Bougainville Mining News : President Momis announces support for the new Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL)

President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government Chief Dr John Momis has announced his support of the new Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) .

The new BCL is step away from the post-colonial and pre-crisis arrangement that had Bougainville at a disadvantage; it is partly owned by the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the National Government, Panguna Landowners and people of Bougainville to develop the defunct Panguna Mine with the landowners for the benefit of Bougainville.

President Momis said the ABG as regulator will work together and support BCL explore alternative Panguna development options that will accommodate the interest of project stakeholders to fast track the development of the Panguna resources.

“Since BCL was invited to formally re-engage in discussions in Bougainville in 2012, the landowners have consistently stated their preference to work with BCL as the developer,” Momis said.

This was recently reaffirmed by the nine (9) Landowner Associations in Buka on 23 February 2017 after the BCL team led by Chairman Rob Burns made presentations to the ABG leaders and the nince landowner association executives and representatives on the new BCL’s development proposal for Panguna.

During that visit the Chairman present to the ABG leaders and the landowners a staed development proposal outlining how different the new Panguna approach will be under the new BCL hich now owned by the ABG, the Panguna landowners, people of Bougainville and the National Government.

Due to the recent majority of shares transferred by the Rio Tinto to ABG and the National Government, the ABG and the landowners now view BCL as not the devil we know but the devil we won.

The ABG and the landowners will now have to take advantage of this scenario and work out a positive strategy for an outcome that will be equitably beneficial for all stakeholders especially the landowners.

The ABG and the landowners have also committed to addressing the immediate challenges to progressing the Panguna project and looks forward to working in partnership with BCL through the project development cycle.

During discussions held this week between the BCL and the ABG, the two parties reaffirmed their commitment in which a way forward can be agreed for the immediate addressing of stage 0- Removing impediments under the BCL proposed staged development proposal presented during 23 – 24 February visit.

In those discussions it was also mentioned for BCL’s consideration to find ways and opportunities in its exploration to project development financing phase to support the ABG’s immediate development agendas as a way of building a long term unwavering development in Panguna.

 

#Bougainville #PNG Peace Agreement : Momis announces a new realignment of a ministry to implementing the #BPA

“The peace agreement, as we already know, the national government has broken many times,

We are the only autonomous region of Papua New Guinea that gives us a great advantage. The Constitution recognizes this… whether the current government recognizes this or not, it doesn’t matter.”

I urge Good Governance to prevail and the rule of law be practiced and maintained. “

President Grand Chief Dr John Momis has announced a new realignment of a ministry responsible in implementing the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

Photo above :Bougainville 24

The people of Bougainville people celebrated a major milestone on 30 August 2016 with the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA).

The 2001 BPA signing signified peace, reconciliation and unity for all Bougainvilleans and was an emotional moment that people longed to witness after more than ten years of bloodshed.

During this 2001 signing, the Bougainville people, the Bougainville government and Papua New Guinea Government agreed on terms and conditions they would follow in order to achieve lasting peace, development and, eventually, referendum.

By Tanya Lahies ABG website Media

Momis said that the new ministry, which will be responsible for all referendum information, is the Ministry for the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) with the new minister Albert Punghau.

Albert Punghau has replaced the former Patrick Nisira who resigned to contest the national elections in Papua New Guinea.

The BPA- a joint creation between the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and the Government of Papua New Guinea (GoPNG) in August 30 2001- is still being ignored by the GoPNG as a peace winning solution during the Bougainville crisis.

Despite of the countless efforts by the first government and second government of ARoB to gain a solid commitment from the GoPNG to fast implement key pillars of the BPA- Autonomy, Referendum and Good Governance- ABG still struggles with funding that is becoming an inevitable impediment.

Since the first government in 2005, ABG still has yet to draw down many more important powers from the national government.

“The peace agreement, as we already know, the national government has broken many times,” Momis said.

Regardless of the many challenges faced by ABG when confronting the national government to commit, Momis is calling for the people of Bougainville to follow the laws of the BPA and leave the final judgment to the peace building organization, United Nations and the international communities to make their own assessment.

The key pillars of the BPA are Autonomy; Referendum; Weapons Disposal and Good Governance.

The PNG Constitution recognizes Bougainville as the only region in Papua New Guinea to have a government that has an autonomous power making the region more powerful than the provincial governments.

The PNG Constitution also recognizes Referendum to take place in the region. However, the United Nations has reported that the region was not ready for 2019, June 15, come the vote for Bougainville’s political future.

This was revealed by Momis who confirmed that Bougainville was not ready but he is optimistic about the future and urged for every Bougainvillean to be ready.

Momis urged for weapons disposal to be effective before the referendum date and as the period becomes very sensitive, the President is calling for everyone to commit their lives and remove the weapons and prove to be working together in peace and unity and moving ahead.

