Category Archives: Bougainville

PNG transfers remaining BCL shares

Carmella Gware | Loop PNG | March 13, 2020

The PNG Government has fully transferred its entire 36.4 percent share in the Bougainville Copper Ltd to the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

This was one of the resolutions reached during the first, and possibly the final, post-referendum Joint Supervisory Body meeting held on Thursday, the 12th of March, at Port Moresby’s APEC Haus.

It was the first Joint Supervisory Body, or JSB, meeting to be held since the referendum last year. It is also the last JSB as its name has been changed to Joint Consultative Body, and this body will continue to provide oversight to the post referendum consultation processes.

During the JSB, teams from the PNG and Autonomous Bougainville governments, including President John Momis and Prime Minister James Marape, sat together to decide a future for Bougainville.

The sixth out of the 13 agendas discussed and passed included the transfer of Bougainville Copper Ltd shares.

The JSB noted that in 2017, the National Executive Council made a decision for the National Government to transfer 17.4 percent from its 36.4 percent shares to the landowners of Panguna. Following that, on the 13th of December, 2019, at the joint announcement of the Bougainville Referendum results, Prime Minister Marape further announced that the National Government will transfer to ABG its remaining 19 percent of the BCL shares.

“This JSB affirmed that the entire shares of Bougainville Copper be passed to Bougainville Mining Ltd – the Bougainville Government and Bougainville people’s subsidiary company,” the PM, flanked by the ABG President and members of their technical teams, told media after a full day of meeting.

Rio Tinto and the ABG both own 36.4 percent each while public shareholders hold the remaining portion of the share capital.

Apart from BCL shares, the PNG Government has made it clear that the constitutional Restoration and Development Grant (RDG) will be given to support the budget on Bougainville while the National Planning Ministry has been directed to clearly define the K100 million commitment and report back in the next Joint Consultative Body meeting this year.

The JSB has also acknowledged and accepted the democratic choice of the Bougainville people for Independence.

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Thai geologist shot dead in second mining-related killing in Bougainville

Bougainville has a fraught relationship with mining. Disputes over the Panguna mine (pictured) were the catalyst for the decade-long civil war that devastated the region.

Channon Lumpoo, 27, was shot as he conducted exploration activities for a new gold mine in the region

Dickson Sorariba | The Guardian | 25 February 2020

A Thai geologist working at a new gold mine in Bougainville has been shot dead in the second killing at a mining project in the autonomous region of Papua New Guinea in recent months.

Channon Lumpoo, 27, was shot by a high-powered weapon on Monday in the Kokoda constituency of south Bougainville.

Channon was a geologist with Austhai Geophysical Consultants, which is attached to a Philippines-owned company SRMO, and was involved in exploration activities at the time of his death.

Deputy police commissioner and chief of the Bougainville police service, Francis Tokura, said police were conducting investigations around Arawa because they were unable to travel further inland between South and Central Bougainville where the killing took place.

Bougainville police said the remoteness of the location made it impossible to conduct proper investigations.

Late last year, a Papua New Guinean geologist was killed in a similar manner.

Tokura said the incident continues to overshadow the image of the Autonomous Bougainville Region, which voted overwhelmingly for independence from Papua New Guinea in a referendum late last year.

Mining is a fraught subject in Bougainville, with disputes over the Panguna gold the catalyst for a decade-long civil war in the region, which ended with a peace agreement in 2001.

Tokura blamed the foreign companies operating on the island for not following proper protocols.

“If the companies had followed proper process in talking to the rightful landowners prior to conducting exploration activities, I’m sure we would have avoided such unwarranted deaths,” said Tokura.

The deputy police commissioner has called on all companies intending to enter Bougainville to talk to rightful landowners and report to the Bougainville police and the ABG government before conducting their business.

“Mining is a very sensitive issue and there are various factions who claim ownership of these mines. I appeal to all companies intending to do exploration activities to refrain from such investment until all issues are sorted out,” said Tokura.

He said there are illegal weapons still in the hands of locals and any misunderstanding may result into unnecessary killings.

The body of the Thai national killed is at the morgue in Buka while preparations are done to fly the body to Port Moresby for a postmortem.

The Thai consulate in Port Moresby said it was aware of the death of its citizen. It declined to make further comment when contacted.

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The Horse Breeder, the Novelist and the $60 Billion Panguna Mine

Panguna. RNZ/Johnny Blades.

