Bougainville Copper Limited Opposed Strongly by Landowners at Warden’s Hearing

Bougainville Revolutionary Army fighters look down on the Panguna mine in 1996

RTG Mining | Stockhouse | 12 December 2017

The Board of RTG Mining Inc. is pleased to provide an update on the Warden’s Hearing for Bougainville Copper Limited (“BCL”) held in Panguna yesterday.  Despite BCL not having been to Panguna in over 28 years (given landowners had refused to even allow them access), to ensure a full and fair hearing amongst the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association members, Autonomous Bougainville Government representatives, including the Warden and BCL, the landowners in a show of good faith allowed BCL access on this special occasion (despite BCL not having followed custom).

At the outset, it is important to acknowledge the Autonomous Bougainville Government representatives on the day being the Warden and Mining Registrar conducted an orderly forum, ensuring both the opposition to BCL and its supporters were given an opportunity to express their views.

BCL has stated it lodged a compliant extension application for Exploration Licence (“EL”) 1 in July 2016, which legal advice to the SMLOLA states was not validly lodged.  Based on this legal advice, the SMLOLA filed an objection to the extension application with the Warden stating it is invalid because it was submitted out of time and was incomplete which means that the EL expired 15 months ago. This was also consistent with statements to the SMLOLA members on several occasions by the ABG confirming they had not received an extension application from BCL, as early as 8 September 2016. Interestingly BCL’s position only yesterday changed, within just four days, suggesting now that it was not processed on time, blaming the ABG. 

Despite the right to do so, the SMLOLA chose not to stop the Warden’s Hearing yesterday as it was keen to give its members the opportunity to speak their mind, given the depth of emotion behind their views.  The purpose of the Warden’s Hearing was to determine whether the purported extension application by BCL has the necessary support of the SMLOLA members, being the owners of the minerals and customary land within the EL boundary.

SMLOLA’s objection is only one of in excess of 100 formal written substantive objections lodged in respect of the Extension Application. Other objections call on the ABG to cancel BCL’s EL pursuant to the ABG’s own Notice to Show Cause dated 21 July 2016, based on a blatant breach (admitted by BCL) of section 112(1) of the Mining Act because RioTinto transferred more than the statutory maximum 25% shareholding without seeking the ABG’s approval. Another objector lodged a Petition with 2,000 supporters expressing opposition to BCL. Another objector points out that BCL’s EL was granted without consent or compensation to the customary landowners and therefore constitutes the unfair (and unconstitutional) deprivation of their lawful property. Other objections make the point that BCL was granted a 2 year EL, but was unable to gain landowner consent and access before its expiry on 7 September 2016, having made no progress on the redevelopment during the full 2 year term.

The Warden’s Hearing was held yesterday, with a strong majority held message from the SMLOLA members, they will never grant BCL access to their lands and do not support an extension of BCL’s previous EL1 or the grant of a new EL to them. 

This position was also supported by a Petition, signed and supported by around 2,000 members of the SMLOLA stating “No to BCL Forever” which demonstrates the position of many of the landowners.

All those who supported BCL, for the most part, were calling on BCL to compensate them for the past atrocities which they hold BCL accountable for, which to date BCL have neither accepted nor compensated them. 

Update on Recent Media Comments

Following on from the announcement on 5 December 2017 confirming the resolution of the Leadership dispute over the SMLOLA in favour of Mr Philip Miriori, we can now advise that the discontinuance papers have also been lodged with the Court, bringing the dispute to a formal end.

Since that announcement, media publicity has demonstrated a lack of understanding of the new Bougainville Mining Act (“Mining Act”) introduced in 2015, which is understandable given this is the first time many of the provisions are being applied and considered. 

RTG has taken extensive legal advice and wishes to provide its understanding of how the Mining Act applies to the Panguna Mine area and to provide an update on matters related to the previous BCL exploration licence (BCL’s EL) over that area and the application for an exploration licence by the joint venture company with the SMLOLA (“SMLOLA’s ELA”) over the same area. 

