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 News : President Momis concerned about PNG PM O’Neill’s ill-informed and misleading referendum comments

 

Bougainville President Chief Dr John Momis says he is extremely concerned that comments from Prime Minister O’Neil raising doubts about the referendum will produce only suspicion and doubt about his intentions to follow the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

“The Prime Minister’s comments on the floor of National Parliament about the conditions for the Bougainville referendum going ahead are wrong,” President Momis said.

“Weapons disposal and good governance are not conditions or criteria for stopping the referendum, they are simply conditions for setting the date – something we both agreed last year should be 15 June 2019 as a target date, but it must be held before 15 June 2020 according to the Peace Agreement.”

Watch video HERE

“The Prime Minister’s statement is dangerous – it can mislead people.”
President Momis assured his people that the Bougainville referendum will go ahead – and that the target date remains 15 June, 2019.

“My message to all Bougainvilleans is that the Peace Agreement is clear, the referendum will go ahead.

“To all those who have been working hard on getting rid of weapons, setting up a well-functioning Autonomous Bougainville Government, cleaning up public service – please continue your good work, your work will secure a peaceful and prosperous future for Bougainville.”

President Momis said Members of Parliament are closely involved in getting their communities weapons-free and people referendum ready – and that they were doing this without funding or assistance from the National Government.

“In fact the National Government, through its lack of grant payment is actually hampering and not assisting our drive towards good governance. They have dismally failed to give Bougainville what is due under the Constitution to us – we have not been asking for any more or any less.”

President Momis instead emphasised the need for continued and close collaboration that the Peace Agreement was founded on.

“The BPA is joint creation, to be implemented with integrity by both governments, so that the referendum outcome also has integrity and is mutually accepted.

“These statements are either irresponsible or ill-informed. But these sorts of statements are dangerous – it suggests to people that maybe the National Government does not want to collaborate with us and implement the Peace Agreement.

“On our side, we will continue to stick to the BPA, we will get rid of the guns, clean up the government and get ourselves prepared for foreign investment to help grow our economy to develop our resources.

We must move quickly to explain things to the Prime Minister, to brief him properly – so that he doesn’t create suspicions and instead increase the necessary collaboration leading up to and beyond the referendum vote.

The best way to once and for all resolve the Bougainville crisis is to work together, spend monies as per the Peace Agreement, and link more than a decade of peace with much needed economic development and effective government service provision.”

Hon. Chief Dr. John L Momis, GCL, MHR
President, Autonomous Bougainville Government

Bougainville independence referendum ‘may not be possible’ with key conditions not met: PNG PM

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has cast doubt on whether an independence referendum will go ahead for the autonomous region of Bougainville because key conditions have not been met.

Part of the peace agreement that ended a decade-long secessionist conflict between Bougainville and Papua New Guinea was the proposal to hold a referendum on independence before 2020.

Bougainville needs to meet certain criteria before the referendum can be held, Mr O’Neill told PNG’s Parliament.

“That includes a proper establishment of rule of law, proper establishment of a government structure on Bougainville, proper disposal of weapons — so all those issues are yet to be met, Mr Speaker, as we speak today,” he said.

“I don’t want Papua New Guineans and Bougainvilleans to think that it’s an easy path, that we’ll just wake up tomorrow and have a referendum.

“It may be such that it’s not possible.”

Bougainville electoral commissioner George Manu and PNG electoral commissioner Patilias Gamato.

Mr O’Neill told MPs the PNG Government would help Bougainville resolve the problems, but did not give details.

“We need to work between now and then to work harder in making sure that we attend to the issues that are clearly defined and stated in the peace agreement,” he said.

“I want to assure the [Autonomous Bougainville Government] and the people of Bougainville that we are there to work with them in resolving these issues.”

In January, the PNG and Bougainville governments set up a commission to prepare for the referendum, but did not give it any funding at the time.

The Bougainville Government wants to restart a controversial copper mine, blamed for triggering the conflict to provide revenue for an independent state, but faces some local opposition.

Bougainville News : Inter-parliamentary dialogue

THE World is a better place when its constituent populations get together regularly as equals to discuss important issues and learn from each other’s mistakes and successes.

Parliaments of the Commonwealth certainly do this through the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), when they meet on matters of common regional and global concern.

