Monthly Archives: August 2016

Panguna dispute: Bougainville threatens to cancel Bougainville Copper licence over mining row


Eric Tlozek | ABC News | 31 August 2016

The Autonomous Region of Bougainville is engaged in a new struggle with the Papua New Guinean Government over the ownership of the island’s controversial Panguna copper mine.

Disputes over the Panguna mine sparked a decade-long armed insurgency that cost an estimated 20,000 lives.

PNG’s Prime Minister wants to give landowners on the island a minority shareholding in Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), the company which operated the mine.

This would prevent the Bougainville Government from having a controlling share.

Bougainville’s President has responded by threatening to cancel the Australian-listed company’s exploration licence.

BCL holds the only exploration licence over the large copper deposits around the former Panguna mine, and also holds valuable drilling data that any company wanting to mine the area would need.

Bougainville’s President John Momis said that would count for little if the PNG Government refused to hand over a controlling interest in the company.

“The ABG (Autonomous Bougainville Government) will have no option but to cancel Bougainville Copper Limited’s licence, and when that happens, then you’ll have a lose-lose deal,” he said.

The PNG Government has long held 19 per cent of the BCL shares.

Mining giant Rio Tinto had 53 per cent, and recently decided to get rid of its interest.

It gave the Bougainville Government 36 per cent and the PNG Government an extra 17 per cent to give both parties an equal shareholding.

But on August 17, Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced the national Government would give the extra 17 per cent to unspecified landowners of the mine area.

“We have given our shares to the landowners,” he said.

“The ABG will keep theirs, we will keep 19 per cent, [and] 17.4 per cent that was gifted to us by Rio Tinto will be now given to the landowners and the people of Bougainville.”

The decision infuriated the Bougainville Government, which has passed its own Mining Act and taken responsibility for the complex negotiations with the various landowner groups and former combatants in the conflict.

Mr Momis said landowner groups were rejecting the Government’s offer of share ownership because it would lead to further disputes.

“We’ve been dealing with them and their representatives unanimously resolved that 17 per cent should go to the ABG,” he said.

‘It’s a political move’: ABG Minister

Part of the peace agreement to end the Bougainville crisis was the promise of a referendum on Bougainville’s independence, which is scheduled for 2019.

But many people in Bougainville think the province would need the revenue from a restarted Panguna mine if it was to secede.

Bougainville’s Mining Minister Robin Wilson said the Prime Minister’s handling of the shares could be designed to weaken the case for independence.

“I think it’s a political move and I’ve been suspecting all along that there is this kind of thinking in the national Government that if Bougainvilleans take over Panguna mine on their own, it will boost their chances of getting independence,” he said.

Bougainville’s threat to cancel BCL’s exploration licence would not just affect its own shareholding and the national Government’s stake; 27 per cent of the shares are owned by smaller investors, and the decision would dramatically affect the value of their holding.

“We’re quite aware of the sensitivities around the shareholding and the directors are continuing to act for the benefit of all the shareholders, including the minority shareholders,” Mark Hitchcock, company secretary of BCL, said.

Mr Hitchcock said the company was talking to both governments and was waiting for more detail about their plans.

“There’s still more to be known about just how that will work,” he said.

“We’re sort of still business as usual and getting the things done that need to be done now, including the transition from the Rio Tinto services agreement, which will make Bougainville Copper a truly independent PNG company.”

There is still a large resource under the ground at Panguna, but the Bougainville Government estimates it will cost about $8 billion to restart the mine and provide the environmental management the site badly needs.


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Five reasons to hold Rio Tinto accountable over Bougainville – Reason 3

Reason 3 – Logistic support was provided to a security force responsible for war crimes

Rio accountable 3a

Rio accountable 3b

Rio accountable 3c

Rio accountable 3d

Rio accountable 3e

Rio accountable 3f

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Be fair, give free equity to Porgera LOs: Mangape

Tailings waste from the mine flows through the Porgera Valley in Papua New Guinea’s remote Enga Province. Photo: Emily Allen

Tailings waste from the mine flows through the Porgera Valley . Photo: Emily Allen

Jeffrey Elapa | Post Courier | August 30,2016

LAIGAP-Porgera MP Nixon Mangape said if the Government can award free equity for the OK Tedi and Paguna mine then can it also do the same to Porgera landowners.

Mr Managape said the Porgera gold mine in Enga Province has sustained the national economy after the Paguna gold mine was forced shut in 1989 and contributes 16 per cent of the GDP during the past 25 years.