The Mining Act is both new and unique, with significant changes from the PNG Mining Act (which formerly applied to mining on Bougainville). Understandably, all stakeholders, including both the landowners and the ABG are still in the process of working through the implications of the key changes. As a result, it is therefore understandable in this learning process that there may be different interpretations and views expressed prior to determining what is allowed for under the new Mining Act.

What is absolutely clear however is that the Mining Act has expunged the State ownership of mineral rights in Bougainville (which applied under the PNG Mining Act) and conferred ownership of them, not on the ABG but on customary landowners. All minerals are owned by the customary landowners whose land contains the minerals. In the case of the old 1.5bt Copper-Gold Panguna Mine, the SMLOLA members are the customary landowners.

However, the role of the ABG is also important.  It is the administrator of the Mining Act and the regulator – an independent umpire that is responsible for issuing mineral exploration licenses and mining leases, in accordance with that Act, in a manner which is both fair and impartial, to assist the landowners to ensure both their interests, and the interests of all Bougainvilleans, are properly protected in the process. 

SMLOLA’s ELA embodies the very rights conferred on the customary landowners under the new Mining Act, allowing them to take control of their property (being the minerals at the old Panguna Mine) and their destiny (being the conditions on which access is permitted to their land for exploration and mining).

SMLOLA and RTG respect the ABG’s role as the independent regulator to fairly and impartially grant and administer exploration licenses. Contrary to recent false allegations published in the media, the SMLOLA plan for the Panguna Mine has been developed over the last 5 years, in full consultation with the ABG. This included full and comprehensive briefings to President Momis (over 20 meetings) and the two previous Mining Ministers of the ABG, to ensure the plan had the ABG’s support. Following a suggestion of the ABG, it also included flying a number of ABG Ministers to the Masbate Mine in the Philippines (being the last mine developed by the RTG Management) in late January this year. 

The ABG was fully supportive of the SMLOLA plan until a sudden change in March this year, with the appointment of the new Mining Minister who then expressed support for BCL, the previous operator of the Panguna Mine.

The consortium of the customary landowners was only established after 30 years of inactivity at Panguna without resolution or compensation by BCL for any of the major environmental and social damage and human misery resulting from it.  SMLOLA’s ELA is the only application that has the required support of the customary landowners. SMLOLA has confirmed they remain committed to working co-operatively with the ABG, fully respecting their role in the process, ensuring all Bougainvilleans and the ABG also benefit from the redevelopment.

RTG accepts that, in representing the owners of the land and the minerals contained within it, the SMLOLA executive are charged with the responsibility of seeking to commercialise their mineral ownership interests in a manner that protects the members, a role which RTG can see they take very seriously.  This has been a full time job for the executive, which has also required the employment of a team of landowners to assist in negotiations, awareness campaigns and protecting the members’ rights. For this Central has ensured these persons have been fairly compensated on arms’ length terms in an honest and transparent manner and at normal commercial rates.  The ABG were in fact advised of that plan long ago (before the current Mining Minister’s appointment, which may explain the confusion) and expressed no concerns.

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Women as change makers in Papua New Guinea

Alluvial miner on the Watut river

Immaculate Javia* | Earthworks | December 11, 2017

Women around the world have been applauded for breakthroughs in male dominated fronts and for fighting for gender equity. Yet there are others who silently occupy male dominated settings, performing tasks executed by men while also fulfilling their own responsibilities as a woman, as a mother, and as a sister.

Immaculate with a group of miners

In the small-scale mining industry and beyond, women have not been adequately recognized, appreciated and supported for their contribution to economic development as their male counterparts, husbands, sons and brothers. For generations, they have been subjects of abuse, mistreatment, and unfairness, yet they have stood tall in order to make a change in their family circles.

I live in a community where much of the artisanal small-scale gold mining activity in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is concentrated. For the past 7 years, I have trained small scale miners around the country. As the only female professional in this industry, I feel I have a responsibility to represent women miners in PNG, to improve their mining activities and to help address the problems they face.

Women small-scale miners make up 40% of a population of one hundred thousand artisanal small-scale miners in PNG, and 15 million artisanal small-scale miners around the world. Women are a significant portion of the overall workforce and therefore deserve special attention from concerned governments. Even more importantly, female small-scale miners are essential to achieve a more environmentally responsible small-scale mining industry in PNG.

