MAC: Mines and Communities

Bougainville: squabbles among a den of thieves

Published by MAC on 2019-02-05
Source: BCL (2019-02-04)

BCL comes up with its own "digs"

Following the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) backing a foreign investor's proposal to resume exploration and mining across the island, the former owner of the notorious Panguna copper/gold mine has issued a statement condemning the plan [See: Bougainville - in with a BAM].

This is hardly surprising, considering that BCL - which was forced out of Bougainville a year ago by the selfsame administration - is incensed at now being sidelined [See: Bougainville moratorium re-confirmed].

What's distinctly disingenous is that this particular band of recalcitrants invokes some of the very people in its support, despite consistently rejecting their demands for over twenty years, stating:

"Community leaders, landowners and others who are concerned by these proposals...have an opportunity to ensure their voices are heard by decision-makers before these laws are passed".

Comment by Nostromo Research

PROPOSED MINING LAWS RAISE SERIOUS CONCERNS

Statement by Bougainville Copper Limited

4 February 2019

Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) has serious concerns over proposed new
mining laws that some members of the Autonomous Bougainville Government
(ABG) seem keen to rush through parliament.

The three bills that were introduced to parliament last Wednesday, with
insufficient stakeholder consultation, are proving divisive at a time when
unity is required in the lead-up to the referendum.

If passed, one of the bills seeks to amend the Bougainville Mining Act
2015 to allow a new company, Bougainville Advance Mining Limited, to be
issued with a special mining licence granting “large-scale mining leases
over all land in Bougainville available for reconnaissance, exploration
and mining that is not subject to an existing exploration licence or
mining lease”. Leases of up to 100 years could be granted.

These bills mirror proposals put forward by an Australian opportunist
Jeffery McGlinn, whose apparent primary business appears to be horse
breeding. In presentations to MPs and others he has proposed a 40 per cent
stake in Bougainville Advance Mining for his own newly formed company
Caballus Mining with other unknown foreign investors and sovereign states.

These developments raise very legitimate legal, constitutional and ethical
questions, not only by BCL and its shareholders, but also by landowners in
Bougainville and others in the community. More widely these bills could
also be interpreted as both anti-competitive and anti-investment which is
the last thing Bougainville needs.

Bougainville introduced good laws and regulations in 2015 designed to
rebalance Bougainville’s mineral rights after a long period of
consultation with all stakeholders. Now those rights are being undermined
in haste by these proposed changes. Any genuine investor worth its mettle
should be able to work within the existing laws. The Bougainville Mining
Act 2015 therefore does not need to be changed.

BCL urges ABG leaders to think very seriously about the unnecessary
divisions being created by these proposed amendments to the Mining Act and
instead re-focus on the important work of unifying landowners and
Bougainvilleans at this critical time for Bougainville, as they prepare
for the referendum.

From the company’s own perspective, these legislative moves also ignore
current court proceedings and BCL’s rights to natural justice and they are
also at odds with the ABG’s decision to place a moratorium over the
Panguna project area. The ABG has maintained there should be no
discussions regarding mining activities in Panguna until after the
referendum.

In early 2018, the ABG advised of a decision not to grant BCL an extension
of its exploration licence (EL1) over the Panguna project area.

BCL maintains that the application process was both legally and
procedurally flawed and was also undermined by other parties with
competing commercial interests in Panguna mineral rights.

To protect the interests of all those with a significant stake in our
company, including the people of Bougainville, BCL commenced legal
proceedings in the PNG National Court seeking a Judicial Review of the
decision. We were subsequently granted leave by the court to seek the
review.

Since being invited back to Bougainville in 2012 by the ABG to reengage
about the prospect of redeveloping Panguna, BCL has always conducted
itself in an ethical and respectful manner and we continue to support
worthwhile community projects.

The ABG and PNG National Government remain major shareholders in the
company and we retain strong support among customary landowners in the
project area and others in the community. BCL also possesses valuable
local knowledge, project IP and mining expertise.

We have a highly-regarded local board led by respected Bougainvillean Sir
Melchior Togolo as well as strong connections within the global mining and
investment communities where there are potential project partners.

For all these reasons BCL remains a viable option for future mineral
development in Bougainville and in the best interests of all
Bougainvilleans, we would urge all members of the ABG parliament to
seriously consider this before the bills are further read on 12 February.

Community leaders, landowners and others who are concerned by these
proposals also have an opportunity to ensure their voices are heard by
decision-makers before these laws are passed.

 

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