He said in recognition of the contribution to the economy, can the government also give free equity from the Porgera gold mine to the Porgera landowners to be fair.

He said the landowners had to pay for the 3 per cent equity stake in the mine and was not given freely like the Ok Tedi mine and the Paguna mine landowners.

He also asked if the Government can reimburse the K50 million used to buy the 3 per cent equity in the mine as the other 2 per cent is compulsory free carry equity in the project for the landowners.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said all other mines around the country is different from the arrangement of the Ok Tedi mine landowners that was given 33 per cent and the 17.4 per cent to the Paguna copper mine landowners.

Mr O’Neill said the two mines are 100 per cent nationally owned and is different from other existing mine around the country.

He said the issues of the other mines around the country will be looked at in the new Mining Act review that is now ready to be tabled in Parliament.

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Five reasons to hold Rio Tinto accountable over Bougainville – Reason 2

Reason 2 – Company management were fully briefed, the military reprisal would be ‘brutal’.

Rio accountable 2a

Rio accountable 2b

Rio accountable 2c

Rio accountable 2d

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Five reasons to hold Rio Tinto accountable over Bougainville – Reason 1

Reason 1 – Rio Tinto pressured Papua New Guinea to use force against landowners 

Rio accountable 1

Rio accountable 1b

Rio accountable 1c

Rio accountable 1d

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Rio Tinto exit from Bougainville and Panguna landowners

panguna meeting 25-26 August 2016

Editorial note: 

1.  Contrary to claims in the below story, research conducted in the mine affected region during 2014 found that:
     – there was widespread opposition to mining in general, and Rio Tinto’s return in particular.
     – most communities were either unaware of landowner organisations set up to reopen the mine, or disapproved of      them as ‘towns people’ entities.
     – communities welcomed the rehabilitation of the land, environment and ecosystems, they never want to revisit          the violence and devastation of the old days. 

2.  The legal advisor the ABG has contacted for guidance on litigation against Rio Tinto, James Otto, was a member of the Adam Smith International team that drafted Bougainville’s controversial mining law. He was also Rio Tinto Senior Lecturer at Dundee University. 

3.  Neither Meekamui Government of Unity or Panguna Mine-Affected Landowners Associations are representative bodies of the mine affected region. MGU has been involved in illegal deals with backdoor mining companies, while those associated with PMALA have been linked to payments from foreign mining lobbyists.

Bougainville News | 27 August 2016

Until Rio Tinto announced its decision to exit Bougainville, extensive consultations over the past 6 years helped develop broad consensus amongst Panguna lease landowner communities, the wider Bougainville community, and the ABG on working towards re-opening the Panguna mine, with majority Rio Tinto owned BCL as the mine operator.

Significant new issues now arise because of the way that Rio Tinto has decided to exit Bougainville. This note deals with some key issues arising from:

  • Rio Tinto dividing its 53.8% equity between ABG (36.4%) and PNG (17.4%),
  • the Prime Minister announcing that the 17.4% PNG received from Rio should be transferred to ‘landowners and the people of Bougainville’, but retained by PNG until agreement on how it should be distributed;
  • Rio Tinto deciding it is not responsible in any way for Panguna legacy issues

Value of the Shares in BCL The only way the shares will ever have significant value is if three condition are met:

  1. A new and technically qualified developer must agree to participate;
  2. That developer must be able to provide the approximately K20 billion needed to re-open the mine;
  3. The mine needs to be re-built and operate profitably. Because of the need for the K20 billion investment, the percentages of all existing shareholder will be diluted to very little if the mine re-opens.

In that case, the real value for landowners will not come from those existing shares, but instead from the guarantees in the Bougainville Mining Act for mine lease landowners to share in mine benefits through: free equity; royalties; and preference in employment and business opportunities.

What is Happening with the 17.4% Now Held by PNG? 

Many major uncertainties exist here. In particular:

The NEC decision of 4th August only approved ‘in principle’ transfer ‘to the landowners and the People of Bougainville including the Panguna Mine landowners’. In Parliament on 18 August the Prime Minister is reported (in Post Courier, August 19) to have said that it is ‘up to the landowners, the people and the government to decide on the percentage allocations’. The PNG Government will continue to be ‘custodian’ until ‘landowners, the people and ABG resolve their differences’.

