Bougainville News : War and Peace : The Bougainville peace process must succeed , we owe it to our future generations

  ” There is a very good reason why the Bougainville peace process must succeed. The Bougainville Peace Agreement is a joint product, a joint creation between PNG and like-minded leaders of Bougainville. The PNG Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government are beholden to the BPA and committed to its success. We owe it to our future generations to make it succeed.

The Bougainville Referendum is as much about sustainable peace as it is about the people’s political choice. Whatever the outcome it is also about a peaceful coexistence and respecting that choice.

Our Parliaments – the PNG National Parliament and the Bougainville House of Representatives – must bear witness and exercise the ultimate call to commit to a lasting peace, by their deeds and actions, in the spirit of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

We have this opportunity to show the world how difficult issues can be resolved – fully, successfully and locally. This would provide a stark contrast to the numerous international examples where similar opportunities have been squandered “

Simon Pentanu

Anything war can do, peace can do better. There is no triumph in war. No victors. No winners. No joy. No glory.

Big and so called little wars are a menace to life on earth. They scorch the landscape, cause enormous damage to individuals and societies wherever and whenever they occur. They drench and gut humanity in irreparable ways. They leave untold mental and physical wounds that remain open and infected over generations.

Humans never seem to learn history’s lessons about the terrors and untold damage that come from fighting wars. The only lesson we seem to take away is, if another war has to be fought, it has to be fought harder, better, quicker and smarter. This lesson – which is no solution at all – feeds itself in never ending spirals that lead to more feuds, more fights, more wars. Examples of this are stark and real. They are dotted across every corner of the globe.

All wars do more harm than good. War is the most harmful and despicable form of terrorism against humanity. War even twists our language, as war mongers create euphemisms and meanings that suggest there are justifications for going to war and that friendly fire, collateral damage and injuries are par for the course, expected and normal. 

The rules of engagement – yes, you must follow the war rules – favour the wealthy and strong, and disadvantage the meek and weak. Guerrilla warfare tactics have emerged to counteract this disparity. The Viet Cong were a guerrilla outfit. The BRA was a guerrilla outfit. Fidel Castro started out in his military fatigues thinking, employing and deploying guerrilla tactics. Comrade Mugabe, who recently reluctantly resigned as President of Zimbabwe, was still baffling the world with bellicose rhetoric as if he was still in a guerrilla resistance against his one-time Rhodesian enemies

Latter day religious fundamentalists also drill themselves into a similar state of combative and defensive preparedness laced with religious fervour to fight their enemies.

All wars – conventional, non-conventional or guerrilla – leave disastrous effects and consequences. PNG and its one time province – now the Autonomous Region of Bougainville – are still reeling from a civil war in peace time. Let us not call the Bougainville crisis just a conflict. Both sides lost lives. Bougainville lost 20,000 or more people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

Watch video HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bougainville News : President Momis statement ABG engagement with Rio Tinto about Rio’s plans for its shares in Bougainville Copper -BCL

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” I want to brief you on recent developments concerning Rio’s review because it is obviously a matter of great importance to the future of Bougainville. So all of you, as the elected representatives of the people, have the right to be kept advised of developments on this subject.

Another important reason for me making this statement is that there are still many quite crazy – long long olgeta – stories being spread by a few Bougainvilleans, and by a few of our more crazy international critics, that the ABG is under the control of Rio Tinto and BCL, and is selling out the interests of Bougainvilleans to big mining interests. When such stories are still being spread, by either self-interested liars or deeply misguided people, it is important that accurate information is available that allows you, as the people’s representatives, to make your own judgments about what is happening.

We also emphasised again that the ABG and landowners remain willing to engage with BCL and Rio about jointly examining the possibilities of re-opening the Panguna mine.

However, I also said that if Rio does decide to end its investment, then the ABG remains completely opposed to any equity transfer to the National Government. Instead, there must be equity transfer to the ABG and landowners, without any payment.

I also stated firmly the ABG position that Rio must take full responsibility for an environmental clean-up, and for dealing with other major mine legacy issues.

If, as now seems highly likely, Rio decides to end its involvement in BCL, the equity must come to Bougainville, and Rio Tinto must accept its full historic responsibilities, and honour its obligations to Bougainvilleans

I ask this House, and the people of Bougainville, to support my Government in its ongoing, life and death struggle, to protect the interests of the landowners, and of the wider Bougainville community.”

EDITED STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT JOHN. L. MOMIS, TO THE BOUGAINVILLE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 5 APRIL 2016

Mr. Speaker:

I rise to share with all members of this House the most recent developments in the ABG’s efforts of recent years in examining the options for the future of large-scale mining in Bougainville.

In particular, I am talking today about what is still the very uncertain future of the Panguna mine. Since the Bougainville Mining (Transitional Arrangements) Act in July 2014, the most immediate factor causing uncertainty has been Rio Tinto’s reaction to that Act doing away with BCL’s major mining tenements, replacing them with just an exploration licence over the former Special Mining Lease – the SML.

Rio Tinto is the London based giant mining company that since the early 1990s has been the 53.6 per cent majority shareholder in BCL. Rio announced in August 2014 that it would conduct a review into its investment in BCL. That announcement opened the real possibility that Rio Tinto would withdraw from any involvement in BCL.

Withdrawal of Rio would raise major uncertainties about the future of BCL, and what the ABG and landowner organisations had been doing for several years – that is, we had been engaging with BCL about the possible re-opening of Panguna.

Of course, the engagement process was still in its very early stages. No decisions had been made on the major issues of substance. Further, the Mining Act gave landowners a clear veto over re-opening.

