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

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PANGUNA and the landowners have had a mixture of these feelings, expectations and aberrations during the time of mining but have never felt so unsure and deflated since the mine was forcibly shut down at the end of 1989. That is 27 years ago now.

Today the folks in Panguna still wake up to an altered landscape asking what they did to deserve to be left in abeyance like this. Their women – mothers of the land – still eke out their livelihood from tilling their only remaining diminished arable plots of land which are perched mostly on hillsides. They say the rest of what used to be fertile grounds is barren or cannot support life as it used to.

But on the hillsides at least the taros are rooting well, the bananas are bunching big, the sweet potatoes, and the cassavas and greens are more pleasing to the women that grow them and who are keen to work the land than pan for gold under the hot sun or in drenching rains.

Everyone is resigned to thinking a scorched and altered land and landscape may never be restored or replenished to its original state. No one has been around here to tell the women otherwise.

You can be fabulously happy and absolutely content

Cheery with day to day pleasures in life

Feel a great relief within yourself

Be very positively out looking

You feel good and quite futuristic that life ahead will be a real treat

You couldn’t ask or wish for more

But when things aren’t working out

Each day becomes a confounding liability

A seemingly insoluble dichotomy

Like a light load has become heavy as lead such as not even experienced in conflict

Such is what PANGUNA has become

What a lot for the people of Panguna

From Simon Pentanu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bougainville Peace Walk : Let us keep walking and talking peace !

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 ” A Peace Walk may happen only one day in a year. But we must wear peace on our sleeves and bear it in our hearts everyday. It is the most precious and rewarding gift that we can wear, bear and share with others in our life time.

This is not a project in the conventional or orthodox sense. A message for peace is a potent message, a way of life if you like, that all humanity must subscribe to globally.

Bougainville has something to show for its commitment to peace that was born out of a desire to return to peace by peaceful means.

The Bougainville Peace Agreement, a joint creation by the National Government and the leaders of Bougainville is a testimony to this commitment.

We can better reach and embrace others in peace with us only after we make peace within ourselves.

Simon Pentanu Speaker of the House

Photo above : This is part of the crowd  that participated in the annual Peace Walk from Parliament House, Kubu to Bel Isi Park, Buka town on Friday 09 December 2016. 

The BPA is our political trajectory for peace, a joint memorandum if you like, created between the National Government and Bougainville leaders. That the BPA was agreed to with its signing witnessed by representatives of the international community and Pacific | Oceania regional leaders is a testament by all parties for an unerring desire to see sustainable peace in Bougainville.

If you are looking for impact and performance indicators where peace is at and how we have faired since the signing of the BPA since end of August 2001, one of the best places to look is the last place we often go looking, that is to our heart and within our heart.

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By anyone’s measure or comparison I am prepared to be shot down in saying that the peace process and progress in Bougainville has been exponential. This has required and involved the efforts and commitment of many people and many organizations. But most of all it has required the willingness, cooperation and commitment on Bougainville, of Bougainvilleans to sustain it thus far.

Thank you Buka Town Manager for your support.

Thank you to the ABG Ministers who walked with everyone from start to finish.

Thank you BWF and the many women who braved and enjoyed the walk for a good cause that is universal and very relevant to Bougainville; special thanks to the students from Kamarau International School who were the peace banner bearers on the walk all the way; grateful thanks to members of the civil society whose hearts’ desire always responds readily to occasions like this; thank you to UNDP and other agencies of the UN family for your unequivocal support for peace for a better Bougainville. The mobile support ahead provided by the Bougainville police is appreciated, thank you.

Thank you to the person in the wheelchair who willed and supported this day and wheeled all the way from start to finish. You were not just another person in the Walk. You made a big, special effort. We applaud and thank you.

Thank you Chief Secretary and our senior and rank and file public servants and officials; thank you any political staff that came along.

Thank you to everyone else that took part. Let us keep doing it. You can never have enough, or make enough, peace. Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

The onus is on us.

Let us keep Walking !

 

Bougainville News : Community Leaders and Landowners condemn illegal Chinese Gold Dredging

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” Landowners at the Panguna Mine Tailings areas in Central Bougainville have called on the Autonomous Bougainville Government to immediately close down the “illegal” Gold Dredging operation by a Chinese company operating on their land without proper authorization by the appropriate authorities of the government.

The call by the landowners is drawing support from the Southern and Northern Regions of Bougainville.”

Picture above : Reports received from the area say that a fair-size gold dredge has been installed on the tailings to suck up tailings material from which gold is extracted for export by the company.

Picture below :  Additionally, the company has established an office on site and a compound for it’s foreign workers. These premises and gold dredging facility are said to be heavily guarded by security.

Community leaders , Clarence Pokona, and , Chris Siriosi from Central and Northern Regions of Bougainville respectively have expressed concern that requests by landowners and the wider Bougainville community to ABG leadership for an explanation on how the investment was approved without proper technical evaluation from relevant agencies who had the expertise, continues to be ignored by the ABG leadership.

“This company is operating without proper authorization in contravention of the appropriate investment and mining laws, said Mr Siriosi. “ It appears as if they were deliberately allowed into the tailings area of the Panguna Mine under the guise of producing bricks to undertake an alluvial gold mining operation… This is totally unacceptable

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Mr Pokona said that according to Landowners from the area Joe Sipu and Dominic Sipu, the company involved in the dredging operation was 95 percent foreign-owned with 5 percent share-holding apportioned to certain landowners and ABG.

“The company Jaba Joint Development Limited was allowed into the area by the ABG Commerce Minister, Fidelis Semoso under the pretext of making bricks. However the bricks they produced were of inferior quality and were found to be unsuitable for use in buildings and structures because the sand from the tailings was contaminated with material waste from the mine upstream”, Mr Pokona said.

