Bougainville News alert : Hon. Ishmael Toroama President statement commemorating the first year of the #Bougainville Independence Ready Mission

It has been one year since my government launched the Bougainville Independence Ready Mission on April 1, 2021.

My Government’s Independence Ready Mission takes on a three-pronged strategic approach that requires preparations for independence to be implemented internally, domestically and internationally.

In commemorating the first year of implementing this program, I wish to remind us all Bougainvilleans that preparing Bougainville for independence is no easy challenge.

It requires government and people to work together and to work harder in this process to actualize our political aspiration for independence.

For us in Bougainville, we have established our Constituency Independence-Ready Committees across all our thirty-three constituencies through the internal prong of the Independence-Ready Mission.

As President, I call on all Bougainvilleans to work collaboratively with these Committees to progress nation-building and state-building activities at the ward levels.

We can only progress through people-participation in development, adopting social responsibility standards, having a change of mindset and cultivating an attitude of self-reliance in our families and communities.

Our political timeline has been set; ‘no earlier than 2025 and no later than 2027’ and it requires a whole-of-government approach to our independence-readiness.

As Bougainvilleans, we must embrace this timeline and see it as a matter of urgency to get our house in order.

In working towards independence-readiness, my government will ensure that we have the proper systems in place that promotes democracy, transparency, accountability, peace and good order in our society.

In the same manner, I call on every Bougainvillean man, woman and child to stand firm with your government in this process. Our 97.7% vote for independence proves that we are united in this process and we must not shy away from the challenges that lie ahead of us.

We stood united as one people when we voted for Bougainville’s independence, and we must stand firm through this journey to deliver independence together for Bougainville.

May God Bless us All.

Hon. Ishmael Toroama

Bougainville Referendum News : Chair of #BRC Bernie Ahern travels from the #UnitedNations in New York to Arawa , Buin and Buka for Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC) roadshow this week

5 major news alerts this week ( July 1- 7) on the Bougainville Referendum

Follow Bougainville News on Twitter 

1 : Ahern urges focus on post-referendum peace in Bougainville ( From Irish Times )

2. Dates for this weeks BRC Bougainville Roadshow announced

3. Bougainville Referendum Commission Website

4. With a projected vote on independence from Papua New Guinea just three months away, suddenly Bougainville is the centre of a lot of activity.

5 : THE Pacific island of Bougainville is moving a step closer to potential independence from Papua New Guinea as preparations begin for a long-promised referendum later this year. (USA NEWS ) 

1  : Ahern urges focus on post-referendum peace in Bougainville 

 ” Chair of the Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC)  Bertie Ahern last  week  stressed to the UN the need for focus on maintaining peace in Papua New Guinea after an independence referendum in the region later this year.

Mr Ahern met UN secretary general António Guterres in New York to discuss the progress of the peace process in the autonomous region of Bougainville.” 

Read full story from the Irish Times

2. Dates for this weeks BRC Bougainville Roadshow announced:

Arawa 9 July 2pm (Christmas Park),

Buin 10 July 1pm (Buin Secondary),

Buka 11 July 2pm (Bel Isi Park).

Information and progress updates from the Chair Hon Bertie Ahern and Commissioners

3. Bougainville Referendum Commission Website

Referendum is one of the pillars of the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA).

The BPA declares that in the Constitution of the Papua New Guinea National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (ARoB) is guaranteed a referendum on Bougainville’s political future to be held amongst Bougainvilleans 10-15 years after the establishment of the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

ABG was established in 2005 and therefore, according to the Constitution, a referendum can be held between the years 2015 and 2020. Both governments will agree upon the official date of the referendum.

Issue of writs – August 16, 2019

Start of polling – October 12, 2019

See Bougainville Referendum Commission Website

4.With a projected vote on independence from Papua New Guinea just three months away, suddenly Bougainville is the centre of a lot of activity.

A crowd of people in Bougainville watching the handover of the agreed definitions for the two questions for the Independence Referendum. The first Greater Autonomy for Bougainville and the other full Independence from Papua New Guinea. Photo: Autonomous Bougainville Government

The vote, which is scheduled to start on 12 October, has already been moved once from 15 June.