Although under recognized on the national and global fronts for their contributions, women have been important players in a male dominated, male oriented and in a highly controversial industry. These women, many of whom are illiterate, have a special and a very powerful, albeit tiny place of recognition and respect among their male folk.

While small-scale mining supports female miners and the livelihood of many rural communities, the consequences and destruction, often caused by men who have an upper hand, also greatly affect them. Women and children fall victims to:

  • Health and Safety Issues – They are exposed to dangerous and hazardous working environments and conditions such as landslides, floods, waterborne diseases, theft and harassments in work places. They are subjected to using contaminated water from large scale mine effluents, lubricants and mercury from small operations, silt and sediment filled rivers and destroyed water. Sources, which gives rise to water borne diseases like diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, skin diseases, and many others.
  • HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Illnesses – Many women fall victims of HIV/AIDS after their husbands contract it. Usually men go into town and cities looking for good markets and end up using money from the gold for illicit activities. Women are always at home fending for their children and often miss out on the benefits of their hard work.
  • Environmental Destruction – Many women walk distances to fetch water, collect firewood or make gardens because of environmental destruction. Many lose homes to landslide, floods, or conflicts over land. Clean water sources are impacted and access to services are denied because public infrastructure such as bridges and roads are destroyed. Women have less opportunity and influence when it comes to speaking out against the destruction of water sources or nearby forests.
  • Women have limited access to capacity building programs because of their illiteracy rates. There is no tailored training to suit many of these illiterate women miners.

Women endure a great deal of negativity in this sector yet they provide for their families and in the process and generate millions in revenue for the government. It is beyond human comprehension that any sane government would deliberately ignore a very significant and important player of economic development.

We believe that women can transform the artisanal small-scale mining industry into a more responsible and environmentally friendly industry. Through a legal framework to regulate the small-scale artisanal mining sector, women will harness their power and voice to advocate for environmental improvements and to encourage change amongst their male relatives. 

It is high time that governments develop specific legal frameworks to give space for women miners to voice the issues affecting them and to be compensated for their tireless contributions to revenue generation from mining activities, often earned at the expenses of their health and families. 

* Immaculate Javia, IREX Community Solutions Program Fellow from Papua New Guinea. Immaculate works to train and empower and women small scale miners in her home country. She has spent the last four months working with Earthworks in our Washington D.C. office. 

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Troubled Papua New Guinea deep-sea mine faces environmental challenge

Seabed mining machine

Community groups accuse PNG government of keeping documents for its approval under wraps

Helen Davidson and Ben Doherty | The Guardian | 11 December 2017

A controversial experimental deep-sea mine is being challenged in court by environmental groups who have accused the government of withholding key documents about its approval.

Nautilus Minerals Inc, a Canada-based company primarily owned by Russian and Omani mining firms, wants to extract gold and copper deposits from 1.6km below the surface of the Bismarck Sea, using a seabed mining technique never before used in commercial operations.

Nautilus told the Guardian it has conducted dozens of community meetings – reaching more than 30,000 people from nearby islands – and has had its key documents, including a detailed environmental impact statement, publicly available for years.

But members of nearby communities, represented by the Port Moresby-based Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights Inc (Celcor), claim they were not adequately consulted and that they hold grave concerns over its impact.

There are also concerns over its financial viability and the PNG government’s stake in it.

Celcor, which has been assisted by the New South Wales Environmental Defenders Office, formally lodged an application in PNG’s national court and served the PNG government last week.

It said key documents had not been published, and that under the PNG constitution affected residents had a right to the information.

The plaintiffs have previously sought documents including the original permit, the environmental management plan and independent reviews, all oceanographic data on the site, and any studies or modelling of the environmental, social, health, culture and economic impacts.

They had also asked for any agreements made between Nautilus and the PNG government or other entities in relation to the project, and evidence of the mining minister’s original granting of the exploration licence and his reasons.