Determining a monetary value for the BCL shares is difficult. It can be measured in various ways. When PNG was considering buying the 53.8% from Rio, it was discussing a price of $100 million. Informal information suggests this was a reasonable valuation. However, Rio’s exit, its divesting of its shares in BCL, the growing uncertainty about ownership of the 17.4%, and the overall reduced certainty about the future of Panguna all makes the BCL shares less valuable.

The main value that exists in BCL involves: 1) money and securities (about K135 million, some of it already committed); 2) Panguna drilling and exploration data ‘translated’ by BCL into a modern mine planning program; 3) the exploration licence over the former Panguna SML area granted under the ABG Mining Act.

What is meant by ‘the landowners’ and ‘the Panguna Landowners’? how shares would be held by landowners (e.g. as individuals, as clan groups, as representative association), and how distribution/allocation between them will be decided.

Suggestions are being made that the 17.4% will be the compensation for legacy issues. Minister Lera has been reported to say the goal is for landowners to become millionaires.But the value of the shares is uncertain, and undoubtedly quite low, and it is very uncertain who the shares might be transferred to or when they might be transferred. Without the mine re-opening, there will be very little if any money from the shares for the landowners.Even more important is the fact that even if the shares are transferred, that will do nothing to meet the huge expense involved in dealing with environmental damage and the impacts experienced by relocated village communities.

Dealing with Environmental Damage and Impacts of Relocated Villages

In the seven weeks since Rio Tinto first advised the ABG of its decision to exit from Bougainville, the ABG has already initiated steps to get action and funding in relation to the terrible problems caused by the mine and by Rio Tinto failing to accept responsibility for the damage done. In particular, we have acted to:

At this stage, the ABG is aiming to see Rio Tinto, and the Australian and PNG Governments commit significant funds to a Trust Fund to meet the costs of action in relation to mine legacy issues.

Bougainville, and the mine-lease landowners, cannot wait to see if a new developer can be found, and the mine actually re-opens. The earliest possible action is needed in relation to issues such as chemical stock-piles, the breaches to the Tailings levy banks and the flooding of neighboring areas, the damage to the Kawerong and Jaba rivers, and the conditions in which relocated village communities live.

Can the 17.4% be a Basis for Compensation for Mine Legacy Issues?

So no one knows what proportion of the 17.4% shares would go where, and how long it would take, under the Prime Minister’s proposals.

  • create international awareness of injustice and breaches of human rights;
  • get high level advice about action taken, in relation to these problems; and
  • obtain legal advice about possible legal action against Rio Tinto.(a) Awareness: (b) High Level Advice:

The ABG has made direct approaches to numerous organisations seeking advice and assistance. They include:

Much more work is needed to create media awareness. But international awareness can also be contributed by other action and contacts.

Getting international community awareness of the issues involved is a first major step towards putting pressure on Rio Tinto.

After we supplied a senior Australian journalist with extensive information on the issues, he interviewed the President and wrote a major article published in the main Sunday newspapers in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra on 21 August. Several stories appeared in The Australian newspaper after the Prime Minister’s announcement about transferring shares to landowners and the people   of Bougainville.

Numerous stories have been broadcast on Radio Australia and Radio NZ International. In July story was broadcast on Australian ABC TV news. The resident ABC journalist is planning a 4 day visit to Bougainville to develop a major television story for Australia. A journalist from The Australian newspaper is also planning a visit to Bougainville.

The United National Environment Program;

  • Human rights and corporate social responsibility monitoring organisations, including:
  • Human Rights Watch;
  • Amnesty International;

International Alert;

  • Shift (a US-based organization that monitors the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights);
  • Some NGOs and consultancy organisations that deal with corporate social responsibility and businesses and human rights;
  • The German-based Catholic Church development organization, Misereor, in relation to business and human rights issues (a focus of that organization).

Initial legal advice has been obtained from Professor James Otto (mining lawyer and mining economist who assisted the ABG develop its mining policy and mining law). A senior officer in Misereor with experience in corporate social responsibility and human rights has this week provided additional contacts with lawyers who work in this field in Germany and the United Kingdom, and these lawyers will be contacted in the coming days. The initial suggestions are that court action should be initiated, and the various options will be evaluated.

It includes dealing direct with groups of ethical investors with a view to persuading them to withdraw investment from Rio Tinto in protest at their treatment of Bougainville. The aim is to make Rio concerned that their share price will fall if they fail to act fairly in relation to Bougainville. Similarly, we have been advised to enter discussions with organisations that maintain indexes of corporate social responsibility and corporate performance in relation to human rights. Reduced ranking in such indexes can also result in share prices dropping.

