” 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.”
“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.
“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
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.
” 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.”
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
” 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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
” The Autonomous Bougainville Government has taken a huge step in its drive to develop the mining industry on Bougainville as it made the historic decision to accept applications for exploration licenses in mining on Bougainville.”
Picture above : Symbolic reconciliation between Sam Kauona and ABG President John Momis to solve grudges from mining negotiations
” The ABG has pledged to push for the interests of the landowners in any resource development exercise that it partakes in on Bougainville.
ABG President Chief Dr John Momis made the rousing statement to the landowners of the Isina, Jaba and Tore areas where the ABG has lifted the moratorium on mining exploration.
“If we are to re-establish mining operations, it must be a cooperative approach, consultation must occur and your rights must be at the forefront of all considerations. This is my view and this is my belief, and as your president I will always put your interests first,”
Momis to landowners by Anthony Kaybing article 2 below
This follows the partial lifting of the Mining and Exploration Moratorium on Bougainville that allows the ABG to grant licenses to would be investors interested in developing the mining sector on Bougainville.
A proud ABG President Chief Dr John Momis said the event marks an historical occasion and one that marks the beginning and resetting of relations between the people of Bougainville and the mining sector.
“As we move towards the Independence Referendum in 2019 and continue our journey towards full autonomy and reconciliation, it is timely to reflect on the work that has been done and the progress that has been made,” Momis said.
“Under the Agreement Bougainville must actively work towards achieving financial self-reliance. What that means is that we must find ways to generate revenue and income so that we can meet the needs of all Bougainvilleans in the future,” Momis said.
Momis added that mining and exploration is just one way that we can do this.
“But let me be clear, the announcement on 28 April 2017 is not about revisiting the past. It is not about going back to doing things the old way which caused conflict and concern, it is about putting in place a cautious and sustainable process that allows Bougainville to embark on a new journey of partnership – a journey where landowners, the Government and mining and exploration companies work together to ensure that the interests of Bougainville are always at the forefront of any decisions on whether to embark upon new mining projects, or rehabilitate existing mining sites,” Momis said.
The decision to lift the moratorium allows the Government to become more involved in these activities through regulation and the promotion of environmental protection and safety, ensuring that mining activities are undertaken responsibly and in accordance with the law.
For the Government’s part, the ABG’s Department of Mineral and Energy Resources is ready to take this work forward.
This will be a whole-of-government process involving many departments, including Lands, Physical Planning and the Environment, Economic Development, Justice, Personnel Management and Administration and President and BEC.
In making the decision to partially lift the moratorium, the Bougainville Executive Council has carefully considered the implications of development, the capacity of government to manage exploration applications and the needs of our people.
The strategic lifting of the moratorium in Tore, Isina and Jaba will play a critical part in enhancing Bougainville’s economic future, without losing sight of the need for environmental protection and monitoring systems to regulate exploration activities.
“I believe in you and I have faith that all Bougainvilleans want to move forward in prosperity where sustainable economic development helps everyone and allows us to achieve our self-determination goals,” Momis said.
article 2 Momis to landowners by Anthony Kaybing
The ABG has pledged to push for the interests of the landowners in any resource development exercise that it partakes in on Bougainville.
ABG President Chief Dr John Momis made the rousing statement to the landowners of the Isina, Jaba and Tore areas where the ABG has lifted the moratorium on mining exploration.
“If we are to re-establish mining operations, it must be a cooperative approach, consultation must occur and your rights must be at the forefront of all considerations. This is my view and this is my belief, and as your president I will always put your interests first,” Momis said.
President Momis made a call upon each of the landowner groups to play an active role in this process and to use the negotiation and consultation mechanisms available to them.
“If you have concerns then these must be addressed peacefully and lawfully, lest Bougainville make the same mistakes of the past,” Momis said.
“I believe in you and I have faith that all Bougainvilleans want to move forward in prosperity where sustainable economic development helps everyone and allows us to achieve our self-determination goals,” he added.
The moratorium does not cover the controversial Panguna Mine but the ABG and the National Government have publicly committed to working with Bougainville Copper Limited to restart mining operations after Bougainville gained a majority stake in the now defunct mine.
This will also occur in a manner that is consultative and takes into account the wishes of the respective landowners groups.
And while the Government has indicated broad support for the work of BCL, this is on the basis that under law they have the first right to re-develop the mine.
“Let me be clear, I will be watching this process very closely to ensure that BCL honour their obligations, adhere to our laws and not repeat the mistakes of the past,” Momis stressed.