“Our major concern is the environmental impact of this project, since there is no independent environmental study,” a plaintiff, Jonathan Mesulam, from PNG’s New Ireland Province, said.

Mesulam criticised the company’s consultation approach, and said the community at large did not give “free, prior and informed consent” on the company’s permit.

“They had no control. It has been organised by the former minister, and a few other people from the local level government,” he said.

The Solwara 1 field, in a volcanic area between the islands of New Britain and New Ireland, was identified by Australia’s CSIRO in 1996. Nautilus was granted an environmental permit for the field in 2009, and a mining licence in 2011.

Seabed mining – which Nautilus described as “the next big disruptive technology” – is usually based around areas of metallic nodules, or active or extinct hydrothermal vents, which carry valuable metal deposits.

The proposed process uses machinery previously used in other mining industries to excavate materials from the sea floor, then draw it up to the surface as seawater slurry. The slurry is then “de-watered” and transferred to another vessel for shipping. Extracted seawater is then pumped back down and discharged close to the sea floor.

Critics have said the environmental impact assessment is insufficient as it does not include a “rigorous risk assessment” or an environmental management plan.

“The mining process would generate plumes of sediment, and our critique of the EIS is that there is not sufficient scientific research or modelling done by Nautilus on what would be contained in those plumes,” said Dr Helen Rosenbaum, coordinator of the deep-sea mining campaign.

“Our reviews all show there are significant gaps in the document. The gaps are big enough to render the EIS not fit for purpose.”

Nautilus says the Solwara 1 deposit – Solwara means “salt water” in Tok Pisin – contains high grade copper and gold deposits, up to 10 times higher than typical grades for land-based mines, and has the potential to yield “far superior” ore to mines on land with far less impact on the environment and those who live nearby.

The chief executive of Nautilus Minerals, Michael Johnston, said seabed mining did not require large pits to be dug and created no waste, and the company had carefully modelled the impact of mining on the sea floor. He said there was no impact on fishing because the mining took place more than 30km offshore and far from reef fishing areas.

Johnston said the company has run public meetings every two years, reaching more than 30,000 people, on the progress of the project and the modelled potential environmental impacts.

He said the project had “broad and strong public support” and across all levels of government, and opposition was being led by “a handful of … professional activists”.

“You always get one or two people who jump up and down,” he said. “Some people think if they make a lot of noise, they’ll be given money to go away, and we don’t do that.”

Johnston said Nautilus had helped in developments on New Ireland island, bringing toilets and running water to 25 schools, and working with health organisations running vaccination programs.

He said the company had been transparent with all the information on the project, and he was “struggling to know” how they could be more open.

“Our EIS has been on our website since April 2009, and the executive summary has been translated into Tok Pisin,” he said. “It’s with the conservation and environment protection authority offices in Port Moresby for anybody to see, and we will happily print out copies for anyone who wants one. Anyone who is sceptical about the project, we are happy for them to contact us and we’ll talk them through it.”

There have been long-running concerns about the experimental project, including a 2012 petition with more than 20,000 signatures from the residents of the Madang, Oro and New Britain provinces calling for it to be stopped.

In 2016 the then PNG attorney general and minister for justice, Sir Arnold Amet, rejected the “Papua New Guinea-pig” project, which he said was approved under the Mining Act and without an adequate regulatory framework.

“We are a developing nation, we don’t have the capacity, we don’t have the resources … There is not a tenable argument that says we ought to be used as an experimental locality,” he told the ABC.

In 2016 Oregon State University scientists discovered that hydrothermal vents and methane seeps were emerging as “a major force in ocean ecosystems, marine life and global climate” but were under threat from human activity, including seabed mining.

In June, Blue Ocean Law and the Pacific Network on Globalisation said that compared with industries with a proven track record of sustainability, seabed mining was “a gamble”, risking potentially irreversible environmental impacts and destruction of local fisheries.

Beyond the legal challenge, the Solwara 1 mining venture has also been plagued by financing issues and delays, including a three-year dispute between the company and the PNG government over the equity agreement.

In 2013, arbitration found PNG had breached the agreement, which had previously been described as “high risk” and “low return”, according to a report by Blue Ocean Law and the Pacific Network on Globalisation.