“We were unaware that they had been processing gold until recently when the dredge was brought in.”

 

 

 

 

Bougainville Referendum News : Calls for PNG to lift its game over Bougainville

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 “A former Papua New Guinea cabinet minister says Port Moresby has to do more to help prepare Bougainville for its referendum on independence.

The autonomous region is set to hold a vote in June of 2019.

A former MP for Central Bougainville and the first Minister of Bougainville Affairs, Sam Akoitai, said the National Government must do everything possible to ensure Bougainvilleans have full faith in the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) ahead of the vote, which is the final stage of the Peace Agreement.”

Mr Akoitai has prepared a statement for the National Parliament’s Bi-Partisan Committee, which met last week on Bougainville, and hopes the MPs will get a better idea of the issues facing Bougainville ahead of the vote.

He told Don Wiseman from RNZ about his chief concerns.

 

Arawa, Bougainville Photo: RNZI

Bougainville Lifestyle News : Wonders of the past. Lure into the future . A world to be shared

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“We should tell our stories in the first person because this is the best way we used to share our stories and exploits as children growing up in the village. I still see and hear kids in the village doing the same today”.

Simon Pentanu

Picture 1 Above : The faithful canoe still very much in use to take you anywhere : Modernization has brought speed and progress but will not take the fun and joy away from using canoes.

As I remember, growing up more than three score years ago, Pokpok Island was covered with a lot of primary green forest, thick jungle, dense canopy and impassable undergrowth. Along the coastal beaches the forest laden with its vines and creepers came bearing down to meet the sea.

This was before Lucas walkabout sawmills, Stihl and Husqvarna brand chainsaws, purseiner nets, and material affluence and its effluence from mining arrived and happened on Bougainville.

Growing up on the Island what we mostly liked and enjoyed was what we did, not what we had or acquired. Our idea of abundance and being happy growing up was not toys, computer games, gifts of sorts for every occasion or a treat in shops where mum and dad could get you whatever you asked for.

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Picture 2  :Children still create their own fun climbing up or sitting on tree branches above ground

Rather, and looking back, it was more about what we did with a lot of time we had like making kids bows and arrows, going up trees and hanging from their branches, getting into canoes and paddling out, staying out in pouring rain and playing in puddles or small floods, swimming a lot, or running into the bushes looking for wild fruits and nuts and admiring the pingtu (praying mantis).

Growing up in the village you couldn’t miss noticing the Island always teemed with a lot of life and innocence that was simple. Everyone then seemed more caring. The whole Island also looked bigger and taller with taller and bigger old growth trees still standing from the beaches up to the hills and mountain.

Possums, other tree climbing marsupials, and snakes roamed the island from end to end along tree tops and along the forest canopy without touching the ground. This might sound like something like a story with drawings from a children’s story book.

No, this really is true about what was then before human habitation, starting with first initial years of settlement of the Island by Chief Sarai and his son Miramira.

In the bushes, brushes and shrubs the hissing flow of pristine creeks was unmistakable for anyone walking or doing gardens or hunting and gathering that wanted to quench their thirst.

Near the ground on the small branches and vines the pingtu always camouflaged itself well but its stationary, slow motion stick dances and sways gave them away.

I used to wonder what they ate and lived on. As for the kids we could wander and walkabout most of the day feeding off the bush on wild fruits, ground tucker and tree nuts like the galip.

Birds sang as they liked, the crickets cranked, the cockatoos blah blah’d at the slightest sight of any human movement below. Other birds shrieked and whistled their unique sounds.

You could never miss the flying hornbill couples by the continuous harmonica like noise produced by the flapping of their wings.

We came to know and realise that the deep-thong gooey sounds of some birds meant it was time to make headway home before the sun set and night fell quickly.

A lot has changed since of course. And not all of it for the better. Along with many of the old growth trees have also gone family members, relatives and friends.

But those of us that are still here still remember them by the trees that still stand, the same bush tracks that we used to walk following each other, and by the familiar sound of birds though they aren’t plentiful and boisterous anymore.

Pokpok Island still supports its inhabitants in increasing numbers. The Islanders are more conscious and have increasing awareness and respect for the environment. There is less and less food gardening in the hills.

Fishing is the mainstay of food for protein as well as being the main reliable income earner.

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Picture 3  :Modernization has brought speed and progress but will not take the fun and joy away from using canoes.

To all inhabitants this is their Paradise, a safe and peaceful haven where everyone knows and respects each other.

It is an Island of peace, of peaceful people and is quickly becoming an allure for day visitors and short stayers.

Our traditions in Bougainville are founded more in sharing than in giving and taking. This is the case with most traditional societies in most parts of this planet.

We share the lavish beauty that surrounds us, the food that we grow in family or communal plots, the sunshine we allow everyone to get by sharing open spaces with no boundaries, the beachfront where we swim and play together, and staring into each other’s eyes and faces as a gesture to acknowledge we all have similar differences.

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Picture 4  : Sharing village beach with young Australian visiting Marist students.

If you venture to Pokpok Island today you can still soak some of the past but it is a stay that is more about how much time you have to enjoy what is around today.

Accommodation is available at Uruna Bay Retreat that is already catering for the quiet, adventurer short sayer type that want to be left on their own, that prefer swimming, snorkelling, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, bit of surfing and other water sports. Trekking  is included in the mix.

It’s fun. Come and rejuvenate, enjoy, and leave with a clear head, as a kinder soul, and with a mindful heart. It is in places and surroundings like this that you can find peace, stop talking and listen to and understand the language of your heart.

😇 May you enjoy the rest of the remaining days of your life with joy, peace and happiness as you desire.

