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 Government purchases 500,000 kina shares in BEIG a Chinese Joint Venture

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“I want to encourage the people of Bougainville so that we can all be involved in this task of creating a common thrust to empower the people of Bougainville and liberate ourselves from the syndrome of dependency,”

Momis Urges Unity see Press Release 2 Below

Bougainvilleans are a highly favoured people, due to the Bougainville Crises it is only in Bougainville that we have the unique opportunity to develop a new socio-economic political order and determine our own political future,”

ABG President Grand Chief Dr. John Momis

Pic Caption: ABG President Grand Chief Dr. John Momis receives the share certificate from BIEG Ltd Chairman Jason Fong while the ABG Minister for Economic Development, Fidelis Semoso looks on.

The autonomous arrangement on Bougainville cannot function effectively without an economic revenue stream to sustain it.

The ABG Minister for Economic Development, Fidelis Semoso made the statement during the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s purchase of five hundred thousand shares (K1 per share) in the Bougainville Import and Export General Corporation Limited (BIEG) worth K500, 000.00 last Friday.

“Despite the current economic turmoil in the country the Autonomous Bougainville Government continues to strive to create tangible economic development on Bougainville,” Mr Semoso said.

“The purchase of the shares signifies the ABG’s commitment to give meaning to economic recovery on Bougainville,” Semoso said.

Semoso said that the purchase of the shares did not mean that the government was ignoring local businesses.

“The ABG is committed helping indigenous businesses as shown through our initiative to let locals borrow from the National Development Bank start up or support capital for their businesses,” Semoso said.

Semoso said the K2 million given to NDB to allow locals to loan to support their businesses would be increased next year to allow more stimuli in Bougainville’s economy.

The BIEG is a joint venture between the ABG and a Chinese corporation that is involved in numerous projects in the agriculture and manufacturing sector on Bougainville to create a self-sustaining economic drive in the region.

ABG President Chief Dr John Momis also congratulated Minister Semoso and the Department of Economic Development for the initiative in creating more economic opportunities for Bougainvilleans.

“I want to encourage the people of Bougainville so that we can all be involved in this task of creating a common thrust to empower the people of Bougainville and liberate ourselves from the syndrome of dependency,” the President said.

The President also made mention of the current financial dilemma in Bougainville but he said the people showed exuberance in creating their own business ventures with minimal help from the government and that showed a dynamic movement of people.

Over one million shares in BIEG Limited have already been purchased by Bougainvilleans prior to the ABG’s purchase and this number has been steadily growing.

On behalf of the people of Bougainville the ABG shares will be held by the government’s business arm the Bougainville Public Investment Corporation Limited.

Momis Urges Unity

The Autonomous Bougainville Government President, Chief Dr John Momis has made a call for unity to all Bougainvilleans as the region prepares to decide its political future through a referendum.

“Bougainvilleans must unite to implement the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the Referendum peacefully and let it be a process of integrity,” Momis said.

“Bougainvilleans are a highly favoured people, due to the Bougainville Crises it is only in Bougainville that we have the unique opportunity to develop a new socio-economic political order and determine our own political future,” he said.

Momis said that Bougainvilleans must understand that they must be prepared to except the consequences of their decisions come the referendum in a couple of years’ time so it was imperative that the people make informed decisions to determine their future.

“If we mess it up now then we are bound to fail and not realize our aspirations but if we follow through with the Bougainville Peace Agreement and respect the rule of law, promote good governance and except the responsibility of our actions then we will be able to liberate ourselves,” Momis said.

Momis also urged Bougainvilleans to do a self-analysis and embrace their core values that comprised of Christian and cultural principles that would refine Bougainville society and give a strong foundation to the people as they move toward the future.

“Our world view is one that not only ends here but extends to the future and onto the next life and is one that looks toward creating a just society that empowers the people and respects their dignity,” Momis said.

The Referendum to determine Bougainville’s political future has been slated for June 15 2019, though only a working date it is highly practical proposal consensually agreed upon by the ABG and the National Government in the Joint Supervisory Board early this year.