Now there is a call for it to be delayed further, with the Bougainville Referendum Commission, which is in charge of preparing the region for the vote, saying more time is needed to ensure the integrity of the electoral roll.

A six-week extension was mentioned.

But the newly appointed PNG Minister of Bougainville Affairs, Sir Puka Temu, said the BRC needed to make a formal request if it wanted to delay the referendum.

“If the BRC thinks they need a little more time because of the credibility issue on the referendum roll then the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) will be the body that will make the final decision. It is not the national government or the ABG, it is a JSB decision.

“If they say no then that’s it. If they agree then we will inform our people and the basis will be the credibility of the common roll,” he said.

That JSB meeting is set to be held in south Bougainville, in Buin.

The PNG Prime Minister, James Marape, then confirmed the National Executive Council, the cabinet, will hold its meeting there at the same time.

Sir Puka, who has significantly lifted the tempo on Bougainville since coming into the role just weeks ago, said it is vital for all of PNG’s leaders to show their commitment to the referendum process.

Two upcoming reconciliations are to be held on Bougainville at the same time before the referendum.

Sir Puka said a national reconciliation and another involving former combatants were postponed last month because of the PNG government’s change of leadership.

“Our commitment is to never again bring the military ever again onto the island – that’s our commitment.”

Sir Puka said these events will include commitments to dispose of weapons.

He said he came back from a visit to Bougainville two weeks ago with an “enormous level of comfort” that the former militant groups had given their commitment to the peace process.

Sir Puka said there are now teams on the ground preparing for the events at a date that is yet to be announced but expected to be the end of the month.

He said he embraced the reconciliations because of their importance to Melanesian culture and the commitment that the final outcome will be jointly negotiated.

“So as part of that is to guarantee the security of the process and also reconcile and rebuild the relationship amongst all of us – our soldiers on this side and ex-combatants on the other side because that will then remove this cloud of suspicion.”

Meanwhile, at discussions this week a British political scientist with experience in referenda said if Bougainville chooses independence from PNG it’s likely to be some years before it is implemented.

Coventry University’s Matt Qvortrup was in Port Moresby to speak to lawmakers about possible scenarios after the referendum.

He said if there is a clear vote for independence it’s still important that there is what he calls a ‘a just and fair divorce settlement’ – not just one party walking away.

Professor Qvortrup said he’d seen other referenda results implemented in a matter of months, for instance in Czechoslovakia and Ukraine, which said were examples of countries that broke up quickly.

“The more successful ones have taken a little bit longer, so I think the process of independence will probably take, my estimate compared to other cases would probably be up to five years, or even more,” he said.

Also, this week a survey of more than 1,000 Bougainvilleans found people still need to know more about the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the referendum.

One of the key findings of the second Bougainville Audience Study is the need for continuous awareness in the lead up to the referendum and beyond.

The ABG’s communications director, Adriana Schmidt, said the report provided a clear picture of the information needs of Bougainvilleans going into the vote.

She said people want to know more about what the two options – greater autonomy and independence – mean in practical terms, and to understand what happens after the vote.

5 : THE Pacific island of Bougainville is moving a step closer to potential independence from Papua New Guinea as preparations begin for a long-promised referendum later this year.

Whether it can survive as a stand-alone nation is a key question for its 250,000 inhabitants, and for other separatist movements in the Pacific.

Published Here

The future course of the island could ripple across the region, as the question of Bougainville’s independence will touch on a complicated mixture of business concerns, environmental worries and geopolitical interests stretching from Australia and New Zealand to ChinaJapan and the United States.

It’s an outsized international role for Bougainville, which lies 900 kilometers (560 miles) east of the Papua New Guinea mainland. The roots of the referendum stem from a bitter inter-clan and separatist conflict that ran from 1988 to 1997, fighting that claimed between 10,000 and 20,000 lives through a combination of violence, disease, poverty and dislocation.


A truce brokered and maintained by regional neighbors that included Australia, New Zealand and Fiji helped restore order, and a comprehensive peace agreement was signed between Papua New Guinea and Bougainville in 2001. The island has had its own autonomous government since 2005.