For more info about or book

Bougainville’s PokPok Island and Uruna Bay Retreat

 

Bougainville Tourism News : Communities See Tourism Gold in Derelict Bougainville Mine

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Panguna is one of the historical sites in Bougainville. People go up to Panguna to see for themselves the damage done and want to know more about why the Bougainville Crisis erupted,”

Zhon Bosco Miriona, managing director of Bougainville Experience Tours, a local tourism company based in the nearby town of Arawa, which caters to about 50-100 international tourists per year, agrees.

Our future is very, very dangerous if we reopen the Panguna mine. Because thousands of people died, we are not going to reopen the mine. We must find a new way to build the economy,

We envisage tourists visiting the enigmatic valley in the heart of the Crown Prince Ranges to stay in eco-lodges and learn of its extraordinary history

Philip Takaung, vice president of the Panguna-based Mekamui Tribal Government

Originally published here

Picture Landowner Lynette Ona, along with local leaders and villagers in the Panguna mine area, look to tourism as a sustainable economic alternative to large-scale mining in post-conflict Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

PANGUNA, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, Sep 7 2016 (IPS) – The Panguna copper mine, located in the mountains of Central Bougainville, an autonomous region in the southwest Pacific Island state of Papua New Guinea, has been derelict for 27 years since an armed campaign by local landowners forced its shutdown and triggered a decade-long civil war in the late 1980s.

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The former Rio Tinto majority-owned extractive venture hit world headlines when the Nasioi became the world’s first indigenous people to compel a major multinational to abandon one of its most valuable investments during a bid to defend their land against environmental destruction.

“That is what we were fighting for: environment, land and culture.” — Lynette Ona

Today, local leaders and entrepreneurs, including former combatants, see the site playing a key role in sustainable development, but not as a functioning mine.

“Our future is very, very dangerous if we reopen the Panguna mine. Because thousands of people died, we are not going to reopen the mine. We must find a new way to build the economy,” Philip Takaung, vice president of the Panguna-based Mekamui Tribal Government, told IPS.

He and many local villagers envisage tourists visiting the enigmatic valley in the heart of the Crown Prince Ranges to stay in eco-lodges and learn of its extraordinary history.

“It is not just the mine site; families could build places to serve traditional local food for visitors. We have to build a special place where visitors can experience our local food and culture,” villager Christine Nobako added. Others spoke of the appeal of the surrounding rainforest-covered peaks to trekkers and bird watchers.

An estimated 20,000 people in Bougainville, or 10 percent of the population, lost their lives during the conflict, known as the ‘Crisis.’ Opposition by local communities to the mine, apparent from the exploration phase in the 1960s, intensified after operations began in 1972 by Australian subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Ltd, when they claimed mine tailings were destroying agricultural land and polluting nearby rivers used as sources of freshwater and fish. Hostilities quickly spread in 1989 after the company refused to meet landowners’ demands for compensation and a civil war raged until a ceasefire in 1998.

In the shell of a former mine building, IPS spoke with Takaung and Lynette Ona, local landowner and niece of Francis Ona, the late Bougainville Revolutionary Army leader. A short distance away, the vast six-kilometre-long mine pit is a silent reminder of state-corporate ambition gone wrong.

According to Ona, the remarkable story of how a group of villagers thwarted the power and zeal of a global mining company is a significant chapter in the history of the environmental movement “because that is what we were fighting for; environment, land and culture.” And, as such, she says, makes Panguna a place of considerable world interest.

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Bougainville Experience Tours

Zhon Bosco Miriona, managing director of Bougainville Experience Tours, a local tourism company based in the nearby town of Arawa, which caters to about 50-100 international tourists per year, agrees.

“Panguna is one of the historical sites in Bougainville. People go up to Panguna to see for themselves the damage done and want to know more about why the Bougainville Crisis erupted,” he said.

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In a recent survey of Panguna communities by Australian non-government organisation, Jubilee Australia, tourism was identified as the second most popular economic alternative to mining after horticulture and animal farming. Although realising the industry’s full potential requires challenges for local entrepreneurs, such as access to finance and skills development, being addressed.

Objection here to the return of mining is related not only to the deep scars of the violent conflict, but also the role it is believed to have had in increasing inequality. For example, of a population of about 150,000 in the 1980s, only 1,300 were employed in the mine’s workforce, while the vast majority of its profits, which peaked at 1.7 billion kina (US$527 million), were claimed by Rio Tinto and the Papua New Guinea government.

Today, post-war reconstruction and human development progress in Bougainville is very slow, while the population has doubled to around 300,000. One third of children are not in school, less than 1 percent of the population have access to electricity and the maternal mortality rate could be as high as 690 per 100,000 live births, estimates the United Nations Development Program.

People want an economy which supports equitable prosperity and long term peace and local experts see unlimited possibilities for tourism on these tropical islands which lie just south of the equator and boast outstanding natural beauty

“In terms of doing eco-tourism, Bougainville has the rawness. There are the forests, the lakes, the sea, the rivers and wetlands,” Lawrence Belleh, Director of Bougainville’s Tourism Office in the capital, Buka, told IPS.

Bougainville was also the site of battles during World War II and many relics from the presence of Australian, New Zealand, American and Japanese forces can be seen along the Numa Numa Trail, a challenging 60-kilometre trek from Bougainville Island’s east to west coasts.

“There are a lot of things that are not told about Bougainville, the historical events which happened during World War II and also the stories which the ex-combatants [during the Crisis] have, which they can tell…..we have a story to tell, we can share with you if you are coming over,” Belleh enthused.

