Bougainville News : Momis says PNG relations are at an all time low

Momi Pon 

The PM fails dismally to respect the Peace Agreement, over mining, grant payments, and transfer of powers. Under his leadership, relations between Bougainville and the National Government are at an all-time low. The future of peace is now truly under threat.

“This is the most serious dispute ever between the two governments. I am offering the PM a last opportunity to resolve the dispute. I want a meeting with him no later than next week.”

Bougainville President, John Momis has expressed fury at the Prime Minister’s announcement

That 17.4% BCL equity recently transferred to PNG by Rio Tinto will be given to landowners and Bougainville’s people. The PM said he deliberately decided that way so that the ‘ABG does not control the shares’.

The President said he was angry because it’s the ABG that speaks for the people of Bougainville, and cannot be excluded by the PM. Further, the transfer of 17.4% the landowners is worth little. The ABG Mining Law gives them full decision-making involvement and a good revenue share if mining resumes.

“The future of Panguna is Bougainville’s most sensitive issue. I have explained to the PM several times why it is vital the ABG holds the Rio shares in BCL. He has rejected my advice. He is interfering in Bougainville. He acts in the same high-handed manner as the colonial administration and BCL when the mine began. That caused the Bougainville crisis.

“The Bougainville Peace Agreement says autonomy aims for Bougainville to find solutions to its own problems. The ABG is the government for Bougainville for all matters where powers are transferred. All mining powers have been transferred. So all mining decisions are matters for the ABG.

“If we cannot resolve the issue, the Mining Minister will use the power under the ABG law to cancel BCL’s exploration licence under the Bougainville Mining Act over the area of the previous Panguna SML. Notice has already been given to BCL to show cause why the licence should not be cancelled.

“That licence is BCL’s only major asset. Cancellation would make all BCL shares almost worthless. That includes the 19.2% BCL equity PNG has held since 1972. If the ABG is to remain in control of Bougainville mining we have no choice.

“Bougainville’s MPs must now show leadership and end their shameful silence on this issue. They must advise the PM to transfer the shares to the ABG.

“ABG action to cancel the licence will not reduce Panguna-lease landowner involvement in decisions about Panguna, or sharing in revenue if the mine does re-open. That’s because the Bougainville Mining Act gives those landowners full power to say no to grant of a mining licence. So they will be fully involved in all decisions on mine re-opening.

“The Act also guarantees landowners 5% equity (free carry) in the mining operating company. That will be worth much more than the PM’s 17.4% because re-opening will cost K20 billion, dramatically diluting all existing equity. Our Act guarantees a valuable share in the fully funded mine. The PNG 17.4% gives a small minority shareholding in a company now worth very little.

“The PM is not telling the truth.”


Bougainville Referendum News : A pledge by Bougainville leaders to work together

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” All four national Members: Hon Joseph Lera, Minister for Bougainville Affairs, Jimmy Miringtoro, Minister for Communications, Hon Louta Atoi, member for North Bougainville and the recently elected MP for South Bougainville Hon Timothy Masiu  all took turns to air and share their views on the importance of consultations and commitment to work together on matters concerning Bougainville.

The pledge expresses a desire for everyone to be on the same page in implementing the terms and intentions of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, a historical joint creation borne out of the efforts of the National Government and Bougainville’s political and factional leaders.”

Photo above : All four Bougainville national MPs with visiting members of Bougainville’s parliamentary committee on referendum after the Pledge

Autonomous Region of Bougainville’s four elected members in the National Parliament have come together, have spoken with one voice and have pledged they will work closely with the Bougainville’s Members of the House of Representatives.

In a small, unassuming but important, meeting over dinner hosted by the Minister for Bougainville Affairs on Thursday evening 11 August the four Bougainvillean national MPs made an unequivocal pledge that they will work with Bougainville parliamentarians in consulting, advising, sharing, working with each other and taking part in all matters of political, social and developmental interest and concern to Bougainville.

