Bougainville Mining News : Have plans to restart the giant Bougainville mine stalled ?

SYDNEY, October 6 (Reuters) – Plans to reopen one of the world’s biggest copper mines, shut by a civil war on the Pacific Island of Bougainville in 1989, have run into trouble.

The quarter of a million people of Bougainville are tentatively scheduled to vote on independence from Papua New Guinea in June 2019, and revenue from the reopening of the Panguna mine is essential for the otherwise impoverished island to have any chance of flourishing if it becomes the world’s newest nation.

But there is now a struggle over who will run the mine between Bougainville Copper Ltd – the previous operator now backed by the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the Papua New Guinea government – and a consortium of Australian investors supported by the head of the landowners who own the mineral rights.

The dispute is opening old wounds – and is almost certainly going to delay any reopening. That could help to drive copper prices higher as many forecasters expect that demand for the base metal will exceed supply in the next few years.

The battle lines have been hardening on several fronts, Reuters has learned.

Papua New Guinea has told airlines that Sydney businessman Ian de Renzie Duncan, who set up the consortium, is banned from entering the country until 2024, according to a Papua New Guinea government document reviewed by Reuters.

The request for the ban was made by the Bougainville government, three sources with knowledge of the document said.

The consortium has also acknowledged for the first time that it is paying some landowners a monthly stipend and has pulled in some big backers that have not previously been disclosed.

They include Richard Hains, part of a billionaire Australian race-horse owning family which runs hedge fund Portland House Group.

In a sign of how ugly the row is getting on the ground, local opponents of BCL becoming the operator – and some who are opposed to the mine reopening altogether – blocked Bougainville government officials from entering Panguna in June.

They had hoped to get key landowners to sign a memorandum of agreement that would have endorsed BCL as preferred developer, according to a copy of the document reviewed by Reuters. The proposed agreement also stipulated the mine would be re-opened by June 2019, ahead of BCL’s own timeframe of 2025-26.

The Papua New Guinea government didn’t respond to requests for comment for this story.

Bougainville’s main political leaders say getting the mine reopened is critical. “If the independence of the people is to be sustained then we need Panguna to run,” Bougainville Vice President and Mining Minister Raymond Masono told Reuters in a phone interview.

He said he believes BCL has first right of refusal to operate the mine under laws passed three years ago, and only if BCL declined to take up that right should an open tender take place.

 For a graphic on Panguna mine on Bougainville island, click tmsnrt.rs/2yYCkTt

DEEP RESENTMENT

The abandoned copper and gold mine contains one of the world’s largest copper deposits. During its 17-year life until the closure in 1989, Panguna was credited for generating almost one-half of Papua New Guinea’s gross domestic product.

The civil war was largely about how the profits from the mine should be shared, and about the environmental damage it had caused.

There was deep resentment among the indigenous Bougainville people about the amount of the wealth that was going to Papua New Guinea and to the mine’s then operator, Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd, a forerunner of Rio Tinto.

The mine was forced to shut after a campaign of sabotage by the rebel Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

The conflict between Bougainville’s rebel guerrilla army and Papua New Guinea forces left as many as 20,000 dead over the following decade, making it the biggest in the region known as Oceania since the Second World War.

A supplied image shows locals taking shelter from rain under a local administrative building at the former Bougainville Copper Limited’s (BCL) Panguna mining operation located on the Pacific Ocean island of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, March 29, 2017. Picture taken March 29, 2017. BCL/Handout via REUTERS

Rio Tinto divested its stake in BCL in 2016, and the listed company is now just over one-third owned by the Bougainville government and one-third owned by Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O‘Neill said last year his government would gift the shares received from Rio, or 17.4 percent, to the people of Bougainville, although that is yet to take place.

“NEVER AGAIN”

The challenge from the Australian consortium that now includes listed gold and copper explorer RTG Mining was made public in June. Duncan and his fellow investors have joined forces with a group of Panguna landowners, the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowner Association (SMLOLA) led by Philip Miriori.

Miriori was in the Bougainville Revolutionary Army as the private secretary to the late Francis Ona, the former BCL mine surveyor who became leader of the resistance.

Ona had declared that BCL should “never again” be allowed to run the mine and Miriori, Ona’s brother-in-law, still supports that stance.

“They have caused a lot of damage, they don’t have the money and they are not telling the truth and so I wouldn’t accept them,” Miriori said in a telephone interview from the Bougainville town of Arawa.

 

PAYOUTS TO LANDOWNERS

Duncan, a former barrister with a background in mining law, heads an entity called Central Exploration that has a half share of the consortium.

Duncan’s consortium has been paying money, described as a stipend, to some of the landowners, but denies this amounts to bribery.

“We are really talking about people receiving a couple of thousand kina ($608) a month,” said Duncan, who added that the money helps the landowners to travel and find accommodation in towns where Panguna negotiations take place. “It’s not bribery, it’s business,” he said.