Improving local infrastructure, such as transport and accommodation, and dispelling misperceptions of post-conflict Bougainville are priorities for the tourism office in a bid to increase visitor confidence.

“Many people would perceive Bougainville as an unsafe place to come and visit, but that was some years back. In fact, Bougainville is one of the safest places [for tourists] in Papua New Guinea. The people are very friendly, they will greet you, take you to their homes and show you around,” Belleh said.

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Bougainville Mining News : PNG Panguna decision under ” mines “Bougainville’s autonomy say Momis

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Prime Minister, the reasons for your decision on the equity suggest that you believe that you know better than the ABG about Bougainville’s mining policy needs. You substitute your views for ours. Yet under the Bougainville Peace Agreement, responsibility for Bougainville mining policy has been transferred, so that these are now matters solely for the ABG.”

Letter from Bougainville President to PM of PNG

Dear Prime Minister,

I refer to your Government’s decision to allocate the 17.4 per cent equity in BCL (recently received from Rio Tinto) to ‘Panguna landowners and the people of Bougainville’. The decision must be rejected by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (the ABG).

PNG Panguna decision under mines Bougainville’s autonomy say Momis

You are reported as telling the Parliament on Thursday 18 August 2016 that you:

  • ‘deliberately’ decided that the ABG should not be majority shareholder in BCL,
  • ‘wanted a separate vehicle that the landowners can meaningfully and directly participate in BCL’, and
  • do ‘not believe’ that the 5 per cent interest for landowners in mining operating companies provided under the Bougainville Mining is ‘sufficient enough to compensate some of the suffering the people of Bougainville had’.

Prime Minister, the reasons for your decision on the equity suggest that you believe that you know better than the ABG about Bougainville’s mining policy needs. You substitute your views for ours. Yet under the Bougainville Peace Agreement, responsibility for Bougainville mining policy has been transferred, so that these are now matters solely for the ABG.

We have given careful attention to mining policy. We give landowners veto power over ABG grant of mining licences, giving them real and direct involvement in decision-making. They must be satisfied with conditions and benefits before a project proceeds. A minority 17.4 per cent BCL equity that you propose will not give them any control over decision-making.

ABG policy also guarantees landowners 5% free equity in any mining operating company. If Panguna does re-open, that will be worth much more than 17.4% in the current BCL. Because re-opening will cost about K20 billion, a new developer will definitely be needed. The new capital requirements would then dilute all present BCL equity shares to tiny percentages. So 17.4 per cent in the existing BCL will only make landowners etc. minority shareholders in a company now worth very little.

By comparison, our Act guarantees they will have valuable equity in the fully funded project, if it re-opens. Our act also guarantees separate 1.25 per cent royalty shares each for: 1) mine lease landowners; 2) projects for those landowners; 3) adjacent landowners; and 4) infrastructure development for Bougainville generally.

It also guarantees landowner preference in mine employment and business opportunities. So our law offers very real financial benefits especially to landowners, but also to all Bougainvilleans.

The ABG believes that you are making ill-informed decisions about a complex situation that you clearly do not understand, and which do not bring real benefits to landowners. The decisions undermine autonomy, and are bad for Bougainville.

As the government of all Bougainvilleans, the ABG needs majority BCL shareholding to give it clear decision-making authority about Panguna in the interests of all Bougainvilleans, both landowners and others.

Bougainvilleans ask why you interfere in our mining policy. Do you fear that ABG control of Panguna could provide the revenue needed for Bougainville independence? In fact, no one knows if the agreed process under the Peace Agreement will lead to independence. More important, interfering in mining issues only causes deep anger in Bougainville. That is likely to cause increased support for independence. The only way you can now reduce support for independence is to work in cooperation with the ABG to make people see that autonomy really meets the needs of Bougainville. Supporting our mining policy is an essential start.

The ABG cannot allow your bad decisions to stand. I now offer you a final opportunity to resolve this issue. I request you to direct transfer of the 17.4 per cent to the ABG.

If you refuse to do so, the ABG must use other means to keep clear control of decisions on Panguna. In particular, we will cancel BCL’s exploration licence under the Bougainville Mining Act (notice to show cause why it should not be cancelled has already been given to BCL). We will then seek a new developer by inviting tenders using powers under our Mining Act.

That licence is BCL’s major asset. So cancellation would probably make all BCL shares almost worthless, including the 19.2% BCL equity PNG has held since 1972. Until now the ABG has been open to PNG retaining that equity. If Panguna re-opens, the National Government could then keep equity involvement. But if interference in ABG control of mining continues, we have no choice but to cancel the licence and completely end PNG involvement in Panguna.

That will not reduce landowner involvement in decisions about Panguna, or their sharing fairly in revenue, for the Bougainville Mining Act ensures their full involvement in both.

I await your response.

Yours sincerely,

John L. Momis

President, ARoB

 

 

Bougainville Mining News: Minister Miringtoro responds to the attacks on PNG National Government by President Momis

timthumb

As the member for Central Bougainville elected by the people of Central Bougainville into the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea, am concern about the continued media attacks by the ABG President John Momis regarding the transfer of 17.4% shares to landowners and people of Bougainville, by the National Government. As far as I know during his meeting with the Prime Minister which was attended by the Regional Member for Bougainville and Minister for Bougainville Affairs, Joe Lera, the President Momis agreed to the share distribution to the Landowners and ABG. “

The 17.4% BCL share equity in effect were gifted to the National Government by Rio Tinto. It was therefore was the prerogative of the Prime Minister to give the shares to the landowners as a token of goodwill.

ABG on the other hand was offered 36% percent by Rio Tinto through the National Government, making it a majority shareholder.