The main guests at the evening dinner gathering were members of the Bougainville House of Representatives committee on Referendum led by its Chairman Hon Joseph Watawi MHR.

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Photo above :At PNG Parliament Minister Joe Lera MP and Chairman Joseph Watawi MHR both with other colleague members.

The committee was in Port Moresby to observe the National Parliament in session and meet with the National Parliament bipartisan committee on Bougainville matters including referendum.

The joy and exchanges of pleasantries was most obvious. At long last! It is done!

There is more than one reason to expect there will be a lot of trust and cooperation from hereon between and amongst Bougainville politicians at the National level and in the Autonomous Region.

All four national Members: Hon Joseph Lera, Minister for Bougainville Affairs, Jimmy Miringtoro, Minister for Communications, Hon Louta Atoi, member for North Bougainville and the recently elected MP for South Bougainville Hon Timothy Masiu  all took turns to air and share their views on the importance of consultations and commitment to work together on matters concerning Bougainville.

A timely and proper, in-depth, educated and adequately funded awareness on referendum was discussed as one of the most important matters needing immediate focus and attention for concerted, cooperative approach by leaders.

The visiting members of the House of Representatives Parliamentary Committee on Referendum led by its Chairman Hon Joseph Watawi also spoke in turns all expressing delight that the undertaking for the Bougainville political leaders to work together is most welcome. Members of the committee that spoke and shared the same sentiments included Hon Marcelline Kokiai MHR, Hon Thomas Tari MHR, and Hon Tepaia  MHR

The people of Bougainville as electors will find comfort, confidence and assurance and can only benefit from the undertaking by their political leaders. Bougainvilleans have often criticized their politicians  for not working together on matters that can make a difference with better political cooperation  and coordination at the elected leadership level.

The four MPs representing Bougainville in the National Parliament have pledged that they will, from hereon, work with members of the Bougainville House of Representatives in the interest of all facets of development of Bougainville. The pledge expresses a desire for everyone to be on the same page in implementing the terms and intentions of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, a historical joint creation borne out of the efforts of the National Government and Bougainville’s political and factional leaders.

After a number of attempts over many elections on both sides, many exchanges and  suggestions, to-ing and fro-ing, and at times laying blame from both sides, this is an achievement by Bougainville parliamentarians in both Houses to come to terms and put aside any differences in their commitment and approach on the ongoing political processes that requires their attention and decision.

The agreement pledged by the leaders followed two consultative meetings with the Minister for Bougainville Affairs and Chairman Watawi and members of his committee at Parliament House.

The Minister Hon Joe Lera said the National Coordination Office for Bougainville Affairs (NCOBA) which he heads as Minister has made a lot of effort to give practical effect to the roles and functions and fulfill the objective why this Office was established in the first place. With his intervention and better focus by the staff, NCOBA will be the primary coordination link between Bougainville and Port Moresby. His first task has been to get his colleagues the Bougainville national MPs to work in closer consultation with him through NCOBA.

The Speaker Simon Pentanu who accompanied the referendum committee delegation in his remarks  praised and thanked the national MPs for this development calling it remarkable because  he said it will see, in a long time, a meaningful consultative effort and cooperation by Bougainville parliamentarians at the national level and on Bougainville.

He said he will be inviting the four national MPs and expect them to take their seats in the House of Representatives in the forthcoming meeting in September and at all subsequent meetings of the House. He also said that from now on the dates of meetings of the Bougainville Parliament will be determined so they do not clash with National Parliament meetings to enable the four National MPs to attend.

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Photo Above : Meeting with PNG Parliamentary committee on Bougainville Matters and referendum, with UNDP and agencies invited as observers.

Hon Ministers Joseph Lera also informed the dinner meeting NCOBA is improving its coordinating role and under his watch he expects to deliver on the aims and objectives for which this Ministry for Bougainville was established.  His colleague national MPs praised and agreed with Minister Lera that since he assumed office as the Minister there has been enthusiasm, zest and zeal about the place.

