Category Archives: Bougainville

Breathtaking images depict Bougainville’s ‘blood generation’

Sami and the Panguna mine – Taloi Havini and Stuart Miller.

A photography exhibition featuring more than 200 images that explore the phenomenal complexity of modern life is being staged at the National Gallery of Victoria from 13 September to 2 February 2020.

Titled Civilisation: The Way We Live Now, the exhibition will feature images from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe.

Among the images is series dedicated to the ‘blood generation’ of young people born during the bitter and prolonged war between Papua New Guinea and the people of Bougainville (1988–98). The war, which was triggered by external interests in mining and sustained by local acts of political self-determination, resulted in 20,000 deaths and forced many Bougainvilleans to desert their villages in fear of their lives.

Bougainville-born artist Taloi Havini and Australian photographer Stuart Miller explore the repercussions of copper mining and armed conflict on the young people of the region and address the destruction of the natural environment that, for matrilineal societies of Bougainville and Buka, is foundational to their political and social organisation.

The image shown above, Sami and the Panguna mine, revisits a moment in history when female landowners in Bougainville protested against the gouging of their land by mining. In a powerful manifestation of opposition, dissenting mothers held their children, squatted and chained themselves to the mine’s earth-moving trucks in protest.

The National Gallery of Victoria describes the image as a magical and numinous image, yet its dark and traumatic history, as the heart of the Bougainville war, insinuates its presence through a row of burnt and rusted heavy equipment left behind when the Panguna mine closed in 1990. Sami, a child refugee, escaped with her family to Honiara in the Solomon Islands before obtaining refugee status in the Netherlands. The white cloud rising over the hills suggests that nature is there to welcome and shield Sami as she re-enters contested matrilineal land where the world’s largest open-cut mine of its time once stood. A pool of aquamarine-coloured water at the bottom of the pit, contaminated with the copper solution, is the result of a leaching process still happening today.

Siwai on the airstrip. Taloi Havini and Stuart Miller

Siwai on the airstrip shows a young man from Siwai, a large area of the coast, central plains and hinterland of Bougainville. He is dressed in torn jeans and a hessian bag embellished with an image of a skull, which reflects the style of today’s Bougainville youth. In the background, other Siwai young men sit at the centre of the airstrip, as is customary, except when the landing of a plane forces them to move to the edge.

Gori standing in a Buka passage. Taloi Havini and Stuart Miller

Gori standing in a Buka passage shows a young man standing in front of a narrow strait, less than a kilometre wide, which separates the Island of Buka from the northern part of Bougainville. Gori gazes directly into the camera as if to ask what happened, or to say, ‘I know what happened but I don’t understand why’. This is a common feeling among the blood generation, the silent victims of the Bougainville war, who were far too young to comprehend its inexorable repercussions.

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Bougainville veterans reconcile, commit to referendum

Inside the pit of abandoned Panguna mine

Don Wiseman | Radio New Zealand | 27 July 2019

A summit of huge significance for the future of Bougainville has taken place over the past week, in and around Panguna.

The focus of the Bougainville Me’ekamui and Veterans Summit was a reconciliation between former combatants in the region, and came just months out from a referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea.

It involved former combatants from both sides of Bougainville’s brutal civil war of which the referendum is one of the ultimate expressions.

The groups issued the Mary, Queen of the Mountains – Panguna Declaration.

This includes commitments to the referendum, to maintain peace and stability before and after the referendum, the disposal of weapons, and agreement that the Panguna mine can be re-opened after the vote.

Weapons Disposal

The summit attendees, now known officially as the Bougainville Veterans, aim to have guns held by former combatants and civilians contained by 15 August, with an ultimatum that the collection process be completed by 1 September.

The verification of the guns will be done by the Bougainville Police Service, working with community governments and veterans.

Eventually these weapons will be destroyed and a monument created from them.

Bougainville Peace Agreement ceremony in Arawa in August 2001 Photo: RNZ Walter Zweifel

Referendum

The vote was to be held from 12 October, having already been moved from June, but the Bougainville Referendum Commission had been seeking an extension of six weeks.