The President in his discussions with BCL has received their strong a commitment that the company intends to learn from the lessons of the past and work with landowner groups to ensure your needs and wants are addressed.
“To achieve this, the Prime Minister and I have agreed to establish a steering committee to guide future operations at Panguna,” Momis said.
“This committee will have an independent chair and include representatives from landowner groups, governments, regulatory agencies, NGOs and BCL,” he added.
The announcement for the partial lifting of the moratorium is a cautious approach. As President I want to move forward carefully. I do not want to see whole-sale mining across Bougainville.
The Autonomous Bougainville Government has made an historic announcement in the lifting of the Mining and Exploration Moratorium on Bougainville.
ABG President Chief Dr John Momis made the announcement on Friday April, 28 2017 after the Bougainville Executive Council carefully considered the implications of developing the capacity of the government to manage exploration applications and the needs of the people of Bougainville.
This allows for applications for the areas of Tore, Isina and Jaba only and does not include Panguna, places which have large ore deposits.
Since the development of the Panguna Mine more than 40 years ago the rest of Bougainville has been covered by the moratorium until the announcement was made.
In 2006 the ABG requested the National Government for the Mining, Oil and Gas powers and functions to be drawn down as the priority powers in its notice to the national government.
In 2008 both the ABG and the National Government signed the Alotau MOU that established the road map for the transfer of the Mining, Oil and Gas powers and functions from the National Government to the ABG.
Although the process was slow the ABG enacted its own Mining Act in 2015 and this paved the way for the ABG to regulate its own mining sector.
“The Bougainville Constitution and the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 clearly define the people as the owner of all the mineral found on all the land in Bougainville,” President Momis said.
“It is significantly important that the people’s consent must be given before any mine is developed and the Mining Act,” Momis said.
Momis also added that the Bougainville Mining Act gives the ABG the opportunity to preserve and reserve certain areas in Bougainville from mineral exploration and mining to strategically harvest mineral resources for the current and future generations.
The Bougainville Executive Council has the final authority to grant mining licenses in Bougainville and in this way it will scrutinise every would be investor well to ensure only genuine investors invest in Bougainville before a license is granted.
“We have learnt our lessons from the Panguna experience and now we have the opportunity to do a better job this time,” President Momis said.
“On behalf of the people of Bougainville I invite and welcome applications from prospective applicants to invest in our mining sector; Bougainville is open for business and I look forward to the development of long term economic partnerships to allow Bougainville to fulfil the economic potential she rightly deserves,” he added.
The Bougainville Mining Registrar will start accepting applications from 10am Bougainville Standard Time, Tuesday 9 May 2017.
L-R: Julius Chan, John Poe, Iambakey Okuk, Maori Kiki, Ebia Olewale, Gavera Rea, Kaibelt Diria, Michael Somare, Dr Ruben Taureka, John Guise, Paul Lapun, Boyamo Sali, Thomas Kavali.
” This is a short tribute, appreciation and acknowledgment of the early political leaders I met and around whom my career serving elected leaders grew.
I am privileged to have served, and served with, these pioneering pre- and post-Independence leaders. It is an honour I shall always treasure.
In this photograph, the pose and demeanour of these Ministers – the Cabinet – accurately shows them thinking seriously, thoughtfully, in some cases may be even curiously, about the looming question of independence.
I remember much about these pioneer political leaders largely because the career I chose as a teenager just out of high school grew and evolved around serving political leaders. Looking back it was a time and youth well spent with a rewarding graduation from the university of life whose only curricula was duty of service
Those years were a fulfilling and rewarding part of history to which I will always look back. The time and rubbing shoulders with these pioneers guided my later choices as I have considered how I might be able to still contribute as time goes on “
Statement by the Speaker of the Bougainville House of Representatives Simon Pentanu
It is election season. It is a very short, abrupt season which comes only once every five years. We are in the thick of it now. All over the country people are struck by election fever. Excitement and malaise are everywhere.
Despite shortcomings and inequities that come with all election, the value and benefit of elections are obvious. They are a tried, tested and proven method for selecting political representatives – rooted in ancient Greek system and derived from the word demos for people, thus, democracy. The rulers are elected by the ruled – government by the people, for the people, of the people – and accountable to the people through regular elections.
Alternatives to democracy autocracy, theocracy, demagoguery, plutocracy, dictatorship and military junta, anarchy and the brand of latter day religious fanaticism that is wreaking violence and in certain parts of the world.
PNG has, since its early polls, delivered democratic elections for which we can all hold our heads high.
