The Autonomous Bougainville Government has made an historic announcement in the lifting of the Mining and Exploration Moratorium on Bougainville.
ABG President Chief Dr John Momis made the announcement on Friday April, 28 2017 after the Bougainville Executive Council carefully considered the implications of developing the capacity of the government to manage exploration applications and the needs of the people of Bougainville.
This allows for applications for the areas of Tore, Isina and Jaba only and does not include Panguna, places which have large ore deposits.
Since the development of the Panguna Mine more than 40 years ago the rest of Bougainville has been covered by the moratorium until the announcement was made.
In 2006 the ABG requested the National Government for the Mining, Oil and Gas powers and functions to be drawn down as the priority powers in its notice to the national government.
In 2008 both the ABG and the National Government signed the Alotau MOU that established the road map for the transfer of the Mining, Oil and Gas powers and functions from the National Government to the ABG.
Although the process was slow the ABG enacted its own Mining Act in 2015 and this paved the way for the ABG to regulate its own mining sector.
“The Bougainville Constitution and the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 clearly define the people as the owner of all the mineral found on all the land in Bougainville,” President Momis said.
“It is significantly important that the people’s consent must be given before any mine is developed and the Mining Act,” Momis said.
Momis also added that the Bougainville Mining Act gives the ABG the opportunity to preserve and reserve certain areas in Bougainville from mineral exploration and mining to strategically harvest mineral resources for the current and future generations.
The Bougainville Executive Council has the final authority to grant mining licenses in Bougainville and in this way it will scrutinise every would be investor well to ensure only genuine investors invest in Bougainville before a license is granted.
“We have learnt our lessons from the Panguna experience and now we have the opportunity to do a better job this time,” President Momis said.
“On behalf of the people of Bougainville I invite and welcome applications from prospective applicants to invest in our mining sector; Bougainville is open for business and I look forward to the development of long term economic partnerships to allow Bougainville to fulfil the economic potential she rightly deserves,” he added.
The Bougainville Mining Registrar will start accepting applications from 10am Bougainville Standard Time, Tuesday 9 May 2017.
“When BCL had to leave the site in 1989, we believe BCL operated Panguna in compliance with applicable laws and standards until 1989 when it was required to leave the country…..Given the lack of access since then, it has not been possible for Rio Tinto or BCL to confirm the nature, extent or cause of any alleged damage or pollution,”
A spokesperson for Rio Tinto at their London headquarters told Mongabay
“In terms of the environmental damage and social disruption, it is a moral negligence on the part of Rio Tinto to have caused so much damage to the environment and to people’s lives, and to now walk away,”
Chief Dr. John Momis, president of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
“Wherever possible we prevent – or otherwise minimize, mitigate and remediate – harmful effects that our operations may have.”
British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto was for 45 years the majority-owner of the Panguna copper mine in Bougainville, an autonomous region in Papua New Guinea (PNG). But now it has given up its 53.8 percent stake in the mine’s operating company, Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL), and announced it rejects any corporate responsibility for environmental damage wrought during operations from 1972 to 1989.
The company believes it no longer has any obligation to address the mine’s environmental legacy because it adhered to PNG’s laws of the day and was forced to abandon the extraction venture due to armed conflict.
“When BCL had to leave the site in 1989, we believe BCL operated Panguna in compliance with applicable laws and standards until 1989 when it was required to leave the country…..Given the lack of access since then, it has not been possible for Rio Tinto or BCL to confirm the nature, extent or cause of any alleged damage or pollution,” a spokesperson for Rio Tinto at their London headquarters told Mongabay.
The controversial open-pit mine, once one of the world’s largest, hit world news headlines almost three decades ago when indigenous landowners forced it to shut down. Angered about tailings and mine-waste contamination of agricultural land and nearby waterways, as well as inequity in revenue and benefit-sharing, landowners used a campaign of sabotage to halt operations in 1989, subsequently precipitating a decade-long civil war.
The mine’s social and environmental legacy
Now, rusting mine trucks and machinery litter the long-abandoned mine site in one of Bougainville Island’s remote mountain valleys, while gutted mine buildings have been resourcefully adapted and reoccupied by local villagers as dwellings. But rivers and streams in the vicinity remain contaminated, tailings dumps have become unstable and chemical storage areas are deteriorating.