This has now been agreed to by the Bougainville Veterans, but they say the referendum must happen by 30 November at the latest.

Further Reconciliations

The veterans have urged additional reconciliations. They want to reconcile with PNG security forces – the army, police and prison services.

They also want the leadership of the two governments, Bougainville and Papua New Guinea, to reconcile before the ratification of the referendum outcome.

The veterans also say reconciliation with neighbouring Solomon Islands is a priority and are seeking donor support to facilitate this.

Bougainville government president John Momis, left, and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill sign the agreement on the question for the independence referendum. Photo: Joseph Nobetau

Economic Development

How to grow the Bougainville economy has long been debated in the region.

Several groups have been eyeing the re-opening of the controversial Panguna mine, which was forced to close 30 years ago at the start of the 10 year civil war.

Environmental and social damage caused by the mine sparked the conflict.

The veterans have agreed, however, the mine can be re-opened after the referendum. But because of the sensitive nature of the matter, public debate and discussions should be discouraged until after the vote.

Any decision on how mining might proceed will also wait until after the referendum and not before appropriate legislation on land, the environment and conservation is put in place.

At its peak, the mine produced almost half of PNG’s export revenue and is still considered to contain one of the largest copper reserves in the world.

The Bougainville Veterans also talked about the importance of investigating other options for fostering economic development, such as fishing and agriculture.

Amnesty

The Bougainville Peace Agreement, signed in 2001, included provisions for amnesty for all persons involved in crisis related activities or convicted of offences arising from them.

In the Mary, Queen of the Mountains – Panguna Declaration, the Bougainville Veterans say these provisions must be extended to beyond 2020 and include members of the Me’ekamui factions as well as other groups and individuals who join in the gun disposal programme.

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Failed Nautilus CEO resurfaces in Bougainville

Kalia Limited’s new Director Corporate Development and Strategy, Michael Johnston, jumped ship as Nautilus sunk, leaving PNG tax payers $120 million poorer

Having duped the PNG government out of K375  million the former CEO of bankrupt Nautilus Minerals has joined another debt heavy exploration company, this time hoping to strike gold on Bougainville 

Board moves boost Kalia Bougainville copper/gold play

Matt Birney | The West Australian | 25 July 2019

Bougainville Island focussed porphyry copper-gold exploration company, Kalia  Limited, has restructured its management ahead of a significant ramp-up in regional

The company has this week appointed two new directors with a wealth of resources sector experience, following the increased activity of private investment firm Tygola Pty Ltd, who continue to strongly support Kalia via a series of loan facilities, that amount to $6m.

Michael Johnston has joined the company as the Director Corporate Development and Strategy, bringing his extensive experience working in PNG and the wider Asia-Pacific region to the Board, particularly as General Manager of Placer Dome’s exploration team in Australia and Asia in the early 2000s.

More recently, Mr Johnston was the President and CEO of TSX-listed Nautilus Minerals, where he managed the development of the world’s first sea-floor mining company, whose main project was the Solwara 1 Field in the Bismarck Sea, in PNG waters, just northwest of Bougainville.

Kalia has also hired accountant Jonathan Reynolds as a non-executive director.

Mr Reynolds has more than 25 years’ experience across a range of sectors, including a current role as Finance Director with ASX-listed Allegiance Coal, a company focussed on investing in advanced or producing metallurgical coal assets.

Kalia recently sought out one of the world’s leading experts on porphyry, epithermal and “Carlin-style” copper-gold mineralisation, Dr Steve Garwin, to run the ruler over its comprehensive technical data set on Bougainville.

Dr Garwin has been involved in numerous exploration and mining projects, including the Batu Hijau porphyry mine in Indonesia that holds an ore reserve of 9 million ounces of gold and 4 million tonnes of copper.

His recent discovery of the world-class Alpala porphyry deposit in Ecuador is even better, holding about 11 million tonnes of copper and just over 23 million ounces of gold.