Bougainville’s people are expected to vote decisively for independence in the Oct. 17 referendum, according to Jonathan Pryke, Pacific Islands program director at the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based policy think tank. The vote is not binding and any move toward independence will require agreement from the central government of Papua New Guinea, commonly referred to as PNG.

Most people hope the two sides can find a “Melanesian solution” that will deliver a workable form of autonomy for Bougainville, says Pryke, using the term that describes the region of the South Pacific that includes PNG, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and other island nations and territories.

James Marape, who took over as Papua New Guinea’s prime minister in late May, said on June 14 he would prefer Bougainville to remain part of a unified nation, but would listen to the people’s voice and then consult over future options.

Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Sydney, says the desire for independence in Bougainville remains strong, but from a regional perspective it will be best if the Bougainville people decided to stay in Papua New Guinea. “We don’t need another microstate emerging in the Pacific.”

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, who visited Bougainville on June 19 with PNG’s new minister for Bougainville Affairs, Sir Puka Temu, said Australia will work to ensure the integrity of the referendum and will not pass judgment on the result. Australia is by far the biggest aid donor in the Pacific region, giving $6.5 billion between 2011 and 2017, according to research last year by the Lowy Institute. Most of Australia’s aid goes to Papua New Guinea.

Scars Remain From a Civil War

The Bougainville conflict, in which rival clans on the island fought among themselves and with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, evolved from multiple issues, including land rights, customary ownership, “outsider” interference and migration, mineral resource exploitation, and perceived inequities and environmental damage associated with the rich Panguna copper mine.

Under the terms of the 2001 peace agreement, a vote on independence within 20 years was promised.

A reconciliation ceremony will be held on July 2 between the central PNG government, the national defence force, the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

Deep scars remain from the conflict, both physical and emotional. Much of the island’s public infrastructure remains in poor shape, educational opportunities are limited, and corruption is pervasive. Clan rivalry and suspicion persists, particularly in regard to land rights and resource development.

Since Panguna closed in May 1989, Bougainville’s people have led a life built around agriculture and fishing. The cocoa and copra industries ravaged by the war have been re-established, there is small-scale gold mining, and potential for hydroelectric power and a revived forestry industry. For now, a lack of accommodation inhibits tourism.

Copper Mine Underscores Doubts over Bougainville’s Economic Viability

Almost 40 years ago, Bougainville’s Panguna mine was the biggest contributor to Papua New Guinea’s export income and the largest open-cut in the world. But the mine, operated by BCL, a subsidiary of Conzinc Riotinto Australia (now Rio Tinto Ltd.), became a focal point for conflict over pollution, migrant workers, resource ownership and revenue sharing, and has been dormant since 1989.

Apart from any foreign aid it may receive, Bougainville’s future prosperity may well depend on whether it can restart the mine, which contains copper and gold worth an estimated $50 billion. But customary ownership claims – land used for generations by local communities without the need for legal title – remain unresolved and at least three mining groups are in contention, which means an early restart is unlikely. Jennings cautions against investing too much hope in Panguna, with remediation costs after 30 years of disuse likely to be high.

Likewise, Luke Fletcher, executive director of the Sydney-based Jubilee Australia Research Centre, which studies the social and environmental impacts of resources projects on Pacific communities, says reopening Panguna would be a long, expensive and difficult proposition. He says the challenge for any mine operator would be developing a project that is environmentally safe, yet still deliver an acceptable return to shareholders and to the government.

Bougainville’s leader, President John Momis, believes that large-scale mining offers the best chance for income generation and is keen both to revive Panguna and encourage other projects. That would require outside investment, which was a factor contributing to the outbreak of violence in the late 1980s. The local community perceived that it was not getting its fair share of Panguna’s wealth.

Rio Tinto gave up its share in BCL in 2016, and ownership now rests with the government of PNG and the Bougainville government, each with 36.4%. Independent shareholders own the remaining 27.2%.

