Momis slams PNG Minister’s statement as “misleading and mischievous nonsense”

‘Mr. Micah’s statement that Kumul Minerals will keep the shares until then is nothing but misleading and mischievous nonsense. It is intended to give the impression that somehow he and Kumul Minerals are in control of the share, and concerned to look after Bougainville’s interests. Nothing could be further from the truth.

‘Mr. Micah has been trying to get control of Rio Tinto’s BCL shares for over two years. He has had secret dealings with Rio.

I call on the Prime Minister to overrule his irresponsible minister. He must protect the peace process by transferring the 17.4 per cent shareholding to the ABG.”

Bougainville News | July 10, 2016

Bougainville’s President, Dr. John Momis, described a statement on the Tinto shares in BCL by Ben Micah, Minister for Petroleum and Energy  as ‘misleading and mischievous nonsense’.

Ben Micah with PNG PM O’Neill

Ben Micah with PNG PM O’Neill

He was referring to public debate following Rio Tinto’s recent decision to divest its 53.8 per cent majority shareholding in Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL). Rio has transferred its shares to a Trust, with 36.4 per cent available to the Bougainville Government, and 17.4 per cent to the PNG government. With its existing 19.3 per cent shareholding, this would make PNG equal shareholder with Bougainville. The PNG government shares were accepted by Petromin the day Rio announced its decision. Bougainville has yet to announce its decision on the shares.

But on 7 July Mr. Micah was reported as claiming that PNG owned company, Kumul Mineral Holdings Ltd will keep the 36.4 per cent offered to Bougainville until the ABG accepts the shares.

President Momis said:

‘Kumul Minerals Holdings, Mr. Micah, and the National Government have no role in relation to the 36.4 per cent BCL shares available to the ABG. Those shares were transferred by Rio Tinto to an Australian-based Trust – Equity Trustees Limited – under a Shares Trust Deed. The ABG has two months in which to decide whether to accept the transfer of the shares.

‘Mr. Micah’s statement that Kumul Minerals will keep the shares until then is nothing but misleading and mischievous nonsense. It is intended to give the impression that somehow he and Kumul Minerals are in control of the share, and concerned to look after Bougainville’s interests. Nothing could be further from the truth.

‘Mr. Micah has been trying to get control of Rio Tinto’s BCL shares for over two years. He has had secret dealings with Rio. In December 2015, he told me that the National Government must buy the Rio shares for US$100 million, in order to stop Rio selling the shares to outside interests. When I subsequently questioned Rio representatives in February they denied any such deal.

‘As President of Bougainville, I have no trust at all in Mr. Micah having any role in relation to these shares. If, as reported on Friday, the Prime Minister has no knowledge of the transfer of the 17.4 per cent of BCL shares from Rio to Petromin on 30 June, then clearly the evil and irresponsible move to make PNG equal shareholder in BCL together with the ABG has been cooked up between Rio and Mr. Micah. That deal must now be undone.

‘I call on the Prime Minister to overrule his irresponsible minister. He must protect the peace process by transferring the 17.4 per cent shareholding to the ABG. The ABG will then be majority shareholder, with PNG still holding its existing 19.4 per cent. The ABG accepts that the National Government should retain a role in BCL, but only if the ABG controls mining policy, and the company that owns the Panguna mine. ~`

‘BCL hold only an exploration licence over the former Special Mining Lease at Panguna. Under the Bougainville Mining Act, if 25 per cent or more of shares in a company holding an exploration licence are transferred, the ABG MUST initiate action to terminate the lease. The transfer by Rio to the Trust means that the termination process must now begin. The ABG Minister for Mining, Robin Wilson, has given instructions to the Secretary of the ABG Mining Department to issue a notice to BCL to show cause why its licence should not be terminated.

‘If the National Government keeps the 17.4 per cent shares, then nothing will stop the termination process being completed. Then BCL will have its cash and its Panguna drilling data, but no licence in Bougainville. That would be a bad outcome for everyone. We prefer to work with the National Government. But that must be on a basis where the ABG is in control of Bougainville’s mining.’

The President also referred to Mr. Micah’s claims of great support for the PPP on the basis of the very recent victory of PPP party candidate, Timothy Masiu, in the by-election for South Bougainville Open. He said:

‘The result does not indicate strong support in Bougainville for PPP – far from it. Instead it was a victory for a well-known person from a well-known Buin area family, who happened to have strong financial support from MR. Micah’s PPP party. The policies of the PPP and the roles of its leader, Mr. Micah, do not have support in Bougainville.

‘If the voters of South Bougainville had known at the time they cast their votes that Mr. Micah was arranging with Rio Tinto for the National Government to become equal largest shareholder in BCL, then Mr. Masiu would have been completely rejected as a PPP candidate.

‘I call on the new MP, Mr. Timothy Masiu, to explain to Mr. Micah the deep sensitivity amongst Bougainvilleans about the future of the Panguna Mine. I call on him to convince Mr. Micah to support the transfer to the ABG of the 17.4 per cent shares in BCL. Mr. Masiu must persuade Mr. Micah to transfer the shares if he is to have any chance of returning as a PPP MP in 2017.’

1 Comment

Filed under Financial returns, Papua New Guinea

One response to “Momis slams PNG Minister’s statement as “misleading and mischievous nonsense”

  1. Pingback: Micah version of events over Rio Tinto deal at odds with Momis and PM O’Neill | Papua New Guinea Mine Watch

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