Dr Garwin’s review highlighted the geochemically “fertile” nature of the Mt Tore region’s rocks, holding significant potential for multiple copper-gold porphyry centres and epithermal mineralisation, which confirmed Kalia’s belief that it is sitting on some prospective ground on Bougainville.

The investigation unearthed five significant regions of interest on the company’s tenements, including a new unexplored target 60 square kilometres in size, characterised by anomalous copper-gold assays in geochemical stream sediment samples dating back 30 years.

The exploratory overview of the company’s two tenements located at the northern tip of Bougainville also delineated three potential porphyry copper-gold centres and one substantial epithermal gold region bridging the Teosiri – Teoveane areas, for follow-up exploratory field work.

The regional exploration to ground-check the interpreted geological features will be helicopter-supported, given the challenging terrain and the remote locations of individual targets.

Kalia said it would focus its field sampling programs around the key locations, to identify and rank targets for maiden drilling programs in the project holdings, expected to kick off later this year.

The company completed a detailed airborne geophysical survey over its Mt Tore leases in 2018, which threw up 64 individual porphyry and epithermal exploration targets for evaluation.

The style of porphyry copper-gold deposits the company is seeking on Bougainville are highly sought-after globally because they boast some of the largest ore reserves of these desirable commodities.

And it couldn’t reside in a better postcode globally, with Kalia exploring in the “Pacific Ring of Fire” region, which holds many world-class copper-gold porphyry systems and its Mt Tore JV tenements located only 130km northwest of one of them, the gigantic mothballed Panguna copper-gold mine.

Watch this space for developments.

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LOs Welcome Bid To Discuss Panguna

Panguna mine in operation, circa 1971 (Photo: Robert Owen Winkler/Wikimedia Commons)

Post Courier | July 22, 2019

The Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA) has welcomed the Bougainville Mining Minister Raymond Masono’s statement that the ABG is prepared to discuss Panguna and find a resolution.

“Reconciliation is vital at this critical time,” said SMLOLA chair Philip Miriori.

“If the minister is genuine and I believe he is, this is the first positive step forward towards reconciliation after many years of trying to have a meeting.

“We are committed to working with the ABG and really appreciate the Minister’s invitation.”

He said the ABG does not appear to have a full understanding of the Panguna landowners proposal and believe that this meeting will be the first step in clarifying any misunderstanding.

Mr Miriori said: “The Panguna landowners are offering to transfer to the ABG and all the people of Bougainville, 100 per cent of Panguna.

“Secondly, the landowners proposal is for the ABG to issue the Panguna License to this 100 per cent ABG owned entity and operate the mine, in a fair, world’s best, corporate partnership.

“It’s important that any ABG- Panguna proposal has landowner support as if there is one thing the history of Panguna screams loudest, it is the critical need for landowner support and harmony,” Mr Miriori said.

“Again, we look forward to meaningful and fruitful dialogue with our Mining Minister and ABG as soon as possible. We are here to help and work co-operatively with the ABG – we just need genuine and open dialogue.

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Bougainville landowners group claims rival a BCL surrogate


Radio New Zealand | 17 July 2019

The Bougainville landowner group, Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners’ Association or SMLOL, has rejected claims by another group claiming rights around the Panguna mine.

There have been plans to re-start mining as Bougainvilleans contemplate life after the referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea.

A company called the Panguna Development Company has questioned the bona fides of SMLOL to say they represent the landowners at the site of the mine.

But SMLOL said it has the backing of the vast majority of blockholders, that its authority is recognised by the National Court and that its registered office is at the building housing the Bougainville Department of Mining.

SMLOL also said the Panguna Development Company was established just a few months ago by a rival for the re-opening of the Panguna mine, Bougainville Copper Ltd.

A SMLOL spokesman Philip Miriori said Panguna Development Company has just one listed shareholder, Eric Takapau, who he said had since passed away.

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Rival questions authority of Bougainville’s Osikaiyang landowners

“The original divisions from the beginning of the conflict in Panguna #Bougainville have not gone away. Foreign controlled companies continue to involve themselves and interfere which exacerbates the situation. Money continues to corrupt individuals and complicate any resolution” Stret Pasin

Radio New Zealand | 16 July 2019 

The Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association represents itself as the key body at the site of the Panguna mine, which various interests are looking to develop.

