MAC: Mines and Communities

Bougainvillean miners slam secret talks

Published by MAC on 2006-08-24

Bougainvillean miners slam secret talks


24th August 2006

THE Autonomous Bougainville Government may tie itself in a mining deal that will be unavoidable in the future, say Bougainville's mining industry professionals. They said the ABG has been negotiating mining on the island without consulting local expertise. The group, consisting of Bougainvilleans working in the mining industry in the country, said the ABG should know better about striking deals with unknown mining companies as there is no guarantee the agreed benefits will flow onto the island. They said they were concerned about recent negotiations between the ABG and Ord River Resources, an Australian junior mining company with links to a Chinese Government-owned firm.

"If the report is true, it is a pity the leadership on the autonomous island is contemplating on taking a miscalculated and precarious path in its long dream of achieving an economically flourishing and vibrant Bougainville. "It appears that the leadership on the island has not leant the recent lessons from the closure of the Panguna mine and its historical significance," they said this week. "Our research confirms that Ord River Resources Limited was formed in May 2004 as an unlisted company in Australia and is a new and small player in the industry which lacks operational experience and strong financial capacity. Ord River Resources Limited is partly owned by China Non Ferrous Metal Industries, a Chinese Government-owned company." "They said CNFMI has hit headlines in Zambia for its safety records with the Chambisi Copper Mine.

CNFMI owns about 60 per cent of the project. They said Ord River Resources knew well the Zambian issues before courting with ABG for a piece of Bougainville. "We appreciate that Bougainville needs foreign investment to create jobs and rejuvenate its frail economy. To achieve this, the ABG must attract reputable international investors with track records that demonstrate genuine partnership in any project development with the ABG and its entities and the people. This must be done in a transparent fashion," they said. "What is required most of our Government, including the ABG, is to put in place better policies and fiscal terms, and choose investors that are willing to do business only on the conditions and terms offered by our Government(s), not the contrary."

They said while Bougainville was "sitting on a lot of resources", it was not proper for her to repeat the same mistakes ad run a risk of jeopardising economic development by prematurely flogging Panguna and sending the wrong signals to the legitimate international investment community. "Besides, the ABG is not yet equipped with environmental expertise or the other infrastructure necessary to unwind the complex Panguna problems," they said.

"As such this misguided stab without thoughtful consultation with all of the affected parties and while reconciliation is yet glaringly incomplete runs the real risk of re-opening all of the old problems on the island and undoing the good work the ABG has done so far." "The ABG needs to continue to play smart. The rest of PNG and the people of Bougainville expect the ABG to play smart and not selling itself cheaply."That would be an insult to the people of Bougainville and the whole world would see ABG walking up the same old track to Panguna with Rio Tinto in 1972."

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