“We are the only autonomous region of Papua New Guinea that gives us a great advantage. The Constitution recognizes this… whether the current government recognizes this or not, it doesn’t matter.”

Momis also urged for ‘Good Governance’ to prevail and the rule of law be practiced and maintained.

It is the President’s dream to see the government return back to what it used to be like before when it was the North Solomon Provincial Government and a model government in the 1990s before the crisis.

ABG is still trying to set up a task force to clean corruption, he added.

Momis reiterated that the outcome of the referendum would be a final negotiation between both governments having in mind that peace and stability was essential for a successful outcome.

Bougainville Investment News : “We the people own the resources ” Momis promotes investment

 “We the people own the resources, our land however we don’t have the capital.

“The waves of globalization are at our shore , I urge everyone to become part of the worldwide community of globalization.

President Grand Chief Dr John Momis welcomes any interested credible foreign investors who wish to play a pivotal role in the development of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville’s economic growth.

By Tanya Lahies ABG Media

It is becoming a growing concern for the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) to seek ways to grow its economy thus, becoming a self-reliant region.

See previous Bougainville News :

Bougainville Mining News : BCL proposes a re-opening mine start up by 2020

The ABG is currently working on an ad-hoc basis to run the nation’s affairs without the needed funding required from the Government of Papua New Guinea (GoPNG) as per the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) to restore the region according to the dreams and aspiration of the government.

President Momis explained that the government had plans it would like to see prosper through the Economic Ministry which had an important role to implement important activities.

However, due to no funding from ABG, the region was dependant on funds from the National Government through the Restoration Development Grants; Fisheries; DSIP and PSIP.

Bougainville, functions differently from the GoPNG and Provincial Governments. Many of its functions are governed by the BPA and the National Government has still yet to recognize that.

Momis said that becoming a self-reliant region means, that money received from the national government can recover the economy of the region and that it is able to be independent financially, thus become fiscal self reliant however, to date, there is no funding.

But if we continue to depend on the GoPNG finance, then we are not fiscal self reliant said Momis.

As time becomes another pressing concern, Momis is calling for all Bougainvilleans to be true patriots and be part of the spirit of economic growth by working with the government. “We the people own the resources, our land however we don’t have the capital.”

“The waves of globalization are at our shore.” Momis urged for everyone to become part of the worldwide community of globalization.

The ABG is now leaning towards promoting investment and working with credible Investors who can bring in capital based on good understanding and agreement that can benefit both the ABG and the people thus, can create capital that is very essential at the moment.

Law and order is an impediment to encouraging good investors but we can overcome and find a way to overcome it, Momis added.

Another issue that needed the attention of the people was the paying of tax by business operators. Momis also urged for all business houses in the region to pay their tax, as it was an important contribution towards building economy.

The Ministry of Economy will now work on creating a new policy that would benefit the people in rural areas therefore helping people to create their own economy.

Bougainville Mining News : BCL proposes a re-opening mine start up by 2020

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  ” Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), under a new regime, is keen on re-opening the Panguna mine with promises of more equitable sharing of wealth with landowners and the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

Company chairman Robert Burns was in Buka last week and met with Bougainville cabinet ministers and landowner groups to put forward BCL’s proposals for start-up by year 2020.”

Panguna talks re-open Source: Post Courier
Date: March 01,2017, 01:39 am BY SEBASTIAN HAKALITS Image Axel Mosi

According to BCL’s proposals on full operations from 2020 and beyond, it will inject US$350 million (K1 billion) a year to the Bougainville Government.

BCL has projected to pay about US$25 million (about K70 million a year) to the nine landowner associations to distribute among themselves.

The details of the BCL forward plans for Panguna were made at a presentation by the company recently.

BCL operated the Panguna mine for 18 years as a subsidiary company of Rio Tinto until it was shut down by the infamous Bougainville crisis from 1988 to 1999.

But the company was under a new regime after Rio Tinto left and during the process, off-loaded its majority of 53 per cent shares, of which a majority of 36 per cent belongs to Bougainvilleans, to the ABG.

The National Government owns 19 per cent, Panguna landowners 17 per cent and the rest other shareholders in Europe.

Mr Burns said in his presentation that BCL would engage with the ABG and landowners to fast-track and remove the impending issues to “create something very special for Bougainville”.

He said the company was ready and very much interested and committed to access Panguna and carry out the activities of feasibility and environmental studies before re-developing the mine. But he insisted that the ABG must support the company in its endeavours to remove any impediments so that it can have easy access to the Panguna mine area.

Article 2

Source: Post Courier
Date: March 01,2017, 01:39 am

BY SEBASTIAN HAKALITS

BOUGAINVILLE Minister for Minerals and Energy Resources Robin Wilson says Panguna mine is the single largest project that can move Bougainville forward.