Aaron Clark | Bloomberg News | January 27, 2020

John Kuhns has been many things: an investment banker, a silicon smelter operator in China and a novelist. His sights are now set on an abandoned mine with an estimated $60 billion of gold and copper.

Kuhns is among a handful of people exploring for minerals and courting landowners on the Pacific island of Bougainville. His rivals include an Arabian-horse breeder, a hedge fund investment manager who keeps wallabies on his estate and a former Australian defense minister.

The involvement of such an eclectic mix of entrepreneurs is a reflection of the fact that this is no ordinary mineral reserve. Rio Tinto Group operated the Paguna mine for 17 years through subsidiary Bougainville Copper Ltd. The global mining behemoth shut it in 1989 as local protests over mine revenue degenerated into a civil war that killed as many as 20,000 people.

The mine has been in limbo ever since. But that may be about to change as the Autonomous Region of Bougainville moves toward independence from Papua New Guinea after a referendum showed an overwhelming majority of the population on the small group of islands wants to establish a new nation.

While the political uncertainty may deter major mining companies from making an immediate investment, the mine’s riches attract entrepreneurs hoping to develop the asset to a point where they can deliver it to a big operator for a fee, said Peter O’Connor, a Sydney-based analyst at Shaw and Partners Ltd. “They have to create a story with a vision,” he said.

Success will depend on earning the trust of thousands of poor, customary landholders, many of whom remember the civil war that was triggered by communities demanding greater compensation from the mine.

“The landowners want to reopen the mine but they are divided by the interested developers,” said Sam Akoitai, a member of the island’s parliament who represents central Bougainville, an area that includes Panguna. “It’s really up to the landowners to come together to understand that the land belongs to the clan and not to some individuals.”

Bougainville Copper, which is no longer associated with Rio, has estimated it would take seven to eight years and $5 billion to $6 billion to rebuild the mine and resume full operations. The company is blamed by many locals for contamination attributed to the mine.

“We retain strong levels of support among customary landowners within the project area,” Bougainville Copper said in a statement. “We have a trusted local team on the ground that continues to engage with project area communities.”

The Bougainville Mining Act 2015 strengthened landowner control and was designed to increase compensation to local communities and the island’s government from future mining to avoid a repeat of the bloodshed of the 1980s and 1990s. The government also decided not to renew Bougainville Copper’s exploration license, which the company is challenging in court.

In June 2019, Kuhns flew several landowners to the U.S. to meet potential investors, including representatives from Barrick Gold Corp. At the Harvard Club in Midtown Manhattan, where stuffed moose, bison and even an elephant head adorn the rooms, the landowners heard Kuhns deliver a PowerPoint presentation introducing potential investors to Bougainville.

Barrick declined to comment.

“Panguna mine can be rejuvenated and can be resuscitated for a couple of billion dollars,” said Kuhns in a follow up phone interview. “It’s going to take a major to do that.”

Among those also interested in Panguna is Jeff McGlinn, who made his fortune in mining and construction services through Western Australia-based NRW Holdings Ltd., which he co-founded. McGlinn, who resigned from NRW in 2010, is part of the glamorous world of Arabian horse breeding, mixing with models and celebrities at parties on the French Riviera and promoting luxury brands. He once gave an Arabian colt to Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli.

McGlinn’s roots in mining give him valuable experience for Panguna — one of NRW’s businesses was constructing dams that hold mining waste. He’s also linked to a recent effort by the island’s government to kick start development, when it created Bougainville Advance Mining. The government’s Executive Council proposed last year an amendment to the 2015 mining act that would give all available mining rights to the new company, in which McGlinn’s Caballus Mining would hold a stake.

That amendment drew criticism from landowners, as well as Bougainville Copper, the former mine operator, which says the proposal undermines its rights to mine Panguna. The bill was later shelved. A representative of Caballus said McGlinn was unavailable to comment.

Another interested party is Richard Hains, son of the Australian billionaire David Hains. Richard, famous for keeping wallabies on his Gloucestershire estate, has helped develop mines in some of the world’s most difficult places. He’s the largest shareholder of RTG Mining Inc., whose management team has financed, built and operated mines across Africa and Asia, including the Boroo gold mine in Mongolia.

“Some of the best opportunities in the mining business in the 21st century are now in the more difficult commercial environments,” Hains said in a phone interview.