The earliest election I can remember was the House of Assembly election in 1964. I was doing my last year in primary school in Kangu, south Bougainville. The next election was the House of Assembly election in 1968. I was doing my last year in high school in Malabunga, ENBP.
The following year I applied, was successful and commenced a job in the pre-independence House of Assembly as a simultaneous trainee interpreter/translator.
I remember much about these pioneer political leaders largely because the career I chose as a teenager just out of high school grew and evolved around serving political leaders. Looking back it was a time and youth well spent with a rewarding graduation from the university of life whose only curricula was duty of service.
The Chief, the one that was always quick to grab the baton and run from the front, was Michael Thomas Somare. Of this group he was one of the first into the House and the last to bow out of Parliament – retiring recently on the eve of 2017 Parliament elections. Sir Michael has had the longest un-dismissed innings at the crease and the most party political victories at the polls.
The tribute paid to Sir Michael and Chief and Father of the nation by Members on the day of the final meeting of the Tenth Parliament was well deserved and most fitting.
After this year’s election Sir Julius might be the only one of this group in Parliament if he is returned for the Tenth Parliament.
I was delighted to meet Dr Reuben Taureka again after more than 45 years at a private traditional closure reception to end the mourning period of one of his son-in-laws whom I knew and worked with at the Ombudsman Commission. Reuben was still in good shape and form. It was a brief and happy occasion for us to reminisce about those early pioneering years.
Those years were a fulfilling and rewarding part of history to which I will always look back. The time and rubbing shoulders with these pioneers guided my later choices as I have considered how I might be able to still contribute as time goes on.
It is no fluke, accident or coincidence I am serving as Speaker of the Bougainville House of Representatives today. I thank God, He has been kind and caring. I also thank these political pioneers whom I’m blessed to have served and observed as they gave their all, selflessly and unpretentiously to this country.
The country has been kind, the opportunities and choices have been plentiful, the opportunities and decision moments lived and exercised, have been truly remarkable.
No matter how close, how far and in what direction I look, this country cannot avoid or miss the souls and spirits of these men.
The sum total of their collective political efforts, their contribution and dedicated service to this country is beyond measure.
And yet it is also their individual efforts, that often come to the fore.
How could so many genuine leaders have emerged in the same era? I can only explain it thus: that PNG came of age because the excitement, the challenges and doubts about self determination prompted and nudged these men to mature beyond their age to face up to the uncharted waters and unknown future to nationhood.
“When BCL had to leave the site in 1989, we believe BCL operated Panguna in compliance with applicable laws and standards until 1989 when it was required to leave the country…..Given the lack of access since then, it has not been possible for Rio Tinto or BCL to confirm the nature, extent or cause of any alleged damage or pollution,”
A spokesperson for Rio Tinto at their London headquarters told Mongabay
“In terms of the environmental damage and social disruption, it is a moral negligence on the part of Rio Tinto to have caused so much damage to the environment and to people’s lives, and to now walk away,”
Chief Dr. John Momis, president of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
“Wherever possible we prevent – or otherwise minimize, mitigate and remediate – harmful effects that our operations may have.”
British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto was for 45 years the majority-owner of the Panguna copper mine in Bougainville, an autonomous region in Papua New Guinea (PNG). But now it has given up its 53.8 percent stake in the mine’s operating company, Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL), and announced it rejects any corporate responsibility for environmental damage wrought during operations from 1972 to 1989.
The company believes it no longer has any obligation to address the mine’s environmental legacy because it adhered to PNG’s laws of the day and was forced to abandon the extraction venture due to armed conflict.
“When BCL had to leave the site in 1989, we believe BCL operated Panguna in compliance with applicable laws and standards until 1989 when it was required to leave the country…..Given the lack of access since then, it has not been possible for Rio Tinto or BCL to confirm the nature, extent or cause of any alleged damage or pollution,” a spokesperson for Rio Tinto at their London headquarters told Mongabay.
The controversial open-pit mine, once one of the world’s largest, hit world news headlines almost three decades ago when indigenous landowners forced it to shut down. Angered about tailings and mine-waste contamination of agricultural land and nearby waterways, as well as inequity in revenue and benefit-sharing, landowners used a campaign of sabotage to halt operations in 1989, subsequently precipitating a decade-long civil war.
The mine’s social and environmental legacy
Now, rusting mine trucks and machinery litter the long-abandoned mine site in one of Bougainville Island’s remote mountain valleys, while gutted mine buildings have been resourcefully adapted and reoccupied by local villagers as dwellings. But rivers and streams in the vicinity remain contaminated, tailings dumps have become unstable and chemical storage areas are deteriorating.