Mr Wilson said it would ease financial hardships for landowners of Panguna and Bougainville, therefore, it was in their interest to re-open the mine. He was speaking during the presentation by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) of its future plans for Panguna mine. Mr Wilson urged the landowners re-open, adding. “you have the veto power and whatever decision you make must be for the good of the whole of Bougainville”.

“Let’s have one voice and move forward,” Mr Wilson said at the BCL presentation that was later graced with the initial payment of K5 million to two landowner associations in outstanding 1989 to 1990 compensation payments.

The other seven groups will be paid after completing the compiling and verifying names of families. They will be

Comments

Peter Quodling

With all due respect to the original author Article 1 above

there is a glaring technical inaccuracy in this.

Firstly, There was no “new Regime” at RIO that saw it divest it’s sharing holding.

Secondly, it didn’t “offload” them, it gifted them equally between GovPNG and ABG. and 36% is not a majority.

Thirdly the statement “The National Government owns 19 per cent, Panguna landowners 17 per cent and the rest other shareholders in Europe.” is wrong – the national government no longer owns just the 19% it was originally gifted, It now owns 36.4% of the BCL Shareholding, exactly the same as the ABG.

Fourthly, The Panguna Landowners do not own 17% at all (there might be some residual token individual shareholdings),

Fifthly. “the rest other shareholders in Europe” – well, that is just as wrong – while there are some vocal European shareholders that made some speculative investments in BCL stock, they certainly do not comprise the “rest” in fact, in the top 20 shareholders (a matter of public record) the lion’s share are institutional investors (JP Morgan, Citicorp, HSBC, ABN-AMRO), with the only significant European holding being a german chap, with a shareholding of about 1.1M shares (or 0.29% of the total)

There are issues in relation to the ownership/equity and operation of mining operations that could be structured to give the people (and government) of bougainville significant leverage moving forward in this. I have offered (through channels) to consult to Pres Momis on this, but he chooses to ignore.

Bougainville Mining News : Panguna landowners promised to receive outstanding payment K13.9 million

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 ” The landowners of Panguna were promised payments that are long overdue to them after 27 years of waiting.

The landowners received the notice during the Panguna Landowners Community Review which was conducted recently by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) and the ABG Panguna Negotiation office.

Seen as a breakthrough and historical event, this year marks 27 years since the Bougainville Crisis ended. It has also provided an opportunity for BCL to begin a new chapter.”

Press Release ABG website

The Acting Director of the Office of the Panguna Negotiation, Mr Bruno Babato thanked the people of Central and South Bougainville for kindly accepting and welcoming BCL and the team to precede its work in the region.

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Babato said that the aim of the program was to verify and confirm the list of landowners with their account numbers so that transaction of payments would be made.

Mr Justin Rogers who is a consultant from the office of Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) informed the Landowners that BCL has pledged K13.9 million to them as an outstanding payment for the year 1990. That payment ceased then because of the Bougainville crisis.

The payment was supposed to be a 12 months pay for the year 1990 but BCL had extended that agreement to the year 2013.

The amount that was given by BCL is for the year 1990 to 2013, said Mr Rogers.

Mr Rogers urged the landowners to fully work and cooperate with ABG and BCL to settle that issue and focus on other programs or developments to be implemented in the future for the benefit of the landowners and Bougainville as a whole.

The Team completed Panguna Mine Acess Road PMAR Association, Lower Tailings, Bolave Fish Owners and Mid Tailings. They are yet to conduct a meeting with other two associations, Small Mining Lease and the Upper Tailings next year January.

Bougainville News : What has happened to Panguna 27 years on from 1989

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PANGUNA and the landowners have had a mixture of these feelings, expectations and aberrations during the time of mining but have never felt so unsure and deflated since the mine was forcibly shut down at the end of 1989. That is 27 years ago now.

Today the folks in Panguna still wake up to an altered landscape asking what they did to deserve to be left in abeyance like this. Their women – mothers of the land – still eke out their livelihood from tilling their only remaining diminished arable plots of land which are perched mostly on hillsides. They say the rest of what used to be fertile grounds is barren or cannot support life as it used to.

But on the hillsides at least the taros are rooting well, the bananas are bunching big, the sweet potatoes, and the cassavas and greens are more pleasing to the women that grow them and who are keen to work the land than pan for gold under the hot sun or in drenching rains.

Everyone is resigned to thinking a scorched and altered land and landscape may never be restored or replenished to its original state. No one has been around here to tell the women otherwise.