I don’t see any logic in the President’s Statement that such a move is a threat to the Peace Agreement. In my it is a step in the right direction in strengthening the peace by addressing one of root causes of the Bougainville Crisis, by giving shares to landowners who had been deprived of proper compensation, for permanent damage to their land and their environment.

Hon. Jimmy Miringtoro, OBE MP Press Release

This distribution of shares was tabled and approved by the cabinet on the 11th of August 2016.

Even any attempt by BCL to clean up the mess will not restore it to it’s original state. Firstly let me remind the good President that in the 20 years when the mine was in operation during his terms in office as a Senior Minister and Statesman, he never made any effort to negotiate for equitable benefits to landowners from the proceeds from the mine through ownership of shares in BCL.

Needless to say that during that time Panguna mine was one of the most profitable mines in the world and the shares were worth their weight in gold. Today we have to put up with childish bickering from the President over shares that are worthless unless there is mining operations churning out profits.

The President goes on to say that the ABG Mining Law gives landowners full decision-making involvement and good revenue sharing opportunity if mining resumes. That is untrue. Firstly the mining law was written by an organization that has a reputation of undermining rights of indigenous people and liberalizing economies in the Third World for take over by large corporations. Secondly, the Mining Law violates the United Nations Charter on the Rights on Indigenous People especially the concept of “Free Prior Informed Consent” or FPIC.

The Mining Law should have gone under the scrutiny of the landowners via independent legal consultations. The whole matter was virtually dropped on the people in the mine-affected areas of Central Bougainville and also the people of Bougainville at large. As the mandated Member of the National Parliament, representing the landowner of Central Bougainville, I have consulted with the Prime Minister prior to making the decision to give the shares to the landowners. It is the only way justice can be served to people who have not lost their land, their environment which is their livelihood, but also their lives.

The President’s outbursts are shameful because he was the one who stirred up the landowner sentiments to cover up his failures at the national level, in securing better outcomes for the landowners in the mine affected areas.

He verbally attacked BCL in 1989 and came up with a dream he called “The Bougainville Initiative” in which he tried to bring in another company to replace BCL as the miner at Panguna. The President can start to make peace with the people of Panguna and Bougainville by admitting that he had failed them. He should apologize to them for the sufferings and miseries they faced when they chose to take up arms because he did not hear their cries as their leader and representative in the National Parliament.

He could have prevented the war if he had been honest right from the start. The President must now talk with the Landowners about the shares instead of making unnecessary attacks on the National Government, which has done its part. The giving of shares to landowners and ABG is an indication that the Government has a genuine concern for the welfare of the landowners. It anticipates further negotiations and discussions with ABG and landowners to decide how best to work together for the benefit of all parties.

However, up till now President Momis has proven that he is incapable of running a Government which is struggling with the delivery of services to the population and the management of funds given to it. His Mining Law has proven ineffective in preventing BCL from exiting without meeting it’s obligation to clean up the mess it left behind.

The only option left now is to make the landowners shareholders of mine, as they cannot be compensated for the loss and damages they have suffered. Court battles that the President is hinting at can take years and there is no guarantee that they will be won and may meet the similar fate to the class action previously lodged in the USA. In addition, it is highly questionable at this point in time who will meet the legal costs of the legal challenge against Rio Tinto.

The Bougainville Peace Agreement deliberately steered clear of the mining issue because it was a very sensitive and emotional issue owing to the fact that it was viewed by many as the root cause of the conflict that led to loss of many lives and properties. ABG’s premature effort to reopen mining in Bougainville when the wounds of the war were still fresh and people are still deeply divided was always going to create problems for ABG and the National Government

. Over the years, ABG has been crying for money which it cannot manage as it was indicated in audit report from Auditor Generals Office. Currently we have complaints from the President about the shares. How can his inappropriate Mining Law protect landowner interests when the law gives ultimate power back to ABG and not the landowners.

A law which carries jail terms and monetary penalties against landowners who disrupt mining operations if the mining company did not respond to their grievances. Is this the sort of law to protect rights of the landowners?

I recommend that the President cede control of Bougainville to someone who has the energy, commitment and vision to move Bougainville forward instead of wasting time trying to kick up a dead horse. I see nothing wrong with building wealth for the landowners who can then contribute meaningfully to Bougainville’s economy instead of them being spectators all the time. Our people are tired of vague idealism by those who live in utopia that has brought no tangible benefits to us but continued exploitation by foreigners.

Hon. Jimmy Miringtoro, OBE MP

 

Bougainville blames PNG’ s PM O’Neill for ‘most serious dispute ever’

PNG ON

“In relation to Bougainville Copper Limited, there has been a great deal of discussion, some very unhelpful, some spiteful claims suggesting the Government was taking over the mine.

After many months of discussion, Rio Tinto has decided that they will gift its shares to the people of Bougainville and the people of Papua New Guinea.

That is the best outcome that we could gain.

With this transfer, the people of Bougainville will own a combined shareholding of 53.8 per cent of BCL.

Mr. Speaker, this Government and this House knows that this is the right thing to do.

This will ensure that for the first time in history of BCL, the landowners will be given a direct say and direct participation in the operation of the BCL mine.”

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill | August 17, 2016  

Extract from Ramumine

The Bougainville Government is furious at statements by Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill that he has transferred his government’s shares from Rio Tinto to the province’s landowners.

The Rio Tinto shares had been controversially gifted to the national government in June by the multi-national, and on Wednesday Mr O’Neill told parliament he was transferring them on to Bougainville.

On Thursday he clarified this to say the shares would go to the landowners and people of Bougainville and that he had no intention of giving them to the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

The shares are in Bougainville Copper Ltd which had run the long closed Panguna mine and the ABG wanted them to give it a controlling interest in the mine.

