MAC: Mines and Communities

Bougainville: No sign that war-torn mine will re-open

Published by MAC on 2010-03-24
Source: Postcourier, The National (2010-03-22)

But there are questions over Rio Tinto subsidiary's recent role

Bougainville's vice-president has said that the "future and re-opening of the Panguna copper mine is to be decided by the Panguna landowners themselves" -  while adding that "the views of other stakeholders must also be considered and taken into account."

One of these so-called "stakeholders" is Rio Tinto's subsidiary, BCL. The company has not been able to return to the island for nearly 22 years, after it was forced to abandon the mine site, following the rise of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army - itself comprising many of the Panguna landowners.

In its latest annual report, BCL states that: "[T]here have been regular and positive interactions with landowners" in the mining lease area.

Shareholders attending Rio Tinto's London annual general meeting next month might well ask the board exactly what these "positive interactions" consist of and on what basis they were made.

No independent process to gauge the landowners' opinions on re-opening the mine (let alone one granting them free prior and informed consent to such a move) has yet been initiated.

Panguna mine still closed: ABG

By Gorethy Kenneth

PNG Postcourier

19 March 2010

THERE is no decision as to which mining company will be allowed to operate at the Panguna copper mine in Central Bougainville.

ABG Vice President Ezekiel Masatt told parliament that the AB Government had not made any firm decision on the re-opening of the closed Panguna mine nor which mining company was to come and mine the mineral deposits.

The Member for Mahari John Tabinaman wanted to know if it was true that Bougainville Copper Ltd had been allowed to return to Panguna and if it was true that the company did not intend to build a township for its employees but to engage in a fly-in fly-out scheme.

The vice president said anything to do with the operations of the mine would require serious and careful consideration and to date the Government had not made any commitment on the matter. He said as a concerned government it would carefully study and deal with any issues that would adversely affect its people with great concern and care.

The Autonomous Government maintains that the future and re-opening of the Panguna copper mine is to be decided by the Panguna landowners themselves. The views of other stakeholders must also be considered and taken into account. The Bougainville Executive Council in its decision of February 23 approved the inclusion of ABG, landowners and the three regions as the additional stakeholders in the proposed review of the Bougainville Copper Agreement (BCA).


B'ville mine reopening still remote

The National

22 March 2010

PREPARATIONS to resume active exploration and mining at the Panguna copper mine in the autonomous region of Bougainville are in progress.
The mine will cost about US$3 billion (K8 billion) to reopen.

But access to the mine by the company, Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL), is still not possible, according to BCL as stated in its annual report for the year ending Dec 31, 2009.

"Nevertheless there have been regular and positive interactions with landowners and the Bougainville (ABG) Government," it said.
In its financial report for the same period, BCL chairman and managing director Peter Taylor said BCL posted a net profit of K8.7 million (A$4.3 million) last year compared with a loss of K4.8mil (A$2.3 millionl) in 2008.

The higher net profit last year was on the back of realised gains on the sale of investments and exchange gains.

In addition, there was an unrealised K63.6 million capital gain which, together with the net profit, amounts to a 24.6% increase in shareholder funds.
Operating expenses during the period in review were in line with those of 2008, he said.

And due to the relatively modest profit and the need to preserve cash for future development, BCL will not pay a dividend.

In investments, he said BCL's liquid assets continue to be cash and Australian equities. The weak Australian equity market in the previous reporting period resulted in an adverse impact on both value of and return on investments.

"It is pleasing to report that despite the global financial crisis, the company was able to maintain its portfolio save for modest sales for operating purposes and is now benefiting from the recent strong growth in the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) 200.

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