You can be fabulously happy and absolutely content

Cheery with day to day pleasures in life

Feel a great relief within yourself

Be very positively out looking

You feel good and quite futuristic that life ahead will be a real treat

You couldn’t ask or wish for more

But when things aren’t working out

Each day becomes a confounding liability

A seemingly insoluble dichotomy

Like a light load has become heavy as lead such as not even experienced in conflict

Such is what PANGUNA has become

What a lot for the people of Panguna

From Simon Pentanu

__________________________________________

The starkest example of this is along the water banks of Kaverong and Karuna rivers and down their estuaries that confluent with the Jaba before they silt their way down to Empress Augusta Bay on the west coast.

Along here, a lot of original locals and recent arrivals wash after gold, convinced it is the only promising opportunity where there are no other viable means to earn any reliable income. It’s an opportunity people put a lot of effort into. It is a tedious and unenviable, even hazardous, process. But it has become a daily constitution, an important part of their active living and working day.

The numbers of people you can see, including many women and children, that conglomerate and dot whole areas along the banks, estuaries and puddles are like earthlings resigned to this fate until they are provided another means to earn their keep. This is serious business for the people who do this as this is their best mainstay that provides any income.

It is a cruel irony that this place which provided for over 40% of the country’s GNP (or is it GDP) when Panguna was on full throttle has nothing to show for or give today except a mighty big koropo (hole) and denuded structures, twisted steels and a few remaining scavengers still after what’s left of the scrap metal that once attracted so many buyers and flyers here.

The Chinese were the last here but arrived better equipped and prepared, virtually clearing out the remaining lot including the torched trucks and electric shovels deep down in the mine pit. They may have been the last to get in but they are the first that decided to stay on. And they are staying put up there, apparently with the imprimatur of some of the landowners.

What seems even more cruel is, sources for regular reliable income support in my Panguna is scarce. The people cannot grow cocoa and coconuts because of the altitude and topography of the area and the menace mining left to good gardening land.

As usual women are burdened to provide food in what they can grow to eat and sell to bring in some money from selling at two Morgan Junction markets as well at roadside fruit and veggies markets along the way from Panguna to Arawa.

Panguna’s biggest local hero Francis Ona came to prominence when he took a stand against his own extended family members and relatives, and BCL for what he saw as an unfair, unjust and iniquitous control and distribution of royalty and lease payments

Francis was incensed by what he thought and saw as the vanguard of RMTL Executives supported by BCL against a mounting dissatisfaction of younger generation that felt their grievances for share of the pie was not being given due consideration.

Their frustration culminated in an attempt to oust and replace the elderly and duly elected PLOA whose numbers comprised the majority in the RMTL Executive already in place. Francis and his younger followers as well as dissatisfied allies that were attracted to his rallying calls held an AGM convoked by Francis and his close confidants.

That AGM, whether it was called and held as an extraordinary meeting or not, was a turning point, a trigger to many extraordinary and unsettling incidents that followed.

The RMTL Executive, not unexpectedly, put out a notice in the printed media, locally and nationally, that the actions and intentions by Francis with his cohorts, followers and supporters was null and void, not legitimate, it was not legal and the status quo with RMTL and the powers that be did not change.

Let us say and accept the rest is history, a short and sad history that BCL and the rest of Bougainville became embroiled in without any indication or warning. It is a history that is intertwined with irreverent behaviour, blood letting and a descent into the abyss that Bougainville has managed to come out of but must avoid ever returning to at all costs.

There is some lingering concern that the fallout from the voluntary pull out and disbursement of shares in BCL by Rio is developing into arguments and differences between some of the same people that Francis took a singular hard line against.

The reverberations within the rank and file of the Panguna mine-affected landowners associations are still audible and the fractures are still visible. In the mean time everyone else is still trying to figure out what Panguna means now after Rio has pulled the plug and cartwheeled out of Bougainville.

May be not quite! Rio was left in both an unenviable and untenable position that left it little choice but to make the commercial decision it made. The pros and cons, the timing and implications of Rio’s decision will long be argued, possibly in the Court rooms here and abroad as well.

There are lessons we can learn from this. One such lesson is to be aware and accept to a greater or lesser extent that we may be a traditional Melanesian society but we no longer live in a totally Melanesian world any more.

Gladly, the ABG and in particular the Minister for Mining, is keeping a vigil on the shares issue. Despite the adverse comments and spurious criticisms often leveled and directed at ABG no one is more acquainted and familiar with the issues surrounding Panguna and Rio’s decision to offload its interest, than the ABG.

In the beginning everyone rushed into Panguna like honey bees taking to a new beehive. The success was profuse and very visible in the way Panguna started.

To the mining investor at the time Panguna was seen as a cash cow, though not ideally located in the largely virgin Crown Prince Range. The forest was dense green, the creeks and flowing rivers and estuaries pristine and bird life and marsupials adorning their habitat in plentiful numbers.