BCL claims to have the support of eight other landowner groups in Bougainville with an interest in the project. They have land rights covering access roads and the port site, among other areas, though crucially not the mine site itself.

FINANCING DOUBTS

The uncertainty is going to make it difficult for either group to raise the capital that will be needed to get the mine restarted.

In 2012, BCL estimated the cost of re-opening at $5 billion. With few of its own assets, the company would need to secure the mining rights before tapping capital markets.

The Australian consortium may be in a stronger position, according to Hains, who is a 15 percent owner of RTG. He said the consortium has strong access to the North American capital markets and could re-develop Panguna in a “highly timely fashion”.

As it stands, BCL has no mine without the support of the owners of the minerals, and Duncan’s group has no project without road and port rights as well as government support.

Anthony Regan, a constitutional lawyer at the Australian National University and an adviser to the Bougainville government, said the immediate outlook for the mine is bleak. “The need of Bougainville to have a significant source of revenue if it’s to be really autonomous or independent has become hopelessly enmeshed with the future of Panguna.”

Reporting by Jonathan Barrett in SYDNEY; Editing by Martin Howell

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
 

Bougainville Women’s News : @Dfat Empowering Bougainville women through business

  “ The Bougainville women are so keen to learn, and it was great to turn up to so many smiling faces at the workshops each morning. For example, one lady – Debrah – runs a canteen. She’s got a great little business and is saving for a house and she’s just soaking up everything we have to say about running a business,”

 Australian volunteers Rae Smart and Jan Norton

For Avia Koisen PNG women’s chamber of commerce president “with the right skills women can build their own businesses and so empower themselves economically and socially.”

Avia Koisen, President of the Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry is adamant: “The big problem for many women in Papua New Guinea is that they don’t have the economic means to take control of their lives,” she says. “But with the right skills, women can build their own businesses and so empower themselves economically and socially.” The Chamber was the local partner in an intensive small business training and mentoring program for 15 Bougainvillean women, led by Australian volunteers Rae Smart and Jan Norton.

During the program, Rae and Jan, who between them have several decades’ worth of experience in business, ran five workshops in Arawa. Topics included financial management, business planning, marketing, risk analysis, and other areas essential to growing a successful business. They also delivered one-on-one mentoring to participants to help them put their new business skills and strategies into practice.

For Rae, the program was like a home-coming as she spent more than 20 years living on Bougainville until the conflict started in 1989. She says it has been hugely positive to meet so many local people, in particular women, working to rebuild and grow businesses. Rae has also taken the opportunity to meet with old friends and to give a number of families photos of grandparents who passed away decades before.

Jan had been to PNG on another short volunteer assignment, but this is her first time to Bougainville. Upon arrival, she was struck by the beauty and lushness of the island, in particular its rugged green mountains and the amazing fresh produce filling the market. Jan sees many opportunities for economic growth, for example in construction, cocoa, and groceries.

Under its Small and Medium Enterprise policy, the PNG Government has set a target of growing the number of SMEs from around 50,000 to 500,000 by 2030.

Rae and Jan’s assignments were delivered under the Your Enterprise Scheme (YES) program, implemented by Australian Business Volunteers. The YES program is supported by Pacific Islands Trade & Invest Australia (PT&I), Virgin Australia, and the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program, an Australian Government initiative.

Group of women standing around a table.

Australian volunteer Rae Smart (2nd from left) with participants in the YES program for women in Bougainville. Credit: J. Norton

Group of women standing under a tree.
Australian volunteer Jan Norton (3rd from right) with participants in the YES program for women in Bougainville. Credit: R. Smart

Last Updated: 21 June 2017

Bougainville Mining News : Bougainville Copper Limited’s Panguna mine hits roadblock from protesters

 ” The push to reopen a controversial copper mine on the island of Bougainville has suffered a setback, with opposition groups stopping the region’s government from going to the mine site and signing a new agreement with landowners.”

Reported from ABC Australia

The Panguna mine was abandoned by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) in 1989 after disaffection from landowners grew into an armed uprising and a push for independence from Papua New Guinea.

The President and Cabinet of the Autonomous Bougainville Government had planned to go to the Panguna mine site to sign an agreement that would allow BCL to work towards reopening the mine.

But so-called “hardline” groups and other opponents, led by angry women, blocked the road and demanded the Government and the company abandon their plans.

BCL blamed for crisis and ‘destruction’

Many of the women were not from the specific mine area but say they were affected by the horror of the Bougainville Crisis — the armed uprising in which 20,000 people died.

“I don’t want mining to be opened, no BCL, no mining. Because land is owned by the women, not the men,” said Regina Erengmari, one of the women in the blockade.

Many of the protesters are specifically opposed to BCL returning, because they blame it for the crisis.

But others, like Bernardine Kama, are opposed to any company reopening the mine.

“I grew up within the damages and the destructions of the mine and I know much destruction has been done,” she said.

