MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Bougainville mine to re-open?

Published by MAC on 2005-10-21


Bougainville mine to re-open?

The newly-autonomous government of Bougainville has voted to re-open the very mine which was at the centre of the horrendous conflict, between 1988 and 1995, that cost the lives of up to 20,000 people.

This extraordinary and hasty decision clearly dervies from the government's belief that a largescale mine will generate significant revenues. It closely followed publication of Rio Tinto/Bougainville Copper Ltd's annual repor, and the death of Francis Ona, original leader of the Bougainville "revolt".

The government has said it will "seek the views" of the Panguna landowners, around the minesite, but is already rewriting history: claiming that opposition to Rio Tinto originated in local peoples' dissatisfaction with the lack of benefits from the mine. While this was undoubtedly a factor, the largest bone of contention by far was the mine itself - and the devastation it had caused over two decades. This is reflected in two statements, published below, from a former fighter with the Bougainville Revolutionary Army and a Papua New Guinean from Western Province.

Just after the Bougainville administration made its vote, "mining industry insiders" in Papua New Guinea issued a statement deploring the fact that foreign mining companies were trying to increase their influence within the country - including denying landowners the right to object to specific mining proposals.

"We cannot eat copper or gold!"

Chris Baria, Bougainville

21 October 2005

I am an ordinary Bougainvillean and an ex-combatant. I lost two first cousins, a brother in law and scores of other relatives in the conflict. I have played active role in the weapons collection program and other peace related activites here. I am forty-five years old this year and the crisis has taken away the prime years of my life. I have never been bitter about it. I always believed that the sacrifices we made were for a better tomorrow, but now I am beginning to wonder whether it was worth it. Our politicians have lost their mind and are now talking about re-opening the mine all because some mining company has shown them how they could be rich overnight.

They have swallowed the bait and have gone to the media without even taking the time to consult with us the people who they represent and are accountable to. Mining companies are large and powerful entities and I doubt that our little government will be able to control it once it starts digging up this place. These monsters also enjoy a lot of privileg es with the host governments that local businesses don't have.

Once more the Government is likely to reap the benefits while the social and environmental cost is most likely to be born by us the ordinary people of Bougainville. These costs are the reason why we went to war with the Government in 1989, because the expected benefits failed to materialize or were not distributed in an equitable manner to those who were affected by the mine. This is despite the laws in this country requiring that percentage of revenues from natural-resource-based projects be allocated to regional and local development initiatives. The Colonial Administration and the mining company took advantage of the people's ignorance and made little or no effort to carry out research on the negative impact of the mine so that the people could be educated on these issues. It failed to maximize the benefits to provide adequate funding for social programs.

I grew up near the mine and around the time when Bougainville was going through a period of rapid change. Little did I know then that I was watching a tragedy unfold right before my eyes. I would hate to see my children go through the same thing that I have been through all because the government wants to make a quick buck. I don't want change to ever be forced upon my people who cannot eat copper or gold. The government and company may talk about development but development is, as I understand, growth from within. They cannot take it from elsewhere and plant it here no more than they can sew wings on a caterpillar. Development without a vision is not development at all. Not for us here anyway.


Ona's family meets in Buka

By Fiona Harepa, The National

14 October 2005

The immediate family of late rebel leader Francis Ona of Guava village met for the first time in Buka recently after 17 years since the Bougainville crisis.

The family members were Philip Miriori, Michael Pariu, Thomas Tapuri, Otto Noruka, Mark Miriori, Severinus Ampaoi and Lawrence Daveona flew in from Port Moresby.

A statement released yesterday said discussions were centered on the reconciling the landowners of the Special Mine Lease area of the Panguna mine.

It is believed the crisis was a result of the Panguna landowner's dissatisfaction over the distribution by national government of the benefits generated by Bougainvile Copper Limited during its 17 years of mining operations.

Statistics from the BCL annual report showed that landowners were the smallest recipients of benefits from the mine with K3m in royalty payments (0.2%).

The National Government taking out K919 million (58.4%), dividends for non-government shareholders was K577 million (36.6%), North Solomons provincial government took out K75 million (4.8%).

The landowners also received K19million in compensation payments for restitution of losses.

However, the amount cannot be counted as a benefit because it is a payment for the losses they have encountered during the life of the mine.

The report also stated that during the mine's operations, for every K1 received by the landowners, outsiders received K500.

The family realised it was time to look foward and felt that they owed it to the people of Bougainville and their reconciliation must come to reality.


Government of PNG's Bougainville votes to reopen copper mine

The National

15 October 2005

In Papua New Guinea, the autonomous government of Bougainville province has made the first tentative steps towards reopening the Panguna copper mine.

The government has voted 38-2 in favour of re-opening the copper mine, which was closed down in 1989 when an uprising developed into a decade-long secessionist war.