We are still in the early stages of obtaining advice and sorting through the information and suggestions being received.

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Fiji Ministry clarifies on bauxite mining processes

xinfa bauxite bua

Fiji government tries to claim consent to mining from two chiefs is equivalent to free prior informed consent from ALL the landholders…

Luke Rawalai | The Fiji Times | August 28, 2016

BAUXITE has only been mined at Nawailevu and Naibulu and chiefs from both areas have consented to the project, says Ministry of Land’s deputy secretary Malakai Nalawa.

Mr Nalawa said that hence approval had been given by the two chiefs to the companies.

Responding to outcry from Bua Urban Youth about the need for obtainment of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) from landowners before any mining processes, Mr Nalawa said that this has been obtained.

Meanwhile, BUY representative Vani Catanasiga says that officials must do more than just seeking the chief’s consent as a signal of the community’s approval.

Ms Catanasiga said they needed to prepare dialogue spaces between landowners and companies so that they can discuss on the pros and cons of mining before any decision is reached.

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Bougainville’s Me’ekamui dismiss Rio share spat – Full Transcript

Civil War in Bougainville caused by mining devastated PNG’s indigenous peoples and environment. Now the miners have ran away with the profits, paying no compensation.

Dateline Pacific | Radio New Zealand | 26 August 2016

The leader of Bougainville’s Me’ekamui rebel group, Chris Uma, says the spat over shares in Bougainville Copper Ltd, BCL, is of no consequence.

There has been a war of words between the governments of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville after multi national miner, Rio Tinto, gave its shares in BCL to them.

PNG later gave its shares to Panguna landowners, a move that infuriated Bougainville President John Momis, who says the shares should all go to his Autonomous Government.

But the special envoy for Mr Uma, John Jaintong, told Don Wiseman says it is irrelevant because in Me’ekamui’s view there is no BCL.


JOHN JAINTONG:  Me’ekamui’s view is that there is no Bougainville Copper, because in 1989 when the mine was closed, Bougainville Copper walked away, got paid off with a large compensation for loss of business and loss of property. And to Me’ekamui, the mine has ceased to exist since 1989. And the land now returned to the people. To Me’ekamui, which represents the landowners who own the land, there is no company. So why get 17.4% of something that they already have 100% of. Who is Rio Tinto anyway to say OK, I give you back 17% of something that they don’t own?

DON WISEMAN: So would the Me’ekamui look at mining projects, anywhere in Bougainville?

JJ: Well, they’re not saying no to mining. But over the last couple of years, they’ve given [outlined] the process to how to handle the issue, leading up to the reopening of the mine. And leaders, politicians simply ignored it. They’re not against the mine totally. All they want is that the processes must be allowed to complete. Like, OK there were twenty-thousand lives lost. All they want to do is… Me’ekamui has to prepare a traditional feast and that can only be hosted by Bougainville chiefs. Now after that has been done, then they can move towards the next process of talking about the mine, whether with Bougainville Copper or somebody else.

DW: This critical issue for you at this point is the reconciliation?

JJ: That’s correct. And Chris has accused PNG and Bougainville leaders of being insensitive to the situation, the critical situation. And to him I think the peace process, that we all worked hard to put together, has been broken because, to him, the leaders of Bougainville have gone back to bed with the enemy – the enemy being Rio Tinto, or Bougainville Copper, for this matter.

DW: Well, it’s all very well for Chris Uma to criticise but this is the elected government. This is what the majority of people on Bougainville voted for, so don’t they have the right to be making the decisions rather than you guys?

JJ: Yeah, that’s true but Chris runs Me’ekamui – that remains outside of the peace process – so it’s a very critical situation. Now, Me’ekamui has still got 100% of the arms. Now this is a very deadly situation that I’m handling. And I speak for the people that if there’s any leader listening, they must know that the situation is very bad and now Chris is saying that the ABG has broken the peace process by going to be with the enemy, they are not listening to the wishes of the people. And these are the people with the guns, that they’re not listening to.

DW: Now in 2019, the province is to have this vote on possible independence. Is this something that the Me’ekamui under Chris Uma supports?