At least two other groups are vying to operate Panguna. Sir Mel Togolo, the BCL chairman, told the company’s annual general meeting on May 2 that continued uncertainty about Panguna’s tenure remains a big challenge. “We will need to work cooperatively with all stakeholders to achieve our objective of bringing the Panguna mine back into production,” he said.

Regional, International Eyes on October Referendum

With doubts persisting about Bougainville’s economic viability if it cuts ties with the central government, the referendum outcome will be closely watched by other PNG provinces pushing for greater autonomy, such as East New Britain, New Ireland and Enga.

Across the region, some parts of neighboring Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands are agitating for their own separate identities. In the nearby French overseas territory of New Caledonia, voters rejected independence from France by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin in November 2018. European settlers were heavily in favor of staying part of France, while indigenous Kanak people overwhelmingly voted for independence.

At the international level, Australia will be keen to ensure that whatever the outcome of the Bougainville referendum, stability is maintained in Papua New Guinea, if only to counter China’s growing interest in offering aid and economic benefits as it builds a Pacific presence.

Along with Japan, New Zealand and the U.S., Australia has committed to a 10-year $1.7 billion electrification project in Papua New Guinea. Australia and the U.S. have agreed to help Papua New Guinea redevelop its Manus Island naval base, which sits 350 kilometers north of the mainland and commands key trade routes into the Pacific.

Jennings says Australia would be likely to give aid to an independent Bougainville to try to keep China at bay. “China is everywhere. Its destructive connections co-opt leaderships in a way that doesn’t work out well for people.”

From a strategic perspective, Jennings says it would be best if Melanesia looked to Australia as its main partner on matters of security.

While China gives most of its aid to PNG and Fiji, the region’s two biggest economies, Jubilee’s Fletcher says China giving aid to an independent Bougainville was “feasible.”

Geoff Hiscock is a Sydney-based journalist with a focus on international business


Bougainville Mining News : ABG calls for submissions to #Bougainville Mining Bills : Submissions close 19 April


The Parliament’s Legislation Committee is conducting public enquiries into the following Government Bills: 

  1. BILL NUMBER ONE: Bougainville Mining (Amendment) Bill 2019;
  2. BILL NUMBER TWO: Bougainville Advance Holdings Trust Authorization Bill 2019;
  3. BILL NUMBER THREE: Bougainville Advance Mining Holdings Limited Authorization Bill 2019.

BILL NUMBER ONE seeks to amend the Bougainville Act 2015 to allow the Bougainville Executive Council, in conjunction with the Minister for Mineral and Energy Resources, to issue a Special Bougainville Exploration Licence or Mining Lease to a Special Bougainville Entity.

BILL NUMBER TWO seeks to establish a Trust (the Bougainville Advance Holdings Trust).

BILL NUMBER THREE seeks to establish Bougainville Advance Holdings (AROB) Ltd as a commercial enterprise and business platform.

See ABG Website

The Committee is calling for written submissions from interested persons and organizations. We ask that Submitters be clear in their submissions which Bill(s) they are offering a submission on.

The Committee invites public participation in the enquiry process. Written submissions addressing the Terms of Reference must be submitted to:

The Legislation Committee

Parliamentary Committee Secretariat Office  

Bougainville House of Representatives,

KUBU, Buka, Autonomous Region of Bougainville

Submitters can indicate whether they want to appear to give evidence orally.

Further information about this enquiry is available and can be obtained directly at the Committee Secretariat Office location at Parliament House.

The Committee will consider requests that a submission remain confidential and not be released to the public.



On Wednesday 13th February 2019 the House referred for the second time to the Legislation Committee, three Government Bills titled:


The Bills which were withdrawn by the sponsoring Ministers were again reintroduced on the floor of Parliament and are now in the hands of the responsible Committee to conduct public consultations, and report to the House.

