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.

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

By Tanya Lahies ABG Media

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

See previous Bougainville News :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article 2

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

BY SEBASTIAN HAKALITS

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

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

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

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

Comments

Peter Quodling

With all due respect to the original author Article 1 above

there is a glaring technical inaccuracy in this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bougainville News : Bougainville plays host to New Zealand Minister for Foreign Affairs Murray McCully

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The Autonomous Region of Bougainville today (Tuesday 14 February 2017) plays host to New Zealand Minister for Foreign Affairs Murray McCully as he embarks on his tour of the region.

Pictured above arriving at Buka Airport

The objective of the visit is for the Minister to engage in high level discussions with members of the ABG regarding continued bilateral cooperation, impact of existing development projects, capacity for future development projects and cooperation; and possible support for the upcoming referendum.

The visit will also provide an opportunity to explore broader political, diplomatic and government to government areas of cooperation.

Bougainville and New Zealand have a long history of shared cooperation and support as New Zealand was instrumental in the development of the Bougainville Peace Agreement and since that time has maintained active support through a range of diplomatic and development initiatives.

Chief Secretary to the ABG Joseph Nobetau said the symbolic importance of this visit cannot be understated because New Zealand is a friend of Bougainville and has demonstrated a long term willingness to support the ABG as it continues on a path to autonomy, peace and reconciliation.

“Through ongoing policing support and other initiatives New Zealand is contributing to the peace and stability of Bougainville,” Nobetau said.

“The Minister’s visit is therefore a recognition, at the highest levels of Government, of New Zealand’s commitment to our long term success and growth,” Nobetau said.

Nobetau further said that the Foreign Minister’s visit provides a good opportunity to engage on a range of issues of mutual interest.

He said this opportunity will also allow the Acting ABG President Raymond Masono to formally convey to the New Zealand Government the appreciation of the people of Bougainville and the ABG for their continued support.

Since the signing of Cease Fire in 1997 the New Zealand Government has been providing development support to Bougainville which primarily aims to increase the capacity of the ABG to operate autonomously and in an open, efficient and transparent manner.

Specific development assistance projects to date include, Bougainville Community Policing Programme (BCPP), the Governance and Implementation Facility (GIF), Support to the Office of the Bougainville Electoral Commissioner (OBEC)

They have also provided technical support to ABG departments as well as funding important infrastructural developments in health, education and agriculture through their various aid and development programs on Bougainville.

 

 

Bougainville Tourism News : Our 2017 challenges will be opening up tourism opportunities resulting in quality tour products

 

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  ” Tourism is not an easy industry to grow  and develop as many people and countries might think or expect. In fact it can be a daunting and, at times, difficult industry to be involved in if you don’t have the right advice, proper support, a good kappreciation and sensitivities of others’ cultures, government support, and of course capacity and resources, to start with.

Bougainville can learn a lot and benefit from the advances PNG and neighbouring pacific states have made in tourism. The biggest income earners for our Melanesian neighbours Fiji and Vanuatu, for example, is mass tourism. “

Simon Pentanu see Pokpok Island webpage for info

Picture above and below : Travellers and crew from the cruise ship True North on Pokpok Island 19 December 2016 experiencing a cultural performances

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Governments that have realized and seen the potential to add substantial tourist dollars to their GNP have developed elaborate policies and support to public and private corporations to promote the industry in a big way.

In this venture and adventure local communities who are the custodians of their environment, interesting natural attractions, historical sites and indigenous arts and cultures must see some benefit in the development of tourism by the government and the private sector through tour agents and operators.

Developing what Bougainville offers, step by step and not en masse is the most sensible approach with VAs. Tour companies and local operators and agents can pick and choose with local communities what is on offer regionally and locally around the Island.

pok-pok-2

All that begins well ends well means a lot. For Bougainville every little successes in this industry is important. The adage which goes something like, “to succeed we must know what we are doing and we cannot be too satisfied until it’s done and dusted”, is true, isn’t it? 

The advice we often hear how best to rebuild Bougainville is to  build from the ground up is equally true, isn’t it. For starters and from experience it is a good advice to start and keep things simple, affordable and manageable from the start. This involves listening to industry experts, not being afraid to ask questions and have early meaningful discussions and consultations with the buyers of the product we are trying to promote and sell.  

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New Bungalows at Uruna Bay Retreat on PokPok Island

A successful tour or promotion is a win-win outcome for the travelers and the communities visited, including service providers. The win-win formulae requires proper consultations between all parties involved in the arrangements in advance.

This gives everybody a breathing space as no one is choked or shocked not knowing what is happening, who is coming and going, how the community is involved, how the benefits are shared and there are no surprises and disappointments.

