Momis will support lifting the Bougainville Mining Moratorium

A mined mind

ANALYSIS

  • Momis and the Bougainville Executive Council will support a total lifting of the mining moratorium
  • Momis frames the decision as a measure to facilitate small-scale community mining ventures – but casually mentions, oh we may also have a large-scale mine or two, and the big exploration licences will take priority and block Community Mining Reserved Areas
  • Small scale mining is being used as a coat of honey around the bitter pill
  • For Panguna, Momis continues to declare a minority faction of previous Rio Tinto beneficiaries as the real landowner representative despite their activities being either unknown or deplored by a near unanimous majority.
  • Media reporting, e.g. Bougainville Govt yet to decide on mining moratorium, has been misleading and wrong

LIFTING THE BOUGAINVILLE MINING MORATORIUM

John Momis | Press Statement | Bougainville News

Chief John Momis, President of Bougainville, spoke today about debate in Bougainville’s House of Representatives on the future of the Moratorium on mining exploration and development. The House concluded the debate on Tuesday 7 June. It passed a motion asking the Autonomous Bougainville Government (the ABG) to lift the moratorium completely

The Bougainville Executive Council initiated this debate in April. All members were also asked to seek the views of their people. Members had a further debate on the issues on Tuesday.

President Momis said:

“The moratorium was imposed in April 1971, by the colonial Administration. It prevented mining exploration or development in all areas except those already under BCL leases. Bougainvillean leaders asked for the moratorium because of deep concerns that there might be many more mines in addition to the huge Panguna mine.

“Although I proposed to the House that the moratorium should initially be lifted partially, most members of the House preferred to lift it completely. A major factor here is National Government failure to fund the ABG as the Peace Agreement requires. The ABG’s bad financial position means we must increase our internal revenue. Most members see mining sector development as the best way to lift the Bougainville economy, and also provide ABG revenue. My Government has listened to and will implement the motion of the House.

‘But last week’s motion by the House does not itself lift the moratorium. The debate in the House was for the purposes of public consultation only. Under the Mining Act, it is the Bougainville Executive Council that has power to lift the moratorium. It has not yet made that decision. Before it does so, the Act requires BEC to get advice from the Bougainville Mining Advisory Committee. It must also allow the House another opportunity for debate on the issues.

“We will do this as soon as the Bougainville Mining Department fully implements the Bougainville Mining Act provisions on small scale-mining. This requires reserving areas for small scale mining. They will be called Community Mining Reserved Areas, Community Governments and Ward Assemblies will issue community mining licences.

“Under the Mining Act, the Mining Department has till October 2016 to set up the new arrangements for licensing small-scale mining. The arrangements must be in place before the moratorium is lifted. Exploration licences are then likely to cover most areas where the ten thousand or more small-scale Bougainvillean miners now operate. Once an exploration licence is granted over an area, a community mining reservation is possible only if the exploration licence holder consents to it. Most exploration licence holders are unlikely to consent.

“The ABG must make sure that our existing small-scale mining industry is protected. It is an industry where benefits spread to the people in villages and hamlets. Their interests cannot be thrown away in favour of new large-scale mining interests with exploration licences. If we do not recognise small-scale miners, there will be dangers of unrest, and even conflict.

“I have already given several directions to the Mining Department to implement the Community Mining Licence. As the Act requires those arrangements to operate by October, I can only assume that implementation work is far advanced. When the interests of small-scale miners are protected, we can lift the moratorium. I am today requesting my Minister for Mining, Hon. Robin Wilson, to obtain information from the Department about its progress in setting up the Community Mining Licence arrangements.

“An additional issue concerns the landowners impacted by the Panguna mine leases. The nine associations representing those landowners met me in Buka last week. They strongly requested a delay in lifting the moratorium until the after the holding of the Bel Kol ceremony with BCL. That ceremony has been requested by the landowners. They want to see this customary first step towards reconciliation about mining-related issues that caused conflict completed before there is any formal step towards resumption of large-scale mining in Bougainville. They are asking all Bougainvilleans and outside mining interests to respect their wishes in this regard.

“I am also requesting the Minister to investigate and report to me, as a matter of urgency, on how to ensure that Bougainville is not threatened by many mines being established. It was fear of this led Bougainvilleans to request the moratorium in 1971. It remains a real danger.

“The ABG Mining Act restricts the number of large-scale mining leases to no more than two at any one time – that is for mines like Panguna or Ok Tedi or Lihir. But there is no restriction on the number of small-scale mines (usually open-cut or tunnelling mines).

“Once the Moratorium is lifted, if exploration licences are granted for all prospective areas, it will be difficult to limit the number of small mining leases. Lease holders and landowners will pressure for developments to go ahead, so they can get the money on offer from mining.

“Once exploration licences are granted, we could face huge pressures to approve small mines, wherever exploitable minerals are discovered. We could perhaps have 10 or 20 such mines at the same time. The social and environmental impacts could be massive. Most of the available mineral resources could be extracted rapidly, in one generation, and all mining revenue too.

“I will look forward to my minister’s advice on how to deal with this problem.”

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Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Papua New Guinea

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