Meanwhile both the ABG and the National Government are at loggerheads over the GoPNG’s continued delay in releasing grants owed to the ABG.

The continued financial chokehold the GoPNG has over Bougainville and recent fiasco surrounding the Bougainville Copper Limited shares has sown the seeds of discontent erupted strong nationalist feelings amongst Bougainvilleans.

Even the multi-million kina road sealing projects on Bougainville have come to a halt with the GoPNG showing no imitativeS to move ahead with the projects which have been tendered and contractors already on site.

 

 

Bougainville Education News : Improving literacy in Bougainville, one step at a time

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Literacy is very important in the community; teaching people to read and write is vital, because a lot of kids here during the crisis did not go to school and are only just now learning to read and write.”

Aravira’s Head Teacher Herman Parito

WATCH VIDEO

“There are strong indications that the benefits of mobile reading like kindles are long-lasting and far-reaching, with the potential to improve literacy, increase education opportunities and change people’s lives for the better.

A revolution in reading is upon us…”

Ex President James Tanis Founder of another local Arawa based project

Bookgainville E Kindles Project see Below

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Students  from Aravira Primary School in central Bougainville, Papua New Guinea on their walk to school – which for some, takes up to four hours

From Tom Perry World Bank report

After a two-hour drive from the nearest main road, our 4WD can travel no further; me and my travelling companions will have to trek the rest of our journey to Aravira Primary School in Bougainville on foot. As we set off, a group of students from the school emerge from the bush in front of us. They smile, extend their hands in welcome and immediately offer to take my backpack.

I politely refuse, yet within minutes I regret my decision to turn down help. As we move through the long grass along the mountain ridge, the heat which a few minutes ago was manageable is now unbearable. I’m pouring in sweat. My backpack feels 10 kilograms heavier, and the ground beneath me feels as if I’m stepping onto ice. Ten minutes into our journey, I lose my feet, slip into a crevice, and land face-first in the nearest bush.

As I’m helped back onto my feet by the kids, I ask them how much further we have to go to get to the school. They giggle, then simply start walking again. I discover soon enough that the answer to my question is ‘two and half gruelling hours.’ This is a seriously hard trek, clearly not for the faint of heart.

An hour later, I struggle up the next ridge, hiking boots still soaked from yet another river crossing, and it really hits me; this is their daily walk to school.

Aravira Primary School is located deep in the Bougainville mountains. It’s a remote, picturesque spot, and is home to 120 students from Aravira and Remsi, the two communities located within ‘walking distance’ of the school. Yet given the school is at least four hours’ journey from the nearest town, Chairman Henry Topowa tells me after I arrive that ‘walking distance’ is a relative concept up here.

“Access by road is very difficult. Both communities are quite far from the school, so the students have to walk a fair distance and cross rivers to come each day to school,” Henry explains. “When it rains, we have to send the children home because of the weather, because it’s very risky in certain areas.”

Henry says that for those coming to the school from beyond the two nearest communities, it’s an even bigger challenge.

“A lot of people here, especially the teachers, travel back and forth on foot. It takes between four to five hours by foot. If we travel into town as early as 6am, we usually arrive back in the village around 9pm or even 10 pm.”

Due to this remoteness, my travelling companions and I are the first non-Bougainvillean visitors to the school in over a year. Yet this is not an unusual story across much of the country. An estimated 60% of Papua New Guineans live in rural areas, which in Bougainville means they’re likely living in dense, mountainous jungle or in small villages dotted along the coastline. In these areas, services such as schools and medical clinics are few and far between, a fact further compounded by the island’s ten-year conflict that saw tens of thousands of families living in hiding in the bush for much of the 1990s.

This remoteness and decades of limited opportunity has driven the students and teachers at Aravira – and many schools just like it – to push for better education, including through the World Bank-supported READ PNG project. In addition to training more than 24,000 teachers, the project has seen the establishment of 21,000 classroom libraries filled with around 1.1 million books to schools across PNG.