But with the announcement of Rio Tinto’s review of its investment in BCL, most aspects of our engagement with BCL were put on hold. That is still the position today.

I want to brief you on recent developments concerning Rio’s review because it is obviously a matter of great importance to the future of Bougainville. So all of you, as the elected representatives of the people, have the right to be kept advised of developments on this subject.

Another important reason for me making this statement is that there are still many quite crazy – long long olgeta – stories being spread by a few Bougainvilleans, and by a few of our more crazy international critics, that the ABG is under the control of Rio Tinto and BCL, and is selling out the interests of Bougainvilleans to big mining interests. When such stories are still being spread, by either self-interested liars or deeply misguided people, it is important that accurate information is available that allows you, as the people’s representatives, to make your own judgments about what is happening.

Honourable Members may recall my statement to the House about the future of Panguna, made on 22nd December 2012. I then advised of the latest in a series of attempts that the National Government has made since at least 2014 to purchase Rio Tinto’s 53.6 per cent equity in BCL. This latest attempt was made from late November.

The Member of the National Parliament for Central Bougainville, Hon. Jimmy Miringtoro met me to tell me that National Government Minister, Hon. Ben Micah, wanted to discuss with me and Panguna landowner representatives the urgent need for the National Government to purchase the Rio Tinto equity. I subsequently met Mr. Micah, and then Mr. Micah together with the Prime Minister, Hon. Peter O’Neill.

In brief, they said it was an urgent necessity for the National Government to purchase the equity as soon as possible. Initially we were told we had to give our agreement by 7 December. The reason given was that if PNG did not purchase the equity, there was a grave risk that Rio would sell the equity to an un-named third party. Mr. Micah emphasised how much that would be against the interests of both Bougainville and PNG.

A major concern for me was that Mr. Micah emphasised that it would be far too sensitive to even mention or discuss environmental clean-up of Panguna with Rio Tinto. The sale of the shares was the only issue that could be discussed, He said that issues had to be dealt with only as a commercial transaction, without any reference to environmental issues.

I made it clear to both Mr. Micah and Mr. O’Neill that the ABG could not support the National Government proposals. At the same time, I made contact with Rio Tinto to check their position. I was advised that the Rio process to review its investment was ongoing, and that there was no immediate proposal to sell the equity in BCL.

So I then wrote a letter to the Prime Minister in mid-December saying it was not acceptable to Bougainville that the National Government become the major shareholder in, and in control of, BCL. I made it clear that if Rio Tinto does decide to withdraw from BCL, its shares must come to the ABG and the landowners. In addition, I said, Rio cannot be permitted to escape its clear responsibilities for an environmental clean-up, and for other mining legacy issues.

I also decided that because of the ‘strange’ information about Rio received from Mr. Micah and Mr. O’Neill, and the high degree of uncertainty about Rio’s plans, that I should re-establish direct communication with Rio Tinto. I had begun that direct communication in July last year at a meeting I had with their senior representatives in Singapore.

The main issues I raised in that meeting concerned why the Rio review process was taking so long – it had then been ongoing for 11 months. I also communicated to Rio the continued ABG and landowner interest in engaging with Rio and BCL about jointly examining the possibilities of re-opening the Panguna mine.

We achieved no concrete progress at that July meeting. But the ABG did make clear our view that if Rio does decide to withdraw from BCL that the ABG strongly opposes transfer of the equity to the National Government. I also indicated that we would then seek transfer of the equity to the ABG, and an environmental clean-up. Rio indicated willingness to negotiate such issues, but otherwise did not specifically respond to what I raised.

Rio agreed to my December proposal for renewed direct engagement, and we met again in Singapore in February. I was accompanied by the Minister for Mining and the Minister for Public Service.

This time we put a much more specific Bougainville position. I expressed deep concern about both the very long time that the Rio review of its investment in BCL was taking, and Rio’s failure to communicate at all about its progress.

After all, the ABG and landowners are significant stakeholders, and Rio has duties, that it acknowledges in its own published policies about how they do business, to maintain open communication with stakeholders.

We also emphasised again that the ABG and landowners remain willing to engage with BCL and Rio about jointly examining the possibilities of re-opening the Panguna mine.

However, I also said that if Rio does decide to end its investment, then the ABG remains completely opposed to any equity transfer to the National Government. Instead, there must be equity transfer to the ABG and landowners, without any payment.

I also stated firmly the ABG position that Rio must take full responsibility for an environmental clean-up, and for dealing with other major mine legacy issues.

I emphasised the history of BCL in Bougainville. Although it may have operated legally, under colonial legislation, the basis for the Bougainville Copper Agreement was clearly deeply unjust. It was not based on anything like the informed consent of impacted landowners, and almost completely ignored the concerns and interests of those landowners, and of Bougainvilleans more generally.

It was the long-term impacts of the injustice that led to action, not just by Ona and Serero, but also Damien Dameng, young mine workers, leaders of the Arawa Mungkas Association and the Bana and Siwai Pressure Groups, and others. Their key goal was NOT the long-term closure of the mine, but instead forcing BCL and the National Government to stop ignoring them. Instead, they wanted to negotiate a new and fair agreement, taking account of the concerns of landowners and the rest of the Bougainville community. Long term mine closure was not their goal, but rather the result of the much wider violent conflict that resulted from the conduct of first Police mobile squads and then PNGDF units deployed to Bougainville.

We stated clearly the need for Rio to honour the lessons that it had learnt from its Bougainville experience, and which it has since applied to its operations world-wide. As a result, widely published and advertised Rio policies emphasise principles of corporate social responsibility, informed consent by impacted indigenous communities, and the need to operate on the basis of terms that are just for all stakeholders.