But there are many people from the area who want negotiations about reopening the mine to begin.

Panguna’s nine landowner associations were expecting to sign a memorandum of agreement with the Autonomous Bougainville Government to say the mine would reopen and that BCL would operate it.

Theresa Jaintong, who chairs one of the landowner associations, said signing the agreement is important.

“It’s important to me because I have issues to address with BCL and also the government, all other landowners and also representing my own people, and we were looking forward to sign and then open the door to other outstanding issues,” she said.

Government needs mine’s revenue for independence

Bougainville’s government is in a hurry to reopen the mine, because it needs the revenue if it wants to be viable as an independent country from Papua New Guinea.

President John Momis said the mine is critical to any proposal for independence.

“Will independence be possible without Panguna mine? I don’t think it is possible,” he said.

The Government is now waiting two weeks while the groups negotiate and is planning a public information campaign.

In two years’ time, there will be a referendum on Bougainville to determine if the region should secede from Papua New Guinea.

Some opponents have threatened violence if the proposal to reopen the mine proceeds.

But President Momis says the Government will continue to work towards reopening Panguna, because it believes it’s the best way to provide for the people most affected by its closure.

“This government is committed to make sure that people who have been most detrimentally affected, and the landowners have been in Panguna, we have to look after them,” he said.

Bougainville News Feature 2 of 2 : After 27 years , #Panguna landowners compensated by #BCL

” HAVING lost much of their precious land and rivers, landowners in and around Panguna do have grievances. But welcoming the culprit back into their midst to remedy some conflicts is a goal they see as paramount to the progress of Bougainville as a whole.

Thus the communities of the Upper Tailings prepared for almost a month for the day when the mining company, Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), would pay them compensation outstanding since 1990 – 27 years before.”

Reprinted with the kind permission of LEONARD FONG ROKA

BCL had a cordial welcome from the people of my home Enamira Village in the heart of the Upper Tailings area of the Panguna District.

A short traditional ceremony to mend broken ties and restore relations with the community of the Tumpusiong Valley, as it is known widely today, began the day. This was followed by speeches that emphasised concord, collaboration and remediation of all the issues attached to the Panguna mine.

It was a go-forward for Bougainville because BCL was giving the mine-affected people a sign that the physical destruction of their land and life by mining no longer meant they had been deserted by the company responsible for their destitution.

BCL, the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and other stakeholders were led by BCL manager Justin (Ted) Rogers.

Their mission was to verify and help locals finalise legal documents and bank accounts for title holders of land areas leased by BCL all those years ago.

The money ought to have been paid in 1990 but the Bougainville conflict of 1988-97 got in the way. Thus only now the people of the Panguna District queued to get what was owed to them by BCL.

This prevented possible eruption of conflict and maintained harmony within the Upper Tailings lease and its community members.

The tailings of the Panguna mine is in three sectors: the Lower Tailings (South Bougainville’s Bana District), the Mid-Tailings (Jaba to Konnuku Village) and the Upper Tailings (Tonanau Village to Dingumori).

In money terms there was a great variation in compensation depending on the size of the land blocks subject to royalties. The Lower Tailings, geographically a vast plain stretching from the Mid-Tailings to the coast, received a massive amount of K1 million-plus. The Mid-Tailings took about half-a-million while we in the Upper Tailings get something less than K50,000.

According to sources, the Special Mining Lease land title holders from areas directly around the mine will get close to a million kina.

BCL spent four days in the Upper Tailings with the people. Where disputes arose amongst people over land titles, BCL directed them to share the benefits. Thus peace prevailed.

Happy faces came out of the buildings where people were interacting with BCL and ABG officials. Above all, BCL manager Rogers was everywhere chatting and smiling with the people.

As BCL and its entourage left, the people stood by feeling relieved. What some of their elders had long waited for had materialised.

Many in the Upper Tailings are now telling themselves to make good use of the BCL money so it will have some lasting positive impact on their lives and the community as a whole.

They are telling themselves not to be like the Arawa Villagers who received K3 million from the national government for the lease of the land in the Arawa township but hardly have seen any tangible development.

They say the whole of Bougainville is watching us – and peace is intact as my people flock into Arawa, where the bank is, to get and use that BCL money

Bougainville News feature 1 of 2 : Panguna in hindsight – yes , hindsight is a wonderful thing

 

 ” Every picture tells a story. Every story a picture tells may not be a perfect story but, as another saying goes, there’s more to the picture than meets the eye. 

There is a certain poignancy about this picture – and many other images connected with the multitude of matters surrounding Panguna. 

Panguna is not merely a history of mining, minerals, money, maiming and the nastiness of the conflict. It is not only a story of lost lives, lost land and lost opportunities. 

This photograph shows a woman, leading her male counterparts in the early days of the dispute involving one group of Panguna landowners voicing, in a very public way, early warnings of what might follow.”

