In a recent speech to Bougainville’s Parliament, President Momis, declared that his government has stripped BCL of its rights to the Panguna mine (had anyone checked they would know they expired in 2011). The new Mining Act he argued, will only allow BCL to return to Panguna if they have the consent of the landowners:
‘So the Mining Act does provide tough conditions applying to the possibility of re-opening Panguna. But that possibility is subject to very big protections for landowners, and for Bougainville more generally … The law makes landowners the owners the minerals in all customary land. As a result, Panguna landowners can veto both exploration of their land, and any mining licence, including for re-opening Panguna. As a result, there will be no re-opening of Panguna unless landowners of the area agree. Obviously landowners will agree only if they are satisfied with the proposals that BCL makes. If BCL does not satisfy the concerns of the landowners and the ABG, it will lose its Exploration Licence. It would then be possible for another developer to be considered’.
Several minutes later in the same speech, Momis raises concerns over alleged plans by the O’Neill government in PNG to purchase Rio Tinto’s stake in BCL. In a dire warning to his compatriots, Momis argues this will give the PNG government full control over Panguna, to do with it as they wish:
‘If PNG does purchase Rio’s 53.83 per cent shares, there would be several consequences, including:
• together with the 19.3 per cent BLC shares it already owns, PNG would own over 73 per cent of BCL;
• transfer of 30 per cent of the BCL shares to Bougainville would still leave PNG the largest shareholder in BCL, and effectively controlling Panguna’.
So which is it – BCL has been humbled by the Momis government, and can only return to Panguna if they can convince landowners? Or BCL has total effective control over Panguna, which means if BCL is purchased by the O’Neill government they will be able to once again terrorise landowners and claim Panguna’s ore body?
Surely according to Momis himself, if the PNG government owns BCL, it gives them no rights whatsoever to reopen Panguna unless they have landowner and ABG consent? Why the fear campaign then?
Perhaps Panguna landowners are not protected to the extent Momis claims by the Mining Act? Recent criticisms by Jubilee Australia suggest this is the case. Has Momis just agreed with Jubilee via the back door?
Or maybe the threat posed by O’Neill is being inflated by Momis to distract people from more important issues closer to home?
Either way, issuing such clearly contradictory statements only inches apart – all in the cause of manipulation – demonstrates how elites have little respect for the grass roots people or their intelligence.