But for everyone, including the often bewildered, sometimes excited and expectant landowners this was probably the best opportunity to catapult Bougainville from the backwaters to unimaginable affluence. No one foresaw or imagined the stuff of effluence that everyone from miner to landowner, hardliner to politician and the environmentalist, that Bougainville and Bougainvilleans across the Island would be mired in.

When the decision was made to mine, it’s timing, the setting, the script and scene was ideal. May be more than ideal. To the colonial administering authority Panguna provided the perfect investment to finance Papua and New Guinea which was already showing signs that its political independence was emerging as an issue for open and frank discussion with Canberra. To the Australian PM at the time John Gorton, and his Ministers at the the time like Charles Barnes, Andrew Peacock and to those in Konedobu like David Hay, APJ Newman, Tom Ellis and others Panguna looked a very promising prospect if Independence was going to be forced and fostered on PNG by some of its own brooding politicians sooner than later. As it turned out it was Paul Whitlam and his Labour Government that gave the inevitable nod to Independence.

The dye was cast both for Panguna to go ahead as a real mining proposition and for the inevitable political process and transition to Independence for Papua and New Guinea as a single entity and as one country.

I’m not sure whether Panguna today is lying flat on its face or lying down on its belly. I don’t think it’s either.

After the landscape has been defaced and the cream of the booty and loot is gone there isn’t much of the old Panguna face that is left to be recognizable any more. And it has no belly to speak of or talk about after it has been totally gutted out.

There is a lot of doubt there will be anyone going in to reopen Panguna any time soon or in in the foreseeable future.

No investor in their sober mind would do without any assurance that it will not be run out of there by landowners and the so called hardliners. The challenge to all of us is excruciatingly difficult mammoth and complex as everyone, including ABG and Rio Tinto have found.

It is heartening to hear now that through the efforts of member for Kokoda Mr Rodney Osiocco all MHRs from Central Bougainville have embarked on all inclusive consultative meetings and discussions that will be ongoing that will include all ex-combatant factions and those that have labeled themselves “hardliners” from central Bougainville. We can only be optimistic that with the direct and deliberate involvement of elected local leaders of the House some of the long insoluble issues can be dealt with, with a more united approach and unity of purpose.

So what is left of Panguna? Among the LOs they are pitted at different ends of the same table but seeking the same outcomes. The remnants of the old and new may not be clearly visible but some of the same players that bore much of the brunt of Francis Ona’s spite and angst, even antagonism, still differ in their demands and approach. Even the method in how the last of the entitlement payments from Rio Tinto might be shared or divided and how the mine might be regurgitated into the future are still not one hundred percent resolved.

Panguna is not the same anymore. The ground rules have changed both at political and landowners level. The real headache for ABG irrespective of who is in Government is, any Tom, Dick, Harry, Mohammed and Wong can go in and stake a claim up there as long as they have the favour of one landowner clan family member or an ex-combatant operative.

In all of these intrusive dalliances with foreigners that juice favour with limitless amounts of cash from dubious sources, peddled in Bougainville by dubious men. These people have very little regard to the processes that registered LO Associations and ABG and BCL have been engaged in, in attempts to deal with Bel Kol, legacy issues and move on.

BCL as a company is now owned in equal parts by ABG on behalf of ARoB and by GoPNG on behalf of the Independent State of PNG.

The best that can happen, and we hope it does, is for the new owners of BCL to sit in one room across a table and feel comfortable enough to start talking.

It’s called opening up to one another, casting politics aside and have time for sentiments and for each other at a real human level.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bougainville News : Community Leaders and Landowners condemn illegal Chinese Gold Dredging

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” Landowners at the Panguna Mine Tailings areas in Central Bougainville have called on the Autonomous Bougainville Government to immediately close down the “illegal” Gold Dredging operation by a Chinese company operating on their land without proper authorization by the appropriate authorities of the government.

The call by the landowners is drawing support from the Southern and Northern Regions of Bougainville.”

Picture above : Reports received from the area say that a fair-size gold dredge has been installed on the tailings to suck up tailings material from which gold is extracted for export by the company.

Picture below :  Additionally, the company has established an office on site and a compound for it’s foreign workers. These premises and gold dredging facility are said to be heavily guarded by security.

Community leaders , Clarence Pokona, and , Chris Siriosi from Central and Northern Regions of Bougainville respectively have expressed concern that requests by landowners and the wider Bougainville community to ABG leadership for an explanation on how the investment was approved without proper technical evaluation from relevant agencies who had the expertise, continues to be ignored by the ABG leadership.