Article by Simon Pentanu  

Panguna is a story of many individuals and groups; of men, women and children of the forest, the valleys, the ravines, the hills and mountains, the rivers and creeks and sacred sites – all of which people called home, before mining arrived. 

Perpetua Serero and Francis Ona both passed away relatively young. The effervescent Damien Dameng – the one with reading glasses studying his notes in this photo – lost his life under dubious circumstances only in recent times. 

Francis Bitanuma with the white cap and overgrown beard in this photo, is still around, raising his voice and picking and choosing his fights but with fewer and fewer local allies in tow.

Perpetua Serero had remarkable poise and presence. Had her voice as Chairlady of a splinter Panguna Landowners Association (PLOA) been heeded when she spoke (either with or without the aid of a hand-held loud hailer), some of the fiasco and hurt amongst the landowners could well have been mitigated, if not largely avoided.

Instead, the very early feuds over Panguna over benefits accruing from the land under various leases to BCL were between landowners themselves. Only a dishonest landowner would deny this was the case.

Disputes and differences over land sharing, land use and land tenure preceded the arrival of mining in Panguna. But these were localized and tended to be confined within households, extended families and clans. Agreements were brokered to resolve issues or at least keep them to manageable levels. There were ways for everyone to move on, living and communally sharing the land, rivers, creeks, the environment and everything that more or less made life worth living and dying for. 

Differences and feuds over the benefits accruing from the mine such as RMTL (Road Mining Tailings Lease) payments and other payments added fuel to existing disputes between clans, families and relatives. Some of the disputes became vexatious with the advent of mining.

Mining catapulted Panguna women like Perpetua Serero, Cecilia Gemel and others to the forefront as they took on much more active and pronounced roles as mothers of the land in a society that is largely matrilineal. 

This photograph shows a woman, leading her male counterparts in the early days of the dispute involving one group of Panguna landowners voicing, in a very public way, early warnings of what might follow.

The significance of her message was either lost to or not taken seriously by most leaders from central Bougainville, BCL, PLOA and relevant authorities in the national Government at the time.  

That men are  on the periphery of the photo – in stark contrast to the lead role  being played by Serero at the front – wasn’t just symbolic. It was real. Her position at the front, with the support of  men such as Francis Bitanuma, Francis Ona, Damien Dameng and others was neither incidental, coincidental nor accidental. Her role at the forefront of this dispute over land was natural and logical, because in most of Bougainville it is through the women that land is inherited and passed down the generations. 

That more and more landowners became willing to front up in crowds such as this, emboldened by the willing maternal leadership of someone who stood up to carry the mantle of those that bore grievances against their own PLOA, led by men. Serero, and the landowners who stood with her, made a brave and significant statement. 

As the differences grew, the younger Panguna generation – alongside women like Serero and Gemel and the emerging, vociferous Francis Ona – turned their attention to Rio and BCL.

Increasingly they saw BCL and the old PLOA as having all the control and influence over what happened in special mining lease (SML) area. The injustice felt in not having much say weighed heavily and became a rallying point as captured in this photo.

All of us observing, reading and writing about the upheavals over Panguna, the mounting dissatisfaction, the criticism of the Bougainville Copper Agreement (BCA) and the rebellious response that shut down the giant mining operations, may find some satisfaction in the common truism that hindsight is a wonderful thing.

The BCA was a document familiar mostly to lawyers, investors and bankers and, of course, to the mining fraternity. It was not until well after the first power pylons fell, after deployment of the security forces and after the mine was closed that interest increase in reading the fine print of the BCA. Coming, as they did, from a paperless village life, many landowners and Bougainvilleans in the community at large found little compulsion to read, let alone understand and appreciate legal agreements.

When the going was good everything was hunky dory. The landowners were getting their lease payments, social inconvenience compensations, royalties etc. The provincial government was doing well and was  financially better placed than others in the country. Employees couldn’t really complain about the job opportunities, good salaries and wages.

The majority of the landowners the BCA was purported to serve turned against it, despised and rebelled against it. 

It is a story new generation of Panguna landowners is born into. It is not a story restricted to past or the future. Rather, it is a story that evokes timeless lessons and has some relevance for all of us forever throughout our lifetime.

It is true, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I have heard a lot about Perpetua  

Serero. I never met her. I will never meet her in person because she has passed on. 

She served her calling with tremendous support from men and women of the land. She had faith in customs and traditions that gave equal opportunities to women. These customs and traditions gave her the mantle and legitimacy to lead protests against the male dominated RMTL executives in the Panguna Landowners Association. 

She faced an awful amount of pressure because of intense feuding over control of PLOA and RMTL in Panguna. She took the baton and ran her lap hoping to influence and change some of the male dominated status quo in the old PLOA.

The Australian Liberal and Labor colonial governments clearly saw what was going on and regarded Panguna mine as the Achilles heel of a future, independent PNG. 

