The government in the autonomous Papua New Guinea region of Bougainville says it has given people opposed to a possible re-opening of the Panguna copper mine two weeks to re-think their opposition.
This comes after what Vice President Raymond Masono said was a few dozen people who last Friday blocked access roads for a government delegation wanting to sign a memorandum of agreement with Panguna landowners at Panguna in Central Bougainville.
The government says re-opening the mine, which was at the heart of the Bougainville civil war, is critical to the province developing some economic viability ahead of an independence vote in June 2019.
Mr Masono said the night before, government officials spent hours explaining to the protesters the importance of re-opening Panguna.
But he said Friday’s cancellation of the MOA signing was just a temporary setback.
“When they are ready, they will come to the ABG, (Autonomous Bougainville Government), and then we will organise for the signing ceremony for the MOA,” Mr Masono said.
“We consider this non-signing of the MOA as a temporary setback.”
The protesters, mostly women, said they are opposed to any discussion on a Panguna re-opening before the independence vote.
They also say they are adamantly opposed to Bougainville Copper Ltd, which used to run Panguna, having anything to do with a new operation.
BCL used to be majority owned by Rio Tinto but last year the multi national walked away from the mine and the associated demands for compensation and rehabilitation, giving its shares to the Bougainville and PNG Governments.