“In terms of the environmental damage and social disruption, it is a moral negligence on the part of Rio Tinto to have caused so much damage to the environment and to people’s lives, and to now walk away,” said Chief Dr. John Momis, president of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
Rio Tinto claims on its website that “respect for the environment is central to our approach. Wherever possible we prevent – or otherwise minimize, mitigate and remediate – harmful effects that our operations may have.”
However, the Bougainville Copper Agreement Act of 1967 — drafted when the region was under Australian administration as part of the former Territory of Papua and New Guinea — does not incorporate any significant environmental regulations or liability of BCL for the rehabilitation or restoration of areas affected by mining activities.
“Rio is now deeply hypocritical in its blatant disregard of the higher corporate responsibility standards it says it has adopted,” President Momis declared in a June 2016 media statement, following announcement of the company’s divestment. “Corporate social responsibility means responsible companies accept that their responsibilities go beyond the legal requirements of the day.”
Lee Godden, Director of the Centre for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law at Australia’s University of Melbourne, commented that: “Many of the early agreements between mining companies and the PNG Government did not contain effective clauses for environmental damage remediation….Typically it is not possible to retrospectively amend those agreements in light of subsequent damage or subsequent international law principles that have operated to address some of the balance of power problems in these early agreements.”
Putting pressure on Rio Tinto
Determined that the mining multinational should not escape accountability for environmental and social legacy issues, President Momis has called for “an international campaign to force Rio Tinto to accept its responsibilities” and sought advice on taking legal action.
However, taking the matter to court requires considerable funds — which the Bougainville Government, still heavily dependent on international aid and financial support from the national government, has limited access to. “We have financial constraints and these financial constraints make it difficult for us,” President Momis admitted.
And while Rio Tinto’s divestment resulted in the Bougainville Government acquiring an extra 36.4 percent shareholding in the Panguna mine and the PNG Government 17.4 percent (with the latter gifting its shares to “the landowners and the people of Bougainville”), their value is negligible unless the mine is in production.
Even during the 17 years of copper extraction in Panguna, which generated an estimated 1.7 billion kina in total revenue (roughly US$1.44 billion at the time), only 1.4 percent was granted to landowners, while 61.5 percent went to the PNG Government. Local resentment about the marked inequity of economic benefits was one of the major factors in the escalation of the civil war.
In 1989, indigenous landowners demanded compensation of 10 billion kina for the mine’s detrimental environmental and social impacts, as well as benefit-sharing grievances. When this was not met by Rio Tinto and BCL, they formed a rebel group, known as the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, and used explosives to destroy the mine’s power supply and bring the functioning of the mine to a standstill. In so doing, the Nasioi people of Central Bougainville became known as the first indigenous peoples in the world to force a global mining multinational to abandon one of its most lucrative ventures.
The PNG Government responded by imposing a blockade on Bougainville in 1990 and deployed its armed forces to quell the uprising. A civil war then raged between the national military and armed revolutionary groups, wreaking widespread destruction across the islands and leading to an estimated death toll of 15,000-20,000 lives, until a permanent ceasefire in 1998.
Today the long-term processes of post-conflict peace building, disarmament, reconciliation and reconstruction continue to consume the energy and resources of the government, international donors and local leaders and communities. And memories of the violence, atrocities and injustices of the conflict are still vivid in the minds of many people throughout the region.
An estimated one-third of men and one in five women who were exposed to violence during the war now suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), while more than one in three men and women believe there is continuing lack of peace in their communities, according to a recent study by the United Nations Development Program.
Walking away from the mine
For at least the past seven years, Rio Tinto has been engaged in discussions with the Bougainville Government about the possibility of returning to Panguna to recommence extraction of the estimated 3 million tonnes of copper reserves remaining there.
Rio Tinto’s final decision last year to exit Bougainville has been attributed primarily to both the dramatic fall in commodity prices in recent years and investor risks — including substantial opposition to the company’s return by landowners and communities in the Panguna mine lease area and the region’s uncertain political future.
“During the strategic review that led to the announcement in June 2016, Rio Tinto concluded that it would not be in a position to take part in future mining activities at Panguna and that it was in the best interests of BCL and its stakeholders to transfer our 53.8 percent shareholding to those better placed to determine the future direction of the company,” the Rio Tinto spokesperson stated.
However, the massive environmental legacy is still unaddressed and continues to affect the lives of indigenous communities, especially the Barapang, Kurabang, Basikang and Bakoringku clans who own the mine-pit land. For customary landowners, “the land is like a mother because we feed on the land. It’s nothing compared to money. I can always go to the land for food and nourishment,” Panguna landowner, Joanne Dateransi, explained.