 Men like Ona, Bitanuma, Dameng and women like Serero, Gemel and others gradually realised that unless they stood up and were counted, taking a stand against the inequities they saw, they would be swamped and inundated by the complacency that was prevalent, accepted, and that supported a Panguna that seemed all normal driven by profits and benefits of mining. 

There are lessons Rio and BCL learnt out of the land dispute. Some of these lessons are harsh. Some even the best legal agreements cannot address, avert or fix, for they are based in customs and culture, not common law. 

Panguna may be most uncommon dispute or problem of its time that a foreign mining company has had to face and deal with. Its repercussions and reverberations spread through Bougainville and indeed around the world very quickly.

It has unearthed lessons that go well beyond issues normally associated with mining.

The Bel Kol approach initiated by the landowners shows traditional societies also have ways, means and mechanisms by which to resolve seemingly intractable disputes. These ways are local, restorative and win-win in their approach, not adversarial, competitive and foreign.

Some of the continuing pain, ill effects and trauma over lost land and lost dignity over Panguna are more destabilizing and debilitating than the crisis and conflict that landowners and many other Bougainvilleans endured.  

Everyone that has lived through the crisis on the Island or has been affected one way or another, directly or indirectly, has had to deal with the horrors of crisis, war and conflict. Rebuilding lives, normalcy and returning to a resilient society is a longer journey that will take many generations over many lifetimes.

Little wonder people are prepared to protect their rights and defend the land with their lives. It is true, isn’t it, that one cannot fully understand and appreciate peace and freedom unless you either lose it or you have been suppressed.

I hope looking back we can pass on to the next generation the genuine benefits of hindsight.

 

Bougainville Mining News : Historic decision to accept applications for exploration licenses in mining on Bougainville.

 ” The Autonomous Bougainville Government has taken a huge step in its drive to develop the mining industry on Bougainville as it made the historic decision to accept applications for exploration licenses in mining on Bougainville.”

Picture above : Symbolic reconciliation between Sam Kauona and ABG President John Momis to solve grudges from mining negotiations

 ” The ABG has pledged to push for the interests of the landowners in any resource development exercise that it partakes in on Bougainville.

ABG President Chief Dr John Momis made the rousing statement to the landowners of the Isina, Jaba and Tore areas where the ABG has lifted the moratorium on mining exploration.

“If we are to re-establish mining operations, it must be a cooperative approach, consultation must occur and your rights must be at the forefront of all considerations. This is my view and this is my belief, and as your president I will always put your interests first,”

Momis to landowners by Anthony Kaybing article 2 below

This follows the partial lifting of the Mining and Exploration Moratorium on Bougainville that allows the ABG to grant licenses to would be investors interested in developing the mining sector on Bougainville.

A proud ABG President Chief Dr John Momis said the event marks an historical occasion and one that marks the beginning and resetting of relations between the people of Bougainville and the mining sector.

“As we move towards the Independence Referendum in 2019 and continue our journey towards full autonomy and reconciliation, it is timely to reflect on the work that has been done and the progress that has been made,” Momis said.

“Under the Agreement Bougainville must actively work towards achieving financial self-reliance. What that means is that we must find ways to generate revenue and income so that we can meet the needs of all Bougainvilleans in the future,” Momis said.

Momis added that mining and exploration is just one way that we can do this.

“But let me be clear, the announcement on 28 April 2017 is not about revisiting the past. It is not about going back to doing things the old way which caused conflict and concern, it is about putting in place a cautious and sustainable process that allows Bougainville to embark on a new journey of partnership –  a journey where landowners, the Government and mining and exploration companies work together to ensure that the interests of Bougainville are always at the forefront of any decisions on whether to embark upon new mining projects, or rehabilitate existing mining sites,” Momis said.

The decision to lift the moratorium allows the Government to become more involved in these activities through regulation and the promotion of environmental protection and safety, ensuring that mining activities are undertaken responsibly and in accordance with the law.

For the Government’s part, the ABG’s Department of Mineral and Energy Resources is ready to take this work forward.

This will be a whole-of-government process involving many departments, including Lands, Physical Planning and the Environment, Economic Development, Justice, Personnel Management and Administration and President and BEC.

In making the decision to partially lift the moratorium, the Bougainville Executive Council has carefully considered the implications of development, the capacity of government to manage exploration applications and the needs of our people.

The strategic lifting of the moratorium in Tore, Isina and Jaba will play a critical part in enhancing Bougainville’s economic future, without losing sight of the need for environmental protection and monitoring systems to regulate exploration activities.

“I believe in you and I have faith that all Bougainvilleans want to move forward in prosperity where sustainable economic development helps everyone and allows us to achieve our self-determination goals,” Momis said.

article 2 Momis to landowners by Anthony Kaybing

The ABG has pledged to push for the interests of the landowners in any resource development exercise that it partakes in on Bougainville.