More than 21,000 classroom libraries similar to this one have been established across Papua New Guinea through the World Bank-supported READ PNG project in an effort to improve literacy in PNG.
More than 21,000 classroom libraries similar to this one have been established across Papua New Guinea through the World Bank-supported READ PNG project in an effort to improve literacy in PNG.

And having made the brutal trek in to Aravira Primary School, I ask School Chairman Henry Topowa about the challenge of delivering hundreds of books to a place so remote. He beams with pride when he recounts the story.

“The road was muddy and slippery. We crossed a river along the way which was flooding. We had to balance ourselves carrying the books over an unsteady wooden bridge at the river,” Henry tells me.

“It was raining and we were scared that the books would get wet, so we cut banana leaves and placed them over the box of books and onto our shoulders. Others placed them in bilums [a woven bag, common across PNG] and carried them on their backs. It was very hard.”

Henry is steadfast in his belief in the power of education on the lives of the students at his school.

“Literacy is very important in the community; teaching people to read and write is vital, because a lot of kids here during the crisis did not go to school and are only just now learning to read and write.”

Aravira’s Head Teacher Herman Parito says that even before the books arrived, the community deeply understood the value of reading, and therefore are all willing to do their part to support it.

“The community here are always willing to help. When I said we needed labor to build classroom libraries, they did it. We brought in the plywood needed to build the mini libraries, and the parents responded.”

He adds that since the READ PNG books came in mid-2015, he’s already seen their impact.

Aravira Primary School Chairman, Henry Topowa says the school was determined to bring READ PNG books to the school, no matter how challenging the journey to bring them in.
Aravira Primary School Chairman, Henry Topowa says the school was determined to bring READ PNG books to the school, no matter how challenging the journey to bring them in.

“We’ve been using the books for two terms now and I’ve seen a big improvement in students reading according to their test results.”

After our chat, Henry and Herman then invite me to a class to see the new books for myself. As I’m introduced to the class, the confusion I expect of seeing a stranger in class is largely absent. I get a few grins and a couple of giggles, but beyond that, most of the students are focused squarely on their books.

Considering the hard work it took to get those books here and into these students’ hands, it’s no surprise that they’re so committed to soaking up every word in those pages.

Improving Literacy in Remote Bougainville  

 For More Info about Bookgainville this local project contact James Tanis , Simon Pentanu , or Contact Theresa Jaintong at the Arawa Womens Centre

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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 Communications/ New Technologies PART 2 : Creating awareness on the referendum and development

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People can now listen to information on radio by tuning in to Shortwave 1 frequency; 3.325 kilohertz on NBC Bougainville and the shortwave radio signal covers all parts of Bougainville and can be heard as far as East of Hawaii, Germany, Australia and the Pacific,”

“To stimulate public interest and create awareness on the referendum and development in Bougainville we have since June conducted 10 live talk back shows hosted by ABG’s Mobile Community Radio – Radio Ples Lain and relayed over NBC Bougainville and New Dawn,”

ABG President Grand Chief Dr John Momis

Pic Caption: ABG President Grand Chief Dr John Momis (seated), with UNDP reps, chiefs and local leaders at the official launching of the upgraded NBC Bougainville studios last week.

The Autonomous Bougainville Government is making headway in developing the media in the region to allow people more access to information.

This move has seen the upgrade of the NBC Bougainville facilities where the ABG committed K5 million to improve the coverage and broadcasting of the radio station.

In opening the facility ABG President Grand Chief Dr John Momis said this included the procurement of new studio broadcast equipment, renovation to the Hutjena studio, procurement of a brand new fully digital 10 kilowatt shortwave transmitter.

We intend to embark on a region wide awareness campaign working closely with Constituency members, Communality Government, Village Assemblies, Women, Youth and Churches.

Momis added that the Bureau of Public Affairs, Media and Communication has so far produced and air 160 radio programmes since February to August 2016.