The ABG President John Momis told Don Wiseman the future of Panguna is the most sensitive issue in Bougainville.

See Full interview Below

Text of PM Speech

Mr Speaker,

I wish to make a statement in respect to my commitment to this honourable house last week that I intended to announces some of the decisions that our Government has taken in respect to the relationship that our Government has with landowners, the provincial governments and the resource development in the country.

These decisions will have a direct bearing on future resource developments that will take place in the country.

The decisions that we have taken are because of the direct interest that the Government has in these particular projects.

Mr Speaker,

Land, and its connection our people is at the heart and soul of our country and our communities.

Our land gives us life and supports livelihoods, it gives us a place for communities to live, and land ownership provides certainty for our children and their children.

But too often in the history of our country – our landowners have been let down.

Our landowners and their communities been made to be bystanders as their ownership has been taken away from them.

This includes both foreign and national companies, and this has been supported by successive Governments.

However, Mr Speaker, our Government has committed itself to empowering our people – and this commitment is embedded in our Alotau Accord when we formed Government in 2012.

We are committed to giving direct participation in resource developments in our country so that our landowners can take ownership, and build capacity in order to sustain their own livelihoods and their communities.

I wish to announce to the House today a series of decisions by our Government that relates to the interests of landowners and the people specifically in Western Province, in the provinces where LNG and oil are being produced, and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

These decisions are milestones in the history of our country, they will continue to empower and give confidence to many landowners and communities throughout the country.

Ok Tedi

The first of these Mr Speaker, concerns the direct equity in Ok Tedi Mining Limited.

This decision gives Fly River Provincial Government and Mt Fublian Landowners more say in the development of that mine.

The National Executive Council has endorsed the decision of our Government to transfer 33 per cent, one third of Ok Tedi Limited equity, to the people of Western Province – including landowners, affected villages and the Provincial Government.

This is a totally different approach to the past where the people of Western Province only received dividends of up to 6.1 per cent that was held by the State.

Today we are providing direct equity participation for the people of Western Province and the landowners, and this will further allow for participation at the management and the board level.

The people of Western Province to come to their own agreement about the distribution of the shares among themselves between the Provincial Government, the landowners and communities surrounding the mine.

It has been agreed in Cabinet that the shares will be held in trust by the Mineral Resources Development Corporation, through their managing of the mineral resources Ok Tedi and the mineral resources Star Mountain on behalf of the provincial Government and the land owners as well.

Mr Speaker, the value of the resources in Western Province is enormous and the people of that province and communities around the mine must benefit meaningfully from these resources.

When we took over the mine it was worth less than 500 million dollars.

The current assets of Ok Tedi will be valued at over 3 billion US dollars in twelve months time.

I note the former chainman of that mine has made a public advertisement today, but our Government is not going to engage in a war of words and we will allow the courts to make those determinations.

But one thing is very clear, after all of these years of operating this mine, under BHP and under PNG Sustainable, it is evident that our people and our provincial governments have received limited benefits and for that reason we are making this decision.

Since taking ownership of the Ok Tedi mine, and through new world class management, we have seen a total turnaround.

Mine equipment has been upgraded, and the way the mine operates has changed, including better management of the environment making sure our communities can be safe, and improve their lives.

Because of the management, re-tooling and enhanced production processes, the mine’s efficiency has improved making it more profitable, and able to operate in a low commodity price environment.

The the commodity prices improve that will make the mine even more profitable in the long term.

Mr Speaker,

In broader terms, these arrangements will see that the people of Western Province will have total assets, including the stake that they have in PNG Sustainable fund, valued at well over 2.4 billion US dollars.

Making them one of the richest provinces in the country.

I am hoping that through the landowners and the Provincial Government, that they will continue to manage these funds well for the benefit of future generations in the coming years.

We are aware of the issues that we have with PNG Sustainable, our Government will continue to fight for the rights of the people of Western Province.

Again I stress clearly, that our Government has no intention of taking over that particular fund for the people of Papua New Guinea.

That fund belongs to the people of Western Province.

They must have their say and they must take ownership of that fund and manage it themselves.

They must continue to do that and this is why we are in the court in Singapore, and I will allow the courts to make their decision.

But so far we have won every argument that has been presented to the High Court of Singapore, and we are confident that we will have a better outcome for the people of Western Province.

We are making these decisions giving close to 5 billion Kina back to the people of Western Province and this is a commendable decision that our Government has made for our people.

LNG Producing Provinces

Mr Speaker,

In terms of the LNG and oil producing provinces, they are an important part of our economy.

This is now the Government trying to implement the decisions that the previous Government has taken including the distribution of equity and the benefits that are due to the people of Hela, Southern Highlands, Gulf, Central and Western Provinces.

As I said in Parliament last week, since the production of oil began in our country, our landowners and our provinces have received close to one billion Kina in benefits, but as you look into these provinces there is nothing to show for it.

We must have better management of these funds and we intend to work closely with the landowners and the Provincial Governments in ensuring that the every MOA that we have signed, every IDG grant that we have promised, every business development grant that we have promised, and all the commitments under the LBSA and the UBSA, we intend to honour.

These are done by various Governments since oil production began in the early 1980s, but we intend to honour every commitment that has been made.

Since the sale of the gas, we have now 135 million Kina in the central bank in royalties, 130 million Kina in development levies, and 200 million Kina in equity for these five provinces.

These funds are placed in trust accounts with the Bank of Papua New Guinea.

Mr Speaker,

To dispel false information, that has been circulated by people with a political agenda and their own interests, I have yesterday directed our officials to travel up to the landowners and show them the bank statements with the actual bank balances in the accounts.

They will have no doubt whatsoever that their money is safe and in trust for their use.

