MAC: Mines and Communities

Rio Tinto: the elephant in Bougainville's room

Published by MAC on 2011-05-24
Source: PostCourier, The National, Bougainville Radio (2011-05-18)

John Momis, president of Bougainville, is an intelligent man, He has lengthly experience of Papua New Guinea politics; at one point in his distinguished career backing secession of his province from the central government.

He also sided with the landowners who, in 1988 attempted to gain compensation for  massive pollution and crop destruction caused by Rio Tinto's Panguna copper-gold mine.

Last week, Momis addressed the Papua New Guinea-Australian Business Forum, specifically on this issue. He told his audience that re-starting the most conflict-ridden mine in the history of the South Pacific wasn't going to be easy.

"The possible reopening of the Panguna mine has attracted a great deal of attention, and some controversy. Panguna remains a sensitive issue in Bougainville", he said.

Listening (no doubt intently) to Momis' words was the newly-elected president of the Forum, Peter Taylor - who also chairs  Rio Tinto's subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Ltd.

Taylor has made no secret of his board's desire to re-commence digging up the Panguna copper-gold deposit. Now he's  also dangling the tantalising prospect of another seven adjacent areas being exploited.

"We've been there for those 17 years of operation and waited another 20 years since" declared Taylor, "and there is not much we don't know about our ore body, and our host community."

What palpable misrepresentation!

Rio Tinto/BCL hasn't merely been "waiting" to re-enter Bougainville; it was thrown off the island in 1989 by an independence movement which enjoyed the support of a large number of Bougainvilleans.

Nor does the company know anything tangible about current conditions at the Panguna site and downstream of the mothballed mine, precisely because it hasn't accessed the operations ("our" orebody as Taylor puts it) for the past 22 years.

Taylor certainly can't claim to have privileged knowledge of how the "host" community currently views the prospect of the mine re-opening.

He might at least have taken on-board a declaration from the recent Bougainville landowners' summit which re-iterated that their land "is not for sale" - and that implicitly includes the Panguna lease area.

Meanwhile, Mr Taylor has failed to answer claims that he willfully mis-represented the nature of the damage caused by his company during its 17 years of operation, which were published by Papua New Guinea's National newspaper in March. See: Rio Tinto's record on Bougainville is nothing to be proud of

[Comment by Nostromo Research, 22 May 2011]

BCL 'ok for' Panguna

PostCourier

18 May 2011

THE Autonomous Bougainville Government supports re-opening of the Panguna copper mine, but that can only be possible with the support of the landowners and the people of Bougainville.

This is the message from Bougainville president John Momis to the PNG Australian Business Forum in Madang.

Panguna mine on Bougainville
Panguna mine on Bougainville - Source: The National

And Bougainville Copper Limited agreed that they need to do a better job this time in addressing landowner concerns and sharing of benefits.

BCL chairman Peter Taylor said landowners and the ABG will take the lead this time around.
Mr Momis said concerns of the people in terms of benefits sharing, employment and business opportunities were central to the concerns of the people that resulted in terrible bloodshed and suffering.

"Against that background, the possible reopening of the Panguna mine has attracted a great deal of attention, and some controversy. Panguna remains a sensitive issue in Bougainville," he said.

"In principle, the ABG supports re-opening Panguna. We see that as the most realistic way of contributing to broad-based economic growth, and generating the ABG revenues required to meet the needs of our people.

"It must also be emphasised that in planning for meeting those needs, we are working within a very tight timetable.

"The constitutionally guaranteed referendum on independence must be held within the five year period that begins just four years from now - no earlier than 2015 and no later than 2020.

"As a result we need development and revenue as soon as possible, so that the ABG can work with the National Government and other partners to make the current autonomy arrangements work well."

"We want autonomy to deliver real benefits to our people. In that way, when the referendum is held, Bougainvilleans will have a real choice - a choice between the actual benefits of autonomy and the possibilities of independence.

"But while the ABG sees potential benefits from re-opening Panguna, we also believe that a final decision can only be made if that is the will of the people. We need broad-based support for proceeding in that way."

The BCL chairman who was yesterday elected as the president of Australia PNG Business Council told the forum that Panguna mine still had a large ore body capable of producing 50 million tonnes of ore a year for the next 20 years.

That works out to 450,000 ounces a gold and 170,000 tonnes of copper a year.

"So it has been an elephant, and it remains a pretty robust member of that species still. And it has other attributes that make it a continuingly attractive target," Mr Taylor said.

"It's not green field. We've been there for those 17 years of operation and waited another 20 years since, and there is not much we don't know about our ore body, and our host community."

"And there are seven adjacent exploration licence areas which offer the very tangible prospect of further significant discoveries. Once the long standing moratorium on exploration is lifted, I believe the circumstances in the Autonomous Bougainville Region will eventually see that constraint relaxed."

"There is a very wide consensus on Bougainville today that peace and continuing good order will be best achieved by economic means. That the normal aspirations of the people for a good life and a fulfilling future for their children will be delivered by employment, training, regular income, infrastructure and business activity."

"After a few false starts the consensus is now firmly in favour of BCL being the preferred operator of the mine at Panguna if it restarts, and that the mine and its associated activities will be the engine driving all those benefits.

We are now opening a new chapter for Bougainville Copper."


Taylor is new president of PNG-Australia business council

The National

18 May 2011

BOUGAINVILLE Copper executive chairman Peter Taylor is the new president of the Australia-Papua New Guinea business council taking over from the national chairman of Gadens Lawyers, Ian Clarke.

Speaking after his election at the council meeting in Madang on Monday, Taylor said the commercial relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea had never been stronger.

"This is a time of great mutual opportunity, the two-way trade between Papua New Guinea and Australia is now well in excess of K10 billion annually.

"Australian investment in PNG is at a high point, with a significantly increased number of Australian companies investing in the development of resources across the country, and many Australian suppliers of products and technical services visiting PNG in numbers that have not been seen since the 1980s," he said.

Taylor said that at the same time, hundreds of PNG professionals in the mining sector had found jobs in Australia, and PNG producers of commodities were enjoying export gains due to high demand in the Australian market.


Bougainville: Land Summit update

By Aloysius Laukai

New Dawn, Bougainville Radio

12 May 2011

Participants to the Bougainville Land Summit which ended this afternoon in Arawa, have been told that the land is not for sale.

Many speakers who spoke at the summit commented that landowners are the custodians of the land and are not supposed to sell their traditional land.

The summit also heard from representatives of Me'ekamui Original and Me'ekamui Unity Group including leader Chris Uma who for the first time presented their views to the Bougainville Lands division.

International presenters at yesterday's sessions talked on their experiences outside and how Bougainvilleans can compare and adapt to lessons learnt from these experiences.

Today's presentation touched on Customary and Alienated Land, Pressures on custom and pressures on environment and natural resources.

The summit ended with the handing down of final recommendations made during the three day event to Bougainville division of lands and physical planning who will at a later date present to ABG for consideration.

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