“This company is operating without proper authorization in contravention of the appropriate investment and mining laws, said Mr Siriosi. “ It appears as if they were deliberately allowed into the tailings area of the Panguna Mine under the guise of producing bricks to undertake an alluvial gold mining operation… This is totally unacceptable

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Mr Pokona said that according to Landowners from the area Joe Sipu and Dominic Sipu, the company involved in the dredging operation was 95 percent foreign-owned with 5 percent share-holding apportioned to certain landowners and ABG.

“The company Jaba Joint Development Limited was allowed into the area by the ABG Commerce Minister, Fidelis Semoso under the pretext of making bricks. However the bricks they produced were of inferior quality and were found to be unsuitable for use in buildings and structures because the sand from the tailings was contaminated with material waste from the mine upstream”, Mr Pokona said.

“We were unaware that they had been processing gold until recently when the dredge was brought in.”

 

 

 

 

Bougainville Referendum News : Calls for PNG to lift its game over Bougainville

bougainville__arawa

 “A former Papua New Guinea cabinet minister says Port Moresby has to do more to help prepare Bougainville for its referendum on independence.

The autonomous region is set to hold a vote in June of 2019.

A former MP for Central Bougainville and the first Minister of Bougainville Affairs, Sam Akoitai, said the National Government must do everything possible to ensure Bougainvilleans have full faith in the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) ahead of the vote, which is the final stage of the Peace Agreement.”

Mr Akoitai has prepared a statement for the National Parliament’s Bi-Partisan Committee, which met last week on Bougainville, and hopes the MPs will get a better idea of the issues facing Bougainville ahead of the vote.

He told Don Wiseman from RNZ about his chief concerns.

 

Arawa, Bougainville Photo: RNZI

Bougainville Tourism News : Communities See Tourism Gold in Derelict Bougainville Mine

panguna

Panguna is one of the historical sites in Bougainville. People go up to Panguna to see for themselves the damage done and want to know more about why the Bougainville Crisis erupted,”

Zhon Bosco Miriona, managing director of Bougainville Experience Tours, a local tourism company based in the nearby town of Arawa, which caters to about 50-100 international tourists per year, agrees.

Our future is very, very dangerous if we reopen the Panguna mine. Because thousands of people died, we are not going to reopen the mine. We must find a new way to build the economy,

We envisage tourists visiting the enigmatic valley in the heart of the Crown Prince Ranges to stay in eco-lodges and learn of its extraordinary history

Philip Takaung, vice president of the Panguna-based Mekamui Tribal Government

Originally published here

Picture Landowner Lynette Ona, along with local leaders and villagers in the Panguna mine area, look to tourism as a sustainable economic alternative to large-scale mining in post-conflict Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

PANGUNA, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, Sep 7 2016 (IPS) – The Panguna copper mine, located in the mountains of Central Bougainville, an autonomous region in the southwest Pacific Island state of Papua New Guinea, has been derelict for 27 years since an armed campaign by local landowners forced its shutdown and triggered a decade-long civil war in the late 1980s.

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The former Rio Tinto majority-owned extractive venture hit world headlines when the Nasioi became the world’s first indigenous people to compel a major multinational to abandon one of its most valuable investments during a bid to defend their land against environmental destruction.

“That is what we were fighting for: environment, land and culture.” — Lynette Ona

Today, local leaders and entrepreneurs, including former combatants, see the site playing a key role in sustainable development, but not as a functioning mine.

“Our future is very, very dangerous if we reopen the Panguna mine. Because thousands of people died, we are not going to reopen the mine. We must find a new way to build the economy,” Philip Takaung, vice president of the Panguna-based Mekamui Tribal Government, told IPS.

He and many local villagers envisage tourists visiting the enigmatic valley in the heart of the Crown Prince Ranges to stay in eco-lodges and learn of its extraordinary history.

“It is not just the mine site; families could build places to serve traditional local food for visitors. We have to build a special place where visitors can experience our local food and culture,” villager Christine Nobako added. Others spoke of the appeal of the surrounding rainforest-covered peaks to trekkers and bird watchers.

An estimated 20,000 people in Bougainville, or 10 percent of the population, lost their lives during the conflict, known as the ‘Crisis.’ Opposition by local communities to the mine, apparent from the exploration phase in the 1960s, intensified after operations began in 1972 by Australian subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Ltd, when they claimed mine tailings were destroying agricultural land and polluting nearby rivers used as sources of freshwater and fish. Hostilities quickly spread in 1989 after the company refused to meet landowners’ demands for compensation and a civil war raged until a ceasefire in 1998.

In the shell of a former mine building, IPS spoke with Takaung and Lynette Ona, local landowner and niece of Francis Ona, the late Bougainville Revolutionary Army leader. A short distance away, the vast six-kilometre-long mine pit is a silent reminder of state-corporate ambition gone wrong.

