MAC: Mines and Communities

Bougainville Landowners irate over Rio Tinto's possible return

Published by MAC on 2012-08-13
Source: Postcourier

In the wake of agreements signed between indigenous companies and Canada's Morumbi Resources, Bougainville landowners have vociferously re-affirmed their opposition to the return of Rio Tinto to the Panguna mining area.

See: Canadian venture capitalists step onto Bougainville

Local companies oppose BCL return


31 July 2012

Talks of Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL)'s return to the civil war-torn Autonomous Region of Bougainville to reopen the Panguna mine has received stiff resistance from the Bougainville landowner companies from the mine area.

Joe Birunoim, mandated spokesperson for 5 major landowner companies from the Panguna mine area, a former politician and former rebel commander yesterday said the talk of BCL returning to Panguna is ‘a joke'.

Mr Biruniom who represents Avaipa Resources Ltd, Pakasianpa Resources Ltd, Baunapa Resources Ltd, Erupia Resources Ltd and Karato Resources Ltd said BCL is not welcomed in Bougainville.

"It has more than enough outstanding issues on its plate. If BCL is talking about returning to the Panguna mine pit is fine but not accepted at the 7 sisters (the 7 mining lease areas). We have had enough damage accumulated from BCL. Knowing the fact that BCL is out of the region, we have already established ourselves as exploration and mining companies to explore and mine our own mineral resources. We have joint partnership with major internationally reputable mining and exploration companies who have agreed to our model of shareholdings and benefiting sharing arrangement which is unique and different from any other developers could afford to offer," Mr Birunoim said.

Vice Chairman and a director of umbrella company Isina Resources Holdings Ltd Sam Kauona said if there is any negotiation for reopening of Panguna, it has to be a wide consultation and not for ABG President John Momis to decide whether BCL is to come or not as it's a private political deal.

"The very people who fought for their land and resources have to be consulted. But in this case, the landowners have decided their own destiny and said no to BCL. I am working on as model to give back mineral and oil ownership back to the landowners and any talk to BCL coming back will defeat the purpose of setting up and landowner's companies to locally explore and mine our own resources.

If we can do exploration and mine own our own with other companies through joint venture, there is no need for BCL as it does not have any place in the region, the former Bougainville Revolutionary Army General told the Post Courier yesterday.

A former senior politician from the region who requested unanimous when asked to comment after learning of BCL interest to return said, "the general feelings in Bougainville is that there is an ill feeling about the news of BCL return. General, Bougainvillians don't want to see BCL coming back. Also it must be made clear that under Section 23 of the Bougainville Constitution, all mineral and oil resources are owned and belong to the landowners or resource owners of Bougainville and not ABG, the National Government or any foreigner for that matter," the former politician said.

2 weeks ago, BCL chairman Peter Taylor was in the region to talk to the Panguna landowners including ABG President John Momis. Mr Momis later told Radio Australia that the meeting with BCL was very significant. "It was the first time that all the landowners were represented in the group that talked with us. In the past we had other big meetings but not all landowner groups were represented. But this time it was good. I was not completely surprised.

I was very happy because we had been doing a lot of work, the administration has been doing a lot of work liaising and talking with the landowner groups and insisting that landowners must come to an agreement to work together," Mr Momis reportedly said.

Landowners irate over BCL talks

By Patrick Talu


6 August 2012

THE talk of Rio Tinto subsidiary Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL)'s re-opening of its defunct Panguna copper mine will not be an easy task.

There is already a strong anti BCL feeling across the breath and width of the Island of Bougainville as the news of BCL's intention to return to Panguna has been prominently hitting news headlines in recent times.

Chris Uma, the Defence Force Commander General of the Mekamui Government, former Bougainville Revolutionary Army General Sam Kauona, seven mining tenement licence area landowners and Bougainvilleans in general are opposing the move by BCL to reopen the once world's third largest copper mine.

Mr Uma and his disarmed army who is manning the gate of the ‘No-Go-Zone' and the Panguna special mining lease area responding to media statements said, "the talk of re-opening of Panguna mine is the final thing or not even been thought of," Mr Uma told this reporter at Panguna mine after a fact finding mission last week.

