PNG to give mine shares to Bougainville

O'Neill_and_Momis

Peter O’Neill and John Momis

Radio New Zealand | August 17, 2016

The Papua New Guinea Government is to transfer mining shares gifted it by Rio Tinto, to the people of Bougainville.

The Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, told parliament today his government is aware of the pain and torment the people of Bougainville have gone through, and the importance of land to them.

The shares in Bougainville Copper Ltd, which had run the long shut-down Panguna mine, will ensure the autonomous government has a majority shareholding in the company.

Bougainville President John Momis has been pressing for the shares for weeks and had threatened legal action against both Rio Tinto and the national government.

A critical concern for Mr Momis is that Rio Tinto is walking away without clearing the damaging legacy left by the mine such as ongoing environmental and social issues.

Last week, Mr Momis signalled the Bougainville administration could take legal action against Rio.

Mr O’Neill has now told parliament his government is serious about empowering communities and giving Bougainville’s landowners and the people direct control over any future mine developments.

He added that this transfer of shares further strengthens the confidence of Bougainvilleans in the peace process.

1 Comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

One response to “PNG to give mine shares to Bougainville

  1. There hasn’t been one response yet from the Bougainville government or any Bougainville people about this news.
    There is nothing on the Bougainville News website or Radio New Dawn Bougainville.
    It has been clearly stated by President Momis of Bougainville that, “First, we must unite in demanding that the whole of the Rio 53.8 per cent shareholding in BCL be transferred to the ABG”. This has now happened.
    PNG has given its shares to Bougainville.
    Secondly, President Momis has also stated that Rio Tinto must be held accountable for its mine legacy issues and that it was “grossly unjust” and “completely unacceptable” for Rio Tinto to negate its responsibility. Does President Momis and the ABG still intend to hold Rio Tinto to account?
    Of course, Rio Tinto still deny they have ever acted in breach of the law but by giving up their Bougainville Copper Ltd shares is obviously stating that they know they are guilty and trying to look like “butter wouldn’t melt in their greedy mouths”.
    It seems that Rio Tinto’s declared reasons for divesting itself of its majority shareholding in Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) reeks of sanctimonious hypocrisy.
    A second major concern was to become out of sight in response to the massive environmental and social legacy wrought by the Panguna mining operation and the subsequent war on Bougainville. A masterly political strategy of Machiavellian proportions.
    Rio Tinto gauged the power and greed motivation behind the PNG leadership offer to buy out its BCL shares. It knew that Bougainville’s President Momis would strongly resist PNG’s majority shareholding by asserting Bougainville’s right to control its mineral wealth. It could count on neutralising Momis whose support it had inveigled over the past several years of careful nurturing, successful, even to the point of Momis’ famous acceptance for a return to mining by Rio Tinto/BCL in the phrase ‘better the devil you know’. It calculated it could manage the fall-out. Thus the seeds of Rio Tinto’s strategy had been sown for several years that saw President Momis courting the mine reopening and even introduce mining legislation that dangled continued mining operation and exploration rights before Rio Tinto which now saw its chance: it had manoeuvred both PNG and Bougainville leadership into adopting favourable positions concerning the BCL mining legacy; it had constantly denied responsibility for environmental damage and the social impact of the war with very little fallout; it knew its shareholding was notionally worthless and it flattered the PNG leadership with the idea of its divestment to them; it evaluated the Bougainville response, and it handed the poisoned chalice to both PNG and Bougainville – in equal shares.
    The real Rio Tinto strategy is clear now as the dust settles and it pulls back into its London-based boardroom. It will honour its managing agreement with BCL whose Chairman has also removed himself from the battle zone. What does that mean? It will leave BCL as an empty shell unable to satisfy compensation and reparation demands. It had won the human rights abuse claim in the United States in 2013 so this is just tidying up. It leaves other minority shareholders stranded.
    Something to think about….. right or wrong…. you be the judge.
    Let us hear from Bougainville.

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