The State has not mortgaged those funds, they are available and waiting for the clan vetting exercise to progress, and once that is done I have directed the Minister for Petroleum and Energy, and his department, to within 30 days after this Parliament rises, they must complete their clan vetting exercise.

After 30 days we will start distributing these funds that are rightfully due to the landowners, and rightfully due to the provincial Governments, and all the stakeholders that we have committed to.

The equity represents almost 2 percent of the project, which is free carry, and through the Umbrella Benefit Sharing Agreement which was signed in Kokopo in 2009, the Government at that time decided that we will give a further 4.27 per cent in Kroton, now Kumul Petroleum, as indirect equity in the PNG LNG project.

Under this agreement, the landowners and Provincial Government were to pay the State close to 1.1 billion US Dollars for 4.27% equity in PNG LNG.

The Hela Provincial Government took charge of raising those funds, but we are unable to conclude as the landowners continue to face challenges in arranging finance to fund the acquisition.

Govern current market conditions, where the oil price has collapsed from US$110 per barrel down to US$27, it is quite impossible for the landowners and Provincial Government to raise that money.

That is why NEC has approved that it will extend the time, that expired on the 30th of June, to be extended to 31st December 2016, so they can have the opportunity to raise more funds over the next few months.

Mr. Speaker,

We also decided that we would renegotiate the pricing given that the price of oil has dropped, so that it becomes affordable so that they are able to go and raise that money at a new discounted price.

This is only fair that they are given the opportunity to raise money to pay the Government for these shares that they are to receive.

Our officials, the landowners and the officials of the provincial government will work through it in due course I will inform Parliament when those agreements are put in place.

Bougainville Copper Limited

Mr Speaker,

In relation to Bougainville Copper Limited, there has been a great deal of discussion, some very unhelpful, some spiteful claims suggesting the Government was taking over the mine.

After many months of discussion, Rio Tinto has decided that they will gift its shares to the people of Bougainville and the people of Papua New Guinea.

That is the best outcome that we could gain.

This Government has shown a greater commitment to Bougainville that any other Government.

I want to tell the people of Bougainville that this position has not changed, and the Government will continue to work with the ABG, and the people of Bougainville, to achieve the best outcomes for them.

This includes the continued roll-out of services.

We continue to work to restore basic services, build more roads and other infrastructure and to work day and night with our friends in the ABG to advance the peace process.

The people of Bougainville have been through too much pain over the past thirty years, and should not face further frustration and confusion because of politics.

So today, I wish to make an announcement that should put to rest the rumours and misleading information.

This is an historical announcement that will affect every man, woman and child in Bougainville.

Rio Tinto decided to transfer, of its own accord, its 53.8 per cent controlling interest in BCL to ABG and the State.

Rio Tinto has transferred 17.4 per cent to the National Government, and the remaining 36.4 per cent to the ABG without costs.

These shares have now been transferred to the Government of Papua New Guinea, to our trustee under the Kumul Mineral Holdings Limited.

This was aimed by Rio Tinto to give an equal shareholding between the National Government and the ABG.

The National Government already has a 19 per cent direct interest in BCL, so with the 17.4 per cent it was intended to take this to 36.4 per cent, and the transfer of 36.4 per cent direct to ABG was meant to balance the ownership of that mine so that we can continue to work together.

The National Government wants to ensure that we make the right decision for the people of Bougainville.

We are aware of the pain and torment that the people of Bougainville have gone through, and the importance of land.

They felt very strongly that they were disempowered and they did not have participation in the mine itself.

Our Government is concerned about the health, wellbeing and prosperity of the people of Bougainville.

Today, Mr Speaker, we are announcing to this House that the Government of Papua New Guinea will transfer this 17.4 per cent, to the landowners and the people of Bougainville.

With this transfer, the people of Bougainville will own a combined shareholding of 53.8 per cent of BCL.

Mr. Speaker, this Government and this House knows that this is the right thing to do.

This will ensure that for the first time in history of BCL, the landowners will be given a direct say and direct participation in the operation of the BCL mine.

This will help to alleviate some of legacy issues of the past.

This ownership will also give landowners and the people direct control over environmental issues of any future mine development that will take place.

By transferring these BCL shares to the people we are further strengthening the confidence of Bouigainvilleans in the peace process.

We are serious about empowering communities on Bougainville, and we will continue to discuss how they want these shares transferred to them.

These funds must be utilised according to the wishes of the people of Bougainville for their community benefit.

Conclusion

Mr Speaker,

In conclusion, the landowner issues that I have raised in relation to Ok Tedi, the PNG LNG project and BCL are very important for our nation.

They are important for our people, many of them are villagers who have nothing else but the land under their feet.

These are historical policy interventions by our Government.

Landowners will no longer be bystanders to activities taking place on their own land.

Their land is their heritage, their land is their livelihood and it is their future.

We must restore hope to our landowners who have been disadvantaged for many years.

Our landowners must be able to participate meaningfully, and benefit meaningfully.

They must have a say on how this land is developed and the activities that take place.

These issues I have raised today are not the end of the story.

Before this Parliament concludes, this Government will bring additional policy and legislative changes in the minerals, and oil and gas, and other resources sectors before the House.

These changes will continue to empower our people, enabling them to participate meaningfully in their resources development.

This is the commitment made in 2012 and we intend to fulfil that before we go to the polls next year.

Thank you Mr Speaker.

Interview With John Momis

The Bougainville Government is furious at statements by Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill that he has transferred his government’s shares from Rio Tinto to the province’s landowners.

The Rio Tinto shares had been controversially gifted to the national government in June by the multi-national, and on Wednesday Mr O’Neill told parliament he was transferring them on to Bougainville.

