MAC: Mines and Communities

Bougainville government announces moratorium on Panguna

Published by MAC on 2017-12-29
Source: Reuters, PNG Minewatch, Asia Pacific Report (2017-12-29)

Just in time for New Years celebrations on the island of Bougainville, its prime minister seems to have finally listened to the clamorous voices of landowners against the re-opening of the Panguna copper-gold mine.

“We will not allow this project once again to reignite the wounds of the Bougainville crisis and distract our focus for restoring peace and our preparation for our referendum in 2019,” says John Momis.

Nonetheless, his words were chosen with the canniness of a seasoned politician - the mercurial Momis was himself an early opponent of the mine.

He qualified his latest announcement by adding that his government would "continue to consult with Panguna landowners and the people of Bougainville over an 'appropriate arrangement' or best alternative models of development of the mine if the people still had an appetite to develop the mine in the future".

With the outcome the future referendum on the island's independence from Papua New Guinea in doubt (it's scheduled for June 2019), there is  a lot yet to play for, and no guarantee that landowners won't be subject to further pressure  to change their minds. (see: Bougainville being "softened up" for re-opening Panguna ).

 

 

Australia's Bougainville Copper falls on Panguna moratorium report

Devika Syamnath

Reuters

December  27 2017

Bougainville Copper Ltd shares fell on Wednesday following a report that the government of the Pacific island of Bougainville plans to impose a moratorium on mining or exploration at Panguna, once one of the world's biggest copper mines.

Bougainville Copper has been working to restart the mine, which was shut by a civil war in 1989.

Bougainville President John Momis said the island's executive council decided to impose the indefinite moratorium after landowners narrowly failed to support a plan to reopen the mine, the New Zealand-based Asia Pacific Report said on Dec. 23.

"We will not allow this project once again to reignite the wounds of the Bougainville crisis and distract our focus for restoring peace and our preparation for our referendum in 2019," the report quoted Momis as saying.

The Autonomous Bougainville Government could not be reached for comment.

Bougainville Copper said in a statement it was seeking clarification from Bougainville's Department of Minerals and Energy Resources about the report.

Bougainville's quarter of a million people are tentatively scheduled to vote on independence from Papua New Guinea in June 2019. Revenue from the reopening of the Panguna mine is essential for the otherwise impoverished island. There has been a struggle over who will run the mine between Bougainville Copper, backed by the Bougainville and Papua New Guinea governments, and a consortium of Australian investors supported by the head of the landowners.

The abandoned copper and gold mine contains one of the world's largest copper deposits. During its 17-year life until the closure in 1989, Panguna was credited for generating almost one-half of Papua New Guinea's gross domestic product.

Bougainville Copper's shares tumbled as much as 17 percent on Wednesday, compared to a 0.4 percent rise on the Australian benchmark , giving the company a market value of about A$90 million ($70 million). ($1 = 1.2937 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Devika Syamnath in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin)


 Bougainville's mining debacle

Chris Baria

Papua New Guinea Minewatch

28 December 2017

They say that if you told a lie enough times it becomes the gospel truth in your mind, which means you yourself will begin to believe it as well.

That is exactly what happened with the BCL saga. We know now how the landowners feel about BCL and resumption of Mining in Panguna after the Warden’s hearing was held there. The fact is, how many times had we seen the President go to the media and boast that 90% of the landowners were in favour of Mining and BCL? He even slammed the report by Jubilee Australia which clearly indicated that the people in the mine affected area appeared to be mentally stressed and bore mental scars from the crisis and having their land and environment damaged, and they themselves displaced by the mine. If anything, these people expressed horror when questioned about return of BCL and the reopening of Panguna mine.

Surely our dear President would have saved himself a lot of embarrassment had he heeded the warning by Jubilee and even AusAid for that matter. Jubilee didn’t sit around in Buka and wait for a fortuneteller to come from Panguna and tell them what they hoped to hear. They went in and found out for themselves while ABG and it’s administration drove around in 5 door cruisers and held meetings that never delivered anything.

The sad fact of course is that people’s time, money and efforts have been wasted chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Our President is surely a man of many colors of the rainbow. Due to mass hypnotism induced through flowery rhetoric our memory banks were wiped clean and we did not waste time in reinstating our master orator as the President of Bougainville. We reinstated him with landslide votes showing that foolish people in large groups can still wield a lot of power under the pretext of democracy.

What we seemed to have forgotten is that under a different color in 1989 our President was the man who bitterly attacked BCL in the media calling it “wild pig” and proposed “Bougainville Initiative” under which a new mining company would replace BCL. Although it was just a lot of hot it did however, help to start a war when it stirred up the landowners who were already fed up with BCL. I don’t know if BCL too had forgotten what he had done back then but in politics you often find strange people on the same bed and in our case with “the devil we know”.

After all this time it took Mining Warden’s hearing to finally spell out the truth. Imagine what would have happened if a handful of women and excombatants had not stopped the President and his full cabinet and BCL management trying to sneak into Panguna to sign the MOA?

I leave that question with you and I never have lost hope for Bougainville. I do hope that we have learnt some costly lessons and that based on those lessons we can now move forward into 2018.


Momis announces moratorium on Panguna mining and exploration

Aloysius Laukai in Buka
 
Asia Pacific Report
 
 
The President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Chief Dr John Momis, has announced an indefinite moratorium on exploration and mining in Panguna.

He said the Bougainville Executive Council had its meeting on Wednesday made a “thoughtful and considered” decision to impose an indefinite reservation moratorium from any exploration or mining over Panguna in the best interest of the landowners and the people of Bougainville.

The council debating the issue following advice from the Bougainville Mining Advisory Council.

“It is with much regret that the basic requirement for obtaining the landowners consent under the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 could not be met,” Momis said.

The voice of the Panguna landowners was clearly heard during the mining warden hearing that decided in a narrow split between those supporting the mine reopening by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) and the opponents.

Dr Momis also said that to develop the mine by any other developer would be “untenable” under current circumstances.

“We will not allow this project once again to reignite the wounds of the Bougainville crisis and distract our focus for restoring peace and our preparation for our referendum in 2019,” he said.

Continued consultations

While imposing this Panguna moratorium, Dr Momis said his government would continue to consult with Panguna landowners and the people of Bougainville over an “appropriate arrangement” or best alternative models of development of the mine if the people still had an appetite to develop the mine in the future.

The Bougainville Civil War was fought in 1988-1998 between Papua New Guinean military forces and secessionist guerrillas of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA).

The conflict led to an estimated 15,000-20,000 deaths on Bougainville before a peace agreement was brokered by New Zealand in 1998. This led to the establishment of the Bougainville Autonomous Region Government.

Bougainvilleans are due to vote in a referendum on possible independence in June 2019.

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