“In terms of the environmental damage and social disruption, it is a moral negligence on the part of Rio Tinto to have caused so much damage to the environment and to people’s lives, and to now walk away,” said Chief Dr. John Momis, president of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
Rio Tinto claims on its website that “respect for the environment is central to our approach. Wherever possible we prevent – or otherwise minimize, mitigate and remediate – harmful effects that our operations may have.”
However, the Bougainville Copper Agreement Act of 1967 — drafted when the region was under Australian administration as part of the former Territory of Papua and New Guinea — does not incorporate any significant environmental regulations or liability of BCL for the rehabilitation or restoration of areas affected by mining activities.
“Rio is now deeply hypocritical in its blatant disregard of the higher corporate responsibility standards it says it has adopted,” President Momis declared in a June 2016 media statement, following announcement of the company’s divestment. “Corporate social responsibility means responsible companies accept that their responsibilities go beyond the legal requirements of the day.”
Lee Godden, Director of the Centre for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law at Australia’s University of Melbourne, commented that: “Many of the early agreements between mining companies and the PNG Government did not contain effective clauses for environmental damage remediation….Typically it is not possible to retrospectively amend those agreements in light of subsequent damage or subsequent international law principles that have operated to address some of the balance of power problems in these early agreements.”
Putting pressure on Rio Tinto
Determined that the mining multinational should not escape accountability for environmental and social legacy issues, President Momis has called for “an international campaign to force Rio Tinto to accept its responsibilities” and sought advice on taking legal action.
However, taking the matter to court requires considerable funds — which the Bougainville Government, still heavily dependent on international aid and financial support from the national government, has limited access to. “We have financial constraints and these financial constraints make it difficult for us,” President Momis admitted.
And while Rio Tinto’s divestment resulted in the Bougainville Government acquiring an extra 36.4 percent shareholding in the Panguna mine and the PNG Government 17.4 percent (with the latter gifting its shares to “the landowners and the people of Bougainville”), their value is negligible unless the mine is in production.
Even during the 17 years of copper extraction in Panguna, which generated an estimated 1.7 billion kina in total revenue (roughly US$1.44 billion at the time), only 1.4 percent was granted to landowners, while 61.5 percent went to the PNG Government. Local resentment about the marked inequity of economic benefits was one of the major factors in the escalation of the civil war.
In 1989, indigenous landowners demanded compensation of 10 billion kina for the mine’s detrimental environmental and social impacts, as well as benefit-sharing grievances. When this was not met by Rio Tinto and BCL, they formed a rebel group, known as the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, and used explosives to destroy the mine’s power supply and bring the functioning of the mine to a standstill. In so doing, the Nasioi people of Central Bougainville became known as the first indigenous peoples in the world to force a global mining multinational to abandon one of its most lucrative ventures.
The PNG Government responded by imposing a blockade on Bougainville in 1990 and deployed its armed forces to quell the uprising. A civil war then raged between the national military and armed revolutionary groups, wreaking widespread destruction across the islands and leading to an estimated death toll of 15,000-20,000 lives, until a permanent ceasefire in 1998.
Today the long-term processes of post-conflict peace building, disarmament, reconciliation and reconstruction continue to consume the energy and resources of the government, international donors and local leaders and communities. And memories of the violence, atrocities and injustices of the conflict are still vivid in the minds of many people throughout the region.
An estimated one-third of men and one in five women who were exposed to violence during the war now suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), while more than one in three men and women believe there is continuing lack of peace in their communities, according to a recent study by the United Nations Development Program.
Walking away from the mine
For at least the past seven years, Rio Tinto has been engaged in discussions with the Bougainville Government about the possibility of returning to Panguna to recommence extraction of the estimated 3 million tonnes of copper reserves remaining there.
Rio Tinto’s final decision last year to exit Bougainville has been attributed primarily to both the dramatic fall in commodity prices in recent years and investor risks — including substantial opposition to the company’s return by landowners and communities in the Panguna mine lease area and the region’s uncertain political future.