Speaking for and on behalf of the parliamentary committee and his colleague MHRs Mr Watawi said that such a pledge between leaders has been some time coming. He said the pledge to work and stay together is like a bridge has now been built that Bougainville leaders can walk along together and cross both ways

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


” 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.”




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


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


” 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


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.


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.


[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.


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.


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


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


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 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 Mining Breaking News : Momis anger at ongoing Rio Tinto injustice

JM $

 “Rio Tinto has made a unilateral decision. It failed to consult the Bougainville Government about distributing its shares.

At meetings with senior Rio officials, in July 2015 and February 2016, I warned strongly against transfer of Rio’s shares to PNG. It Bougainvilleans cannot accept National Government control over the future of Panguna through either majority or equal shareholding in BCL.

In past meetings, I insisted that Rio accept responsibility for mining legacy issues.

“When I met their officials last night in Port Moresby, they flatly rejected any responsibility for their contribution to the damage done by the Panguna Mine.

“Rio’s officials gave me two reasons for not accepting responsibility for mine impacts.

First, Rio operated under the PNG law of the day. Second, they were forced out of Panguna by the conflict.

It’s now clear the BCA was deeply unjust. It ignored environmental damage and social impacts”

Bougainville President, John Momis, today expressed anger at Rio Tinto’s decision to transfer its 53.8 per cent share in Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL).

International mining giant, Rio earlier announced transfer if its BCL shares to an independent trustee, for distribution to the ABG (36.4 per cent), and the PNG Government (17.4 per cent). PNG is already 2nd largest BCL shareholder. So the share distribution would see the governments equal BCL shareholders – 36.4 per cent each.

The remaining 27 per cent of shares are held by small shareholders.

Rio Tinto has been reviewing its BCL shareholding for almost two years. The review resulted in Rio deciding to end its investment in BCL, which ran the giant copper and gold mine at Panguna from 1972 to 1989, under the 1967 Bougainville Copper Agreement (BCA).

“We are open to PNG remaining a BCL shareholder. That may assist us find responsible partners and financiers for possible future operations at Panguna. But we cannot accept Rio Tinto’s interference in seeking to give PNG equal control over Panguna. There is no possibility of progress on resolving the future of Panguna on that basis.

“Rio Tinto has shown arrogance and ignorance in ignoring my warning. Sitting in their comfortable London offices, they have interfered in Bougainville’s affairs by deciding PNG should have equal control of BCL.

“Bougainvilleans are united in rejecting what Rio Tinto seeks to thrust upon us.”

The President also expressed deep anger at Rio Tinto’s refusal to accept responsibility for the environmental and other damage done by the Panguna mine. He said ”In past meetings, I insisted that Rio accept responsibility for mining legacy issues.

“When I met their officials last night in Port Moresby, they flatly rejected any responsibility for their contribution to the damage done by the Panguna Mine.

“Rio’s officials gave me two reasons for not accepting responsibility for mine impacts.

First, Rio operated under the PNG law of the day. Second, they were forced out of Panguna by the conflict.

But the truth is Rio Tinto generated huge revenues from what we all now know was the terrible injustice of its Bougainville mining operations.

The mine shut down in 1989 only because anger over that injustice generated demands for a renegotiated agreement.

“It’s now clear the BCA was deeply unjust. It ignored environmental damage and social impacts. Only a tiny share of mine revenue was distributed to landowners and to the North Solomons Provincial Government.

“The gross injustice of the BCA has since been recognised by Rio. As a result it made major changes to its own policies, especially in relation to landowners. It accepted new standards of sustainable development as a founder of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM).

“Rio is now deeply hypocritical in its blatant disregard of the higher corporate responsibility standards it says it has adopted.

“It now seems Rio has no commitment to social responsibility or sustainable development principles. It talks those principles only when that helps its profits. But it throws them out when costs to its bottom line could be involved.

“Now Rio Tinto proposes to walk away from responsibility for the effects of the injustice of its highly profitable operations.