The Rio officials made no official response. Other than emphasising the complexity of the issues involved, no explanation was offered for the long delay in completing the investment review. When pressed on when it could be expected to be complete, they indicated probably before the end of 2016.

In relation to the issues I raised about transfer of equity and Rio being responsible for a clean-up etc., I can understand that they might have some difficulties with what we put to them. Rio might feel, for example, that its majority-owned subsidiary (BCL) operated legally – in accordance with the laws of the day. Yet it lost everything at Panguna as the result of what they might see as a small violent group opposed to mining.

But if that is Rio’s position, then quite apart from the fact that the mine did not close because of Bougainville opposition to mining, in addition Rio would be ignoring its gravely serious responsibilities.

Rio Tinto is a foundation signatory to the sustainable development, and other principles of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM). Those principles are absolutely clear that the responsibilities of a mining company are not limited to its legal obligations alone – especially its legal obligations under deeply unjust colonial laws.

In today’s world, there is no doubt that Rio Tinto would be subject to intense international public criticism if it tried to walk away from its responsibilities for the environmental damage and other unjust legacies it created, or contributed to.

I presented Rio with a two page statement of the ABG position, and I seek leave of the House to table that document. I will arrange for copies to be provided to all members of the House.

The Rio officers indicated that they would consider the ABG position, and would respond within 2 to 3 months, probably at another meeting in Singapore. I am yet to hear more about such a meeting.

But I can assure this House, the Landowners from the former Panguna lease areas, and all other Bougainvilleans, that under my leadership, the ABG will continue to make it clear to both the National Government and Rio Tinto that Bougainville remains determined to protect its own interests.

It is not an option for the National Government to become majority shareholder of BCL.

If, as now seems highly likely, Rio decides to end its involvement in BCL, the equity must come to Bougainville, and Rio Tinto must accept its full historic responsibilities, and honour its obligations to Bougainvilleans. It cannot just walk away from Bougainville, and at the same time pretend to hold itself out to the world as a highly responsible company that learnt from its horrific experience in Bougainville by adopting new and appropriate modern standards of corporate responsibility.

I ask this House, and the people of Bougainville, to support my Government in its ongoing, life and death struggle, to protect the interests of the landowners, and of the wider Bougainville community.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

 

 

Bougainville Referendum News: Bougainville: hard choices looming for Australia? (part II)

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Differences could arise in a number of ways but at the more serious end of the range, possibilities include either a refusal by the PNG Parliament to recognise a pro-independence referendum outcome, or a failure by Papua New Guinea to agree to a referendum going ahead at all.”

Author James Batley worked in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and in AusAID, between 1984 and 2014: Originally published in the Strategist

In my earlier post I argued that, notwithstanding the strong legal underpinning of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, it’s possible that Bougainville and Waigani may be on a collision course. What would such a collision mean for Australia?

In the event that a referendum were held and clearly favoured independence with the outcome subsequently ratified by the PNG Parliament—accompanied by an orderly transition—Australia would have little choice but to accept the result. But while this is a possible outcome, it’s by no means the most likely scenario.

Far more likely is a situation in which Papua New Guinea and Bougainville find themselves at odds. Differences could arise in a number of ways but at the more serious end of the range, possibilities include either a refusal by the PNG Parliament to recognise a pro-independence referendum outcome, or a failure by Papua New Guinea to agree to a referendum going ahead at all.

To this, it might be countered that Article XIV of the PNG Constitution includes a range of dispute resolution provisions including through the courts. Yet this ignores the fact that any differences that may arise are far more likely to be political differences than matters of interpretation that are amenable to mediation or judicial resolution.

In either of the disputed situations outlined above Australia would be faced with difficult choices. Of course, Bougainville isn’t Australia’s responsibility, but Australia has a stake in Bougainville’s future, including its relationship with Papua New Guinea. Australia doesn’t have the luxury of not having a view on these questions. In any serious dispute, both sides would look to Australia for support.

Whatever the legal niceties, the PNG government would expect to have the greater claim on Australian support, both on historical grounds and in the light of more recent experience—you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours (i.e. Manus) grounds. For their part Bougainvillean groups would point to Australia’s role in acting as midwife to the BPA back in 2000.

In any such scenario a range of Australian interests would be thrown into the balance: Australia’s stake in Papua New Guinea’s long-term security and stability; the state of the bilateral relationship; the risks of renewed violence on Bougainville; the implications of any action (or inaction) on Australia’s part for its broader role in the region.

Many decisions are yet to be taken by the parties themselves, and many variables remain in play. While there are the beginnings of discussion in Bougainville on possible transition scenarios, there’s no requirement for a referendum to be held before 2020, so any breakdown in the process—assuming one does occur—might be years away. So it’s wise not to take the scenario-building too far.

For Australia, however, the key point is this: Downer’s 2000 formula (Australia would ‘accept any settlement negotiated by the parties’) has served successive governments well over the past 15 years when all parties could sincerely declare themselves committed to the BPA. It’s a good formula, and if anything it’s been reinforced by the regular commitment to honouring the BPA included in Ministerial Forum communiques. That said, enough risks are now apparent to suggest that this formula may be reaching its use-by date. Events beyond Australia’s control may require Australia to declare its hand one way or the other.

None of this will be news to Australian officials engaged in PNG policy and, given her personal interest, it’s safe to assume that Julie Bishop understands what’s at stake. That doesn’t make the choices that may be faced any easier.

