Possible re-opening of Panguna mine

A mined mind

“We are ready to engage with Bougainville Copper if they so wish, if they want to come back”

Radio New Zealand

The president of Bougainville says the ABG has been in discussions with Rio Tinto subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Limited, about a possible re-opening of the Panguna copper and gold mine. The Bougainville government is having consultations on a regular basis .

The autonomous Papua New Guinea region is set to hold a referendum on independence by 2020 but it has to have a viable economy before Port Moresby will agree to this.

The Bougainville president John Momis says returning to mining is the fastest way to achieve this viability and that is why they are talking with BCL, which operated Panguna before it was shut down by the civil war.

Mr Momis told Don Wiseman that Bougainville has plenty of other mineral deposits and it is not dependent on Panguna re-opening, but it remains the best option.

JOHN MOMIS: Of course Bougainville is endowed with rich natural resources. Under the new Bougainville Mining Law, which is quite unique, any investor must strictly adhere to the conditions of our Mining Law, and with Rio Tinto – we have taken away every right of Rio Tinto, except the right of first refusal. That’s all they have, and if they don’t meet our conditions then even they will not be allowed to come back. But we will also consider others. In fairness to Bougainville Copper [ a subsidiary of Rio Tinto ] if you shut the door on Bougainville Copper, which other mining company would come and take care of the damage which was caused by Bougainville Copper? Bougainville Copper has the obligation to clean up. That is why we, in our mining policies, have taken everything away from them, except the right of first refusal. But [under] our current mining policy, we will consider another mine to be opened if it is considered appropriate and is we have the capacity, but one mine is enough for the time being.

DON WISEMAN: You said immediately after the election that one of the first things you would be doing is getting in touch with Rio Tinto. Have you done that?

JM: Yes we have.

DW: What is their response?

JM: They are doing evaluations and they will let us know, but we are having regular meetings with Bougainville Copper, which is a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, and there are consultations on a regular basis.

DW? Are you confident that you are going to proceed with Panguna re-opening?

JM: We are ready to engage with Bougainville Copper if they so wish, if they want to come back, and we are also ready for other arrangements if other partners are interested. For example, if the national [PNG] government wants to come in under our law. As you know the Bougainville Mining law is independent of the national Papua New Guinea mining law. We are quite independent in respect of mining in Bougainville. And that is something that even our colleagues at the national level do not fully understand.

1 Comment

Filed under Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

One response to “Possible re-opening of Panguna mine

  1. Dear President Momis,
    Do you remember?
    On 4 May, 1987, a letter written by Father John Momis (the current President of Bougainville), was sent to Paul Quodling, Managing Director of Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) with regard to the Panguna mine. Momis stated:
    “The BCL mine has forever changed the perceptions, the hopes and fears of the people of Bougainville. You are invaders. You have invaded the soil and the places of our ancestors. But above all, your mine has invaded our minds. … The people of Bougainville speak of BCL, as a monster and you know it”. (P. Quodling 1991)
    In 1988, the Panguna mine in Central Bougainville was forcibly closed by the landowners and remains closed until this day. Closure of the mine triggered a prolonged and brutal war (1988-1997) against the people of Bougainville with the purpose of re-opening Panguna. An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people of Bougainville lost their lives. The survivors had to endure years of conflict during which basic supplies including medicines were withheld, schools were closed and a generation grew up with no education and no experience of civil society.
    Why on earth President Momis would you ever want BCL or Rio Tinto mining to return to Bougainville?
    Your new Bougainville Mining Act 2015, is an indication of the “devil” in you.

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