation of low copper prices and the likely high sovereign risk of Bougainville, it’s unlikely that Panguna will reopen for a long time. In those circumstances, Rio must have responsibilities for rehabilitation and other activities similar to those arising in a mine closure situation.’

The President said he had asked the ICMM Chair, Mr. Andrew Michelmore, to investigate Rio’s failure to meet the mining industry standards set as conditions of ICMM membership. ‘I have asked the ICMM to required Rio Tinto to meet those standards. I have called on the ICMM to expel Rio if it fails to adhere to ICMM principles. Rio Tinto’s behaviour towards Bougainville exhibits greed and irresponsibility which the mining industry must reject.’

John L. Momis

President, ARoB

7 July 2016

Bougainville #PNG Mining News : Disgust at #PNG Government Share Deal with Rio

PNG

“I am calling for an urgent meeting of the Joint Supervisory Body to deal with what is now not just a major dispute between Bougainville and the National Government, but also the gravest threat to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, and the future of peace between PNG and Bougainville, in the 15 years since the signing of the Agreement in August 2001

The key issue is not Panguna reopening, or any commercial considerations involved. In fact, given both low commodity prices and sovereign risk issues, there is little likelihood of reopening for a long time.

Rather, the key issue is the future of peace.”

President Momis Photo above Joint Supervisory Body Copyright Bougainville News

President Momis today expressed shock and disgust at a “disgusting and shady deal” between the National Government and Rio Tinto. He said that the National Government was deeply involved in Rio Tinto’s decision to transfer 17.4 per cent equity in Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL), making the national Government equal shareholder, with the Autonomous Bougainville Government, in BCL.

President Momis said :

“Rio Tinto officials verbally advised me on Wednesday night or Rio’s decision to transfer its shares to a trust, with 17.4 per cent to be available to PNG and 36.4 per cent to the ABG. The ABG has been aware since 2013 that PNG was proposing to purchase Rio’s 53.8 per cent majority equity in BCL.

I advised the Prime Minister on many occasions that Panguna Mine and BCL share issues were deeply sensitive for Bougainville.

I told him that National Government majority ownership in BCL could endanger peace. I expressed the same views to Rio Tinto in meetings in July 2015 and February 2016.

“So I am shocked to find that without consulting the ABG, they have entered a disgusting and shady deal over Rio shares in BCL. Making the National Government and ABG equal shareholders gives the National Government equal power with the ABG over decisions on Panguna. So equal shares is just as offensive as majority PNG ownership.

“This decision is a grave threat to the Bougainville Peace Agreement. The National Government and Rio originally cooperated to force an unjust Panguna mining deal on Bougainville. They now continuing their partnership against Bougainville.

It is deeply worrying that Rio and PNG are again conspiring against Bougainville in this share deal.

“There can be no doubt the National Government was involved. Rio officials first advised me of the Rio share decision around 9.00 p.m on the night of Wednesday 29 June. But a subsidiary of national Government company, Petromin, accepted the Rio Tinto shares the very next day – Thursday 30th June.

I can see no way Petromin could have been ready to jump on 30 June if PNG was not fully involved in Rio’s decision on its BCL shares.

“Yet when I met the Prime Minister to discuss the shares issue two days later, on Saturday 30 June, he said he needed to see the details of the Rio decision, said he had refused to meet the Rio Officials on 30 June, and made no mention of the Petromin acceptance of the shares.

If this is not duplicity of the highest order, the Prime Minister needs to provide a full explanation of the actions of both his Government and himself.

“The Bougainville Peace Agreement is a joint creation of the National Government and Bougainville.

Both committed themselves to work for peace. Rio Tinto and the National Government contributed to the origins of the conflict in the way they dealt with Panguna.

They have no excuse for not understanding the dangers to peace if insensitive decisions are made about Panguna. Neither Rio nor the National Government are free to make such decisions on purely commercial grounds.

The National Government knows the terrible dangers of dealing with Panguna in a way intended to give it greater control over Bougainville. And of course, it is increased control that they want.

“We must all be quite clear here. Giving the National Government equal equity in BCL is a direct threat to peace. The apparent involvement of the National Government in the Rio decision adds deep insult to the clear injury involved in the Rio Tinto shares decision.

“At the same time, I have written to the Prime Minister emphasising that Rio Tinto shares issue still offers us a remarkable opportunity. We can end the Bougainville divisions and conflict for good.