Osikaiyang wants to operate Panguna with an Australian company, RTG.

But the Panguna Development Company, which has links to rival prospective operator, BCL, said Osikaiyang is making misleading public statements when it has no right to do so, under the region’s mining act.

It said such statements can only be given by customary heads, who are authorised to represent the Panguna blocks, and Osikaiyang has never had this consent.

Last week Osikaiyang issued an ultimatum, suggesting the referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea could be derailed if it doesn’t get its way over Panguna.

The Development Company called this threat unfortunate.

Meanwhile, government moves to change the Mining Act to allow a third foreign company to take charge of the mine have been put on hold until after the referendum.

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Mining Hopes for Independence

An aerial view of the Panguna mine located in the autonomous region of Bougainville on July 20, 2015, in Papua New Guinea.(USGS/NASA LANDSAT/GETTY IMAGES)

A copper quarry helps fuel Bougainville’s hopes for separation from Papua New Guinea, a move that would resonate across the Pacific.

By Geoff Hiscock | U.S. News | July 1, 2019

THE Pacific island of Bougainville is moving a step closer to potential independence from Papua New Guinea as preparations begin for a long-promised referendum later this year.

Whether it can survive as a stand-alone nation is a key question for its 250,000 inhabitants, and for other separatist movements in the Pacific. The future course of the island could ripple across the region, as the question of Bougainville’s independence will touch on a complicated mixture of business concerns, environmental worries and geopolitical interests stretching from Australia and New Zealand to ChinaJapan and the United States.

It’s an outsized international role for Bougainville, which lies 900 kilometers (560 miles) east of the Papua New Guinea mainland. The roots of the referendum stem from a bitter inter-clan and separatist conflict that ran from 1988 to 1997, fighting that claimed between 10,000 and 20,000 lives through a combination of violence, disease, poverty and dislocation.

A truce brokered and maintained by regional neighbors that included Australia, New Zealand and Fiji helped restore order, and a comprehensive peace agreement was signed between Papua New Guinea and Bougainville in 2001. The island has had its own autonomous government since 2005.

Bougainville’s people are expected to vote decisively for independence in the Oct. 17 referendum, according to Jonathan Pryke, Pacific Islands program director at the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based policy think tank. The vote is not binding and any move toward independence will require agreement from the central government of Papua New Guinea, commonly referred to as PNG.

Most people hope the two sides can find a “Melanesian solution” that will deliver a workable form of autonomy for Bougainville, says Pryke, using the term that describes the region of the South Pacific that includes PNG, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and other island nations and territories.

James Marape, who took over as Papua New Guinea’s prime minister in late May, said on June 14 he would prefer Bougainville to remain part of a unified nation, but would listen to the people’s voice and then consult over future options.

Papua New Guinea’s new prime minister, James Marape, arrives at the house of Governor-General Bob Dadae to be sworn in as the new leader in Port Moresby on May 30, 2019.(GORETHY KENNETH/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Sydney, says the desire for independence in Bougainville remains strong, but from a regional perspective it will be best if the Bougainville people decided to stay in Papua New Guinea. “We don’t need another microstate emerging in the Pacific.”

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, who visited Bougainville on June 19 with PNG’s new minister for Bougainville Affairs, Sir Puka Temu, said Australia will work to ensure the integrity of the referendum and will not pass judgment on the result. Australia is by far the biggest aid donor in the Pacific region, giving $6.5 billion between 2011 and 2017, according to research last year by the Lowy Institute. Most of Australia’s aid goes to Papua New Guinea.

Scars Remain From a Civil War

The Bougainville conflict, in which rival clans on the island fought among themselves and with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, evolved from multiple issues, including land rights, customary ownership, “outsider” interference and migration, mineral resource exploitation, and perceived inequities and environmental damage associated with the rich Panguna copper mine.

Under the terms of the 2001 peace agreement, a vote on independence within 20 years was promised.