The Committee adopts the following Terms of Reference governing its examination of the Bills. The Committee will:

Enquire into how the proposal was initiated by whom, within or outside of the Government et cetera;

  • Be mindful of and sensitive to the role that mining has played in the history of this country and what its role could be in the future for all people;
  • Examine the Bills and their drafting in detail;
  • Consult with responsible Ministers, Departments and officials and other key stakeholders;
  • Conduct consultation to gauge the widest range of Bougainvillean’s views on the proposed legislations;
  • Consider whether or not the Bills as drafted are consistent or not with existing objectives, principles, protections and duties in relevant legislation and instruments including (but not limited to) the Constitution of Bougainville and the Bougainville Mining Act 2015;
  • Propose any amendments to the Bills; and
  • Present a final report on its findings to the House in the next Parliament Session.

A Short Guide to writing a submission

While there is no set format for a submission to a select committee, you should aim to present your submission in a way that is ordered and easy to read.

Key Information

Head your submission with the name of the select committee to which it is addressed and the full title of the bill, inquiry, or matter under consideration.

Provide the following information in a covering letter or at the top of your submission: your name or the name of the organisation you are representing; an email address; a contact address; and a daytime telephone number.

If you wish to appear before the committee, include with your name your daytime telephone number and email address. If you wish others to appear in support, include their names and, if representing an organisation, designations. What are your organisation’s aims?

If you are writing for an organisation, give brief details of the organisation’s aims, membership, and structure. Make sure that you have the authority to represent the organisation and note your position within the organisation.

Who has been consulted? Note how much support you have and how widely you have consulted while writing the submission.

Content of the Submission

When writing a submission, you will usually be making comments in relation to a bill or inquiry. While there are differences in the way in which a submission is written for a bill or inquiry, there are five basic principles that apply to both.

Relevant Your submission must be relevant to the matter before the committee. A committee may decide not to receive a submission it considers not relevant.

Clear Arrange your sentences and paragraphs in a logical order. Present a clear and logically developed argument. A submission that jumps from one issue to another and back again or jumbles unrelated issues together may confuse members and reduce its impact.

Concise Be simple and direct. Do not write more than is necessary. An overly long submission may prove too long for members to consider fully. They want to know what you think and the evidence or arguments you have that support your view.

Accurate Be accurate and complete. Include all relevant information. It will only confuse the committee if, in your submission, you refer to evidence or information that is not included. Make sure your facts are correct. An error-ridden submission will greatly reduce its impact and credibility.

Conclusion Restate your recommendations in a conclusion at the end of the submission or an executive summary at the beginning. Consider listing your submission’s recommendations or summing up its main points.

Writing a submission on an Inquiry

Writing a submission for an inquiry is different from writing a submission on a bill. As there are no specific clauses to comment on, use the terms of reference of the inquiry as a guide to presenting your views. You may then like to list any specific recommendations that you wish the committee to consider. It is essential to have a copy of the inquiry’s terms of reference to assist in preparing your submission.

Writing a submission on a Bill

When writing a submission on a bill you should have a copy of that bill so you know what is being proposed. You will then be able to focus your submission on what the bill actually contains.

First, state your general position on the bill, whether you support or oppose the measure being proposed, and give your reasons.

Having stated your general position, make more detailed comments on the clauses that are of concern to you. If you feel that certain clauses need to be changed, say so, and give your reasons. You might also like to suggest new wording for the clauses that you feel ought to be changed. Using clauses as numbered in the bill is a good way to organise your submission.

This notice is authorised by the Committee Chair Hon. Rodney Osioco

Bougainville News : Momis : Debate on the process for lifting the ” moratorium ” on Bougainville mining exploration

photo J M

It should be no surprise to Members here today that in participating in this debate on the future of the ‘moratorium’, I am deeply concerned to ensure that the issues involved are discussed thoroughly, with care, and with the most careful attention to the need to fully protect the interests of Bougainvilleans. After all, that ‘moratorium’ protected our interests over many years. We need to consider the issues involved most carefully before deciding what should be done.

I’d like to comment briefly on the main options for a decision on the ‘moratorium’. The options include:

  • Maintaining the moratorium;
  • Lifting it partially, for limited specific areas of Bougainville;
  • Lifting it fully, for all areas of Bougainville currently covered by it.”

These matters that I have outlined must be carefully considered by this House when debating the options for decision on the future of the ‘moratorium’. Because of these issues about international tender for exploration licences, and setting up the community mining licence system, I suggest that we should not yet consider the option of fully lifting.