If the National Government agrees to the full dormer 53.8 per cent Rio Tinto equity in BCL going to the ABG, it will be clear that PNG agrees to Bougainville having full control of decisions about Panguna. That will change views of Bougainvilleans.

It will end what are now deep suspicions that, in the lead-up to the Referendum, PNG is seeking to keep control over Bougainville’s affairs. We must not lose this unique chance.

“The key issue is not Panguna reopening, or any commercial considerations involved. In fact, given both low commodity prices and sovereign risk issues, there is little likelihood of reopening for a long time. Rather, the key issue is the future of peace.

“I have spoken with the Speaker of the Bougainville House of Representatives. He will urgently recall the house to meet, to discuss the issues involved in this unacceptable joint decision by Rio Tinto and PNG.

“ In addition, I am calling for an urgent meeting of the Joint Supervisory Body to deal with what is now not just a major dispute between Bougainville and the National Government, but also the gravest threat to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, and the future of peace between PNG and Bougainville, in the 15 years since the signing of the Agreement in August 2001”

John L. Momis

President, ARoB

3 July 2016

Bougainville News: Rio Tinto’s Withdrawal from Panguna and Opportunities from This Evil Move ?

 Momi Pon

“The evil involved here is that it constitutes completely unwarranted Rio Tinto interference in Bougainville’s affairs, and in the complex relationships between the National Government and Bougainville.

All issues about the Panguna mine are deeply sensitive for Bougainvilleans. The mine was imposed on Bougainville for the benefit of PNG as a whole. But it was Panguna landowners, as well as other Bougainvilleans, who bore the cost, and received very little in the way of benefits.

The second shameful and evil aspect of the Rio decision is its determination to walk away from the Panguna mine without in any way recognising the company’s contribution to the terrible environmental and social impacts of the mine.

At the same time, it is, I believe, possible that in cooperation with the National Government, we can find ways to turn Rio’s shameful and evil decision into something that offers positive outcomes for all major stakeholders.

Here I include Panguna mine-affected landowners, other Bougainvilleans, the ABG, the National Government, and BCL.

The opportunity for a positive outcome arises if the National Government is prepared NOT to take up the transfer of Rio shares in BCL that is now on offer through the Rio Tinto appointed trustee.”

QUOTE from PRESS CONFERENCE President John Momis

Port Moresby 1 July 2016

Opportunities from This Evil Move?

Picture above:

“Since being informed of the Rio Tinto decision, I have been seeking a meeting with the Prime Minister where we can discuss this proposed way forward. Between us, we are now presented with a unique and historic opportunity to finally end the conflict over the Panguna mine, and the conflict between Bougainville and PNG.

What I propose is fully consistent with the Bougainville Peace Agreement. Under the Agreement, the two governments have committed themselves to resolving our differences and working together cooperatively.

We seek the understanding of the National Government, and of Papua New Guineans generally, of the burning desire of Bougainvilleans to control this, the most sensitive of areas of economic activity in Bougainville.”

Rio Tinto’s Withdrawal from Panguna and  Abdication of its Corporate Social Responsibilities:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for coming to discuss issues arising from Rio Tinto’s decision about its withdrawal from involvement in the Panguna copper and gold mine, by transferring its majority 53.8 per cent shareholding in Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) to a trust which is required to offer the shares to the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and the PNG National Government.

The importance of BCL is that although it no longer owns the Special Mining Lease (SML) that allowed it to mine at Panguna, the Bougainville Mining Act passed by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) in March 2015 granted BCL an exploration licence of the area of the former SML.

The Act gives BCL the right to negotiate for the grant of a new mining lease under the new Bougainville law. Because BCL still has the drilling data for the ore body that was being excavated between 1972 and 1989, its right to negotiate could have considerable value.

The Rio Tinto decision to divest of its shares in BCL is a remarkably unprincipled, shameful, and evil decision. Yet this is a decision by an international mining giant, a company that holds itself out internationally as bound by quite different standards from those that it has demonstrated through this decision.

The shame and evil does of Rio Tinto’s decision does NOT lie in the withdrawal from BCL. Rather, it relates to two key aspects of the way in which Rio has withdrawn from BCL.

First, Rio has directed that of its 53.8 per cent equity, 36.4 per cent should be offered to the ABG and 17.4 per cent to the National Government. When that 17.4 is added to the National Government’s existing minority shareholding in BCL, it too will have 36.4 per cent.

So the ABG and the National Government would be equal minority shareholders in BCL, each with 36.4 per cent. The remaining 27 per cent shares would still be held by small shareholders all over the world.