There has been no official environmental assessment of the damage since the mine was deserted. But it is known that around 300,000 tonnes of ore and water were excavated every day in Panguna and the mine tailings were discharged down the Jaba River and into the Empress Augusta Bay, while the spoil and overburdens accrued in waste dumps in the Panguna area. Local communities claim there has been no fish in the local Jaba and Kawerong Rivers for four decades.
The Bougainville authorities also report that: “The levy banks built by BCL to contain the flooding of nearby areas arising as the bed of the Jaba River rose (because of the depositing of vast amounts of tailings) were breached by floodwaters over 15 years ago. River water polluted by acid leached from the crushed tailings now floods huge areas of our people’s land all along the lower Jaba.”
And, further, a mammoth delta of tailings extends 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) into the sea on the west coast of Bougainville Island.
Social impacts include the forced relocation of at least five villages, such as Dapera and Moroni, to land unsuitable for growing crops and supporting livelihoods, while families were provided with cheap, substandard housing, resulting in severe overcrowding and health problems. The original location of the villages is now a barren terrain of waste rock.
Funding a cleanup
President Momis says the government is keen to facilitate an expert environmental assessment.
“We are having discussions with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) about the possibility of organizing such a study and also a social impact study. We are also contacting international NGOs which support third world nations in the interests of preserving history, forests and ecological balance,” he said.
Following this, the most critical question is how a major environmental cleanup, which could cost billions, can now be pursued.
One option, according to the President’s office, is to set up a trust fund with potential contributions sought from the PNG and Australian Governments, as well as Rio Tinto, although, to date, Rio Tinto has not indicated any willingness to support such an initiative.
“World Bank or Asian Development Bank funding is sometimes available for this type of cleanup, but often that will mean a loan to what are impoverished governments which need to meet a range of other socioeconomic needs in their countries,” Professor Godden also advised.
President Momis suggests that “the only other way to fund a cleanup is through the resumption of mining. It [BCL] is now majority owned by the landowners and the Autonomous Bougainville Government and we believe the cleanup could be done concurrently with the reopening of the mine. During our discussions with them so far they have been conscious of their responsibilities.”
However, the capital investment required to reconstruct and reopen the Panguna mine is estimated to be about 20 billion kina ($6.3 billion) and securing investment of this magnitude will be a challenge in the current investment climate.
Recommencing large-scale mining is also seen by the authorities and some landowner groups as a way to acquire the sizeable revenues needed to generate economic self-sufficiency ahead of a referendum on Independence from PNG. A major provision in the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, the referendum is planned to take place by 2020. At present, only 10 percent of the Bougainville Government’s annual budget of about 300 million kina derives from internal revenue.
Two years ago, the Autonomous Bougainville Government, which was established in 2005, passed its first mining law, thus paving the way with a legal framework for large-scale mining to be reconsidered in the region. The Bougainville Mining Act (2015 ) requires mining-lease applicants to protect the environment and comply with environmental policies and regulations, and stipulates that customary landowners have ownership of mineral resources found on their land. But, while they are entitled to consultation about exploration and mining interests, as well as related benefits and employment, the Bougainville Government retains exclusive powers over the granting of mining tenements and distribution of revenues.
Nevertheless, because of the unique history of the Panguna mine and the fact that its territory is controlled by the local Mekamui Tribal Government, comprising many former rebel leaders and combatants, any development or exploitation of Panguna’s resources will require the final consent of local chiefs and landowners. And reports in recent years have highlighted that a significant proportion of landowners in the Panguna mine lease area oppose large-scale mining on their customary land in the near future.
“We don’t need Rio Tinto or BCL,” Lynette Ona of the Bougainville Indigenous Women’s Landowner Association and a Panguna landowner declared. However, she added that a meeting was being planned in the near future so that people across Bougainville, not only local landowners, could voice their views on the question of mining. If there is majority consent for this to happen, “then we have to bring in a new company after Independence, so that we can fund the economy, but we don’t want mining now,” Ona emphasized.
The “new BCL,” without Rio Tinto, has only begun articulating its future plans. Any provision, in this context, for an environmental cleanup is very unclear, but will come under severe scrutiny by those most affected, given that the history of the Panguna mine, to date, is a lesson in the shortcomings of corporate social responsibility.
Catherine Wilson is a journalist and correspondent reporting on the Pacific Islands region find her on LinkedIn.
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