JJ: Well, first thing first. The way they’re going, it looks like more leaders on Bougainville is worried about the economic factors, soemthing like Bougainville Copper should be re-opened. But for it to reopen we must comply with the customary obligations. Don, I’ll give you a background: on Bougainville, the land is owned by the chiefs, and controlled by the chiefs. Whether you are in government, ABG or not, Me’ekamui under Chris Uma are saying no, ABG has no right to deal with land matters. It’s saying land matters completely remains the power that belongs to the traditional chiefs of Bougainville.

DW: If this reconciliation that you’re talking about was to go ahead and go ahead properly, would the Me’ekamui then allow themselves to be fully re-incorporated back into Bougainville?

JJ: Yes, that’s correct, that’s the only thing holding them back. They want to see that’s done quickly and amicably. Now to give you how they want it played out – they want it hosted by Chris Uma on behalf of the paramount chiefs of Bougainville who own the land and the prime minister of Papua New Guinea, but not by ABG. And Chris has been very vocal on this over the last few days in the media that he has not given John Momis the mandate to negotiate with Rio Tinto.

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Bougainville’s Me’ekamui dismisses share spat

Bougainville Revolutionary Army fighters look down on the Panguna mine in 1996

Bougainville Revolutionary Army fighters look down on the Panguna mine in 1996

Radio New Zealand | 26 August 2016

The leader of Bougainville’s Me-ekamui rebel group, Chris Uma, says the spat over shares in Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) is of no consequence.

A war of words erupted between the governments of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville after multi national miner, Rio Tinto, gave its shares in BCL to them.

PNG later gave its shares to Panguna landowners, a move that infuriated Bougainville President John Momis, who said the shares should all go to his Autonomous Government(ABG).

But the special envoy for Mr Uma, John Jaintong, said it is irrelevant because in Me’ekamui’s view there is no BCL.

“Because in 1989, when the mine was closed, Bougainville Copper walked away, got paid off, [and] large compensation for loss of business and loss of property, and to Me’ekamui, the mine has ceased to exist since 1989 and the land now returned to the people.”

Mr Uma’s special envoy, John Jaintong, said before there can be talk of any mining in Bougainville there has to be a ceremony of reconciliation to acknowledge the 20,000 who died in the civil war.

“That is the only thing that is holding them back. They want to see that that’s done quickly and amicably.” he said.

“Now, give you how they want it played out. They want it hosted by Chris Uma and the Prime Minister on behalf of the paramount chiefs of Bougainville, who own the land, and the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. But not by ABG.”

Mr Jaintong said the ABG and President John Momis would be welcome as observers.


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Another environmental disaster for Australia’s world class mining industry

The mine's storage sites hold millions of litres of by-products. (ABC News)

The mine’s storage sites hold millions of litres of by-products. (ABC News)

Pump crews work at abandoned silver mine to keep toxic spill out of Murray-Darling Basin

Mark Willacy | ABC News | 25 August 2016

Queensland Government officials have taken emergency action to stop massive mine storage ponds on the Queensland-New South Wales border discharging heavy metals into the Murray-Darling system, the ABC can reveal.

Heavy rainfall this week threatened to trigger a spill of the processing ponds and dams at the Texas silver mine in southern Queensland.

The mine’s storage sites hold about 240 million litres of by-products such as copper, aluminium, iron, manganese, zinc and nickel.

Queensland’s Environment Department is managing the site after its former owners went broke and abandoned the mine last year.

The ABC last year obtained an internal government document revealing it could cost up to $10 million to fully rehabilitate the site.

The government holds just $2 million from the former owners in financial assurance for the mine site.

The internal document warned that as little as 40 millimetres of rain could trigger a spill from site and send cyanide and other heavy metals into the Dumaresq River and into the Murray-Darling Basin.

The Dumaresq is a major source of irrigation water for primary producers in the region.

The site of the silver mine has received more than 90 millimetres of rain in the past 48 hours, while the region has experienced some localised flooding.

In response to the rain, Department of Environment staff and contractors were pumping to minimise the potential for the release of contaminated water, with ponds and dams on the site reaching capacity.

“As soon as this weather event became clear, [the department] had people on the ground, and dispatched additional officers on Wednesday to monitor the situation,” Environment Minister Steven Miles said.

“[The department] has been liaising with its counterparts in New South Wales about site management, and will continue to consult with them about any possible environmental impacts. I want to stress that this is a problem [the department] inherited.”

The minister said the Texas silver mine was an example of why it was important to have a strong financial assurance system, “otherwise taxpayers can be left with the shortfall”.


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