RTG believes it can restart production at Panguna through a staged process in as little as 18 months for about $800 million.

“It’s far smarter to start with a smaller footprint,” said RTG Chairman Michael Carrick. “Then in consultation with the community, we can turn up the mine’s operation.”

RTG operates a joint venture with the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association, a Panguna landowners group. The JV employs 15 people, including Philip Miriori, the chairman of the landowners group.

There are bigger fish too. Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. said in an emailed statement it has sent representatives to Bougainville to learn about the region and potential opportunities, confirming earlier reports. Founder Andrew Forrest is Australia’s second-richest person with a $10.2 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Shaw and Partners’ O’Connor said Chinese miners may also have a chance of redeveloping Panguna because they have a greater risk appetite and access to cheap financing.

But the Panguna landowners group Chairman Miriori said the people he represents aren’t interested in working with Chinese developers because of their poor environmental track record.

If anyone wins the right to develop Panguna or other parts of the autonomous region they will need to do so cautiously. Violence remains a constant threat in a community that is still fiercely divided.

A geologist working for Perth-based Kalia Ltd. was killed and seven others were injured in an attack in northern Bougainville in December, according to the local government and the company, whose chairman is former Australia Minister for Defence David Johnston. Authorities subsequently suspended Kalia’s exploration expeditions and geological field work.

There’s also a moratorium on work at Panguna because of sensitivity to restarting the mine, said Raymond Masono, Bougainville’s vice president and minister for mineral and energy resources.

“We are no longer talking with any investors about Panguna until the moratorium is lifted, and we don’t know when” that will be, he said by phone. “The government is treading very carefully on this particular mine.”

But prospects for restarting Panguna and allowing for the development of new mines are bolstered by the idea that Bougainville would need revenue to have any chance of financing an independent state. Many hope the mineral wealth could ultimately help reduce poverty for the region’s 300,000 people where estimated per capita GDP is only about $1,100.

That would depend not only on clearing the way to restart production, but a government able to make sure that enough of the proceeds are used to fund development. “Given the failure of mining in PNG to deliver really anything like sustainable development, those hopes may end up being disappointed,” said Luke Fletcher, executive director of Jubilee Australia, a group that has tracked the effect of resource extraction.

But the lure of riches mean miners aren’t likely to give up.

“Bougainville had almost no exploration for nearly 40 years,” said Mike Johnston, executive director of Kalia. “There’s no other place like it on the planet.”

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Bougainville president accuses mining company of lying to Australian stock exchange

Bougainville’s Panguna mine, for which RTG Mining is seeking an exploration licence.

John Momis says his government ‘will not rest’ until Australian-linked miner seeking licence for Panguna mine is banned for life from Bougainville and PNG

Kate Lyons | The Guardian | 24 January 2020

The president of the autonomous Bougainville government has accused an Australian-linked mining company of lying to the Australian Securities Exchange over its plans to reopen one of the world’s largest copper mines.

In a scathing statement, John Momis, the president of the autonomous Bougainville region, accused the Australian-linked RTG Mining of “lies and deceptions” and said his government “will not rest until all RTG and their executives are banned for life from Bougainville and Papua New Guinea”.

Momis was referring to a statement issued by RTG Mining to the ASX on Tuesday in which the company sought to clarify recent press reports, which have alleged that RTG staff are banned from entering Papua New Guinea.

In December, after the results of a referendum that saw almost 98% of Bougainvilleans vote in favour of independence from PNG, Momis issued a warning banning people affiliated with certain foreign mining companies, including six from RTG and one from Kalia Group, from entering Bougainville. Momis said they were creating “disharmony” in the region and that he had sought the assistance of the PNG prime minister and office of immigration and border security to assist with keeping them out of Bougainville.

However, RTG clarified in its statement to the ASX that its executives were “not banned from travel to Papua New Guinea” and emphasised that “the national government currently [have] constitutional authority over border control for the country”.

RTG is seeking to secure an exploration licence at the Panguna mine in Bougainville. The Panguna mine was at the heart of the brutal civil war in the region that saw an estimated 20,000 people killed between 1988 and 1997. The mine, which once provided 45% of Papua New Guinea’s export income, has been mothballed since the conflict began, but there has been talk about reopening it.