According to Ona, the remarkable story of how a group of villagers thwarted the power and zeal of a global mining company is a significant chapter in the history of the environmental movement “because that is what we were fighting for; environment, land and culture.” And, as such, she says, makes Panguna a place of considerable world interest.

Front cover-Sam

Bougainville Experience Tours

Zhon Bosco Miriona, managing director of Bougainville Experience Tours, a local tourism company based in the nearby town of Arawa, which caters to about 50-100 international tourists per year, agrees.

“Panguna is one of the historical sites in Bougainville. People go up to Panguna to see for themselves the damage done and want to know more about why the Bougainville Crisis erupted,” he said.

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In a recent survey of Panguna communities by Australian non-government organisation, Jubilee Australia, tourism was identified as the second most popular economic alternative to mining after horticulture and animal farming. Although realising the industry’s full potential requires challenges for local entrepreneurs, such as access to finance and skills development, being addressed.

Objection here to the return of mining is related not only to the deep scars of the violent conflict, but also the role it is believed to have had in increasing inequality. For example, of a population of about 150,000 in the 1980s, only 1,300 were employed in the mine’s workforce, while the vast majority of its profits, which peaked at 1.7 billion kina (US$527 million), were claimed by Rio Tinto and the Papua New Guinea government.

Today, post-war reconstruction and human development progress in Bougainville is very slow, while the population has doubled to around 300,000. One third of children are not in school, less than 1 percent of the population have access to electricity and the maternal mortality rate could be as high as 690 per 100,000 live births, estimates the United Nations Development Program.

People want an economy which supports equitable prosperity and long term peace and local experts see unlimited possibilities for tourism on these tropical islands which lie just south of the equator and boast outstanding natural beauty

“In terms of doing eco-tourism, Bougainville has the rawness. There are the forests, the lakes, the sea, the rivers and wetlands,” Lawrence Belleh, Director of Bougainville’s Tourism Office in the capital, Buka, told IPS.

Bougainville was also the site of battles during World War II and many relics from the presence of Australian, New Zealand, American and Japanese forces can be seen along the Numa Numa Trail, a challenging 60-kilometre trek from Bougainville Island’s east to west coasts.

“There are a lot of things that are not told about Bougainville, the historical events which happened during World War II and also the stories which the ex-combatants [during the Crisis] have, which they can tell…..we have a story to tell, we can share with you if you are coming over,” Belleh enthused.

Improving local infrastructure, such as transport and accommodation, and dispelling misperceptions of post-conflict Bougainville are priorities for the tourism office in a bid to increase visitor confidence.

“Many people would perceive Bougainville as an unsafe place to come and visit, but that was some years back. In fact, Bougainville is one of the safest places [for tourists] in Papua New Guinea. The people are very friendly, they will greet you, take you to their homes and show you around,” Belleh said.

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Bougainville Mining News: Rio Tinto exit from Bougainville and Panguna landowners

Panguna

 

Until Rio Tinto announced its decision to exit Bougainville, extensive consultations over the past 6 years helped develop broad consensus amongst Panguna lease landowner communities, the wider Bougainville community, and the ABG on working towards re-opening the Panguna mine, with majority Rio Tinto owned BCL as the mine operator.

Significant new issues now arise because of the way that Rio Tinto has decided to exit Bougainville. This note deals with some key issues arising from:

  • Rio Tinto dividing its 53.8% equity between ABG (36.4%) and PNG (17.4%),
  • the Prime Minister announcing that the 17.4% PNG received from Rio should be transferred to ‘landowners and the people of Bougainville’, but retained by PNG until agreement on how it should be distributed;
  • Rio Tinto deciding it is not responsible in any way for Panguna legacy issues

Value of the Shares in BCL The only way the shares will ever have significant value is if three condition are met:

1) A new and technically qualified developer must agree to participate;

2) That developer must be able to provide the approximately K20 billion needed to re-open the mine;

3) The mine needs to be re-built and operate profitably. Because of the need for the K20 billion investment, the percentages of all existing shareholder will be diluted to very little if the mine re-opens.

In that case, the real value for landowners will not come from those existing shares, but instead from the guarantees in the Bougainville Mining Act for mine lease landowners to share in mine benefits through: free equity; royalties; and preference in employment and business opportunities.

What is Happening with the 17.4% Now Held by PNG? 

Many major uncertainties exist here. In particular:

The NEC decision of 4th August only approved ‘in principle’ transfer ‘to the landowners and the People of Bougainville including the Panguna Mine landowners’. In Parliament on 18 August the Prime Minister is reported (in Post Courier, August 19) to have said that it is ‘up to the landowners, the people and the government to decide on the percentage allocations’. The PNG Government will continue to be ‘custodian’ until ‘landowners, the people and ABG resolve their differences’.