Much of the above analysis renders the Bougainville issue down to a binary choice: independence or not. Might there be another way of framing the issue? It’s possible that the parties themselves could think of a ‘third way’, even if no such options have been canvassed publicly so far. Even if the PNG and Bougainville governments find themselves seriously at odds on the referendum issue over the course of the next five years, it shouldn’t be assumed that they wouldn’t be able to come up with creative solutions. A worst case scenario isn’t inevitable or even the most likely outcome.

This is where Australian diplomacy could play a role. In 2000, Alexander Downer moved the peace process forward by helping the parties see beyond the immediate binary choices they felt confronted with at the time. The BPA may not have solved the Bougainville question definitively, but it has given the people of Bougainville fifteen years of peace.

It may yet turn out that the key contribution that Australian diplomacy can make is to help the parties see the future as something other than an exclusive yes/no choice.

PNG BAN ON AUSTRALIAN’S TRAVEL TO BOUGAINVILLE – Momis says honour the Bougainville Peace Agreement

 

 

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“I call on the Foreign Minister to lift the ban immediately, and to separately take steps to resolve the PNG dispute with Australia. There is no basis for the PNG Government to be harming Bougainville as a way of dealing with its misunderstanding with Australia.

“I also call on the Foreign Minister to work with the ABG to ensure that we can use our foreign affairs powers under the Peace Agreement.

“I also seek an assurance from the Minister that in future he will not take unilateral action in relation to foreign citizen’s travel to Bougainville. Instead, he must recognise Bougainville’s autonomy, and only take any such action at the request, or with the agreement, of the ABG

Grand Chief Dr John L. Momis

President John L. Momis today made a statement on the dispute between PNG and Australia over the PNG announcement of a ban on travel to Bougainville by Australians. The ban was imposed in response to Australia’s announcement about establishing a diplomatic office in Bougainville.

The President said the ban on Australians travelling to Bougainville would only cause problems for PNG, Bougainville, and Australia.

He said: “Australia is spending K120 million per year on assistance for Bougainville. It supports development building the capacity of the public service of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG). A ban on Australians travelling to Bougainville will severely slow delivery of important assistance that is helping Bougainville in many ways.

“It is therefore vitally important that this dispute between PNG and Australia is resolved as soon as possible. The dispute can readily be resolved if both governments honour the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

“Australia knows that under the Agreement, Bougainville’s leaders accepted that Bougainville is part of PNG unless the referendum process results in a change. So unless or until that happens, Australia must of course respect PNG sovereignty.

“I understand that what Australia proposes is a limited increase in the full-time office it has had in Buka since about 2007. Australia has had discussions with PNG and the ABG about doing this. But the announcement in the Australian Treasurer’s budget speech last week made it sound as if a major diplomatic office is to be established

That is not the case. Australia should publicly clarify what is little more than a misunderstanding.

“For its part, PNG should remember that the Peace Agreement provides Bougainville with high autonomy, now guaranteed by the PNG Constitution.

The travel ban has been imposed without a request from or agreement of the ABG. This is a serious breach of at least the spirit of the Peace Agreement.

“The Agreement also clearly gives the ABG control of access of foreigners to Bougainville.

Under it the ABG can propose names of foreigners to be placed on the visa warning list, to prevent their entry to PNG and Bougainville. All applications for work permits and employment visas for people wanting to go to Bougainville are required to be referred to the ABG.

“But ABG requests to the National Government to set up the necessary administrative machinery for the ABG to exercise these powers have so far been ignored. So it seriously concerns me that PNG now wants to control travel to Bougainville, when it does nothing to allow the ABG to exercise its clear powers to control foreigner’s access to Bougainville.”

The President said that he wanted to discuss the travel ban with Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs as a matter of urgency.

He said: “I call on the Foreign Minister to lift the ban immediately, and to separately take steps to resolve the PNG dispute with Australia. There is no basis for the PNG Government to be harming Bougainville as a way of dealing with its misunderstanding with Australia.

“I also call on the Foreign Minister to work with the ABG to ensure that we can use our foreign affairs powers under the Peace Agreement.

“I also seek an assurance from the Minister that in future he will not take unilateral action in relation to foreign citizen’s travel to Bougainville. Instead, he must recognise Bougainville’s autonomy, and only take any such action at the request, or with the agreement, of the ABG

Grand Chief Dr John L. Momis

 

Diplomatic row BREAKING NEWS: PNG Government Imposes Ban on Australians Travelling to Bougainville

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Rimbink Pato, Minister For Foreign Affairs and Immigration, has announced a ban on Australians travelling to Bougainville.

Minister Pato issued the notice following the announcement by Australia of its plan to establish an Open Mission in Bougainville.

The Minister said, “I have instructed the Chief Migration Officer to impose the ban with immediate effect and to notify all PNG Overseas Missions and Posts and domestic carriers of the ban.”

He said Australians residing in Bougainville on work and permanent resident visas will not be affected by the ban. The ban will apply to all Australian passport holders who intend to visit Bougainville on tourist, business and other short-term entry visa’s.

All Diplomats and Foreign Government Officials wishing to visit Bougainville must seek clearance from the Department of Foreign Affairs before travelling to Bougainville. A clearance note will be issued to the Carrier to uplift the named officail(s).

The ban will also be imposed on any foreigner who applies for a visa at an PNG Overseas Missions and Post to visit Bougainville.

PNG Migration, Customs and Police Officers on duty at PNG Ports and Entry and Provincial Airports will monitor the ban and report any non-compliance to the Chief Migration Officer.