ABG President Chief Dr John Momis made the rousing statement to the landowners of the Isina, Jaba and Tore areas where the ABG has lifted the moratorium on mining exploration.

“If we are to re-establish mining operations, it must be a cooperative approach, consultation must occur and your rights must be at the forefront of all considerations. This is my view and this is my belief, and as your president I will always put your interests first,” Momis said.

President Momis made a call upon each of the landowner groups to play an active role in this process and to use the negotiation and consultation mechanisms available to them.

“If you have concerns then these must be addressed peacefully and lawfully, lest Bougainville make the same mistakes of the past,” Momis said.

“I believe in you and I have faith that all Bougainvilleans want to move forward in prosperity where sustainable economic development helps everyone and allows us to achieve our self-determination goals,” he added.

The moratorium does not cover the controversial Panguna Mine but the ABG and the National Government have publicly committed to working with Bougainville Copper Limited to restart mining operations after Bougainville gained a majority stake in the now defunct mine.

This will also occur in a manner that is consultative and takes into account the wishes of the respective landowners groups.

And while the Government has indicated broad support for the work of BCL, this is on the basis that under law they have the first right to re-develop the mine.

“Let me be clear, I will be watching this process very closely to ensure that BCL honour their obligations, adhere to our laws and not repeat the mistakes of the past,” Momis stressed.

The President in his discussions with BCL has received their strong a commitment that the company intends to learn from the lessons of the past and work with landowner groups to ensure your needs and wants are addressed.

“To achieve this, the Prime Minister and I have agreed to establish a steering committee to guide future operations at Panguna,” Momis said.

“This committee will have an independent chair and include representatives from landowner groups, governments, regulatory agencies, NGOs and BCL,” he added.

The announcement for the partial lifting of the moratorium is a cautious approach. As President I want to move forward carefully.  I do not want to see whole-sale mining across Bougainville.

Bougainville #Mining News #PNG : ABG lifts Mining and Exploration Moratorium on #Bougainville.

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.

 

 

 

Bougainville Mining News : Rio Tinto walks away from environmental responsibility

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.”

Rio Tinto claims on its website that “respect for the environment is central to our approach

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.

Originally Published HERE

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.

Silent rusting mine machinery litters the Panguna mine site, abandoned 28 years ago. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

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.”

The Nasioi people were the first indigenous peoples to force a global mining multinational to flee one of its most lucrative extractive ventures. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

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.

The abandoned Panguna mine pit, as it is today. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

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.

Rivers and streams in the mine’s vicinity remain polluted and unusable as sources of freshwater or fish. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

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.

Residents of relocated villages, such as Dapera and Moroni, have endured substandard housing and land unsuitable for food production. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

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.

Gutted mine buildings in the forested mountain valley are now being reused by local communities. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

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.

FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page.

Bougainville #BCL Mining News : Seven reasons why : BCL no longer the ‘devil-we-know’, but the ‘devil-we-own

 

“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.

Bougainville Government News : First 100 days Achievements of Chief Secretary Joseph Nobetau

 ” The challenges that we face are immense. As Chief Secretary I am honoured to be able to serve Government and commit to maintaining the full degree of energy, integrity and direction required to help the Government achieve its objectives.

Whilst much has already been done, it is incumbent on all public servants, both senior and junior, to ensure we deliver the public services that all Bougainvilleans so richly deserve.

Challenges and Upcoming Priorities

Despite some achievements it is clear that much more needs to be done. Key priorities include:

  • Enhancing engagement to ensure a more joined up approach to Government service delivery;
  • Ensuring effective coordination of donor support so that we can maximize the value of existing international development assistance whilst harnessing new and emerging development opportunities;
  • Ensuring effective community engagement so that our people understand what it is that the Government is doing for them;
  • Ensuring that corporate plans are adhered to and remain reflective of Government objectives;
  • Ensuring that the BEC remains well supported and that submissions reflect whole-of-Government considerations and priorities;
  • Continuing work to undertake urban and town planning activities to enhance infrastructure and housing to address need;
  • Getting the new integrated financial management system in place to deliver more effective, transparent and accountable financial management practices across Government;
  • Continued work on the draw-down of powers to support autonomy;
  • Convening the Revenue and Taxation Summit; and
  • Ensuring that the Bougainville Referendum Commission is fully established and that important stakeholder and community engagement work commences.

Joseph Nobetau Chief Secretary ABG

Download a PDF Copy of this report :

Media_Statement_-_Achievements_Joseph_Nobetau_Chief_Secretary_2017

Following my appointment to the Office of Chief Secretary on 17 October 2017, I have been engaged in a process of reform aimed at enhancing the capacity of the Department of President and the BEC and the broader public service.

As Chief Secretary I have engaged extensively with key stakeholders including Ministers, Secretaries, donors, the private sector and civil society. Through this work I have gained valuable insight into the workings of the public sector and the need for change and reform.