By Simon Pentanu Parliament House Buka

The CPA has a long history that contains many worthwhile achievements. Among these, the Commonwealth significant role in the long struggle to stamp out apartheid, the release of Nelson Mandela and the eventual emergence of multi-racial South Africa under Mandela.

As well, matters of topical political and parliamentary interest, global challenges like climate change, the plunder of the world’s oceans, pollution, food security, the rights and plight of children, election fraud and money laundering are among the range of issues discussed when members of the CPA meet. That many Commonwealth Parliaments now have strong laws against money laundering is thanks in part to the CPA’s dialogue on how to address this wicked global problem

PNG and AROB are, separately and together, equal parliamentary partners in the CPA. PNG and Bougainville’s ability to enact their own laws on matters of regional concern is enhanced by their membership of the CPA’s regional and global bodies.

In a recent meeting following the official opening of PNG’s Tenth Parliament on 22 August 2017, the Speakers of the National Parliament and the Bougainville House of Representatives pledged to forge closer, meaningful ties through exchange and reciprocal visits of members and parliamentary staff of their two Parliaments. Inter-parliamentary relationships like this already exist between and among many Parliaments in the Pacific region.

It is worth remembering that the Oceania region presents a real example of peace and stability when compared to many other parts of the world where wars are being fought or where threats of war, including nuclear annihilation, are used as threats between nations.

We have something we can justifiably show the world. The PNG National Parliament and the Bougainville House of Representatives, together with the National Government and ABG, can hold up the Bougainville Peace Agreement as a success story, by and large, to the Commonwealth and to members of the international community when they converge on PNG for the APEC meeting in November 2018 – the first time APEC will be hosted by a Pacific nation.

The onus is on Bougainville to successfully implement the Bougainville Peace Agreement. But the National Government must be just as concerned as the ABG to see the outcomes of the agreement are managed as best and as successfully and amicably as possible.

Coming to a shared understanding will be easier if we spend more time with each other and seek to understand the issues we are each grappling with. Reciprocal visits between our two Parliaments provide appropriate forums for our MPs and MHRs to engage in healthy exchanges, formally and informally, and gain new insights about the political requirements of their respective Parliaments.

In much the same way the involvement of our respective Parliaments in international and regional forums and associations can enhance the quality of dialogue between our elected leaders in Buka and Port Moresby. Let us not forget: the ratification of Bougainville’s Referendum vote will ultimately be a decision for the members of the PNG National Parliament.

So it is important all Papua New Guinea’s elected MPs – whether they are from the islands, the highlands or elsewhere – have some knowledge of Bougainville’s particular circumstances and understand how regional and national dilemmas are worked out in other parts of the Commonwealth and elsewhere where similar conflicts have had to be negotiated.

With all this in mind, I am heartened to hear the Prime Minister say PNG’s new Parliament will be open to debate and discuss a wide range of local issues as well as matters of regional and global interest.

Bougainville still elects four MPs to the National Parliament. In the current Parliament one of the MPs – the new member for Central Bougainville – is a Minister in the Government.

Perhaps more than MPs from other parts of the country, Bougainville parliamentarians should take the PM’s statement to heart and seek to forge and promote a more expansive and meaningful dialogue with the Government and their colleagues on the preparations for Referendum, which both Governments and Members of both Parliaments are expected to deliver on.

Only then will both our Parliaments be playing their leadership and institutional roles as the highest accountable bodies in the land, according to the Westminster system.

We are at a juncture when we need clear thinkers in the NEC and BEC to understand and appreciate the importance and enormity of the tasks and responsibilities that face both Governments and the People of Bougainville counting down to the agreed target date for the Referendum on 15 June 2019.

Likewise, it should take the collective wisdom of our 111 members of the National Parliament and 41 members of the  Bougainville House of Representatives to address ourselves to the values, motivations and aspirations that bond humanity together.

Our membership as politicians in our respective Parliaments is a relationship that we should cultivate in and expect to get better and meaningful dialogue from in exerting our leadership roles as we will be called upon to exercise foresight, forbearance, respect and understanding as time draws nearer to the Referendum target date barely two years away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bougainville News : Carteret Islands : The world’s first relocations due to #climatechange

 ” With an indigenous population of 2700 on seven small islands with a maximum elevation of just 1.5 metres above sea level, there are few other places on Earth where the injustice of global warming is more apparent than on the Carteret Islands.