Determining a monetary value for the BCL shares is difficult. It can be measured in various ways. When PNG was considering buying the 53.8% from Rio, it was discussing a price of $100 million. Informal information suggests this was a reasonable valuation. However, Rio’s exit, its divesting of its shares in BCL, the growing uncertainty about ownership of the 17.4%, and the overall reduced certainty about the future of Panguna all makes the BCL shares less valuable.

The main value that exists in BCL involves:

1) money and securities (about K135 million, some of it already committed); 2) Panguna drilling and exploration data ‘translated’ by BCL into a modern mine planning program; 3) the exploration licence over the former Panguna SML area granted under the ABG Mining Act.

 

What is meant by ‘the landowners’ and ‘the Panguna Landowners’? how shares would be held by landowners (e.g. as individuals, as clan groups, as representative association), and how distribution/allocation between them will be decided.

Suggestions are being made that the 17.4% will be the compensation for legacy issues. Minister Lera has been reported to say the goal is for landowners to become millionaires.But the value of the shares is uncertain, and undoubtedly quite low, and it is very uncertain who the shares might be transferred to or when they might be transferred. Without the mine re-opening, there will be very little if any money from the shares for the landowners.Even more important is the fact that even if the shares are transferred, that will do nothing to meet the huge expense involved in dealing with environmental damage and the impacts experienced by relocated village communities.

Dealing with Environmental Damage and Impacts of Relocated Villages

In the seven weeks since Rio Tinto first advised the ABG of its decision to exit from Bougainville, the ABG has already initiated steps to get action and funding in relation to the terrible problems caused by the mine and by Rio Tinto failing to accept responsibility for the damage done. In particular, we have acted to:

At this stage, the ABG is aiming to see Rio Tinto, and the Australian and PNG Governments commit significant funds to a Trust Fund to meet the costs of action in relation to mine legacy issues.

Bougainville, and the mine-lease landowners, cannot wait to see if a new developer can be found, and the mine actually re-opens. The earliest possible action is needed in relation to issues such as chemical stock-piles, the breaches to the Tailings levy banks and the flooding of neighboring areas, the damage to the Kawerong and Jaba rivers, and the conditions in which relocated village communities live.

Can the 17.4% be a Basis for Compensation for Mine Legacy Issues?

So no one knows what proportion of the 17.4% shares would go where, and how long it would take, under the Prime Minister’s proposals.

  • create international awareness of injustice and breaches of human rights;
  • get high level advice about action taken, in relation to these problems; and
  • obtain legal advice about possible legal action against Rio Tinto.(a) Awareness: (b) High Level Advice:

The ABG has made direct approaches to numerous organisations seeking advice and assistance. They include:

Much more work is needed to create media awareness. But international awareness can also be contributed by other action and contacts.

Getting international community awareness of the issues involved is a first major step towards putting pressure on Rio Tinto.

After we supplied a senior Australian journalist with extensive information on the issues, he interviewed the President and wrote a major article published in the main Sunday newspapers in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra on 21 August. Several stories appeared in The Australian newspaper after the Prime Minister’s announcement about transferring shares to landowners and the people   of Bougainville.

Numerous stories have been broadcast on Radio Australia and Radio NZ International. In July story was broadcast on Australian ABC TV news. The resident ABC journalist is planning a 4 day visit to Bougainville to develop a major television story for Australia. A journalist from The Australian newspaper is also planning a visit to Bougainville.

The United National Environment Program;

  • Human rights and corporate social responsibility monitoring organisations, including:
  • Human Rights Watch;
  • Amnesty International;

International Alert;

  • Shift (a US-based organization that monitors the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights);
  • Some NGOs and consultancy organisations that deal with corporate social responsibility and businesses and human rights;
  • The German-based Catholic Church development organization, Misereor, in relation to business and human rights issues (a focus of that organization).

Initial legal advice has been obtained from Professor James Otto (mining lawyer and mining economist who assisted the ABG develop its mining policy and mining law). A senior officer in Misereor with experience in corporate social responsibility and human rights has this week provided additional contacts with lawyers who work in this field in Germany and the United Kingdom, and these lawyers will be contacted in the coming days. The initial suggestions are that court action should be initiated, and the various options will be evaluated.

 

It includes dealing direct with groups of ethical investors with a view to persuading them to withdraw investment from Rio Tinto in protest at their treatment of Bougainville. The aim is to make Rio concerned that their share price will fall if they fail to act fairly in relation to Bougainville. Similarly, we have been advised to enter discussions with organisations that maintain indexes of corporate social responsibility and corporate performance in relation to human rights. Reduced ranking in such indexes can also result in share prices dropping.

We are still in the early stages of obtaining advice and sorting through the information and suggestions being received.