The purpose of this statement is to provide the general public with an update of the work that has been undertaken since my appointment, outline the challenges that I see moving forward and to canvass the priorities that are ahead.

Consultations

Ministers

Since commencing as Chief Secretary I have been able to meet with all Ministers. Through these discussions I have gained valuable insight into key ministerial priorities which has in turn informed my work with portfolio Secretaries and keystake holders. These discussions have been invaluable in informing my Department’s broader reform agenda and have assisted with some critical organisational change decisions.

Secretaries

As Chief Secretary I see it as an important part of my role to provide leadership and guidance to Secretaries. Since commencing as Chief Secretary I have convened Senior Management Committee meetings and met one on one with all Secretaries.

In my discussions I have emphasised the President’s key messages around organisational capability and the need to deliver meaningful outcomes with respect to service delivery and public service reform. These discussions have been positive, and whilst there will continue to be some challenges I will continue to ensure that all public servants remain mindful of their need to be accountable and responsive to Government and the people that we serve.

Parliamentary Services

As Chief Secretary I consider it essential that clear lines of communication be in place with the Office of Parliamentary Services. To that end, I have developed a strong working relationship with the Speaker of Parliament with a view to ensuring better links between the public service, the BEC and parliament.

This work is already showing dividends through more effective coordination of public service policy development and programme delivery and parliamentary business.

Community Government

I have been working with the Secretary for Community Government to make changes to Executive Manager arrangements to ensure more responsive community government across Districts. In that context, some immediate changes have already been made to realign resources so that we can better meet the needs of local communities. I will continue to work with the Secretary to ensure that resources at the District level are appropriate so as to enable effective community engagement and service delivery.

International Engagement

International engagement is a critical part of the Chief Secretary role. With significant donor representation in Buka I have reached out to key bilateral and multilateral partners to discuss how donor activities support the work of the ABG and to explore opportunities for more effective engagement and aid coordination. This has included my work as chair of the Australian and New Zealand funded GIF (Governance Implementation Fund) and work with the Australian Funded PNG Governance Facility.

Advisory Support and Donor Engagement

The ABG continues to receive support from a range of donors in relation to the key areas of governance, peace building, health, transport, law and justice and election support. As Chief Secretary I acknowledge the value of this support with a number of key advisers providing advice to my office and across government to progress important initiatives in areas including: recruitment, legal advice and support, draw down of powers, election preparations, media and communication, strategic and corporate planning, economic development, revenue and taxation, urban planning, monitoring and evaluation, financial management and strategic engagement. While in the longer term it is my hope that the ABG will develop the internal capacity to manage these important issues independent of donor support, the support we currently receive has been a critical part of our recent progress.

Aid Coordination

In terms of aid coordination, I continue to engage with key donors regarding how we can target support to get the best possible outcomes. I am of the view that any support must be clearly aligned with ABG priorities and be based on ensuring meaningful capacity building where ABG officers are able to learn from the support provided and manage issues independently in the future. A key future priority will be developing an effective aid coordination mechanism within my Department to ensure the most efficient use of donor support.

Bilateral and Multilateral Engagement

In February 2017 my office coordinated briefing for the visit by NZ Minister for Foreign Affairs the Hon. Murray McCully. The meeting provided a valuable opportunity to talk with a key development partner and friend, with the Foreign Minister committing to ongoing support to the ABG in the lead up to the referendum and beyond.

Vice President Masono hosted a visit by a delegation from the European Union which comprised of the EU Ambassador to PNG, the French Ambassador to PNG and senior officials on 20 February 2017. The visit provided a valuable opportunity to reinforce the ABG’s development priorities and for delegation members to see firsthand some of the challenges that face our young and emerging democracy.

Feedback from the visit was positive, with the EU Ambassador indicating a very strong desire to provide support to Bougainville in key areas including infrastructure, water sanitation and vocational education (amongst others). These are consistent with priorities identified through the PNG-EU dialogue and present opportunities for the ABG to partner with the EU in a number of short to medium term high impact areas. It is hoped that in the near future a delegation led by the Vice President will travel to Port Moresby to meet with senior National Government Officials and the EU Ambassador to explore how this commitment for support can be translated into meaningful action.

Community Engagement

At the community level I have engaged widely with non-Government and volunteer organisations and the education sector. I consider these stakeholders to be essential from a social development perspective.

In December I was honoured to be asked to deliver the keynote address at the Hutjena High School graduation. This was an excellent opportunity for me to deliver a key message on leadership and the value of quality education. My message was that as emerging leaders high school graduates are well placed to make a long term contribution to our economic, social and development goals.

In February I was honoured to speak at the Public Service Dedication Service. I used this as an opportunity to reinforce the need for a responsive public service, noting that planning is the cornerstone of success.

I continue to work with local mainline churches to progress aerial surveys of available land to enhance housing and community infrastructure. This work has included undertaking aerial surveys in Buka, Arawa and Buin to aid town planning, including the potential development of a teachers college in Buin and new housing development in Arawa and Buka.