“During the strategic review that led to the announcement in June 2016, Rio Tinto concluded that it would not be in a position to take part in future mining activities at Panguna and that it was in the best interests of BCL and its stakeholders to transfer our 53.8 percent shareholding to those better placed to determine the future direction of the company,” the Rio Tinto spokesperson stated.
However, the massive environmental legacy is still unaddressed and continues to affect the lives of indigenous communities, especially the Barapang, Kurabang, Basikang and Bakoringku clans who own the mine-pit land. For customary landowners, “the land is like a mother because we feed on the land. It’s nothing compared to money. I can always go to the land for food and nourishment,” Panguna landowner, Joanne Dateransi, explained.
There has been no official environmental assessment of the damage since the mine was deserted. But it is known that around 300,000 tonnes of ore and water were excavated every day in Panguna and the mine tailings were discharged down the Jaba River and into the Empress Augusta Bay, while the spoil and overburdens accrued in waste dumps in the Panguna area. Local communities claim there has been no fish in the local Jaba and Kawerong Rivers for four decades.
The Bougainville authorities also report that: “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 floodwaters 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.”
And, further, a mammoth delta of tailings extends 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) into the sea on the west coast of Bougainville Island.
Social impacts include the forced relocation of at least five villages, such as Dapera and Moroni, to land unsuitable for growing crops and supporting livelihoods, while families were provided with cheap, substandard housing, resulting in severe overcrowding and health problems. The original location of the villages is now a barren terrain of waste rock.
Funding a cleanup
President Momis says the government is keen to facilitate an expert environmental assessment.
“We are having discussions with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) about the possibility of organizing such a study and also a social impact study. We are also contacting international NGOs which support third world nations in the interests of preserving history, forests and ecological balance,” he said.
Following this, the most critical question is how a major environmental cleanup, which could cost billions, can now be pursued.
One option, according to the President’s office, is to set up a trust fund with potential contributions sought from the PNG and Australian Governments, as well as Rio Tinto, although, to date, Rio Tinto has not indicated any willingness to support such an initiative.
“World Bank or Asian Development Bank funding is sometimes available for this type of cleanup, but often that will mean a loan to what are impoverished governments which need to meet a range of other socioeconomic needs in their countries,” Professor Godden also advised.
President Momis suggests that “the only other way to fund a cleanup is through the resumption of mining. It [BCL] is now majority owned by the landowners and the Autonomous Bougainville Government and we believe the cleanup could be done concurrently with the reopening of the mine. During our discussions with them so far they have been conscious of their responsibilities.”
However, the capital investment required to reconstruct and reopen the Panguna mine is estimated to be about 20 billion kina ($6.3 billion) and securing investment of this magnitude will be a challenge in the current investment climate.
Recommencing large-scale mining is also seen by the authorities and some landowner groups as a way to acquire the sizeable revenues needed to generate economic self-sufficiency ahead of a referendum on Independence from PNG. A major provision in the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, the referendum is planned to take place by 2020. At present, only 10 percent of the Bougainville Government’s annual budget of about 300 million kina derives from internal revenue.
Two years ago, the Autonomous Bougainville Government, which was established in 2005, passed its first mining law, thus paving the way with a legal framework for large-scale mining to be reconsidered in the region. The Bougainville Mining Act (2015 ) requires mining-lease applicants to protect the environment and comply with environmental policies and regulations, and stipulates that customary landowners have ownership of mineral resources found on their land. But, while they are entitled to consultation about exploration and mining interests, as well as related benefits and employment, the Bougainville Government retains exclusive powers over the granting of mining tenements and distribution of revenues.
Nevertheless, because of the unique history of the Panguna mine and the fact that its territory is controlled by the local Mekamui Tribal Government, comprising many former rebel leaders and combatants, any development or exploitation of Panguna’s resources will require the final consent of local chiefs and landowners. And reports in recent years have highlighted that a significant proportion of landowners in the Panguna mine lease area oppose large-scale mining on their customary land in the near future.