The Carterets have been on the front line of climate change for decades: one of the islands, Huene, was cut in half by shoreline erosion about 1984. While seawalls and mangroves had been holding the ocean back until this period, further seawater inundation and storm surges over the past few decades had salinated crops and water supplies, intermittently shut down the island’s five schools due to childhood malnutrition, and destroyed homes.”

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 19, 2017 as “Topical islands”. Subscribe here

Last month,” Ursula Rakova says, “when I returned home just to visit family and talk to the islanders about the situation, it was really, really hard to see a lot of the land being lost to the sea.”

Rakova is from the Carteret Islands, commonly known as Tulun, the horseshoe-shaped scattering of low-lying coral atolls 86 kilometres north-east of Bougainville. “More and more, palm trees are falling, the scarcity of food is becoming a real issue, and the schools close, and close for long periods,” she says.

Part of the reason the area is so vulnerable is that, while the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported a global sea level rise of about three millimetres per year from 1993 to 2012, the fact that water expands exponentially as heat is applied means that bodies of water that are already hot rise more swiftly. For the western Pacific Ocean, this has meant an increase of about eight to 10 millimetres a year.

“The western Pacific is a lot hotter than the water is in the eastern Pacific – hotter by about five or six degrees – and where the islands are is amongst the hottest ocean water in the world,” says Ian Simmonds, professor of earth sciences at the University of Melbourne. “Hence a warming of one degree there gives you just so much more of a sea level rise.”

Simmonds notes that the same is true for the severity of storms in the region: a warmer planet means more moisture, and, therefore, stronger and more frequent storms.

In response to increasingly severe events, Carteret elders initiated a voluntary relocation program in 2006, named Tulele Peisa, or “Sailing the Waves on Our Own” – outwardly a response to failed talks with neighbouring governments dating back to 2001. The group contacted Ursula Rakova, a Huene expatriate who had gone on to direct a Bougainville-based non-government organisation, to lead the initiative. After unsuccessfully applying for land through official channels, she was given four different locations by the Catholic Church in 2007, and relocation to the first of the abandoned plantation sites started that year.

Now, after more than a decade of leading the first recorded example of forced displacement due to global warming, Rakova has almost completed housing for the first group of 10 families. She has successfully established food gardens and a mini food forest, rehabilitated plantations and begun selling crops of cocoa. New education and management facilities have been set up, and both funding and food relief arranged to be sent back to the Carterets.

But the plight of the Carterets is not unique. Three other atolls within the Bougainville area are facing similar challenges with rising sea levels, and extreme weather events have caused internal displacement everywhere from Bangladesh to Syria to Australia.

The Australian government does not, broadly speaking, have the greatest track record on the issue. Not only did then prime minister Tony Abbott refuse to meet a call from Pacific Island leaders in 2015 to reduce emissions – indirectly resulting in Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s infamous “water lapping at their doors” quip – but the current budget offers the lowest foreign aid in eight years, at $3.82 billion over 2016-17.

Yet Australia has offered a range of targeted, if less publicised, initiatives in the region, largely funnelled through the Autonomous Bougainville Government, in consultation with Papua New Guinea. These have included arranging two experts to provide advice during the resettlement process in 2009-10; funding consultations for separate, reportedly fruitless, relocation efforts between the Bougainville government and landowners on Buka Island; a mission to the atolls in April 2017 to assist communities in developing economic opportunities around marine resources; unspecified support for Tulele Peisa’s education, youth and cocoa development projects; and other aid programs to the Carterets themselves, including water and sanitation projects.

“Australia believes that the best response to the impacts of climate change is preparedness through effective adaptation and mitigation in the first instance, followed by well-supported and planned internal relocation,” a spokesperson for the department of foreign affairs tells The Saturday Paper.

“We are also assisting partners to build disaster response capacities and strengthen resilience. The Australian government will spend $300 million (between 2016 and 20), on climate change resilience activities in the Pacific, including $75 million for disaster preparedness, under the Australia–Pacific Climate Change Action initiative. We have pledged $200 million over four years to the Green Climate Fund, supporting developing countries manage climate change and its effects.”