I further suggests that instead we should either maintain the existing moratorium for at least a period of two or three years, or alternatively only partially lift it, for just one or two specific areas. In that way we would allow the time to organise for international tender and for community mining licences “


Mr. Speaker:

The BEC has recently agreed to a recommendation from the Mining Minister that it is vitally important that this House discuss the future of the ‘moratorium’ on mining exploration.

The ‘moratorium’ was originally imposed 45 years ago, in April 1971, by the colonial Administration. It prevented any mining exploration licences for areas of Bougainville other than those already covered by BCL leases. It was imposed in response to the deep concerns of Bougainvilleans communicated to the colonial Administration by their then leaders.

45 years ago, I was a young, recently ordained Catholic priest working in Kieta. I was being called upon by landowners to support them in their struggle with CRA and the colonial Administration. So I was one of those leaders whose request resulted in the moratorium being imposed. It was imposed to protect our people from the unlimited mining exploration and development that they feared might :

It should be no surprise to Members here today that in participating in this debate on the future of the ‘moratorium’, I am deeply concerned to ensure that the issues involved are discussed thoroughly, with care, and with the most careful attention to the need to fully protect the interests of Bougainvilleans. After all, that ‘moratorium’ protected our interests over many years. We need to consider the issues involved most carefully before deciding what should be done.

When the last ABG House proudly passed the two Bougainville mining laws – the Bouganville Mining (Transitional Arrangements) Act 2014, and the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 – both laws retained the ‘moratorium’. It was adopted as if it was a reservation of land from mining exploration made under the Bougainville Act.

Members need to be very clear about what the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 says about lifting such a reservation (or moratorium). It gives the power to the BEC. The BEC can lift it partially (just for particular parts of Bougainville), or fully (for the whole of Bougainville). But when the BEC considers lifting the reservation, either partially or wholly, it must first get advice about its proposed decision from the Bougainville Mining Advisory Council (the BMAC). It must also provide an opportunity for debate of the proposed decision by this House.

This procedure is very different from how a reservation under the National Government Mining Act is lifted –that needs just a decision from the National Government Minister, with no consultation or advice required. In developing the ABG’s law, we were determined that an issue of this importance had to be subject to careful scrutiny. That’s why the decision cannot be made just by the Minister – it requires a BEC decision, and only after receiving considered BMAC advice and hearing a debate on the issues involved held in this House.

As the Minister also emphasises, as yet the BEC has not made any decision about the future of the ‘moratorium’. We are not coming to you with a proposed decision. Instead, we are asking this House to debate what we should do about the ‘moratorium’. We are doing this to generate broad public discussion of the issues involved.

Members might ask for an explanation of the reasons why we need such a public debate about lifting the ‘moratorium’. There are several reasons.

First, lifting the ‘moratorium’ is still a highly sensitive issue for many – perhaps even most – Bougainvilleans.

Second, many of the same issues that led to the request for the moratorium in 1971 remain. Even people open to some mining in Bougainville want it very strictly limited.

Third, if we do lift the moratorium, and especially if we lift it fully (that is, for the whole of Bougainville), it is likely that a very large proportion of the land of Bougainville will soon be covered by exploration licences. That will have huge impacts for all of us. There will be great difficulty turning back from such a massive change if it produces results that we do not like.

So there is a clear need for the most careful deliberation on the issues involved.

Ideally we want to have a major Bougainville-wide public consultation and awareness campaign about issues of such great importance. But because of our serious financial difficulties, that is not an option for us at the moment. So instead, the BEC has agreed to an initial debate in this House. That must be a thorough, careful and well-informed debate.

I believe that it is also essential that we engage with our people as part of this debate. So I recommend, in the strongest terms, that this House debate the ‘moratorium’ issue in two separate sessions. One should be now. Then when the issues have been carefully considered, I recommend that all members go out and consult the people of their constituencies, and seek their views. They should then have a second round of debate at the next House session – a debate further informed by the views of our people.