On Thursday he clarified this to say the shares would go to the landowners and people of Bougainville and that he had no intention of giving them to the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

The shares are in Bougainville Copper Ltd which had run the long closed Panguna mine and the ABG wanted them to give it a controlling interest in the mine.

The ABG President John Momis told Don Wiseman the future of Panguna is the most sensitive issue in Bougainville.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill (left) and the Bougainville President, John Momis (right)

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill (left) and the Bougainville President, John Momis (right) Photo: AFP/RNZI

Bougainville Mining News: Momis slams PNG Minister’s statement as “misleading and mischievous nonsense “

Micah

Mr. Micah’s statement that Kumul Minerals will keep the shares until then is nothing but misleading and mischievous nonsense. It is intended to give the impression that somehow he and Kumul Minerals are in control of the share, and concerned to look after Bougainville’s interests. Nothing could be further from the truth.

‘Mr. Micah has been trying to get control of Rio Tinto’s BCL shares for over two years. He has had secret dealings with Rio.

I call on the Prime Minister to overrule his irresponsible minister. He must protect the peace process by transferring the 17.4 per cent shareholding to the ABG.”

Bougainville’s President, Dr. John Momis, described a statement on the Tinto shares in BCL by Ben Micah, Minister for Petroleum and Energy ( Pictured above with PNG PM O’Neil ) as ‘misleading and mischievous nonsense’.

He was referring to public debate following Rio Tinto’s recent decision to divest its 53.8 per cent majority shareholding in Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL). Rio has transferred its shares to a Trust, with 36.4 per cent available to the Bougainville Government, and 17.4 per cent to the PNG government. With its existing 19.3 per cent shareholding, this would make PNG equal shareholder with Bougainville. The PNG government shares were accepted by Petromin the day Rio announced its decision. Bougainville has yet to announce its decision on the shares.

But on 7 July Mr. Micah was reported as claiming that PNG owned company, Kumul Mineral Holdings Ltd will keep the 36.4 per cent offered to Bougainville until the ABG accepts the shares.

President Momis said:

‘Kumul Minerals Holdings, Mr. Micah, and the National Government have no role in relation to the 36.4 per cent BCL shares available to the ABG. Those shares were transferred by Rio Tinto to an Australian-based Trust – Equity Trustees Limited – under a Shares Trust Deed. The ABG has two months in which to decide whether to accept the transfer of the shares.

‘Mr. Micah’s statement that Kumul Minerals will keep the shares until then is nothing but misleading and mischievous nonsense. It is intended to give the impression that somehow he and Kumul Minerals are in control of the share, and concerned to look after Bougainville’s interests. Nothing could be further from the truth.

‘Mr. Micah has been trying to get control of Rio Tinto’s BCL shares for over two years. He has had secret dealings with Rio. In December 2015, he told me that the National Government must buy the Rio shares for US$100 million, in order to stop Rio selling the shares to outside interests. When I subsequently questioned Rio representatives in February they denied any such deal.

‘As President of Bougainville, I have no trust at all in Mr. Micah having any role in relation to these shares. If, as reported on Friday, the Prime Minister has no knowledge of the transfer of the 17.4 per cent of BCL shares from Rio to Petromin on 30 June, then clearly the evil and irresponsible move to make PNG equal shareholder in BCL together with the ABG has been cooked up between Rio and Mr. Micah. That deal must now be undone.

‘I call on the Prime Minister to overrule his irresponsible minister. He must protect the peace process by transferring the 17.4 per cent shareholding to the ABG. The ABG will then be majority shareholder, with PNG still holding its existing 19.4 per cent. The ABG accepts that the National Government should retain a role in BCL, but only if the ABG controls mining policy, and the company that owns the Panguna mine. ~`

‘BCL hold only an exploration licence over the former Special Mining Lease at Panguna. Under the Bougainville Mining Act, if 25 per cent or more of shares in a company holding an exploration licence are transferred, the ABG MUST initiate action to terminate the lease. The transfer by Rio to the Trust means that the termination process must now begin. The ABG Minister for Mining, Robin Wilson, has given instructions to the Secretary of the ABG Mining Department to issue a notice to BCL to show cause why its licence should not be terminated.

‘If the National Government keeps the 17.4 per cent shares, then nothing will stop the termination process being completed. Then BCL will have its cash and its Panguna drilling data, but no licence in Bougainville. That would be a bad outcome for everyone. We prefer to work with the National Government. But that must be on a basis where the ABG is in control of Bougainville’s mining.’

The President also referred to Mr. Micah’s claims of great support for the PPP on the basis of the very recent victory of PPP party candidate, Timothy Masiu, in the by-election for South Bougainville Open. He said:

‘The result does not indicate strong support in Bougainville for PPP – far from it. Instead it was a victory for a well-known person from a well-known Buin area family, who happened to have strong financial support from MR. Micah’s PPP party. The policies of the PPP and the roles of its leader, Mr. Micah, do not have support in Bougainville.

‘If the voters of South Bougainville had known at the time they cast their votes that Mr. Micah was arranging with Rio Tinto for the National Government to become equal largest shareholder in BCL, then Mr. Masiu would have been completely rejected as a PPP candidate.

‘I call on the new MP, Mr. Timothy Masiu, to explain to Mr. Micah the deep sensitivity amongst Bougainvilleans about the future of the Panguna Mine. I call on him to convince Mr. Micah to support the transfer to the ABG of the 17.4 per cent shares in BCL. Mr. Masiu must persuade Mr. Micah to transfer the shares if he is to have any chance of returning as a PPP MP in 2017.’

Hon. Chief Dr John L. Momis, GCL, MHR

President, ARoB

10 July 2016