“Rio cannot rely on grossly unjust past laws to escape its contemporary responsibilities for what we now know was wrong. Corporate social responsibility means responsible companies accept that their responsibilities go beyond the legal requirements of the day.

“I am writing to the Managing Director of Rio Tinto asking him to reconsider not only the Rio decision about its shares, but also its refusal to deal with its Panguna legacy responsibilities.

“I am also writing to the International Council of Metals and Mining asking them to end Rio Tinto’s membership because of its failure to honour the ICMM’s 10 Principles for Sustainable Development Performance.

“Finally, I am seeking the earliest possible meeting with Prime Minister O’Neill to discuss how best to defuse the dangerous situation created by Rio’s decision on its shares in BCL.”






Chief John L. Momis

President, ARoB

Bougainville Mining News :Rio Tinto gives up Bougainville Copper stake worth $51 Billion



“Rio Tinto Group has given away its stake in the company that owns a mine in Papua New Guinea with potential copper and gold reserves worth $51 billion.

The London-based miner has transferred its 54 percent holding in Bougainville Copper Ltd., owner of the abandoned Panguna mine, to an independent trustee “for no consideration,” Rio said in a statement Thursday. The trustee will manage the distribution of shares to national and local governments.

Panguna, Bougainville Copper’s asset on Bougainville Island, was shut due to local unrest in 1989. The company estimated in its 2014 annual report that reserves stood at 5.3 million metric tons of copper and 19.3 million ounces of gold. That would be worth about $51 billion at today’s prices.”

Bloomberg report

“Rio Tinto has today transferred its 53.8 per cent shareholding in Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) to an independent trustee.

Equity Trustees Limited will manage the distribution of these shares between the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) for the benefit of all the Panguna landowners and the people of Bougainville, and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea (PNG).”

Rio Tinto Media Release | 30 June 2016

Photo : Bougainville Revolutionary Army fighters look down on the Panguna mine in 1996

Under the trust deed, the ABG has the opportunity to receive 68 per cent of Rio Tinto’s shareholding (which equates to 36.4 per cent of BCL’s shares) from the independent trustee for no consideration and PNG is entitled to the remaining 32 per cent (which equates to 17.4 per cent of BCL’s shares).

The ABG and PNG will both hold an equal share in BCL of 36.4 per cent if the transfers are completed. This ensures both parties are equally involved in any consideration and decision-making around the future of the Panguna mine.

Rio Tinto Copper & Coal chief executive Chris Salisbury said “Our review looked at a broad range of options and by distributing our shares in this way we aim to provide landowners, those closest to the mine, and all the people of Bougainville a greater say in the future of Panguna. The ultimate distribution of our shares also provides a platform for the ABG and PNG Government to work together on future options for the resource.”

In accordance with the existing management agreement with BCL, Rio Tinto will today give the required six months’ notice to terminate the arrangement. Although Rio Tinto will no longer hold any interest in BCL, Rio Tinto will continue to meet its obligations under the agreement during that period to ensure an orderly transition in the shareholdings of the company. BCL chairman Peter Taylor will resign with immediate effect but he will continue to be available to provide services to the board during this transition period.

Note to editors

The Trust Deed determines that should either beneficiary of the trust not apply for the transfer of the BCL shares attributable to them from the trustee within two months, then those shares will be made available to the other part

Bougainville News: President Momis Press Statement 14 June future of the Moratorium on mining exploration and development



“The ABG must make sure that our existing small-scale mining industry is protected. It is an industry where benefits spread to the people in villages and hamlets. Their interests cannot be thrown away in favour of new large-scale mining interests with exploration licences. If we do not recognise small-scale miners, there will be dangers of unrest, and even conflict.




Chief John Momis, President of Bougainville, spoke today about debate in Bougainville’s House of Representatives on the future of the Moratorium on mining exploration and development. The House concluded the debate on Tuesday 7 June. It passed a motion asking the Autonomous Bougainville Government (the ABG) to lift the moratorium completely

The Bougainville Executive Council initiated this debate in April. All members were also asked to seek the views of their people. Members had a further debate on the issues on Tuesday.