I’d like to comment briefly on the main options for a decision on the ‘moratorium’. The options include:

  • Maintaining the moratorium;
  • Lifting it partially, for limited specific areas of Bougainville;
  • Lifting it fully, for all areas of Bougainville currently covered by it.

Before we consider options, we need to consider carefully how either partial or full lifting of the moratorium would interact with, or impact on, other major aspects of the Bouganville Mining Act 2015. There are at least two aspects of the Act where there could be major impacts.

The first is the provisions on putting exploration licence application for particular areas out for international tender. The aim of international tender is to see if the ABG can raise significant revenue from exploration licences – for international tender could perhaps bring offers of millions of kina instead of a usual small exploration licence fee.

To put areas out to international tender, the Mining Department must first identify areas that have a potentially high prospective value, and then get geological survey done for those areas. The resulting information would then be made available as part of the tender process, so those offering to pay for a licence have some real information on which to base competitive bids.

If the ABG were to lift the ‘moratorium’ fully, we would be shutting the door on the provisions on international tender, for many years to come. The reason is that lifting the moratorium will mean that most, if not all, highly prospective areas will very quickly be covered by exploration licences. There will be nothing left to deal with under international tender processes.

If we are to keep the door open to using the international tender process in the next few years, we need some time to identify prospective areas and find the funds needed to get the necessary geological survey work done. We need perhaps 2 or 3 years to get such things organised.

In our current serious situation of financial crisis, we would be very unwise to throw away the possibility of raising serious funds by tendering exploration licences.

The second aspect of the Mining Act where fully lifting the moratorium would have major impacts is the arrangements for small-scale mining. Under the Act, COEs or Community Governments have authority to request the ABG to reserve areas exclusively for small-scale mining. Once areas are reserved, then the COE or Community Government will have the authority to issue licences to Bougainvilleans who are landowners of the area they are mining, or have permission of the landowners. That will then be the only basis for small-scale mining to be legal.

The Act gave the Mining Department time to get the new system of community mining licences organised. It made existing small-scale mining (in the absence of the new licences) legal for just 18 months, ending in October 2016.

I am very concerned now because I’ve recently been advised that the Mining Department has done nothing at all to organise the community mining licence system.

The problem now is that if the ‘moratorium’ if lifted for the whole of Bougainville, before the community mining licence system is set up and operating, then it will probably be almost impossible to have land reserved for community mining licences. The reason is that exploration licences will almost certainly be granted for most areas where small-scale mining is occurring. Once an exploration licence is granted over land, there can be no reservation of land for community mining licences without agreement of the exploration licence holder. Experience elsewhere suggests that exploration licences will be very reluctant to agree to community mining reservations that will encourage small-scale miners.

So again, we need some time, perhaps 12 to 18 months more, to allow the Mining Department to do what it should actually have been doing over the past 12 months – that is, working with the Community Government Department and other departments to set up the community mining licence system.

If we do not allow the time for this, then most, if not all, small-scale mining in Bougainville will be illegal. It will become more or less impossible to establish the community mining licence system. But of course, that will not stop small-scale mining from continuing. So that will set up serious risks of tension, confrontation and conflict between small-scale miners and exploration licence holders.

These matters that I have outlined must be carefully considered by this House when debating the options for decision on the future of the ‘moratorium’. Because of these issues about international tender for exploration licences, and setting up the community mining licence system, I suggest that we should not yet consider the option of fully lifting.

I further suggests that instead we should either maintain the existing moratorium for at least a period of two or three years, or alternatively only partially lift it, for just one or two specific areas. In that way we would allow the time to organise for international tender and for community mining licences.

There would also be other advantages in partial lifting, for just one or two areas. That would also allow the Mining Department the time it is likely to need to see how well it is able to administer the new tenement applications system established under our new Mining Act.

The Mining Department is a completely new and untried organisation, with no established experience of operating our new Act. Clearly the Mining Department must already be struggling to carry out its heavy responsibilities under the Act – for that would be the only acceptable explanation for its compete failure, so far, to do anything to establish the community mining licence system.