The PNG’s current stake, held by a government company, is 15%, financed by a loan from the Bank of the South Pacific.

Last week the opposition spokesman on treasury and finance, Ian Ling-Stuckey, called for an end to “silly investments best left to the private sector”, labelling the US$113m Nautilus deal a “foolhardy investment”.

Nautilus told its AGM this year “there is increased uncertainty and economic and technical risks of failure associated with this production decision”, and that it required significant additional funding to advance production.

This month Nautilus issued a statement to the Toronto Stock Exchange warning of cashflow and financing difficulties, deferring for a third time its due date for a required $10m funding injection.

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Silly season comes early in Gulf

Australian firm taps into Gulf resources

The National aka The Loggers Times | December 11, 2017

AUSTRALIAN company Mayur Resources now has an exclusive licence to develop a resource, energy and industrial complex in Gulf.
An agreement was signed on Friday between Governor Chris Haiveta and Mayur managing director Paul Mulder in Port Moresby.
Haiveta said the agreement would use resources it had discovered in Gulf such as iron sands, zircon, ilmenite, coal and high grade silica sands for domestic use and export opportunities.
He said this would be done while leveraging favourable port areas in Gulf and the domestic market obligation for gas for a petrochemical industry.
“Our country is in an energy crisis and we continue to send foreign currency offshore and import foreign liquid fuels at a far higher cost and far higher polluting than using our own domestic energy sources,” he said.
“Other Asia-Pacific countries are using their domestic energy and industrial resources.”
PNG is importing most of our energy and nation building products even such things as cement, lime and diesel that enriches other countries rather than our own.
“Our Prime Minister has advocated cheap, reliable accessible energy while doing this in an environmentally beneficial manner that improves our current state.”
Haiveta said the time for talking about the concept was over.
“We need action. We need growth. We need employment. We need industry. We need prosperity. And we only get this by having access to cheap, reliable power,” he said.
“Gulf today has taken the next step to use its gas, iron coal and other mineral sand resources and bring us out of the dark and poverty.
“Our plans are nothing different to what Japan, Australia, New Caledonia, West Papua, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand.”
Mulder said Mayur Resources had been working for over five years to explore minerals in Gulf, Central and Western.

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Nautilus EIS in public domain for 8 year

More lies and deception from Nautilus and the mining industry. The court case by local communities is NOT about the EIS, it is about understanding in full the information on which licensing decisions were made and the environmental, health and economic impacts…

PNG Industry News | 11 December 2017

THE environmental impact statement for Nautilus Minerals’ Solwara 1 seabed mining project has been on the company’s website for more than eight years.

The EIS – full document with all the appendices – has been available to anyone who wished to see it since April 2009.

 “We translated the summary of the document into pidgin [Tok Pisin], and that is available as well. And there are also copies of our EIS at the offices of CEPA (Conservation Environment Protection Authority),” said Mike Johnston, Nautilus chief executive officer.

Johnson was responding to a comments by an activist NGO which says it intends to launch legal proceedings against the Papua New Guinea government to “obtain key documents” relating to the Solwara 1 project. 

“We have had three public hearings for the EML (extractive minerals lease) – in Port Moresby, Rabaul and Kavieng,” said Johnson, who was responding to the claim that there had been “very little information about the Solwara 1 project” by NGO Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights (CELCoR).

Johnston said that all the information about Solwara 1 had been freely available on the company’s website and there were public hearings through the EIS process. Solwara 1 is in the Bismarck Sea, about 30km from the nearest coast in New Ireland Province. 

“We have had ongoing community engagement and meetings,” he said.

“All of their claims are baseless, from what I see,” Johnston said, predicting that the court would throw out the proceedings.

 “It is just another publicity stunt by NGOs to try and keep things in the newspapers.  I am not sure what they are trying to achieve or where it is going to go. People believe some of this stuff. The government has followed due process, PNG has good mining laws which are very similar to Australia’s. The adopted Queensland’s mining regulations,” Johnston said. 