Source: Rimbink Pato, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration 15 May 2015 [Media Release]

Bougainville Political News: PM O’Neill wasn’t consulted over new Australian mission in Bougainville

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Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has said he was not consulted by Canberra over plans to set up a diplomatic post in Buka ,Bougainville, a politically sensitive autonomous region expected to hold a referendum on independence.

Report from The Australian online VIEW HERE

The federal government announced on Tuesday it would open five new overseas missions as part of this year’s national budget, including one at Buka in Bougainville.

Australian diplomats will also be dispatched to Doha, Mongolia and Phuket as Australia seeks to expand its footprint and spruik trade and investment opportunities.

But Mr O’Neill said there had been no consultation and no agreement to establish a post in Bougainville.

“We were shocked to learn from the budget documents that Australia is planning on establishing a diplomatic post in Bougainville,” Mr O’Neill said on a visit to Sydney today.

“I want to say that there has been no consultation on this proposal and there is no agreement to proceed,” he added.

“As we respect the territorial integrity of others, we expect others to respect ours as well.” He said that the region was a historically and politically sensitive area for PNG, with Bougainville voters expected to elect authorities in June who will call for a referendum on independence from the country as part of a 2001 peace agreement.

Under the agreement, Bougainville was promised the right to hold an independence referendum between 2015 and 2020.

It followed an almost decade-long, bitter guerilla war beginning in 1988 that claimed 10,000 lives.

The separatist conflict was the bloodiest in the Pacific since World War II, and ended when the New Zealand government helped broker a truce signed by all factions in 1997.

An Autonomous Bougainville Government was established in June 2005 as part of a United Nations-sponsored process.

O’Neill said that PNG Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato was requesting more information about Australia’s proposal.

Pato Thursday described the plan as “outrageous” and “mischievous”.

“I’ve directed the acting secretary to call in the Australian high commissioner to explain the media accounts of this mischievous proposal to open a foreign mission on Bougainville,” Pato said in a statement, local media reported.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop insisted the matter was discussed with the PNG government during a visit she made to the country last December.

“Australia has a significant and growing development program in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, which is almost 50 per cent higher than 2012/13, and will continue to partner with the PNG government in supporting economic growth throughout PNG,” her spokeswoman said.

Bougainville is home to the giant Panguna copper deposit. A Panguna mine run by Bougainville Copper, a subsidiary of Australian-listed Rio Tinto, was forced to close in 1989 during the conflict.

Rio Tinto has said the PNG government as well as Bougainville’s leadership were supportive of restarting operations at what is one of the South Pacific’s largest mines for copper and gold.

Bougainville Mining News: BCL chairman addresses AGM (Download full transcript)

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“Let me assure you that the vision to return to active exploration and profitable, sustainable mining remains, with the active support of many local stakeholders.

The Board and Management of Bougainville Copper Ltd are well positioned to recognise the opportunities inherent in recent challenges, and to maintain progress in a new year.

I believe the economic self-sufficiency of Bougainville needs the successful development of Panguna “

The following is a transcript of the address given by BCL Chairman Peter Taylor to the Annual General Meeting in Port Moresby on Wednesday 29 April 2015. A PDF of the transcript can be downloaded here.

The Annual General Meeting gives me an opportunity, as chairman, to make a statement concerning the up-to-date affairs of the company. Copies of this statement will be distributed as you leave today, and with your permission, I would now like to present it.

Mining Legislation

The most significant event to impact the company in 2014 was the passing of new mining legislation by the Autonomous Bougainville Government, which creates uncertainty regarding Bougainville Copper’s rights to mining and exploration licences. The Bougainville Mining Act 2015 was passed on April 1, substantially mirrors the clauses of the Interim Mining Act, which has reclassed the existing Special Mining Lease as an Exploration Licence. There remains uncertainty over the seven (7) leases for mining purposes.

The Company made applications for new licenses and to affirm rights which appear to have been impacted by the interim ABG mining legislation. These applications have been declined. The final Bougainville Mining Act 2015 prevents the Mining Registrar from accepting or registering applications for tenements before October 1, 2015.

The company is taking some comfort from correspondence and continued dialogue with the ABG and President Momis where he acknowledges that the company is a holder of a Special Mining Lease prior to the Act coming into force. The Act substitutes the Special Mining Lease (SML) with an Exploration Licence. The Company will seek formal granting of the exploration licence and exclusive access to the SML area.

Given the potential impact of the new legislation, the Board has decided to take a full impairment of the value of the mine assets, and to restrict the flow of funds into some of BCL’s work programs. The impairment dramatically decreased the value of the company fixed assets and has resulted in a corresponding impairment expense in the Statement of Comprehensive Income. I will discuss the impact of the impairment shortly when I summarise the 2014 results.

Company representatives continue to engage with the National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government seeking clarification of the company’s rights, and at the same time to explore legal options, as well as taking steps to protect BCL’s priority position should re-commencement of mining at Panguna be viable and approved.

The company’s major shareholder Rio Tinto announced in August 2014 “in light of recent developments in Papua New Guinea, including the new mining legislation passed earlier this month by the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Rio Tinto has decided now is an appropriate time to review all options for its 53.83 per cent stake in Bougainville Copper Ltd”

The review is ongoing.

President John Momis has emphasised that the new mining legislation was needed to address unregulated mining activity on Bougainville, and was not aimed at discouraging BCL. President Momis has supported redevelopment of the Panguna mine, subject to community support.

Given the uncertainty the company has minimised its Bougainville work programs.