Australia was also a member of the Nansen Initiative, a program launched in 2012 by Switzerland and Norway intended to strengthen the protection of people displaced across borders by disasters and the effects of climate change. Along with 108 other countries, Australia endorsed its Protection Agenda in 2015, leading to a range of partnerships between policymakers, practitioners and researchers as part of the follow-up Platform on Disaster Displacement.

The director of the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, Jane McAdam, has worked with Nansen and similar initiatives for more than a decade, and advocates Nansen’s “toolbox approach”. Solutions range from better supporting disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, to developing humanitarian visas in the immediate aftermath of disasters and offering new migration opportunities such as “labour visas, educational visas, bilateral free movements agreements”.

While forced climate migrants are often incorrectly referred to as “climate refugees” – a term that would require persecution – the issues are distinct in a legal sense. The first person to seek asylum on the grounds of climate change, Ioane Teitiota, of Kiribati, lost his New Zealand application in 2015.

McAdam says there is no political appetite to change the United Nations’ refugee convention definition. While there is scope to expand the definition of refoulement, governments are better suited to developing new migration opportunities.

“It’s interesting that both the Lowy Institute and the Menzies Research Centre – two think tanks, one more conservative, the other less conservative – along with the World Bank, all in the last six months or so, have each recommended that Australia enhance migration opportunities from the Pacific,” she says.

“They say this would really make a huge difference to development and assistance generally, livelihoods generally, than would humanitarian assistance – it would cost us a lot less, and it would yield a lot more.”

While Labor offered more overt leadership on the issue while in opposition in 2006, specifically in terms of training islanders for skilled migration programs, neither Coalition nor Labor governments have since restructured our migration system to the extent McAdam recommends.

“Both Labor and the Coalition [are saying,] ‘Let’s look at this as more of a development foreign assistance issue, rather than something that’s got to do with migration per se.’

“But it’s not an either/or; it’s a whole combination of different strategies that are required, and that requires a whole of government approach.”

Despite Rakova’s work, which led to a Pride of PNG award in 2008, the Carteret group is struggling to fund homes for the final two families, who are sharing houses, let alone start resettling the remaining 1700 volunteers meant to migrate over the next five years. She says the delay, exacerbated by intercultural challenges and the emotional toll of abandoning ancestral homes, is causing anxiety.

“Basically people are beginning to really think about moving back because relocation is very slow.”

Rakova points to US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord as a frustrating example of high-polluting nations declining their responsibility.

“I would really like to urge President Trump to think twice about the destruction that climate change is causing the lives of the most vulnerable people.

“Communities who have not contributed to the impacts of climate change are being destroyed by climate change. Why should we suffer?”

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 19, 2017 as “Topical islands”. Subscribe here.

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 Day 2017 Reflections on the past : Are our greatest resources the environment, our cultures and our people ?

 “June 15, is a very symbolic occasion. It marks the anniversary of the day when Bougainville’s political aspirations were recognized with the formal establishment of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, in this sense Bougainville Day captures the hopes, dreams and aspirations of all Bougainvilleans.

The last twelve years have been some of the most challenging, yet fruitful, for the Autonomous Region of Bougainville as we continue to forge ahead to decide our ultimate political future.”

Happy Bougainville Day and God bless you all.

Chief Dr. John L. Momis GCL, MHR
President

” As another Bougainville Day arrived and passed us by we continue to contemplate, celebrate and share the belief, hope and faith that with the right efforts and proper use of resources Bougainville will continue be a resilient society among its Melanesian brothers in the country and in the Pacific Islands.

What are Bougainville’s greatest resources?”

Simon Pentanu asks in Part 2 below

Part 1 The President

The Autonomous Bougainville Government has made significant progress in strengthening its faculties through passing important laws in the Bougainville House of Representatives and revitalizing the Bougainville Public Service into a lean and effective service delivery mechanism.

We have passed many new and important laws such as the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 which is one of the very best in the world as it gives Bougainville resource owners more control over their land and resources. The recent partial lifting of the Mining Moratorium on Bougainville is a clear indication of the ABG’s drive to foster fiscal self-reliance in the region.