Bougainville is a good product to promote. Areas all over Bougainville in the North, South and central will surpass expectations of any traveler if these are promoted sensibly and not just for the sake of quick profits. 

Slowly but surely we can all contribute  towards a sensible policy discussion and a well construct for tourism for Bougainville.

We have a good product on Pokpok Island. for example. Water sports such as Kayaking , surfing and Skin diving have huge growth potential

water-sports

More than that, on this first occasion we thank Bougainville Experience Tours for gracing us with three cultural groups from the mainland, prearranged and prepaid to perform for the travelers and crew on the cruise ship True North.

If anything else it does a lot and speaks volumes in familiarizing and promoting unity and union between and amongst different cultural groups from different areas in Kieta district. 

When we look back  this is a win-win formulae as it spreads the benefits directly into communities. The early meaningful tripartite consultations which started more than five months ago between North Star Cruises Australia, Bougainville Experience Tours and Chief Peter Garuai of Pokpok and Uruna Retreat venue owners on Pokpok meant that every “i” was dotted and every “t” was crossed as much as it was practically possible to do so.

There will always be issues and hiccups to sort out when a number of parties and groups are involved in trying to achieve something together. We must be prepared to put a positive spin to any differences and challenges faced.

When dealt with and addressed sensibly challenges more often than not opens up opportunities to try harder to do things better for even better results.

The True North is expected to make another visit in December 2017.

 

 

 

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

panguna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bougainville News : It Takes a Village: One Community’s Journey Toward Peace

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  “In this 360° Virtual Reality film we reach the small community of Konnou, in the far south of Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea, to meet Elsie and Timothy, two people whose lives were forever changed by conflict, and who are now looking forward with hope.

To view 360 videos on your desktop, use Chrome or Firefox. For mobile, open in the YouTube app.”

The Price of Conflict, the Prospect of Peace: Virtual Reality in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea

From World Bank Website

“More than 3 million cocoa trees have already been replanted or rejuvenated across Bougainville and Papua New Guinea

In Oria, Rex was the first cocoa farmer in his community to plant pest-resistant cocoa trees, and now has one of the largest cocoa plantations in the area. Timothoy, along with his nephew and other Wisai farmers, are also helping the Me’ekemui community grow cocoa, extending the PPAP Program to former enemies and in doing so strengthening the peace process through shared knowledge.

Timothy explains: “Once we plant cocoa and we enjoy the benefits of it, and there are plenty of people working in it, there will be no interest in holding onto the guns and things like that – because it’s helping us and them, and making us stronger.”

Men and women of Oria, a small village in southern Bougainville, sit separately during Saturday morning Church service. The number of women far outweighs the number of men in Oria. Violent conflict between combatants from the village - Wilmo Liberation Movement (WILMO) - and the neighbouring Me'ekemui tribe killed 49 men, leaving many women widowed.

 

Men and women of Oria, a small village in southern Bougainville, sit separately during Saturday morning Church service. The number of women far outweighs the number of men in Oria. Violent conflict between combatants from the village – Wilmo Liberation Movement (WILMO) – and the neighbouring Me’ekemui tribe killed 49 men, leaving many women widowed.

© World Bank / Alana Holmberg


The Oria church doesn’t get many outside visitors. Located in a remote area (population 2,000) of southern Bougainville, visitors would have to travel four or five hours from the island’s largest town, Arawa, to get there. The corrugated gravel road is suitable only for four-wheel drives and passengers immune to motion sickness.

But if a visitor were to find themselves at the regular Saturday service, the disproportionate ratio of women compared with men would be unmissable. Of the three sectioned rows of pews, the men and boys fill one row and the women and girls fill the other two.

Konnou’s Widows

The Konnou conflict (2007–2011) claimed the lives of 49 men and boys from the Oria community. Neighboring ethnic groups — the Wisai from Oria and the Me’ekemui from Mogoroi — began a war of payback killings for events that happened in the Bougainville Crisis (1989–1999). Fighters on both sides left behind widows, mothers, and sisters; women who first cried for revenge and reprisals against the enemy, encouraging the violence, then pleaded for peace as more and more of their men were buried.

“A lot of people were against us,” said Joelina Potoura of the Oria women’s attempt to convince Wisai Liberation Movement (WILMO) combatants to start peace negotiations with the Me’ekemui. In their mind, the women weren’t involved in the fighting so shouldn’t have a say.

“But we said, ‘Yes, we don’t carry the guns and fight but we tell our sons and the men in our community to hate and to take up arms’.  We knew that we had influenced the men here to hate our brothers outside, to go and kill when someone is killed from our community.”

“If the mothers didn’t get involved, we’d still be fighting each other,” says Veronica Naisy, the widow of Jacob Naisy who still struggles to talk about her husband’s death, more than a decade ago. Jacob’s murder, a revenge killing by the Me’ekemui for his support of the PNG Government during the Bougainville Crisis, sparked the Konnou Crisis in 2007.