Financial Results

The results for the year ended December 31, 2014 as reported in the Annual Report, record an operating loss of K9.1 million and an impairment charge of K166.6 million which equates to an overall loss of K175.7 million. This compares with the profit of K6.8 million in the previous year. The impairment charge reflects the diminishing rights of the company to the mine assets and resources with the directors acting prudently in impairing the mining assets completely. We continue to seek advice regarding all our options.

The value of the mining assets in 2013 was K197.9 million and after the asset revaluation reserve of K31.3 was reversed the net impact of the impairment recorded in the statement of comprehensive income was 166.6 million.

Revenue from Interest and Dividends (K4.9m) was slightly lower than budget (K5.1m).

Operational expenditure overall (K14.1m) was lower than budget (K15.9), reflecting the scaling back of work programs.

The company will not pay a dividend.

The company has sufficient funds to cover its recurrent expenditure under the current three year plan and is debt free.

Taxation

I am pleased to report to the shareholders that the company has negotiated a settlement with the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Commission (IRC) in PNG. A scheduled second mediation occurred on 2nd April 2015. I am able to report the court has confirmed the company will receive back K39.7 million from the funds held on term deposit with the Registrar of the High Court. This concludes this long outstanding matter.

There was a total of K70.6 million reported in the 2014 Financial Statements as receivable. The IRC was paid K13.0 million in addition to K4.4 million of interest withholding tax. K14.0 million was agreed to be paid to the IRC in settlement from the K53.2 million, held on IBD for the national court, which leaves the Company with around K40 million.

Financial Assets and Investment strategy

At the end of 2014 Bougainville Copper’s liquid assets were K4.7 million in cash and K102 million in Australian equities. The company’ financial position is linked to the performance of the Australian equities market, which is in a positive phase.

In 2014 Bougainville Copper’s Australian Equities Portfolio, performed broadly in line with the Australian Stock Market.

It is intended to continue with the current investment strategy, for as long as the investment committee deems this to be the best option, or until such time as equities need to be sold to fund further work programs.

The company’s cash position is enhanced as a result of the conclusion of the taxation dispute.

Governance

Bougainville Copper has governance reporting obligations to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). A statement on the company’s compliance with the ASX Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations is contained within the annual report. In addition, the company has adopted policies that seek to comply with Rio Tinto’s comprehensive range of policies including safety, environment, financial management and other governance practices. The company has chosen to early adopt the latest edition of the ASX principles, for the 2014 Financial Statements, one year before the mandatory adoption date.

Safety and Risk Management

Bougainville Copper is particularly safety conscious and has in place a comprehensive set of safety standards to ensure that it provides a safe working environment and that its employees and contractors comply with best practice safety procedures. The company complies with the requirements of the Rio Tinto safety policy.

The management of Bougainville Copper undertakes regular risk reviews.

Bougainville Copper Foundation

Bougainville Copper has continued to support the work of the Bougainville Copper Foundation. This is an independent, not-for-profit company that has been funded by Bougainville Copper since its inception.

In 2014, as in previous years, the Foundation had more than 100 Bougainville students on scholarships. Many are continuing to be supported in 2015.

The Foundation also undertakes special project on a needs basis with the emphasis placed on education, peace and good governance.

The Foundation is proud of its achievements and those of its former scholars who are contributing to the development of Bougainville.

The Foundation continues to review its objectives and future direction. As mentioned, the Foundation is an independent body, and it is hoped that its range of activities will not be materially reduced by the factors that are now constraining some of BCL’s social and work programs.

I will now report on some other current events which have a bearing on the company’s prospects and its progress towards the vision of reopening the mine.

Work Programs

In view of recent actions of the Bougainville legislature, funding to progress all studies and welfare programs will be limited until uncertainties of tenure and the legislative regime are clarified.

During the period, limited work continued to refine the 2013 Order of Magnitude Study, which is an exercise aimed at giving the company guidance as to the most appropriate and cost effective way to re-develop the Panguna resource. It is one of the Board’s major tools in evaluating options going forward.

The Order of Magnitude Study is based on many assumptions including commodity prices, market demand, investor risk, opportunity costs, security of tenure and others. In brief it describes a new mine at Panguna processing between 60 million and 90 million tonnes of ore per annum, over a mine life of 24 years, with an estimated capital cost of 5.2 billion US dollars, as estimated in 2013.Further, more detailed studies, such as a pre-feasibility study and a feasibility study are required to confidently determine the potential economic viability of re-opening the mine. Only upon completion of those studies will the Board be sufficiently informed to take a decision whether or not to proceed with financing and commencement of construction.

The time-line to first production could be between five and seven years from the date of approval and financing.

Many of the assumptions, including the size of the resource, the life of the mine, and the start-up cost, may vary significantly when the company gains access to the former mine site and undertakes further work.

Several other studies were initiated by the company, in conjunction with the Bougainville Administration, aimed at providing a clearer picture of the environmental conditions, the needs of the population, training and employment readiness, as well as land ownership and social mapping. However the company is not in a position to commit to funding these studies until tenure is assured.

Bel Kol

Representatives of the customary landowners from the mine lease areas have requested that Bougainville Copper perform a cultural ceremony with them, Bel Kol.

The ceremony is aimed at restoring relationships between Bougainville Copper, landowners, the Autonomous Bougainville Government, ex-combatants and community leaders.

Significant progress was made towards Bel Kol by the end of 2014. A senior Bougainville Copper manager began regular travel and participated in discussions in Central Bougainville.

Bel Kol is now postponed until after the Bougainville elections. As a gesture of goodwill, the company will make commitments to support programs focused towards health and education initiatives.

