“ Prime Minister, the reasons for your decision on the equity suggest that you believe that you know better than the ABG about Bougainville’s mining policy needs. You substitute your views for ours. Yet under the Bougainville Peace Agreement, responsibility for Bougainville mining policy has been transferred, so that these are now matters solely for the ABG.”
Letter from Bougainville President to PM of PNG
Dear Prime Minister,
I refer to your Government’s decision to allocate the 17.4 per cent equity in BCL (recently received from Rio Tinto) to ‘Panguna landowners and the people of Bougainville’. The decision must be rejected by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (the ABG).
PNG Panguna decision under mines Bougainville’s autonomy say Momis
You are reported as telling the Parliament on Thursday 18 August 2016 that you:
- ‘deliberately’ decided that the ABG should not be majority shareholder in BCL,
- ‘wanted a separate vehicle that the landowners can meaningfully and directly participate in BCL’, and
- do ‘not believe’ that the 5 per cent interest for landowners in mining operating companies provided under the Bougainville Mining is ‘sufficient enough to compensate some of the suffering the people of Bougainville had’.
Prime Minister, the reasons for your decision on the equity suggest that you believe that you know better than the ABG about Bougainville’s mining policy needs. You substitute your views for ours. Yet under the Bougainville Peace Agreement, responsibility for Bougainville mining policy has been transferred, so that these are now matters solely for the ABG.
We have given careful attention to mining policy. We give landowners veto power over ABG grant of mining licences, giving them real and direct involvement in decision-making. They must be satisfied with conditions and benefits before a project proceeds. A minority 17.4 per cent BCL equity that you propose will not give them any control over decision-making.
ABG policy also guarantees landowners 5% free equity in any mining operating company. If Panguna does re-open, that will be worth much more than 17.4% in the current BCL. Because re-opening will cost about K20 billion, a new developer will definitely be needed. The new capital requirements would then dilute all present BCL equity shares to tiny percentages. So 17.4 per cent in the existing BCL will only make landowners etc. minority shareholders in a company now worth very little.
By comparison, our Act guarantees they will have valuable equity in the fully funded project, if it re-opens. Our act also guarantees separate 1.25 per cent royalty shares each for: 1) mine lease landowners; 2) projects for those landowners; 3) adjacent landowners; and 4) infrastructure development for Bougainville generally.
It also guarantees landowner preference in mine employment and business opportunities. So our law offers very real financial benefits especially to landowners, but also to all Bougainvilleans.
The ABG believes that you are making ill-informed decisions about a complex situation that you clearly do not understand, and which do not bring real benefits to landowners. The decisions undermine autonomy, and are bad for Bougainville.
As the government of all Bougainvilleans, the ABG needs majority BCL shareholding to give it clear decision-making authority about Panguna in the interests of all Bougainvilleans, both landowners and others.
Bougainvilleans ask why you interfere in our mining policy. Do you fear that ABG control of Panguna could provide the revenue needed for Bougainville independence? In fact, no one knows if the agreed process under the Peace Agreement will lead to independence. More important, interfering in mining issues only causes deep anger in Bougainville. That is likely to cause increased support for independence. The only way you can now reduce support for independence is to work in cooperation with the ABG to make people see that autonomy really meets the needs of Bougainville. Supporting our mining policy is an essential start.
The ABG cannot allow your bad decisions to stand. I now offer you a final opportunity to resolve this issue. I request you to direct transfer of the 17.4 per cent to the ABG.
If you refuse to do so, the ABG must use other means to keep clear control of decisions on Panguna. In particular, we will cancel BCL’s exploration licence under the Bougainville Mining Act (notice to show cause why it should not be cancelled has already been given to BCL). We will then seek a new developer by inviting tenders using powers under our Mining Act.
That licence is BCL’s major asset. So cancellation would probably make all BCL shares almost worthless, including the 19.2% BCL equity PNG has held since 1972. Until now the ABG has been open to PNG retaining that equity. If Panguna re-opens, the National Government could then keep equity involvement. But if interference in ABG control of mining continues, we have no choice but to cancel the licence and completely end PNG involvement in Panguna.
That will not reduce landowner involvement in decisions about Panguna, or their sharing fairly in revenue, for the Bougainville Mining Act ensures their full involvement in both.
I await your response.
John L. Momis
The poison chalice at work.
Independence for Bougainville under threat.
Radio New Zealand, 25 August 2016
O’Neill stresses benefits in PNG link for Bougainville
8:34 pm on 25 August 2016
Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says Bougainville does not need independence but more government support to rebuild its infrastructure.
The National newspaper reports him telling parliament this week, during a debate reviewing the National Co-ordination Office of Bougainville Affairs, that his government is already helping the province’s infrastructure.