Four years later, following the deaths of some 500 people across the district, a group of widows and mothers, sisters and daughters of slain men from both sides came together in an official reconciliation ceremony. They shared stories, shook hands and hugged.

“We were all relieved and a lot of tears were shed,” remembers Joelina.

 


Image

Elsie Konuvai (right, pink top), Joelina Potua (far right) and other widowed woman watch the women’s football team train as the sun slips behind the clouds in Oria, Bogainville, Papua New Guinea. The village has a high number of widowers following the Konnou conflict (2007 – 2011) when 49 of the local men died as a result of fighting with a neighbouring group.

© World Bank / Alana Holmberg


Image

Timothy Koluvai, Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (PPAP) Senior Field Officer, tends to his cocoa tree clones in his nursery in Konnou District, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Where non-clone trees balance themselves naturally as they grow, cloned seedlings must be pruned regularly as they grow to ensure the branches are balanced around the trunk.

© World Bank / Alana Holmberg


Women Forge a Pathway to Peace

Joelina trained as a peace negotiator during the Bougainville conflict in the 1990s and was passionate about peace for Konnou. After the women’s reconciliation, she turned her attention back to the Wisai combatants and staged a seated protest in the WILMO headquarters, refusing to move until they agreed to discuss peace. Her actions, combined with the voices of many women in both villages, had the desired effect. On November 29, 2011, with the assistance of the United Nations and the Konnou Peace Committee of which Joelina was part of, a ceasefire agreement between WILMO and the Me’ekemui was reached.

Rex Naisy, the only surviving brother of Jacob Naisy, describes the day as very emotional.

“We were so happy because we realized that the day had finally come. Instead of our community members losing lives, we had peace,” he said.

Rex was an ardent promoter of peace in the community in spite of the personal cost he had paid through the conflict. All three of his brothers were killed, targeted because of their education, entrepreneurial skills, and support for the PNG Government through the Bougainville Crisis, according to Rex.

“I was tempted to join combat when my brother was shot,” he admits. “I actually held the weapon but did not join the fighting. I worked hard and stood firm for what I believed in.”

Cocoa Supports Shared Futures

In the 1980s, Bougainville produced the most cocoa of any province in Papua New Guinea. Alongside copra, this was the backbone of a thriving rural economy, and it provided critical income for thousands of people.

The Bougainville conflict crippled the local economy and decimated the cocoa industry. After 1999, the region slowly started to rebuild in terms of cocoa production – though ravaged by pests – but the economic recovery of the Konnou constituency stalled again when plunged into a second conflict. The area was declared a ‘no go zone’ by the warring tribes, roads and services to the communities were blocked off. Authorities largely ignored the situation. After peace returned, the community faced enormous hardship, with few opportunities for work hindering recovery.

“After the Konnou Crisis ended, a lot of us began looking for work,” says 52-year old ex WILMO combatant Timothy Konovai.

“The constant fear of the fighting erupting again made me scared to move away from my family and the village. So I decided to go back to something I was familiar with and that was growing cocoa. I can now say I made the right choice,” he grins.

Supported by the World Bank’s International Fund for Agricultural Development and the European Union, the Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (PPAP) engages Bougainville in cocoa; providing farming skills, tools, pest-resistant seedlings, and other resources to get individuals and the industry back on strong, economically viable feet after decades of struggle.

The project will support more than 60,000 cocoa and coffee growers across Papua New Guinea by 2019. More than 3 million cocoa trees have already been replanted or rejuvenated across Bougainville and Papua New Guinea

In Oria, Rex was the first cocoa farmer in his community to plant pest-resistant cocoa trees, and now has one of the largest cocoa plantations in the area. Timothoy, along with his nephew and other Wisai farmers, are also helping the Me’ekemui community grow cocoa, extending the PPAP Program to former enemies and in doing so strengthening the peace process through shared knowledge.

Timothy explains: “Once we plant cocoa and we enjoy the benefits of it, and there are plenty of people working in it, there will be no interest in holding onto the guns and things like that – because it’s helping us and them, and making us stronger.”

“Growing cocoa is helping us take care of our children and paying for their education, we’re realizing that now,” says Joelina. “I’m involved. I got my first 50 clone cocoa trees last year and this year they’re flowering.”

After Saturday mass, the congregation gathers outside to discuss community matters for the week: how to keep the river clean from waste, details for the upcoming peace football friendly match, and a lengthy explanation about the recent outsider visitors to the church, part of the PPAP Program.

While peace is still fragile in Konnou, projects like the PPAP are helping communities make their dreams for the future a reality, bolstered by an increasing international demand for the unique Bougainville cocoa flavor.