The company has asked for open access to Panguna and the area covered by the original Special Mining Lease, assurances of safety, and an invitation to establish a presence in Arawa, as a base for field work, baseline studies and social mapping previously mentioned, and for the recruitment of local people to participate in drilling and other evaluation and de-risking programs

A training program has been jointly designed, to be supported by the company, to prepare members of the lost generation for work opportunities.

Joint Panguna Negotiations

The Joint Panguna Negotiation Coordination Committee (JPNCC) consisting of National Government and ABG representatives, together with landowner and company delegates, was active in 2014 in defining several baseline studies and preparing to implement them.

The JPNCC has established a Multi Trust Fund, to manage joint monies including aid, and to conduct the process of tendering and awarding the baseline studies, in order to vest the findings of studies with arms-length transparency, and credibility with all parties. The Trust Fund formally came into effect in November 2014.

Senior PNG statesman Sir Peter Barter accepted chairmanship of the Multi Trust Fund, and as a respected Bougainville peace-maker, reminded the people of his long held view that there can be no meaningful autonomy without a viable economy.

Throughout the year, company management maintained its own fruitful dialogue with a wide range of Bougainvillean interest groups, through regular meetings at Buka, Arawa and Kieta, with landowners, ex-combatants, women’s groups, ABG agencies, aid donors and other stakeholders.

Events on Bougainville

There have been a number of developments in Bougainville, including Prime Minister Peter O’Neill who visited Bougainville and Panguna in January 2014, and visited again in December 2014 to re-open the Aropa airport.

Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop visited the region.

Preparations for elections to the Parliament of the Autonomous Bougainville Region are gathering pace, polling scheduled for May 2015, with results known during June.

President John Momis is one of nine candidates seeking election.

There has been a re-structure of the Bougainville Public Service administration.

The relationship between President Momis, his government, and the Board and management of Bougainville Copper remains cordial.

The regulatory regime and the company’s position

The practical effect of the permanent mining legislation requires further clarification so that the long term mining regime for Bougainville is settled, allowing the company to factor these terms into its assessment of the viability of the potential mine redevelopment.

The next phase of study, a pre-feasibility study on reopening the mine, will be very expensive, and requires certainty of a workable mining regime and conditions prior to committing the study funds.

I wish to restate that even if further studies confirm that recommencement of mining is economically attractive, mining at Panguna cannot recommence unless all parties: the Landowners, the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the National Government of PNG, and BCL, are acting in close accord, now and into the future.

Funding and sovereign risk assurance for the project will require a united effort. Investors also need a fair and stable regulatory regime that gives them the confidence to commit to a project that will require billions of dollars of investment.

Conclusion

Let me assure you that the vision to return to active exploration and profitable, sustainable mining remains, with the active support of many local stakeholders.

The Board and Management of Bougainville Copper Ltd are well positioned to recognise the opportunities inherent in recent challenges, and to maintain progress in a new year.

I believe the economic self-sufficiency of Bougainville needs the successful development of Panguna.

The company faces the coming year with resolve and determination.

For your further information, I remind you that reports and commentaries of the company’s activities are regularly reported to the Australian Securities Exchange and associated media, and can also be accessed on our website.

Bougainville Mining News: Bougainville mine now in play, government says

PNG PM

Secret dealings of this kind are completely unacceptable to the people of Bougainville, It would be unacceptable to the people of Bougainville for the national government to try to take control of Panguna. Such a move, would trigger demands for immediate independence “

“We cannot allow a new form of colonial dealings in Bougainville’s resources to occur.”

Bougainville President John Momis

The Bougainville Autonomous Government is convinced Bougainville Copper — which owns a mine containing copper and gold worth more than $50 billion, as well as a recently ­reconfirmed exploration licence — is now in play.

As reported in todays Australian Newspaper  By: Rowan Callick Asia Pacific Editor

Bougainville President John Momis last week called on Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Rio Tinto to reveal any dealings over Rio’s 53.58 per cent shares in BCL.

“For over a year now, Mr O’Neill has expressed interest in the national government taking control of BCL,” Mr Momis said.

“He proposes that PNG operate the Panguna mine in Bougainville in the same way it operates the Ok Tedi mine,” which Mr O’Neill’s government took over in 2013.

The PNG government has hired Peter Graham, who led ExxonMobil’s successful construction of the country’s first liquefied natural gas project, to manage Ok Tedi mine and potentially to steer other state-owned mining assets.

The Bougainville mine, which was closed by conflict in 1989 and which would cost an estimated $6.5bn or more to reopen, is also owned 19.06 per cent by the PNG government, and 27.36 per cent by other shareholders.

Mr O’Neill confirmed that “we have had discussions with other shareholders of BCL on a range of issues including the reopening of the mine and the disposal of shares by existing shareholders, including Rio Tinto”.

But, he added, “There are no secret deals, and we are disappointed that President Momis is trying to use this issue at the time of the election” for a new Bougainville government that takes place at the end of next month.

“President Momis has been informed of whatever talks we have with other shareholders of BCL, only because the state is the second biggest shareholder,” Mr O’Neill said.

There would be no talks about reopening the mine, he said, “until landowners and the people of Bougainville are ready”.

It is understood the Momis government’s concern was aroused by information it had received that law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, which does a considerable amount of work for Rio internationally, had instructions to handle the sale of Rio’s shares, and had held discussions with agents in Port Moresby in relation to the deal. A Norton Rose Fulbright spokesman declined to comment when questioned by The Australian.

The BCL share price suddenly soared by 50 per cent a fortnight ago. The ASX issued a “speeding ticket”, asking the company to explain the leap. BCL said it couldn’t.