A reconciliation ceremony will be held on July 2 between the central PNG government, the national defence force, the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

Deep scars remain from the conflict, both physical and emotional. Much of the island’s public infrastructure remains in poor shape, educational opportunities are limited, and corruption is pervasive. Clan rivalry and suspicion persists, particularly in regard to land rights and resource development.

Since Panguna closed in May 1989, Bougainville’s people have led a life built around agriculture and fishing. The cocoa and copra industries ravaged by the war have been re-established, there is small-scale gold mining, and potential for hydroelectric power and a revived forestry industry. For now, a lack of accommodation inhibits tourism.

Copper Mine Underscores Doubts over Bougainville’s Economic Viability

Almost 40 years ago, Bougainville’s Panguna mine was the biggest contributor to Papua New Guinea’s export income and the largest open-cut in the world. But the mine, operated by BCL, a subsidiary of Conzinc Riotinto Australia (now Rio Tinto Ltd.), became a focal point for conflict over pollution, migrant workers, resource ownership and revenue sharing, and has been dormant since 1989.

Apart from any foreign aid it may receive, Bougainville’s future prosperity may well depend on whether it can restart the mine, which contains copper and gold worth an estimated $50 billion. But customary ownership claims – land used for generations by local communities without the need for legal title – remain unresolved and at least three mining groups are in contention, which means an early restart is unlikely. Jennings cautions against investing too much hope in Panguna, with remediation costs after 30 years of disuse likely to be high.

Likewise, Luke Fletcher, executive director of the Sydney-based Jubilee Australia Research Centre, which studies the social and environmental impacts of resources projects on Pacific communities, says reopening Panguna would be a long, expensive and difficult proposition. He says the challenge for any mine operator would be developing a project that is environmentally safe, yet still deliver an acceptable return to shareholders and to the government.

Bougainville’s leader, President John Momis, believes that large-scale mining offers the best chance for income generation and is keen both to revive Panguna and encourage other projects. That would require outside investment, which was a factor contributing to the outbreak of violence in the late 1980s. The local community perceived that it was not getting its fair share of Panguna’s wealth.

Rio Tinto gave up its share in BCL in 2016, and ownership now rests with the government of PNG and the Bougainville government, each with 36.4%. Independent shareholders own the remaining 27.2%.

At least two other groups are vying to operate Panguna. Sir Mel Togolo, the BCL chairman, told the company’s annual general meeting on May 2 that continued uncertainty about Panguna’s tenure remains a big challenge. “We will need to work cooperatively with all stakeholders to achieve our objective of bringing the Panguna mine back into production,” he said.

Regional, International Eyes on October Referendum

With doubts persisting about Bougainville’s economic viability if it cuts ties with the central government, the referendum outcome will be closely watched by other PNG provinces pushing for greater autonomy, such as East New Britain, New Ireland and Enga.

Across the region, some parts of neighboring Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands are agitating for their own separate identities. In the nearby French overseas territory of New Caledonia, voters rejected independence from France by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin in November 2018. European settlers were heavily in favor of staying part of France, while indigenous Kanak people overwhelmingly voted for independence.

At the international level, Australia will be keen to ensure that whatever the outcome of the Bougainville referendum, stability is maintained in Papua New Guinea, if only to counter China’s growing interest in offering aid and economic benefits as it builds a Pacific presence.

Along with Japan, New Zealand and the U.S., Australia has committed to a 10-year $1.7 billion electrification project in Papua New Guinea. Australia and the U.S. have agreed to help Papua New Guinea redevelop its Manus Island naval base, which sits 350 kilometers north of the mainland and commands key trade routes into the Pacific.

Jennings says Australia would be likely to give aid to an independent Bougainville to try to keep China at bay. “China is everywhere. Its destructive connections co-opt leaderships in a way that doesn’t work out well for people.”

From a strategic perspective, Jennings says it would be best if Melanesia looked to Australia as its main partner on matters of security.

While China gives most of its aid to PNG and Fiji, the region’s two biggest economies, Jubilee’s Fletcher says China giving aid to an independent Bougainville was “feasible.”

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