No end to landowner squabbling at Bougainville’s Panguna

Radio New Zealand | January 21, 2019

Landowners near the long-closed Panguna mine in the Papua New Guinea region of Bougainville continue to scrap over who the legitimate owner is.

Earlier this month the group, the Osikaiyang Landowners Association, announced it had achieved unity at its annual meeting in December.

Leader Philip Miriori said they now have a board representing seven villages in the Panguna area and have included youth and women members.

But the rival Panguna Developments Company said Osikaiyang doesn’t have the right to represent all the landowners and says it doesn’t have any status under the Bougainville Mining Act.

It also said Osikaiyang cannot claim to own the mineral rights at Panguna as its business associate, Australian mining company, RTG, claims on its web page.

The Panguna Developments Company has links to Bougainville Copper Ltd which is also endeavouring to return to mining at Panguna.

But a year ago, fearing the mine issue would undermine the independence referendum, the autonomous Bougainville government announced an indefinite moratorium on a possible return to mining there.


Filed under Human rights, Mine construction, Papua New Guinea

4 responses to “No end to landowner squabbling at Bougainville’s Panguna

  1. Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) at it again…

    By Mark Hitchcock – BCL’s PNG general manager

    The Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA) held an Annual General Meeting on 21 December last year and have made subsequent public announcements. It is necessary to make some observations that appear to have been overlooked and to ensure nobody is misinformed.

    First and foremost, despite an impression created, the SMLOLA is not in fact representative of all the several hundred customary landowner agents who are actually authorised to represent project area block owners at Panguna. Nor does the SMLOLA “own the mineral rights at the old Panguna mine” under the Bougainville Mining Act (2015), as the association’s so-called developer of choice, RTG Mining Inc., has asserted on its web site.

    Further to these points, it is worth noting a letter from the chairman of the Panguna Developments Company (PDC), Mr Michael Pariu, to the registrar of the Department of Mineral and Energy Resources opposing the AGM in the days prior to the meeting. In a copy that has been circulated, Mr Pariu states “that the membership of the PDC, comprising legally appointed block agents and next of kin, completely reject the validity of the above association [SMLOLA] to assume they represent ex-SML landowner blocks and their landowner community”.

    The letter goes on to say that the SMLOLA “enjoys no status under the Bougainville Mining Act and is currently embroiled in a legal action against itself”.

    It is certainly true that in recent times, issues around the leadership and legitimacy of the SMLOLA as a representative body have been both controversial and contested. For example, there remains a lack of clear definition about the actual make-up of the SMLOLA membership.

    In his letter, Mr Pariu questions “the appropriateness of this proposed election, when the ABG has insisted, through the mining reserve that parties with an interest in the ex-SML do nothing to disturb the [independence] referendum process”.

    Mr Pariu also states that he was not aware if accepted process was being followed regarding the issuing of notices of meeting and in relation to the supervising of the elections by the electoral authorities. “Regardless of the above, our membership has already decided to divorce PDC from the current, non-approved association. We will not participate in any election and will not allow the association to speak or act on behalf of blocks of our membership,” he wrote.

    At the AGM, the SMLOLA is reported to have formally approved the nomination of RTG as the preferred developer for the Panguna project. This endorsement ignores the lack of ABG support for RTG, as outlined by President Momis in a strongly-worded speech to parliament last September, as well as among block holder agents such as those Mr Pariu is representing. The endorsement could also be seen to disrespect the indefinite moratorium the ABG has put in place over Panguna and overlooks a travel ban to Bougainville imposed on a number of RTG representatives by the PNG government, at the ABG’s request.

    It should be noted that while a Judicial Review is underway of the decision by the ABG not to renew BCL’s exploration licence (EL1) over the project area, BCL remains the holder of the exploration licence until any final determination by the court.

    For the record, BCL remains entirely respectful of the Bougainville Peace Process, including the referendum and would do nothing to undermine them. We are indeed a company committed to the highest standards of ethical behavior and consistently demonstrate good governance which is well-recognised.

    Finally, BCL remains heartened by the strong levels of support we continue to receive from authorised blockholder representatives and, also by the positive relationships we maintain more broadly. Our ongoing work in collaboration with ABG departments and others in the community to deliver worthwhile community projects is a clear demonstration of this.

  2. “Reminder to MARK HITCHCOCK,BCL general manager,
    So shut up – pay the compensation first and we talk if you think you own PANGUNA MINE.” says another friend of Bougainville.

  3. Kurt Aitzetmuller

    If you transfer the mine to RTG –
    will RTG pay this sum?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s