These radio programmes have been well appreciated by the people as they gain insight and understanding on what the government is doing at Department and Ministry level.

Another important development is the ABG’s very own Bougainville Bulletin which has progressed well with well over 150,000 copies distributed all over Bougainville since 2015.

President Momis also revealed that the ABG has started developing resource material to support awareness on the Bougainville Peace Agreement and especially Referendum.

The UNDP as per the ABG’s request has supported the government with the procurement of equipment.

The equipment will be utilised to conduct awareness at the community level and includes a new information center based in Buka Town with literary material and a mobile audio visual vehicle convinently named Piksa Ples Lain.

 

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

Momis

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

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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 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

Bougainville Mining News : President Bougainville, Dr. John Momis, lashes out “greedy irresponsibility” of Rio Tinto

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Rio has advised me that it is free to ignore the damage it caused because its subsidiary (BCL) operated Panguna according to the laws of the 1970s and 1980s. It therefore does not regard itself as bound by the much higher corporate responsibility standards of today. Rio also say that BCL was closed by Bougainvilleans opposed to mining.

‘Bougainville rejects those argument. The corporate responsibility standards that Rio accepts today largely result from what it learned from its Bougainville experience.”

President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Dr. John Momis, lashed out today at what he termed the “greedy irresponsibility” of global mining giant, Rio Tinto. He has requested the Speaker of the Bougainville House of Representatives to call a special meeting of the House in Buka next Wednesday, 13th July

He was discussing Rio’s decision of 30 June to end its majority shareholding in its subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL).

He released his letter of 4 July to the International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM) Chair.

See Attached

Momis to ICMM – 4 July 2016

It complains of Rio’s failure to meet the ICCM’s Sustainable Development principles.

President Momis said:

‘Rio Tinto’s predecessor, Conzinc RioTinto Australia (CRA), made immense profits from operating the Panguna mine – so much so that BCL was often described as the “jewel” in the CRA crown. But in operating the mine, it was Bougainville that bore severe environmental and social costs.

‘Environmental damage includes the massive pit, kilometres wide and hundreds of metres deep, never remediated in any way.

It includes the vast areas filled by billions of tons of mine tailings tipped into the Kawerong and Jaba rivers, now lifeless as a result of acid rock leaching. Fish life in the many rivers and creeks running into the two main dead rivers has also been destroyed.

The tailings filled river valleys. The levy ban built to contain the tailings was breached more than ten years ago. Huge swamps have swallowed forest and farm land. Large dumps of chemicals are yet to be cleaned up.

‘Social impacts include the appalling living conditions of the thousands of people involuntarily resettled by the mine.

‘Rio refuses to accept any responsibility for these and the many other negative impacts that were the costs of its vast profits. In their greedy irresponsibility they now propose to walk away from Panguna without further thought about the damage that they caused.

‘ICMM’s website http://www.icmm.com/our-work/sustainable-development-framework claims that by ICMM membership companies such as Tio Tinto commit to “implement and measure their performance against 10 sustainable development principles”. The ICMM says that it conducts “an annual assessment of member performance against their principles”.

‘ICMM Principle 3 commits Rio to “Uphold fundamental human rights and respect cultures, customs and values in dealing with employees and others who are affected by our activities”.

This committs companies to “minimize involuntary resettlement and compensate fairly for adverse effects on the community where they cannot be avoided.”

BCL paid the derisory compensation levels to relocated villages required in the 1970s and 1980s. But not only is it clear that these levels were far too low then, in addition, the relocated villagers suffering has continued and increased dramatically since the 1980s, with no compensation.

And Rio plans to walk away with no thought as to their future suffering, all caused by a mine these people never wanted.

‘ICMM Principle 6 requires Rio to “rehabilitate land disturbed or occupied by operations in accordance with appropriate post-mining land uses’. No rehabilitation has occurred.

‘ICMM principle 10 requires Rio to ‘provide information [to stakeholders] that is timely, accurate and relevant, and to engage with and respond to stakeholders through open consultation processes. Rio has completely failed in these responsibilities. It has not provided any information to Bougainvillean stakeholders about its review or its plans.