Mr Momis, whose government has recently passed new mining legislation that hands back control of all resources to landowners, said: “We cannot allow a new form of colonial dealings in Bougainville’s resources to occur.”

He said that last month he wrote to BCL, seeking advice from either it or Rio Tinto, about whether share transactions between Rio and PNG were under discussion or preparation.

“I received a brief reply from Rio, addressed to BCL but passed on to me, dated March 23. The letter simply stated that ‘Rio Tinto … is reviewing its options with respect to its stake in Bougainville Copper Ltd. This review is continuing’,” Mr Momis said.

“Secret dealings of this kind are completely unacceptable to the people of Bougainville,” he said. “It would be unacceptable to the people of Bougainville for the national government to try to take control of Panguna.” Such a move, he said, would trigger demands for immediate independence.

Peter Taylor, who has been chairman of BCL for 12 years, told The Australian “the Bougainville government seems to want the mine reopened, but we have to sit down … and see what’s doable”.

Bougainville Mining News: Rumbles from the jungle as Bougainville mine stirs

panguna

 

The big questions hanging over the mine right now include: who will run the Autonomous Bougainville Government after the election due at the end of May? Nine figures are contending the presidency, including several former combatants, with the front runners probably former Catholic priest John Momis, the veteran incumbent, and Sam Akoitai, a former national mining minister.

The next government will have the responsibility of setting the parameters for the referendum on independence that must happen at some time during the five years from this July.

The Panguna mine on Bougainville Island would cost $6.5bn to restart.

Source: The Australian Rowan Callick News Limited

Even the long-suffering Bougainville Copper board, which has witnessed cargo cults, wars, and the closure of its own vast mine, was puzzled when its share price soared 50 per cent a week ago.

For this sudden surge of confidence appeared, oddly, to have been triggered by troubling news for the company — the commencement of a new Mining Act passed by the Bougainville autonomous region’s parliament, which hands back control of all resources to landowners.

The future of the Bougainville mine, which still contains copper and gold worth about $50 billion, is tied up with its complex past, with the long geopolitical shadow cast by the 1989-2001 civil war on the island — and with cargo-­cultist hopes held out by local leaders allied to eccentric foreigners constantly seeking to seize control of the resources from BCL.

The ASX issued a “speeding ticket”, asking the company to explain the April 2 share price leap. BCL replied that it couldn’t.

The price had slid back down to 28c by Friday.

The directors of the company, which is 53.58 per cent owned by Rio Tinto, 19.06 per cent by the Papua New Guinea government, and 27.36 per cent by other shareholders, are trying to juggle an enormous range of unknowns and variables, without even the compensating benefits of having a mine to run.

It has remained closed since May 1989, and would cost upwards of $6.5bn to reopen.

The big questions hanging over the mine right now include: who will run the Autonomous Bougainville Government after the election due at the end of May? Nine figures are contending the presidency, including several former combatants, with the front runners probably former Catholic priest John Momis, the veteran incumbent, and Sam Akoitai, a former national mining minister.

The next government will have the responsibility of setting the parameters for the referendum on independence that must happen at some time during the five years from this July.

What will be the response of the national government led by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to the new Bougainville mining law? National legislation insists that, as in Australia, such resources are owned by the state.

And Mr O’Neill has hired Peter Graham, who led the remarkably successful construction of the country’s first liquefied natural gas project for ExxonMobil, to manage the Ok Tedi mine, which the Port Moresby government nationalised — and may be eager to deploy his skills to reopening Bougainville too, if Rio chooses to sell to PNG.

What does Rio itself want? At the end of 2014, it announced from London that it was reviewing its BCL stake.

It has not entirely lost its stomach for complex, ever-changing negotiations in developing countries with governments lacking the disciplines of party politics — managing director Sam Walsh only recently flew to Mongolia for talks about the constantly challenging Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine there.

But it could follow BHP-­Billiton, after its Ok Tedi debacle, in placing PNG in the ultimately-too-hard basket.

The key question is what do the landowners want? If they don’t want a mine back, it won’t happen.

Many do favour a reopening, since they see no alternative source of income for their families on the horizon — the agricultural potential for Bougainville is all on the coast, rather than in the mountains.

But they are themselves split into about nine recognisable factions — whereas at the time the mine was set up, during Australian colonial days, they spoke as a unified group.

The legislation does not specifically mention the BCL mine, because it is intended to cover the whole of the highly prospective region, which has since the onset of the civil war attracted growing numbers of carpetbaggers seeking to set up their own private operations — almost always seeking gold — in collaboration with ex-combatants who often retain guns.

Formerly, BCL was granted the only mining licence in Bougainville, which it still holds — but from the PNG government — while the Bougainville government now says its legislation supersedes the national legislation, under the accord agreed at the peace conference that ended the conflict.

The company is not only governed by legislation, but operated the mine under a contract with the PNG government that remains in force.

Peter Taylor, who has been chairman of BCL for 12 years, said that “the Bougainville government seems to want the mine reopened, but we have to sit down around a table and see what’s do­able.”

He said he remained confident that “if there’s a will there to get the mine reopened, we will find a way. But we’re talking a long lead time.’

When the first study about reopening was conducted, the copper and gold prices were lower than today — but that’s not the key issue: “We’re a mining business, not a trading business,” he said.

“It will happen only if the government and the landowners want it to happen.”

President John Momis, who has driven Bougainville’s new Mining Act, said that with it, “we are completely rejecting the terrible past. The Act recognises that all owners of customary land own all minerals in, on and under their land.” And now those who joined the civil war on the side of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army based around the mine site at Panguna, are also entitled, under custom, to share in any proceeds from that land.