Among the companies in talks about resuming mining in Bougainville are RTG, which is listed on the Canadian and Australian stock exchanges, ASX-listed Kalia, Bougainville Copper Limited, a former subsidiary of Rio Tinto that ran the Panguna mine in the 1970s and 1980s, and Caballus Mining.

Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has also expressed interest in mining in Bougainville, with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting that representatives of his mining company, Fortescue, travelled there in 2019 to explore “potential opportunities”.

There are disputes over land rights at the Panguna mine site, but RTG is the joint venture partner of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA). RTG wrote in their statement to the ASX that the members of the SMLOLA “are the customary landowners who own the minerals at the Panguna Mine under the Bougainville Mining Act”.

However, Momis said the SMLOLA was established under an old system and that the autonomous Bougainville government considered its claims over the mine “illegal, null and void”.

There are concerns that disputes over land rights at the mine site might reignite tensions in the region. The Bougainville government enacted an indefinite moratorium on renewing the licence of BCL, a controversial mining company, in January 2018 over fears it could reignite violent civil conflict. However, since then, the government has shown signs that it was in favour of restarting mining in the region.

Despite voting for independence from PNG, the question of how an independent Bougainville would support itself hangs over the vote, with some experts saying it is impossible for Bougainville to become financially independent without a strong mining industry and that it would take much longer for other mining projects to be established and become profitable than it would take to reopen Panguna.

The autonomous Bougainville government and RTG Mining were contacted for comment.

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ABG President refutes RTG claims

Autonomous Bougainville Government President John Momis.

One PNG | 22 January 2020

I refer to RTG Mining Inc.’s most recent announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) dated 21st January 2020 whereby RTG deliberately made false claims to mislead their shareholders, the general public and the ASX.

Firstly, the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA) was an entity established under the controversial Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) regime, which mistakenly placed landowners into individual blocks. This is in fact inconsistent with the traditional land inheritance system whereby land is owned by clans and families. The ABG has started the process to rectify this grave past mistake with the rejection of BCL’s licence over Panguna, thereby deeming all current mine affected landowner associations, including SMLOLA illegal, null and void.

So while it is true that RTG are the joint venture partner of SMLOLA as they have confirmed, I would like to confirm SMLOLA have no legal rights over Panguna and cannot enter into any legally binding agreements relating to Panguna. I am happy to advise however that the ABG will be assisting the true and genuine landowners to ensure proper social mapping is carried out in order to establish new legal landowner associations and entities.

Secondly, as per a media statement released from my Office on the 23rd December 2019, I would like to re-confirm and reiterate that the below RTG executives currently still have a travel ban on them, preventing them from entering Bougainville:

  1. Mr Michael J Carrick – Chairman of RTG Mining
  2. Ms Justine A Magee – CEO and Executive Director of RTG Mining
  3. Mr Mark Turner – COO of RTG Mining
  4. Mr Robert N Smith – Non-Executive Director of RTG Mining
  5. Mr Phillip C Lockyer – Non-Executive Director of RTG Mining

I also re-confirm and reiterate that this travel ban will not be uplifted under any circumstance. Whilst there was a travel ban into Papua New Guinea, it has recently been uplifted due to RTG’s lies and deceptions to the PNG government and immigration department about their purported involvement in the Mt Kare project – a project that the world knows it will not succeed. It is therefore concluded that RTG have taken advantage of the fact that both the PNG and ABG operate independently of each other and do not always consult each other on foreign companies, and that RTG’s interest in the Mt Kare project is merely an expensive ploy and deceptive tactic to be able to have a presence in PNG and access to their only real interest – the financial rewards of the Panguna pit.

RTG and their executives should be totally and utterly ashamed of themselves for their corrupt, disruptive and divisive behaviour. They have tried to take advantage of our landowners and people and have shown a complete lack of respect for government authorities. RTG have completely misled the markets for their own financial gain and convenience. The ABG will not rest until all RTG and their executives are banned for life from Bougainville and Papua New Guinea.

As it is my duty to protect the people of Bougainville from immoral charlatans, I appeal to the ASX, TSX and OTCQB, as your duty to protect current and potential shareholders, that you perform a full investigation into RTG Mining and their executives and their misconduct. My Government would be more than happy to assist you with any enquiries relating to RTG and their activities whilst in Bougainville.