‘Rio has advised me that it is free to ignore the damage it caused because its subsidiary (BCL) operated Panguna according to the laws of the 1970s and 1980s. It therefore does not regard itself as bound by the much higher corporate responsibility standards of today. Rio also say that BCL was closed by Bougainvilleans opposed to mining.

‘Bougainville rejects those argument. The corporate responsibility standards that Rio accepts today largely result from what it learned from its Bougainville experience. The war in Bougainville was not about ending mining – it was a cry for mining on just terms, similar to those that are delivered by good standards of corporate responsibility. To ignore today’s standards is hypocrisy.

‘In a situation of low copper prices and the likely high sovereign risk of Bougainville, it’s unlikely that Panguna will reopen for a long time. In those circumstances, Rio must have responsibilities for rehabilitation and other activities similar to those arising in a mine closure situation.’

The President said he had asked the ICMM Chair, Mr. Andrew Michelmore, to investigate Rio’s failure to meet the mining industry standards set as conditions of ICMM membership. ‘I have asked the ICMM to required Rio Tinto to meet those standards. I have called on the ICMM to expel Rio if it fails to adhere to ICMM principles. Rio Tinto’s behaviour towards Bougainville exhibits greed and irresponsibility which the mining industry must reject.’

John L. Momis

President, ARoB

7 July 2016

Bougainville Mining News :Rio Tinto gives up Bougainville Copper stake worth $51 Billion

 Oz

 

“Rio Tinto Group has given away its stake in the company that owns a mine in Papua New Guinea with potential copper and gold reserves worth $51 billion.

The London-based miner has transferred its 54 percent holding in Bougainville Copper Ltd., owner of the abandoned Panguna mine, to an independent trustee “for no consideration,” Rio said in a statement Thursday. The trustee will manage the distribution of shares to national and local governments.

Panguna, Bougainville Copper’s asset on Bougainville Island, was shut due to local unrest in 1989. The company estimated in its 2014 annual report that reserves stood at 5.3 million metric tons of copper and 19.3 million ounces of gold. That would be worth about $51 billion at today’s prices.”

Bloomberg report

“Rio Tinto has today transferred its 53.8 per cent shareholding in Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) to an independent trustee.

Equity Trustees Limited will manage the distribution of these shares between the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) for the benefit of all the Panguna landowners and the people of Bougainville, and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea (PNG).”

Rio Tinto Media Release | 30 June 2016

Photo : Bougainville Revolutionary Army fighters look down on the Panguna mine in 1996

Under the trust deed, the ABG has the opportunity to receive 68 per cent of Rio Tinto’s shareholding (which equates to 36.4 per cent of BCL’s shares) from the independent trustee for no consideration and PNG is entitled to the remaining 32 per cent (which equates to 17.4 per cent of BCL’s shares).

The ABG and PNG will both hold an equal share in BCL of 36.4 per cent if the transfers are completed. This ensures both parties are equally involved in any consideration and decision-making around the future of the Panguna mine.

Rio Tinto Copper & Coal chief executive Chris Salisbury said “Our review looked at a broad range of options and by distributing our shares in this way we aim to provide landowners, those closest to the mine, and all the people of Bougainville a greater say in the future of Panguna. The ultimate distribution of our shares also provides a platform for the ABG and PNG Government to work together on future options for the resource.”

In accordance with the existing management agreement with BCL, Rio Tinto will today give the required six months’ notice to terminate the arrangement. Although Rio Tinto will no longer hold any interest in BCL, Rio Tinto will continue to meet its obligations under the agreement during that period to ensure an orderly transition in the shareholdings of the company. BCL chairman Peter Taylor will resign with immediate effect but he will continue to be available to provide services to the board during this transition period.

Note to editors

The Trust Deed determines that should either beneficiary of the trust not apply for the transfer of the BCL shares attributable to them from the trustee within two months, then those shares will be made available to the other part