MAC: Mines and Communities

Bougainville update

Published by MAC on 2007-03-14

Bougainville update

14th March 2007

After appearing to favour the bid by Ord River Resources for a permit to re-open the notorious Panguna mine on Bougainville, the island government's president has turned against it.

Copper dream loses its glint; Ord River's plans to reopen the Bougainville behemoth might have come to a sudden halt.

Sydney Morning Herald

14th March 2007

JUNIOR explorer Ord River Resources's audacious plan to reopen Rio Tinto's pillaged Bougainville Copper mine - albeit with a little help from the Chinese - might have collapsed.

The Papua New Guinea press reported the autonomous government of Bougainville had ended discussions with Ord River after months of talks about reopening the giant copper mine.

Ord River - which also claims to have made "potentially . one of the most significant copper discoveries in Australian copper mining history" in the Kimberley - without sinking a drill hole, yesterday said it had not received any notification from the government and had not been able to clarify the reports.

But even if the government did agree to reopen the mine, which has been closed since 1989, Ord River would have to contend with Rio Tinto.

Last week, a group calling itself the European Shareholders of Bougainville Copper noted in a press release:

"It would be an elegant solution if Ord River tries to become the major stakeholder of Bougainville Copper. But that also implies that Ord River has to buy out Rio Tinto. Even if Ord River enjoys strong support by the state of China, we doubt if they are able to shoulder $1 billion to $2 billion minimum for the 53 per cent block of Rio Tinto shares plus around $US1 billion for the reopening."

The group, led by Andorra-based spokesman Axel Sturm, claimed unnamed European experts valued Bougainville Copper shares at $5 to $10 each once a reopening is announced, and at $20 to $30 each once it started producing copper.

Ord River shares yesterday closed 2.5c lower at 49c - the lowest since announcing its Kimberley copper "discovery" in November. Bougainville Copper shares closed 4c lower at 74c.


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