By Malum Nalu
Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) remains committed to reopening of the controversial Bougainville copper mine, according to chairman Peter Taylor.
He reaffirmed at BCL’s annual general meeting in Port Moresby on Tuesday that the vision to return to active exploration and profitable mining remained, with active support of local stakeholders.
“We face the coming year with enthusiasm for the tasks ahead, and anticipate good progress toward the vision of reopening the mine,” Taylor said.
“We have many initiatives in place, we believe we are ready to go, we are engaged with the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and the landowners, and we recognise that to a large extent, the time table rests in their good hands.
Taylor said Prime Minister Peter O’Neill had confirmed in parliament that BCL had, by right of the Bougainville Copper Agreement (BCA), permits to operate at Panguna for a further 21 years from 2011.
“There are also encouraging indications that funding for Bougainville and the drawing down of powers to the ABG including the power to license and regulate mining will be invigorated under his government,” he said.
Taylor said several new developments had occurred which should help facilitate the re-negotiation of the BCA.
“To make things clear, the BCA is an act of the PNG national parliament, and as such, can only be modified or repealed by the parliament,” he said.
“However, it is recognised by all stakeholders including BCL, that the agreement was drawn up in times and circumstances that differ from those prevailing today, and that significant changes need to be made to accommodate the views, rights and aspirations of all stakeholders including the landowners and the people of Bougainville.
“There is widespread agreement [er, Peter, do you have any evidence for this?] today that Bougainville’s economic future needs mining if it is to be able to fund services for the people from its own resources, as well as address future opportunities for economic and social development.
“A re-commencement of mining at Panguna cannot take place unless all parties: the landowners, the ABG, the national government of PNG, and BCL, are acting in close accord, now and into the future.
“Funding and sovereign risk assurance for the project will require a united effort.
“There will need to be a fair and stable regulatory regime [fair and stable for who Peter?] that gives investors the confidence needed to commit to a project that will cost in excess of US$3 billion.”