The evil involved here is that it constitutes completely unwarranted Rio Tinto interference in Bougainville’s affairs, and in the complex relationships between the National Government and Bougainville.

All issues about the Panguna mine are deeply sensitive for Bougainvilleans. The mine was imposed on Bougainville for the benefit of PNG as a whole. But it was Panguna landowners, as well as other Bougainvilleans, who bore the cost, and received very little in the way of benefits. It was resentment about the unfairness of the mine that led to the terrible loss of life and destruction of the Bougainville conflict.

Because of that background, Bougainvilleans are determined that they must control all future decision-making about not only Panguna but also all other mining in Bougainville.

That is why, from the time that the ABG was established in 2005, it has insisted that all powers over mining must be transferred to Bougainville control. So we cannot accept the unilateral Rio Tinto decision to make the ABG and the National Government equal shareholders in BCL.

In two long meetings with senior Rio officials, in July 2015 and February 2016, I made it clear to them that National Government control of Panguna is unacceptable. I insisted that if Rio Tinto was to divest its majority shareholding in BCL, it must transfer the shares to the ABG, at no cost.

But in their arrogance and ignorance, Rio decided that they knew better. They made their decision without ever once discussing with us what they unilaterally decided to do.

What they decided imposes their wishes on Bougainville. But joint control of Panguna with the National Government can never be accepted by Bougainville. Already, I am hearing from Bougainville of deep anger amongst my people about the BCL decision.

The second shameful and evil aspect of the Rio decision is its determination to walk away from the Panguna mine without in any way recognising the company’s contribution to the terrible environmental and social impacts of the mine. It is clear now that the conditions for mining agreed in the 1960s largely ignored the environment.

They also largely ignored the impacts on landowners, especially the many hundreds who were relocated away from their land. Those people now number thousands. They live in terrible and squalid conditions in houses made from scrap materials, without proper water supplies or gardening land.

Yet Rio Tinto, which largely as a result of its Bougainville experience, now says it subscribes to the highest standards of social responsibility and sustainable development, says those standards don’t apply to its involvement in the very mine where their poor operating standards caused the conflict that pushed them into adopting new standards.

This is hypocrisy!

Bougainville cannot accept this. I am writing to the International Council of Metals and Minerals asking them to end Rio Tinto’s membership for failure to adhere to its principles.

In addition, the ABG is seeking legal advice about possible court proceedings against BCL for the environmental and social impacts of the mine.

At the same time, it is, I believe, possible that in cooperation with the National Government, we can find ways to turn Rio’s shameful and evil decision into something that offers positive outcomes for all major stakeholders.

Here I include Panguna mine-affected landowners, other Bougainvilleans, the ABG, the National Government, and BCL.

The opportunity for a positive outcome arises if the National Government is prepared NOT to take up the transfer of Rio shares in BCL that is now on offer through the Rio Tinto appointed trustee.

If it refused the shares, then they would be offered for transfer to the ABG in two months. The ABG would then be able to become the 53.8 per cent owner of BCL. The National Government could continue to be the main minority shareholder, with its existing 19 per cent shareholding.

If the National Government agrees to cooperate with Bougainville in this way, it would go a very long way to consolidating change in attitudes of Bougainvilleans to the National Government.

It would also change the thinking of many Bougainvilleans who have until now opposed the re-opening of the Panguna mine. For if the mine is owned by Bougainville, the choices about mining will be very different.

So since being informed of the Rio Tinto decision, I have been seeking a meeting with the Prime Minister where we can discuss this proposed way forward. Between us, we are now presented with a unique and historic opportunity to finally end the conflict over the Panguna mine, and the conflict between Bougainville and PNG.

What I propose is fully consistent with the Bougainville Peace Agreement. Under the Agreement, the two governments have committed themselves to resolving our differences and working together cooperatively.

It is also consistent with the provisions of that Agreement about the main purposes of the autonomy arrangements. Those purposes include giving Bougainvilleans the ability to solve their own problems and achieve their own aspirations.

A key source of Bougainville’s problems has long been the Panguna mine. That is why the ABG has pursued transfer of mining powers. If the National Government were to have equal control of the Panguna mine, that would be contrary to the ABG gaining control of mining in Bougainville. It would be contrary to the aims of autonomy.

We seek the understanding of the National Government, and of Papua New Guineans generally, of the burning desire of Bougainvilleans to control this, the most sensitive of areas of economic activity in Bougainville.