Organisational Reform

Communication

Communication is the cornerstone of any well-functioning public service. As Chief Secretary my primary aim has been to enhance communication within Government and to our key stakeholders. I have achieved this by chairing Senior Management Committee meetings, engaging with Secretaries and senior leaders, connecting with Districts through radio programmes and working with our civil society partners.

This process is now starting to show results. Department Heads are becoming more engaged and my office has increased visibility of key public sector initiatives.

Despite this it is clear that much more needs to be done, particularly with respect to communicating initiatives to the broader community. In that context I am working with officials in my Department, including my Deputy Secretary, to enhance our media and communication strategy. Whilst there has been some good work in this area many of the initiatives that we need to enhance community awareness have stalled. With the referendum fast approaching this is not acceptable, and a key future priority will be to enhance mechanisms to more effectively communicate with the people.

Corporate Planning

A functional public service requires well thought out policy measures that respond to the needs of Government. This has been lacking in the past. It is clear to me that the public service must be more accountable and responsive.

To that end I have commenced a process to put in place departmental corporate plans. I see these documents as being key to addressing issues of accountability and ministerial expectations. By having in place well thought out plans that reflect Government and ministerial priorities the public service has a means by which to measure whether or not we are meeting core goals and responsibilities. It is my hope that these plans will be finalised in the coming month and that they will in turn help inform the development of a longer term strategic development plan that maps our key development priorities over the years to come.

Recruitment Processes

Open and merit based recruitment processes are an essential part of ensuring that we attract the best and brightest to our public service ranks. I have therefore taken a very close interest in recent recruitment rounds with a view to ensuring that the public service fully adheres to the principles of fair, open and transparent recruitment.

Retrenchments

In late 2016, in consultation with the Secretary for Personnel Management and Administration, arrangements were made to retire a number of officers who had reached the mandatory retirement age. This process was undertaken to ensure compliance with the Public Service Management Act and as part of a broader strategy of ensuring the appropriate resourcing of the public service in the longer term.

Senior leaders Training

As Chief Secretary I have participated in the Australian Government funded senior leaders training which is being conducted by the Queensland University of Technology. I see this training as being a valuable tool through which principles of management can be reinforced, whilst providing an ongoing opportunity for senior leaders to work closely with Ministers.

Overarching MoU on Draw Down of Powers

Work is currently underway to enable the signing of the overarching MoU on the draw-down of powers by the ABG and National Government Public Service Ministers. This will be a critical enabling step in achieving further autonomy.

Financial Management and Elimination of Corruption

Financial Management Systems

In line with the President and Government’s expectations I am heavily focused on financial management and accountability. As Chief Secretary I am conscious of my role in ensuring whole-of-Government financial accountability and working with the Secretary for Finance to enhance our financial management accountability frameworks. In particular, I am actively engaged in work to fast track implementation of the new Integrated Financial Management System within the ABG.

Revenue and Taxation Summit

For some time now it has been proposed that the ABG convene a Revenue and Taxation Summit to review existing revenue raising capacity and to explore means through which the ABG can enhance and consolidate our revenue base.

I am pleased to advise that work in the area is now progressing and that I am working with the Secretary of Finance to convene the summit in the coming months. The summit will provide an opportunity for key stakeholders and subject matter experts to convene.

Referendum Preparations

Bougainville Referendum Commission

On the 24th of January 2017 I travelled to Port Moresby to co-sign the enabling agreement with my national Government counterpart to establish the Bougainville Referendum Commission. The Commission will be an essential mechanism through which the operational management of the referendum will be conducted, and importantly, through which stakeholder and community engagement can occur. I am currently working with the Secretaries for Peace Agreement Implementation and Law and Justice to ensure that all constitutional and organic law requirements have been met prior to the final charter establishing the Commission being signed off by the Governor-General.

Challenges and Upcoming Priorities

Despite some achievements it is clear that much more needs to be done. Key priorities include:

  • Enhancing engagement to ensure a more joined up approach to Government service delivery;
  • Ensuring effective coordination of donor support so that we can maximize the value of existing international development assistance whilst harnessing new and emerging development opportunities;
  • Ensuring effective community engagement so that our people understand what it is that the Government is doing for them;
  • Ensuring that corporate plans are adhered to and remain reflective of Government objectives;
  • Ensuring that the BEC remains well supported and that submissions reflect whole-of-Government considerations and priorities;
  • Continuing work to undertake urban and town planning activities to enhance infrastructure and housing to address need;
  • Getting the new integrated financial management system in place to deliver more effective, transparent and accountable financial management practices across Government;
  • Continued work on the draw-down of powers to support autonomy;
  • Convening the Revenue and Taxation Summit; and
  • Ensuring that the Bougainville Referendum Commission is fully established and that important stakeholder and community engagement work commences.

 

 

 

Joseph Nobetau