Bougainville Copper Limited’s Panguna mine hits roadblock from protesters

Opponents blocked the road and demanded the Government and BCL abandon their plans. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

CONTENT WARNING: Contains some very sloppy journalism with opinion presented as fact

Eric Tlozek | ABC | 17 June 2017

The push to reopen a controversial copper mine on the island of Bougainville has suffered a setback, with opposition groups stopping the region’s government from going to the mine site and signing a new agreement with landowners.

The Panguna mine was abandoned by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) in 1989 after disaffection from landowners grew into an armed uprising and a push for independence from Papua New Guinea.

The President and Cabinet of the Autonomous Bougainville Government had planned to go to the Panguna mine site to sign an agreement that would allow BCL to work towards reopening the mine.

But so-called “hardline” groups and other opponents, led by angry women [who, on Bougainville, control the land, not men], blocked the road and demanded the Government and the company abandon their plans.

BCL blamed for crisis and ‘destruction’

Many [many? how many? is this a fact, supposition or guesswork?] of the women were not from the specific mine area but say they were affected by the horror of the Bougainville Crisis — the armed uprising in which 20,000 people died.

Many of the protesters are opposed to BCL because they blame it for the Bougainville Crisis. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

“I don’t want mining to be opened, no BCL, no mining. Because land is owned by the women, not the men,” said Regina Erengmari, one of the women in the blockade.

Many of the protesters are specifically opposed to BCL returning, because they blame it for the crisis.

But others, like Bernardine Kama, are opposed to any company reopening the mine.

“I grew up within the damages and the destructions of the mine and I know much destruction has been done,” she said.

But there are many [many suggests a majority but where is the evidence?] people from the area who want negotiations about reopening the mine to begin.

Panguna’s nine landowner associations were expecting to sign a memorandum of agreement with the Autonomous Bougainville Government to say the mine would reopen and that BCL would operate it.

Theresa Jaintong, who chairs one of the landowner associations, said signing the agreement is important.

“It’s important to me because I have issues to address with BCL and also the government, all other landowners and also representing my own people, and we were looking forward to sign and then open the door to other outstanding issues,” she said.

Protesters blocked the Government going to the site and signing a new agreement with owners. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

Government needs mine’s revenue for independence [unsubstantiated opinion presented as fact]

Bougainville’s government is in a hurry to reopen the mine, because it needs the revenue if it wants to be viable as an independent country from Papua New Guinea[again, unsubstantiated opinion presented as fact]

President John Momis said the mine is critical to any proposal for independence.

“Will independence be possible without Panguna mine? I don’t think it is possible,” he said.

The Government is now waiting two weeks while the groups negotiate and is planning a public information campaign.

In two years’ time, there will be a referendum on Bougainville to determine if the region should secede from Papua New Guinea.

Some opponents have threatened violence if the proposal to reopen the mine proceeds.

But President Momis says the Government will continue to work towards reopening Panguna, because it believes it’s the best way to provide for the people most affected by its closure.

“This government is committed to make sure that people who have been most detrimentally affected, and the landowners have been in Panguna, we have to look after them,” he said.

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3 Comments

Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Papua New Guinea

3 responses to “Bougainville Copper Limited’s Panguna mine hits roadblock from protesters

  1. We congratulate the women of Bougainville and their supporters who have stopped the current Bougainville government from going to the Panguna mine site to sign a new agreement for Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) to re-open the Panguna mine.

    The hand-picked BCL landowners who were supposed to sign the agreement for BCL have been brought to a halt, thanks to the road block protest held yesterday, 16 June 2017.

    Theresa Jaintong, chair of the association representing affected landowners near Arawa town has been a BCL puppet for a very long time. Theresa Jaintong stated on 1 October 2014, “we are working with the government of the day, with the president and his executive…… we have already done a lot to progress with BCL. We are also talking at the four party level, that is BCL, the national government, landowners and the ABG”. (Interview with Jemima Garrett, 1 October 2014, ABC News).

    If Theresa Jaintong thinks it is important to sign the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) whilst she has “issues to address with BCL and also the government”, why would she sign the MOA? Seems Ms Jaintong wants to sign the agreement for BCL then ask questions.