A committee has been set up to seek the views of local landowners, work with the national government, and negotiate with the owner of the mine, Bougainville Copper Limited.

Our correspondent in PNG, Steve Marshall, say Bougainville is still a no-go zone for international mining firms.

However, Australian and Canadian mining company executives are reported to have made recent visits to the island.

Government speaker, Nick Peniai, says the people of Bougainville support the move to reopen the mine.

"People are now talking in the streets and in the villages as to what will happen next in terms of mining on Bougainville because it's perceived that it could bring in more revenue into the region," he said. The government says reopening the mine could take years.


B'ville sets up team to revive mine

By CLIFFORD FAIPARIK, Courier Mail

http://www.thecouriermail.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,16958981%255E 954,00.html

THE Autonomous Bougainville Government has established a committee to work on re-opening the Panguna mine, Bougainville House Speaker Nick Penia has said.

The ABG voted 38-2 in favour of re-opening the mine, which was shut when the uprising began in 1989.

Mr Penia said within the committee were three sub-committees with different tasks. He said one is tasked with seeking views and working with the landowners, the second will liaise with the National Government, and the third will negotiate with the Bougainville Copper Limited, the owner of the mine.

But, he admits the re-opening will cost a lot of money and it will take years. For now, alluvial gold is the talk among the people.

The speaker claims that about K1.2million generated from the sale of alluvial gold is now circulating throughout Bougainville.

"Villagers are now getting into alluvial gold mining in rivers and creeks," said Mr Penia.

He said the ABG also plans to establish a metal refinery and laboratories to refine the gold nuggets.

Mr Penia also said there is now a flush of cocoa production going on throughout Bougainville.

"This flush is from the 20 million seedlings worth K9 million that were donated by the United Nation Development Project, European Union and AusAID to villagers in 2000 as part of the rehabilitation project. Mind you these are small block holders.

"Those big plantations have not started production yet," he added.


THE WOUNDS ARE STILL FRESH, THEY ARE STILL HEALING

When are the Bougainvilleans going to learn? You just witnessed a 10 year crisis resulting in loss of 16,000 lives on the island. IT WAS A BLOODY ISLAND, BLOOD WAS EVERYWHERE - YET PEOPLE ARE TURNING A BLIND EYE ON THIS AND ARE TALKING ABOUT OPENING MINING IN THE AREA. COME ON BOUGAINVILLEANS, YOU HAVE SURVIVED 10 YEARS WITHOUT GOVERNMENT SUPPORT. How dare you forget so quickly, do you want someone else to come and tell you, its so obvious. IMAGINE, A LOT OF INNOCENT PEOPLE LOST THEIR LIVES FOR FREEDOM AND JUSTICE TO PREVAIL, YET YOU GREEDY POLITICIANS AND LEADERS ARE TURNING A BLIND EYE ON THIS. LOOK BACK TO WHY YOU FOUGHT AT THE FIRST PLACE, WAS THIS ALL FOR NOTHING, COME ON BOUGAINVILLEANS, LANDOWNERS, NGOS RISE UP!

THE ISSUE OF MINING SHOULD NOT EVEN BE TALKED ABOUT IN BOUGAINVILLE - THE WOUNDS ARE STILL FRESH AND ARE STILL HEALING. OH BOUGAINVILLE, YOU ARE MADE A 360 DEGREES TURN FROM YOUR FOCAL POINT, COME ON, SHOW US PNGEANS AND THE REST OF THE WORLD THAT YOU CAN DO BETTER THAN THAT, WE ARE WATCHING. WE WON'T BE SURPRISED IF THE PARLIAMENT HOUSE IN BOUGAINVILLE WHICH HOUSES ABG IS THE SAME AS OURS IN WAIGANI.

Dorcas Chingoli

Western Province


Miners wary of department edict

Postcourier

24 October 05

THE Department of Mining's capacity may have been compromised due to inappropriate budgetary support and manpower ceiling over the years. And it may continue to rely on foreign aid if the industry is to carry out its policing jobs effectively and sometimes may lead to being told what to do by the industry.

Highly placed mining industry insiders said stakeholders with the support of foreign consultants had asked for an indefinite exploration permit from the Government of Papua New Guinea but quick action by certain officers in the Department of Mining made the industry to agree to a five-year term for exploration activities in the country.

Discussions are underway between stakeholders on the extension of exploration term from two to five years.

Insiders said the request for lengthy exploration activities by the industry was intended to keep landowners out of the decision making process during renewals.

They said foreign advisers considered any landowner objections as an affront to the smooth operation of the industry.

"Industry argument regarding time for mobilisation and actual work, though relevant, is not the primary issue as the renewal process, which includes transitional arrangements between renewal application and determination, which safeguards the desired security of tenure," the insiders said of an argument by the industry recently.

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