Over the years our public service has been plagued by corruption; it is a deeply rooted problem that continues to hamper our development but we have since made efforts to curb this problem.

The setting up of the Auditor’s Office and the recent opening of the Ombudsman Commission’s office in Bougainville has provided us with the necessary means to tackle the corruption problem head on, not just in the public service but throughout Bougainville. The recent developments in the public service shows that the ABG will no longer tolerate corrupt practices.

We have set the indicative date for the referendum to be held on June 15, 2019. The ABG is already preparing for this very important event and the newly created Department of Peace Agreement Implementation will be taking the lead on this.

I would like to remind you all that our people are a people highly favoured. We have been blessed with the right to self-determination and this right we have paid for with the blood, sweat and tears that we shed through the darkest hours of our history, and that was the Bougainville Crisis.

We will not go quietly into the night, we must stand firm and stand united and make our voices heard, for at this juncture, unity is our greatest bargaining power on the eve of the referendum.

Today I ask all Bougainvilleans to reflect and to consider what you can each do to help Bougainville achieve its true destiny and dreams.

All of us have a role to play – our farmers, industrialists, students, teachers, health workers, public servants and our elected leaders.

By working together and moving ahead with a common goal there is much that we can achieve.

My challenge to you is to embrace this change and contribute to the journey. Together we can achieve greatness and as your President that is my ultimate goal – for a proud, united Bougainville.

Happy Bougainville Day and God bless you all.

Chief Dr. John L. Momis GCL, MHR
President

Part 2 Simon Pentanu

Not everyone will agree with me, but I believe they are our environment, our cultures and our people.

When we think about how to transform Bougainville into a developing, progressive region in the modern world, it’s important we do so by harnessing and protecting these resources.

Our environment, cultures and people are the things that have sustained us for countless generations past – and they can continue to do so today and into the future if we are smart.

Keeping our natural environment healthy while transforming Bougainville into a modern, progressive region is something the ABG can achieve only in close consultation with communities – the land owners and culture custodians.

Wherever we look around the world, there are lessons we can learn. Some communities and their environments have become victims of progress, not partners in development.

Think about the Melanesian people of West Papua. In the past 40 years vast quantities of their gold, copper, timber, palm oil and other resources have been mined, chopped down, extracted and exported, but few impartial observers would say this has been to the benefit of West Papua’s environment, cultures and people.

Of course, the vast majority of the resource extraction that has happened in West Papua has been undertaken with little or zero community consultation.

We have the opportunity to do things differently. To this end Bougainville’s mining legislation and policies address this. Let us hope it works in practice so that all parties involved in this industry and any such investment which harnesses resources are equal opportunity benefactors.

When we consider the various options open to us, I believe a CGP (community government partnership) is a more sustainable choice than a PPP (public private partnership).

CGP has the community as its starting point. CGP is a partnership that regards and protects the environment as enduring capital for sustainable humanitarian development.

A PPP is fine if it regards resource owners in communities as equal partners. But too often PPPs see resources merely as disposable commodities and consumables in a profit-oriented business model.

That way of thinking ends up depleting our strongest long-term assets for short-term gains that are here one year and gone the next.

Bougainville’s greatest resources – our environment, our cultures and our people – deserve so much better than that.

We can learn from the lessons from the past – some of which have been the most profound insofar as they have affected our society more than any other society in Melanesia, and the whole of the Pacific for that matter.

 

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 Education News : PNG education powers and functions transfer to Bougainville Government

A Joint Implementation Committee meeting was held this week to oversee the education powers and functions transfer from the education department to the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

Whilst commending his current and former department staff, AGB and Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for their contributions in the functions transfer, he also expressed concern that the two day meeting is the first after two years and attributed the lack of meetings and consultations to funding and leadership challenges. However, he was pleased that the reports he received from were promising and that work on the transfer of powers and functions was continuing.

Picture from James Tanis from http://bookgainville.com/about-us/

Full Name of School: Nariana Elementary School: Metonasi Class B :Region: Nagovisi, Via Panguna ,Central Bougainville

He noted that while there are some powers and functions be transferred there are some that remain to be transferred due to lack of capacity in the ABG education system to absorb and implement successfully. The powers and functions that remain to be transferred are to do with Inspections, Curriculum and Examinations.

