MOMIS: Lawrence Daveona doesn’t represent the landowners of the SML [Special Mining Lease]. He speaks for himself
Dateline Pacific | Radio NZ | 26 September 2016
Bougainville’s president says the claims of a dissident landowner leader are irrelevant as the PNG province aims to get majority control of Bougainville Copper Ltd.
BCL had operated the Panguna mine and the chair of the Panguna Osikaiang Landowners Association, Lawrence Daveona, says his group are the rightful owners of the mine site and the company itself.
This comes after Rio Tinto gave away its 53 percent shareholding and walked away, claiming it was under no obligation to do anything about the damage caused by the mine.
Panguna had been the catalyst of the province’s destructive civil war.
Bougainville’s President John Momis wants the majority shareholding although the Papua New Guinea government has given its Rio shares to the landowners.
Mr Momis told Don Wiseman most of the landowner groups from around mine, Mr Daveona excepted, back his government’s push.
JOHN MOMIS: The landowners, more or less unanimously, except for Lawrence Daveona, who doesn’t seem to agree with anything, and he’s totally outnumbered. There’s only one person – there’re two people, who are against the landowners decision to say that the 17 percent the national government wants to give to the landowners, should go to the ABG, which is the legitimate government, because they believe in the new mining law of Bougainville in respect of the shares and benefits of the landowners are much much better than in the PNG mining law. Yeah the landowners are supporting the ABG and they are saying they are satisfied that the shares should be divested to the ABG.
DON WISEMAN: Yet Lawrence Daveona, he represents a critical group doesn’t he, right around the mine itself, and if you haven’t got these people onboard then isn’t any prospect of that mine opening and resolving this issue, isn’t that, well, it is not going to go anywhere is it?
JM: Well Lawrence Daveona doesn’t represent the landowners of the SML [Special Mining Lease]. He speaks for himself. The landowners of the SML fully support the other landowners in their stance that the shares should and must be given to the ABG, which, in accordance with its mining law provisions, effects equitable distribution to the people, the landowners affected by the Panguna mine.
DW: Alright. So when do you think all of this is going to be resolved. When do you think the ABG will effectively become a majority owner of BCL?
JM: That will depend on how willing the national government is to dealing with the ABG. And if not, our position is clear, and I have stated this consistently in the past, that should they refuse, we will invoke the provision in our mining law to disqualify them, disqualify the national government from operating in Bougainville. Then we will go for international tender to ask any other developer who may be interested.
DW: After all of this angst over mining you must be thinking that if the critical thing is getting an economy going, that you walk right away from it and focus on other areas, like farming and tourism.
JM: Well we are doing that although not much is being said. Our strategy, we have adopted a multi-dimensional approach now. We are going to look at investment in agriculture, in tourism, and downstream processing, whilst we address the Panguna mine issue. There are other mines of course we could be looking at, but as a government we cannot let the landowners of Panguna, who have been exploited by Rio and the PNG Government, and decided to dump them. Walk away from them. As a government we have a responsibility to protect and promote nothing but the interests of the landowners. We are duty bound, in a way, to still fight for the landowners, while we look at other options of generating revenue for a government which is being starved by the national government of even its own legitimate, constitutionally guaranteed entitlements.
DW: In terms of the legacy issues, for the environmental and social destruction, there is a very real chance that nothing is going to come from Rio, so how confident are you that you are ever going to actually have the resources to be able to do anything about that?
JM: Well we may not persuade them, because I think they [Rio] are so morally bankrupt. They are so power drunk that they don’t want to come and address [what are] legitimate issues as far as the government and the people of Bougainville are concerned. Rio make billions, so did the PNG Government. So both Rio Tinto and the PNG Government have a real obligation to address the legacy issues. But be that as it may we are going to embark on an international campaign against Rio and make it known to the world what Rio did to Bougainville from a mine that they made billions out of.