“We don’t need Rio Tinto or BCL,” Lynette Ona of the Bougainville Indigenous Women’s Landowner Association and a Panguna landowner declared. However, she added that a meeting was being planned in the near future so that people across Bougainville, not only local landowners, could voice their views on the question of mining. If there is majority consent for this to happen, “then we have to bring in a new company after Independence, so that we can fund the economy, but we don’t want mining now,” Ona emphasized.
The “new BCL,” without Rio Tinto, has only begun articulating its future plans. Any provision, in this context, for an environmental cleanup is very unclear, but will come under severe scrutiny by those most affected, given that the history of the Panguna mine, to date, is a lesson in the shortcomings of corporate social responsibility.
Catherine Wilson is a journalist and correspondent reporting on the Pacific Islands region find her on LinkedIn.
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“As the ‘devil-we-own’, and one that is subject to the very tough requirements of the Bougainville Mining Act, BCL is now required to seek new investors into some sort of partnership with BCL, and come up with a deal acceptable to the landowners and to the ABG.
At this stage it is a decision that will be subject to the powers of the mine lease landowners under the Bougainville Mining Act to veto the project if they are not satisfied with the conditions for re-opening.
In addition, it will be subject to the ABG being satisfied – on behalf of all Bougainvilleans – that the project conditions are just and equitable.
As well as other Bougainvilleans may want to understand better why I announced ABG support for BCL. There are several separate but powerful reasons.
ABG President Chief Dr John Momis
The Autonomous Bougainville Government’s decision to support Bougainville Copper Limited’s proposal for reopening the Panguna Mine is only in principle.
ABG President Chief Dr John Momis said that at this stage it is a decision that will be subject to the powers of the mine lease landowners under the Bougainville Mining Act to veto the project if they are not satisfied with the conditions for re-opening.
In addition, it will be subject to the ABG being satisfied – on behalf of all Bougainvilleans – that the project conditions are just and equitable.
“As well as other Bougainvilleans may want to understand better why I announced ABG support for BCL. There are several separate but powerful reasons,” Momis said.
Momis explained that the first is that BCL is no longer owned by Rio. Rather, the ABG holds over 33 per cent of BCL shares, and the National Government has promised that the 17.4 per cent shares it received from Rio will be transferred to ownership of Bougainvilleans, including Panguna landowners.
This means that BCL is now a different company. It is not a subsidiary of Rio Tinto. Instead it is majority owned by Bougainvilleans.
“As a result, as stated recently by the new Vice President, BCL is no longer the ‘devil-we-know’, but is instead the ‘devil-we-own,” Momis said.
“As the ‘devil-we-own’, and one that is subject to the very tough requirements of the Bougainville Mining Act, BCL is now required to seek new investors into some sort of partnership with BCL, and come up with a deal acceptable to the landowners and to the ABG,” Momis said
Without such a deal, BCL will have little option but to cease existence – to liquidate and to distribute its remaining funds to its shareholders. At that point, Bougainville will be able to seek other potential developers.
A second reason why the ABG supports BCL is that BCL still holds an Exploration Licence over the area of the former Special Mining Lease. While it holds that licence, we must deal with BCL.
A third reason is that BCL is a reputable company, with reputable board members and management.
A fourth reason is that BCL still holds all the drilling and exploration data for the ore body at Panguna.
A fifth reason is that BCL shows willingness to deal with the legacy issues left by the operation when it closed in 1989.
A sixth reason is that BCL has shown responsibility over the past 5 years in working closely with the ABG and the 6 relevant landowner associations to gradually develop responsible and workable arrangements for making the payment of the 1990 land rents and occupation fees etc.
The seventh and final reason is that the leaders of the combined landowner associations have almost unanimously consistently indicated their support for BCL as the preferred company to become involved in re-opening Panguna.
“I emphasize, however, that despite all these reasons for supporting the BCL proposal, there are as yet no guarantees that it will be BCL that re-opens the mine,” Momis said.
“I must repeat the point already made that everything will depend on whether the ABG and the landowners are satisfied with the proposal that BCL eventually puts forward – provided of course that BCL is able to get the funding partners it will need to put forward a viable proposal,” Momis added.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
” 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
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.”