On Friday CELCoR said that acting on behalf of “coastal communities”, it had launched legal proceedings against the PNG government in a bid to obtain key documents relating to the licensing and the environmental, health and economic impacts of the Solwara 1 project.

Activist Jonathan Mesulam, from the west coast of New Ireland Province, said this “information” had been requested for the past four years, but the government had ignored its requests.

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Bougainville landowners to write 2000 signature petition over Panguna mine

Ewen Hosie | Australian Mining | December 11, 2017

Landowners in Bougainville, an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea, have expressed backing for an RTG Mining-led consortium to take over the abandoned Panguna mine instead of Bougainville Copper (BCL). The landowners are expected to present a 2000-signature petition in opposition of BCL.

The long-dormant copper mine, abandoned since 1989 due to local conflicts, is currently under consideration for redevelopment by BCL, which is now partially owned by the Bougainville Government.

The rival consortium, Central Me’ekamui Exploration, said it has the backing of local landowners, including the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA), however, and representatives of RTG Mining said that the BCL’s problems regarding its legacy in the region were “insurmountable”. The mine, while non-operational for three decades, was owned by Rio Tinto until last year.

The Bougainville Government has accused the consortium of bribing landowners.

“The Autonomous Bougainville Government will not entertain companies who use the back door or break and enter through the window using self-centred individuals who think they have a monopoly over the people’s resources or represent their interests,” said mining minister Raymond Masono.

The mine’s relaunch remains a keystone of Bougainville’s upcoming independence plans; Bougainville’s regional cabinet is expected to finalise Panguna’s exploration licence next year.

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Industry and government a mine of misinformation

Mining and petroleum companies contribute just 1.5% of government revenues – not over 50% as they like to suggest

The much championed size and importance of the mining sector in Papua New Guinea is really all smoke and mirrors; an elaborate charade crafted through a mine of misinformation generated by industry and the government – and repeatedly broadcast by an unquestioning and compliant media.

The favourite line is that the mining sector generates of 50% of Papua New Guinea’s revenue – a statistic spouted by everyone from the Mining Minister, Johnson Tuke, down, at the recent Mining and Petroleum conference in Port Moresby.

GREAT! But what does this figure of 50% really mean and who benefits from that revenue?

Well it is certainly not the government or people of PNG!

Government revenue is generated by taxes and the mining and petroleum sector contributes but a small percentage of tax revenues, as revealed in a recent article from Nelson Atip Nema. His analysis shows that the revenue to government generated by mining and petroleum taxes is currently just K100 million a year, and that figure is still falling, despite Tuke telling everyone at the mining conference revenues were UP 13.4 % last year…

Mining and petroleum tax revenues. Nelson Atip Nema and Stephen Howes | DevPolicy Blog

In contrast to the K100 million paid by the mining industry, personal income tax, the money paid by us, the workers, to the government every year, is a whopping K3,000 million. In addition, the corporate taxes paid by the non-mining sector are over K2,000 million a year and tax collected on GST is almost K1,500 million a year, as shown in the graph below.

Graph by Nelson Atip Nema and Stephen Howes | DevPolicy Blog

So, for the government, non mining taxes generate over K6,500 million and mining and petroleum sector just K100 million. So rather than ‘over 50% of revenue’, in truth the mining and petroleum companies provide just 1.5% of government revenue.

Funny we never hear the Minister, MRA or the mining companies telling us that!

It is not that their ‘over 50%’ figure is not true it is just that it refers to ‘export revenue’, that is all the money extracted from Papua New Guinea every year – not government revenue. The mining and petroleum industries account for over 50% of all the MONEY TAKEN OUT OF PNG EVERY YEAR, much of it to be stashed away in off-shore tax havens.

Great for the foreign owned mining companies, but not for us!

The employment numbers we also hear so much about also don’t stack up to much when subjected to basic scrutiny.

The industry claim the sector employs as many as 17,000.

GREAT! Sounds like a big number right, 17,000, but remember that is just a TINY 0.2% of our population!

In contrast, 82% of our population over the age of ten is engaged in small-scale farming, according to the 2010 census and the United Nations.

Three million famers or 17,000 employees, which sounds more important?

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