Bougainville is due to hold a vote on possible independence in 2019 and the government has to tell the people they would be better off remaining as part of PNG.
He says the likelihood of a country with a population of 200,000 surviving is very limited because its economy may not be strong enough.
Mr O’Neill says this is what Bougainvilleans need to know and his government has to win their confidence by ensuring it does deliver.
He listed the services, in health and education, that his government is responsible for putting in place in recent years, and the infrastructure, such as road sealing, that it has done.
Radio New Zealand,
From Dateline Pacific, Friday 26 August 2016
Transcript: John Jaintong (Me’ekamui, Bougainville) and
Don Wiseman (Radio New Zealand).
Bougainville’s Me’ekamui dismiss Rio share spat
The leader of Bougainville’s Me’ekamui rebel group, Chris Uma, says the spat over shares in Bougainville Copper Ltd, BCL, is of no consequence.
There has been a war of words between the governments of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville after multi national miner, Rio Tinto, gave its shares in BCL to them.
PNG later gave its shares to Panguna landowners, a move that infuriated Bougainville President John Momis, who says the shares should all go to his Autonomous Government.
But the special envoy for Mr Uma, John Jaintong, told Don Wiseman says it is irrelevant because in Me’ekamui’s view there is no BCL.
JOHN JAINTONG: Me’ekamui’s view is that there is no Bougainville Copper, because in 1989 when the mine was closed, Bougainville Copper walked away, got paid off with a large compensation for loss of business and loss of property. And to Me’ekamui, the mine has ceased to exist since 1989. And the land now returned to the people. To Me’ekamui, which represents the landowners who own the land, there is no company. So why get 17.4% of something that they already have 100% of. Who is Rio Tinto anyway to say OK, I give you back 17% of something that they don’t own?
DON WISEMAN: So would the Me’ekamui look at mining projects, anywhere in Bougainville?
JJ: Well, they’re not saying no to mining. But over the last couple of years, they’ve given [outlined] the process to how to handle the issue, leading up to the reopening of the mine. And leaders, politicians simply ignored it. They’re not against the mine totally. All they want is that the processes must be allowed to complete. Like, OK there were twenty-thousand lives lost. All they want to do is… Me’ekamui has to prepare a traditional feast and that can only be hosted by Bougainville chiefs. Now after that has been done, then they can move towards the next process of talking about the mine, whether with Bougainville Copper or somebody else.
DW: This critical issue for you at this point is the reconciliation?
JJ: That’s correct. And Chris has accused PNG and Bougainville leaders of being insensitive to the situation, the critical situation. And to him I think the peace process, that we all worked hard to put together, has been broken because, to him, the leaders of Bougainville have gone back to bed with the enemy – the enemy being Rio Tinto, or Bougainville Copper, for this matter.
DW: Well, it’s all very well for Chris Uma to criticise but this is the elected government. This is what the majority of people on Bougainville voted for, so don’t they have the right to be making the decisions rather than you guys?
JJ: Yeah, that’s true but Chris runs Me’ekamui – that remains outside of the peace process – so it’s a very critical situation. Now, Me’ekamui has still got 100% of the arms. Now this is a very deadly situation that I’m handling. And I speak for the people that if there’s any leader listening, they must know that the situation is very bad and now Chris is saying that the ABG has broken the peace process by going to be with the enemy, they are not listening to the wishes of the people. And these are the people with the guns, that they’re not listening to.
DW: Now in 2019, the province is to have this vote on possible independence. Is this something that the Me’ekamui under Chris Uma supports?
JJ: Well, first thing first. The way they’re going, it looks like more leaders on Bougainville is worried about the economic factors, soemthing like Bougainville Copper should be re-opened. But for it to reopen we must comply with the customary obligations. Don, I’ll give you a background: on Bougainville, the land is owned by the chiefs, and controlled by the chiefs. Whether you are in government, ABG or not, Me’ekamui under Chris Uma are saying no, ABG has no right to deal with land matters. It’s saying land matters completely remains the power that belongs to the traditional chiefs of Bougainville.
DW: If this reconciliation that you’re talking about was to go ahead and go ahead properly, would the Me’ekamui then allow themselves to be fully re-incorporated back into Bougainville?
JJ: Yes, that’s correct, that’s the only thing holding them back. They want to see that’s done quickly and amicably. Now to give you how they want it played out – they want it hosted by Chris Uma on behalf of the paramount chiefs of Bougainville who own the land and the prime minister of Papua New Guinea, but not by ABG. And Chris has been very vocal on this over the last few days in the media that he has not given John Momis the mandate to negotiate with Rio Tinto.
In all due respect to what John Jaintong is saying, we were always of the impression that “women who customarily are the genuine landowners and stand to support the effects of the mine on their land, culture and the environment” should be heard. Right now, it seems only the voices of men have the right of say about Bougainville.