Dr Kombra pledged the department’s support to the ABG Department of Education and called on both entities to maintain regular communication.

“We need to be mindful of some national government policies being implemented by the department. One of them is the Tuition Fee Free Policy. The intent of this Policy is to ensure that every child attends school and remove the burden of school fees from parents.

I am aware that Bougainville charged parents fees this year which you can do but school fee is the main barrier that stops children from attending school.”

The Secretary also mentioned the need for the committee to establish a joint monitoring group to review and monitor the implementation of the powers and functions that have been transferred and the ones that remain.

The Bougainville education department registration policy, enrolment policy, regulation of pre-schools in Bougainville, transfer of remaining TSC powers and functions to Bougainville, and status of the Bougainville Technical College under the Bougainville Act 2013 and the PNG Education Act were discussed at the two day meeting.

Meanwhile, the newly appointed Secretary for Bougainville Education Department Dr Justin Kehatsin said that his department is working together with the Bougainville Education Minister in implementing the transferred powers and functions.

One of the challenges Dr Kehatsin mentioned is the mushrooming of early childhood centres in Bougainville. He added that a standard curriculum is needed that will work well for both Bougainville and PNG.

He reaffirmed Bougainville’s commitment to ensuring the transfers.

Note from Bougainville News : Hopefully now we can get some funding support for

Bougainville News : Consultancy: Communications Strategy – Bougainville Referendum Project

The PNG National Research Institute as part of its work in researching and analysing strategic issues for national development, consider the Referendum and Bougainville to be of a significant national event that will impact the well-being of the people of Bougainville and the people of PNG.

Download the Terms of reference :

Bougainville-Referendum-Communications-Strategy

Or NRI Website

The PNG NRI therefore independently plans to undertake a set of research projects that will generate information to inform discussions in preparation for the referendum so that the outcome is credible and respected by all parties and ensuring a peaceful outcome for the people of Bougainville.

The PNG NRI research project proposes to inquire and inform stakeholders on three key central questions:

  • What is a Referendum and why is it being held?
  • How can the Referendum be effectively administered?
  • What are possible outcomes and how can the outcome of the Referendum be effectively managed and implemented?

The Institute seeks applications from qualified candidates to develop the Communications Strategy for the project.  This is a critical piece of work that will provide a foundation for dissemination of the research generated by the Project.

The strategy will be developed on a consultancy basis.  Applications are due by Friday 26 May 2017.

The Bougainville Referendum Research – Communication Strategy

Background Information

1.1. The Bougainville Referendum

The people of Bougainville will vote in a Referendum before June 15 2020 to determine their political future; – a choice between whether Bougainville remains a part of Papua New Guinea under an Autonomous Governance Arrangement, or to become a fully Independent State, an option to be included in the Referendum.

This is an important milestone as part of a Peace Agreement reached in 2001 following a brutal Civil War between 1989 and 1999.

The conflict was initially triggered by issues over redistribution over landowner benefits from the Bougainville Copper mine, then fuelled by long held secessionist sentiments mobilised into a civil war against PNG Government forces, that later flared into localised conflicts between different factions after the government forces withdrew and maintained a blockade around the islands of Bougainville.

The war resulted in more than ten thousand persons estimated to have been killed and destruction of major infrastructure as well as social disruptions leaving half the population of Bougainville displaced.

Cessation of fighting in 1998 led to negotiations for a Peace Agreement.

One of the key stickypoints in the negotiations was a call by factions of the Bougainville delegation on a Referendum for Independence. This was finally agreed to, but deferred to a period after fifteen years following the establishment of an autonomous Bougainville Government but before the end of twenty years.

Reports and findings from recent studies done on Bougainville indicate a lack of general information about what is a Referendum and its purpose.

It is important that the people of Bougainville are clear about the purpose of the referendum, the choices available and the implications of their choice of a political future when they cast their vote.

The Referendum outcome also has implications for the wider PNG as it challenges the essence of the PNG Nation State for maintaining a unified country of a diversified people, yet ensuring that a peaceful outcome is achieved for Bougainville.

It is therefore also critical for robust informed discussions that would lead to informed decisions and outcomes over Bougainville’s future as well about autonomous governance arrangements in PNG.