President Momis said:

“The moratorium was imposed in April 1971, by the colonial Administration. It prevented mining exploration or development in all areas except those already under BCL leases. Bougainvillean leaders asked for the moratorium because of deep concerns that there might be many more mines in addition to the huge Panguna mine.

“Although I proposed to the House that the moratorium should initially be lifted partially, most members of the House preferred to lift it completely. A major factor here is National Government failure to fund the ABG as the Peace Agreement requires. The ABG’s bad financial position means we must increase our internal revenue. Most members see mining sector development as the best way to lift the Bougainville economy, and also provide ABG revenue. My Government has listened to and will implement the motion of the House.

‘But last week’s motion by the House does not itself lift the moratorium. The debate in the House was for the purposes of public consultation only. Under the Mining Act, it is the Bougainville Executive Council that has power to lift the moratorium. It has not yet made that decision. Before it does so, the Act requires BEC to get advice from the Bougainville Mining Advisory Committee. It must also allow the House another opportunity for debate on the issues.

“We will do this as soon as the Bougainville Mining Department fully implements the Bougainville Mining Act provisions on small scale-mining. This requires reserving areas for small scale mining. They will be called Community Mining Reserved Areas, Community Governments and Ward Assemblies will issue community mining licences.

“Under the Mining Act, the Mining Department has till October 2016 to set up the new arrangements for licensing small-scale mining. The arrangements must be in place before the moratorium is lifted. Exploration licences are then likely to cover most areas where the ten thousand or more small-scale Bougainvillean miners now operate. Once an exploration licence is granted over an area, a community mining reservation is possible only if the exploration licence holder consents to it. Most exploration licence holders are unlikely to consent.

“The ABG must make sure that our existing small-scale mining industry is protected. It is an industry where benefits spread to the people in villages and hamlets. Their interests cannot be thrown away in favour of new large-scale mining interests with exploration licences. If we do not recognise small-scale miners, there will be dangers of unrest, and even conflict.

“I have already given several directions to the Mining Department to implement the Community Mining Licence. As the Act requires those arrangements to operate by October, I can only assume that implementation work is far advanced. When the interests of small-scale miners are protected, we can lift the moratorium. I am today requesting my Minister for Mining, Hon. Robin Wilson, to obtain information from the Department about its progress in setting up the Community Mining Licence arrangements.

“An additional issue concerns the landowners impacted by the Panguna mine leases. The nine associations representing those landowners met me in Buka last week. They strongly requested a delay in lifting the moratorium until the after the holding of the Bel Kol ceremony with BCL. That ceremony has been requested by the landowners. They want to see this customary first step towards reconciliation about mining-related issues that caused conflict completed before there is any formal step towards resumption of large-scale mining in Bougainville. They are asking all Bougainvilleans and outside mining interests to respect their wishes in this regard.

“I am also requesting the Minister to investigate and report to me, as a matter of urgency, on how to ensure that Bougainville is not threatened by many mines being established. It was fear of this led Bougainvilleans to request the moratorium in 1971. It remains a real danger.

“The ABG Mining Act restricts the number of large-scale mining leases to no more than two at any one time – that is for mines like Panguna or Ok Tedi or Lihir. But there is no restriction on the number of small-scale mines (usually open-cut or tunnelling mines).

“Once the Moratorium is lifted, if exploration licences are granted for all prospective areas, it will be difficult to limit the number of small mining leases. Lease holders and landowners will pressure for developments to go ahead, so they can get the money on offer from mining.

“Once exploration licences are granted, we could face huge pressures to approve small mines, wherever exploitable minerals are discovered. We could perhaps have 10 or 20 such mines at the same time. The social and environmental impacts could be massive. Most of the available mineral resources could be extracted rapidly, in one generation, and all mining revenue too.

“I will look forward to my minister’s advice on how to deal with this problem.”

Chief John L. Momis

President, ARoB,

14 June 2016