"Me no laik harim displa toktok lon kam bek blong BCL, em ino stap lo tintin too (I don't want to hear the talk of BCL returning, not even in my mind), Mr Uma said.

"Panguna bai reopen behain lo independence blo Bougainville. nogat independence, nogat Panguna mine (Panguna will only reopen after Bougainville gains independence. No independence for Bougainville, no re-opening for Panguna,)" Mr Uma said.

He said the re-opening of Panguna mine is not a Panguna landowners issue any more.

He said it's a Bougainvillean issue and should there be any talk of reopening the mine, the entire Boungainvillean population are to be widely consulted and not for few politicians and handful of landowners to decide whether BCL returns or not.

"Bullet kisim body blo me first na blut i kapsait. Me baim pinis Panguna na ol lon blut blo me na narapela 20,000 pipol blong Bouganiville die , em blut blo ol baim displa island (I shed the first blood from the bullets and my blood paid off Panguna, the 20,000 Bougainvilleans who lost their lives their blood have paid for the island of Bougainville," the soft spoken Mr Uma said.

Mr Kauona added that the re-opening of Panguna mine is a sensitive issue that cannot be lightly taken and for a few self interested people to talk about.

"There has to be a wider consultation with all stakeholders in the civil war and through that consultation, and if the people are happy to accept BCL, then so be it," Mr Kauona said.

He said the very key stakeholders are the ex-combatants who forcefully shut down the mine and they have to be consulted along with all other stakeholders.

The former BRA General and now a private citizen who is seriously going into mineral exploration said if BCL has to return then it has to come under certain conditions including; agreeing to compensate the 20,000 lives lost, environment damage compensation of K10 billion as initially demanded by late Francis Ona, only to mine the currently special mining lease and not to touch the seven mining tenement licences (not negotiable), compensate ex-combatants, compensate PNG Defense Force soldiers who lost their lives in the civil war and ‘bell kol', a customary way of initial compensation to make peace.

Recently, Paul Coleman, a senior executive of BCL has visited landowners of Panguna and Arawa and held discussion to re-open the mine.

It was reported that Mr Coleman has instructed local contractors to fast track an office building within Arawa Town in which this writer has confirmed being under initial mobilisation for construction.

Also ABG president John Momis has said that the negotiation by BCL with Panguna landowners was progressing well with the view of re-opening the mine.

A senior officee from ABG who spoke to this reporter in Buka at the weekend confirmed that ABG was in talks with BCL and landowners to find a way forward in resolving the issues. The office said there needs to be more and wider consultation made as the situation on the ground is fluid.

Me'ekamui reaffirms stand


8 August 2012

THE ME'EKAMUI Tribal government backed President Momis' call on misleading information on the operational status of the defunct Panguna mine.

This followed middlemen signing agreements without following procedures and not consulting the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and the Me'ekamui Government's respectively on the re-opening of the mine.

Traditionally elected President of the Me'ekamui Government of Unity Philip Miriori said that all of the land and natural resources are on customary land and there is no land registration.

Mr Miriori said that there is no survey or deeds on the land and people have come to our country to pay people large amount of money and have them sign documents that contain bogus information to mislead investors.

He said that the Panguna legal action against Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL)-RioTinto is in the courts and BCL is not mining anywhere on Me'ekamui land.

"Their bogus licences are expired and until all issues are resolved, they can hype their stock exchange in free speech but they won't be mining on our land." Mr Miriori said. According to Mr Miriori the customary tribal land is under the auspices exclusively of the Me'ekamui Government.

Miriori is one of the land owners as well as Vice President Takaung and has not signed any authorisation for using their property nor do they have the governments signed and sealed signature upon any document to date.

"This is simply a stock hype with no foundation or basis in reality," Mr Miriori said.

"Desperate people do desperate things."

"This action is totally irresponsible and can't be achieved without permission of the Me'ekamui Government," he said.

The Me'ekamui will not sanction this stock hype attempt at deceiving the unsuspecting public, the only true statement was there are no geological reports to substantiate anything because people are only dealing with blank paper.

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