For current and potential shareholders and financial markets, I hope that this clears up any confusion or misunderstanding on RTG Mining’s position in Papua New Guinea, Bougainville and Panguna.

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Panguna Landowners Question Mining Law Changes

Post Courier | January 6, 2020

The Panguna landowners have called for consultation ahead of renewed push to amend Bougainville’s Mining Laws. In a recent interview with Reuters, Bougainville vice-president and Mining Minister Raymond Masono said, in reference to his determination to push through with highly controversial amendment of mining legislation at all costs, that “the revolution is ongoing”.

Philip Miriori, the chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (“SMLOLA”) said; “There has been no consultation by the Mining Department with landowners post the rejection of amending legislation by the Bougainville Parliamentary legislative committee – none.”

“This legislation is opposed by each and every Panguna Landowner Association, local government bodies and all sections of the community. It will be a disaster for the mining industry in Bougainville and will ensure Panguna is never reopened.”

“Both the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the national government want Panguna to be reopened, so that it can reduce the dependency of Bougainville on the PNG national budget and enable us to deliver fiscal self-reliance for all Bougainvilleans,”

Lawrence Daveona said, “The Panguna landowners have written to Prime Minister James Marape, drawing his attention to this offensive and destructive attack on all Bougainville landowner’s hard-won legal rights being removed with the stroke of the pen, to allow the illegal transfer of the Panguna mine together with a near monopoly over all future large scale mining on Bougainville, to an unknown shelf company in the British Virgin Islands, based on a plan which can never work. PNG knows better than we do that, we must attract high quality foreign investment to grow and that means bringing in reputable development partners and allowing them to work with us to make Panguna and Bougainville a success.”

“This is the time for us all to pull together on the back of a very successful and peaceful Referendum. The revolution is done – a proposal like this will only create disharmony again and pit customary landowners against the mining department which is not necessary – we are here to work together co-operatively, to find a fair and equitable solution for everyone.”

The SMLOLA was established by the Autonomous Bougainville Government September 7 2011 with its Constitution being drafted by the ABG Mining Department.

The SMLOLA was established uniquely for and on behalf of all the customary landowners who own land contained within the area covered by the special mining lease at Panguna and now the subject of the expired EL 01, including the land used for the Panguna gold and copper mine pit, industrial processing areas, Panguna township and the areas around the mine within the area contained in EL 01.

The stated purposes of the SMLOLA pursuant to its Constitution is set out in detail in clauses 1.2 (a) – (h), and includes amongst other things, the duty to maximise the commercial benefits of their members in the Panguna Mine and promote peace, unity and co-operation amongst landowners in a sustainable manner.

The customary landowners and their families are members of the SMLOLA by right of birth within the 7 named villages, in accordance with the Naisoi custom, and as set out in clause 2.1.1(a) of the SMLOLA constitution.

The SMLOLA has in excess of 3,500 members.

The governing body of the SMLOLA is democratically elected every three years as required by clause 4.3.3 of the constitution, by the members so that its structure and board is truly representative of the owners. The current board was elected on 21 December 2018.

Section 8 of the Bougainville Mining Act states that “all minerals existing on, in or below the surface of customary land in Bougainville are the property of the owners of the customary land.

This is exactly the same as our unwritten customary law on minerals ownership that has been in effect for millennia.

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Bougainville landowners seek help from PNG prime minister

Panguna. RNZ/Johnny Blades.

Radio New Zealand | 3 January 2020 

A landowner group at the site of the Panguna Mine has asked the Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape to intervene in its dispute with the Bougainville Mining Department.

The group, the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners, or SMLOLA, has written to the prime minister detailing its concerns that it is being shut out of involvement in any re-opening of the mine.

A resumption of mining at Panguna, closed by the civil war, has been touted by several groups as the way for Bougainville to develop a viable economy.

SMLOLA said since Raymond Masono became Mining Minister two years ago it has been shut out of any talks, despite it being one of the groups which own the minerals under the Bougainville Government’s Mining Act.

It said it feared the Mining Department was driving secret, controversial changes to this measure without the support of the wider Bougainville Government.

And it said a call for a travel ban on executives from its Australian partner, RTG, was disrespectful.

SMLOLA said the claims from the Bougainville Government about these executives causing disharmony by disrespecting local custom are “misleading and without factual substance”.

Attempts by RNZ Pacific to reach Raymond Masono for comment have been unsuccessful.

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