    Like a puppet on a string…..

  2. GREAT NEWS

    BOUGAINVILLE: Landowner women protesters block mine pact, win court order

    http://www.pmc.aut.ac.nz/pacific-media-watch/bougainville-landowner-women-protesters-block-mine-pact-win-court-order-9907
    [http://www.pmc.aut.ac.nz/sites/default/files/imagecache/small_hero/articles/2017/06/panguna%20women%20protest%20500wide.jpg]
    Mothers and daughters at the Panguna mine protest on Friday. Image: Loop PNG

    Sunday, June 18, 2017

    Item: 9907

    ARAWA (Asia Pacific Report/Pacific Media Watch): Panguna women protesters have blockaded the copper mine to prevent the signing of a memorandum of understanding by the Bougainville government with the company and also won a court injunction.

    Justice Kandakasi ordered in the Waigani National Court on Friday that the MOA cannot be signed until further notice.

    Philip Miriori, chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Inc., welcomed the restraining order.

    He said it was good to see that protection from “unjust deprivation of property” under Section 53 of the Constitution of PNG – and preserved in the Constitution of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (Section 180) as adopted by the Bougainville Constituent Assembly at Buin on 12 November 2004 – was being enforced.

    The Bougainville Freedom Movement also congratulated the women of Bougainville and their supporters for stopping the Bougainville government on Friday from signing a new agreement for Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) to reopen the Panguna mine.
    [The National Court order supporting the Panguna women landowners seeking to block Bougainville Copper Limited. Image: PMC]
    The National Court order supporting the Panguna women landowners
    seeking to block Bougainville Copper Limited. Image: PMC

    “The handpicked BCL landowners who were supposed to sign the agreement for the company were brought to a halt, thanks to the road block protest held on Friday,” said BFM’s Vikki John.

    The Panguna mine was abandoned by in 1989 after frustration by landowners erupted into a decade-long armed uprising and a push for Bougainville independence from Papua New Guinea.

    ‘Seven sisters’ roadblock
    Loop PNG reports: “The impenetrable roadblock was led by women chief from the ‘seven sisters’ areas in Central Bougainville.

    The mothers, together with their daughters, youths, ex-combatants and Bougainville hardliners, set up the roadblock, which started on Thursday night and lasted throughout Friday. They refused to move for passing vehicles or negotiating team.

    “Their message was simple: ‘No BCL, No Mining’.

    A woman chief from Guava Village, Maggie Mirau Nombo, and a chief from Arawa and Pirurari, Kavatai Baria, said their land was their ‘Mother’, who provided their everyday needs and no one was allowed to exploit her.

    “Chief Maggie, who is a former primary school teacher, said how could those wanting to sign the MOA conduct such an act of injustice?

    “She said this would never happen again because they had suffered enough from all the injustice that had been brought on by BCL when it was in operation.

    “She said God had heard the cry of the Bougainville women, and justice would prevail:

    “As long as I am the Chief from Panguna and Guava Village and owner of my land, BCL is not welcome. This is the company that has killed our sons and daughters. ABG has to stop ignoring the cries of the women and take note that BCL is never allowed to come back to Panguna, and this is final and it is not negotiable,” she said.

    “Chief Kavatai also reminded everyone that ‘when God closes a door, no one can open it, and if God opens a door, no one can close it’.

    “Panguna Mine was closed by God and if anyone was trying to reopen the mine when it wasn’t God’s timing, then they had better watch out because they were fighting against a big God.

    “Because of the strong opposition by the women, youths and Bougainville hardliners, the high-powered ABG delegation, led by President John Momis, returned to Buka on Friday afternoon without signing the MOA.”

    The Papua New Guinea 2017 general election is June 24 until July 8.

    * Panguna women landowners say BCL didn’t consult and ‘isn’t welcome’
    [Creative Commons Licence]
    Creative Commons Licence

  3. Paul Stankiewicz

    It appears the landowners have lost all faith in BCL having anything to do with mining in the area after the destruction that they have left previously. Is it a possibility that the Panguna people are willing to negotiate on better terms if RTG mining take the reigns or don’t they want any development at all.

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