Once it has established that system, we could perhaps feel more confident that the Department is developing the kind of capacity it will be needing to effectively

My recommendations to the House to consider in this debate are:

  1. To debate the issues and options for lifting the moratorium thoroughly during this session of the House, and when the issues have been covered fully, the House should adjourn that part of the debate to return to our constituencies to consult our people on the issues involved;
  2. That there should then be a further debate on the issues at the next session of this House;
  3. That in that second debate, the options for lifting should be carefully evaluated, taking full account of likely impacts of maintaining the moratorium, partial lifting, or full lifting on both:
  4. Setting up the system of international tenders for exploration licences;
  5. Setting up the Community Mining Licence system for small-scale mining.6
  6. The House should consider the possible advantages of a partial lifting of the moratorium in just one or two areas, thereby allowing the Mining Department time to get the arrangements under the Act operating properly.

I must assure the members of this House that as President, I believe that this debate on the future of the moratorium is one of the most important debates we have ever held.

I assure you, Mr. Speaker, and all members, that I, and the BEC, will listen most carefully to the views expressed in this debate, and in the wider public debate, before we make any decision on lifting the moratorium.

I must also remind members that if we do later make a decision to lift it either partially or fully, then that decision too will have to be referred for advice of the BMAC, and the House will have to have the opportunity to debate the decision. So the future of the ‘moratorium’ could be a matter before this House for quite some time.

In my view, Mr. Speaker, it is entirely appropriate for the House to take an extended time to deal with such an important issue.

I look forward to hearing the contributions to the debate.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Bougainville Mining News: Ex-combatants in Bougainville support controversial Bougainville Mining Act.


Grand Chief Momis addresses Excoms

“The government has done everything to thoroughly explain to the people the new Bill and how it will greatly regulate the extractive industry on Bougainville.We cannot continue to undermine the government for it is the very thing that we fought and died for, doing so only renders the purpose of our struggle moot,  .We are all behind the government and will not resort to creating instability within the region.

Spokesman for the ex-combatants, Cornelius Solomon

Ex-combatants in Bougainville have rallied behind the Autonomous Bougainville Government to support the passing of the controversial permanent Bougainville Mining Act.

Written and Supplied by Anthony Kaybing

The ex-combatants met with the ABG and its officials this afternoon (Tuesday) to express their support of the bill and assured ABG President Grand Chief Dr John Momis of their intent.

The permanent Bougainville Mining Bill is the brainchild of the Momis led ABG in its efforts to curb mineral resource problems that led to the bloody ten year civil conflict on the island.

The Bill if passed will give landowners a pronounced say on how mineral extraction is carried out on their lands and also controls the type of would be developers interested in mining on Bougainville.

The Bougainville Mining Department as well as the Bougainville Justice Department have been carrying out widespread awareness on the issue throughout Bougainville to explain the intricacies of the Bill to Bougainville communities.

Despite being hailed as a successful attempt by the government to protect Bougainville’s interests there have been certain elements who continue to argue that the bill is a sham and designed to sell Bougainville.

Foremost amongst its critics is former Bougainville Revolutionary Army strongman Sam Kauona who claims that the Bill lacks certain details that safe guard Bougainville from being exploited again.

But a different sentiment was echoed by Mr Kauona’s former comrades who claimed ownership of the government and in this light respected the ABG’s intent on passing the Bill.

Spokesman for the ex-combatants, Cornelius Solomon said the government has done everything to thoroughly explain to the people the new Bill and how it will greatly regulate the extractive industry on Bougainville.

Cornelius Solomon on behalf of excoms affirms ABG support

“We cannot continue to undermine the government for it is the very thing that we fought and died for, doing so only renders the purpose of our struggle moot,” Mr Solomon said.

Mr Solomon said that the ex-combatants were all behind the government and would not resort to creating instability within the region.

President Momis and his government also expressed their gratitude to the ex-combatants for taking the initiative to recognize the ABG’s efforts to act in the best interest of the people of Bougainville.

The Bill will be tabled sometime this week in the Bougainville House of Representatives as the members prepare to sit for the final sitting of the ABG second house since coming into office in 2010 before if goes to the polls in May.