Category Archives: Mine construction

Group wants deep-sea mine permit, licence cancelled

The National aka The Loggers Times | March 16, 2020

A GROUP of people concerned about the implications of deep-sea mining wants the Government to cancel the environment permit and mining licence granted to Nautilus Minerals Niugini Ltd.

The group is led by Jonathan Mesulam of the Alliance of Solwara Warriors, Peter Bosip, the director for the Centre of Environmental Law and Community Rights, Marie Mondu, the development secretary of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of PNG and the Solomon Islands, and Cardinal Sir John Ribat, the Archbishop of Port Moresby, in association with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Coffee Industry support project, Caritas and the Social Communication of CBC PNGSI.

Mesulam said there was a lot of debate and opposition to the project since 2011 and with the project being declared “a failed project” the goal was achieved and asked the Government to go further and cancel its mining and exploration licence.

“The Solwara 1 Project has been declared a failed project in a public statement by the managing director of Mineral Resources Authority Jerry Garry in The National of Jan 24, 2020,” he said.

“The mining licence was given in 2011 and there is no mining, why is the company still holding onto the licence?

“The Government has to cancel the licence before the end of this year,” Mesulam said.

“As stewards of the sea and future, we are now giving notice to the responsible ministers to cancel the seabed mining licence ML154.”

Bosip said the deep-sea mining in PNG was the first of its kind in the world and “we do not know the negative impacts of it”.

“We do not know the best method of mitigating its negative impacts that will arise, we are not prepared to face the negative impact of deep-sea mining.”

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Wafi-Golpu Negotiations Have Not Recommenced – Newcrest

Matthew Vari| Post Courier | March 16, 2020

NEGOTIATIONS into Morobe’s Wafi-Golpu project is still pending according to project joint venture partner Newcrest Mining Limited.

Newcrest Mining PNG country manager Mr Stanley Komunt said this in response this paper queries in relation to comments made by Mining Minister Johnson Tuke last month on government’s intention to resumes negotiation following the dismissal of the memorandum of understanding in court case relating to the project.

Mr Komunt said the main reason for uncertainty was the relays [sic] in the proposed revised mining act, which is still yet to be passed by government and  how concerns raised may be factored into the amended act.

“We from the JV’s point of view have not made a commitment as yet to progress any discussions.

“There is a couple of reasons why and number one is more to do with the current discussions on the revised mining bill.

“We really don’t know where that is going to end. Whilst the Prime Minister has given us, the industry and SNT (State Negotiating Team) team to go and back and since our meeting in January 17 in Brisbane.

“He has given us two months and we have been meeting last month now and we are slowly getting there but there is still some major, not so much disagreement, but misalignment I would say,” Mr Komunt pointed out.

Komunt pointed out other particulars also in the air such as benefit sharing, royalty and contracts have all been relayed to the minister responsible for mining.

“Whilst we appreciate, the company, not only us but the industry appreciates that country needs to get a better share and we want to make sure that is realized through the negotiations that we will have.

“We are not quite there yet to start the negotiations for Wafi. We have relayed that to the minister.

“Because if the revised mining act changes it will have an impact on the project economics and how we have done our planning and that is a major concern and we can’t do anything.

Prime Minister Marape has indicated his government is set on delivering the project, a point Komunt added the PM is well aware and supportive of an understanding going forward.

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Oil Search works to revive Exxon, Papua New Guinea talks on LNG expansion

Reuters | 25 February 2020

Oil Search Ltd is pressing to revive talks between Exxon Mobil Corp and the Papua New Guinea government over a $13 billion plan to double the country’s natural gas exports, the company’s new boss said on Tuesday.

Oil Search’s new Chief Executive Officer Keiran Wulff said he hoped negotiations could resume “within weeks” between its partner Exxon and the state.

The government ditched talks in January with Exxon on terms for developing the P’nyang gas field to feed an expansion of Exxon’s PNG liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant, amid a push to reap more benefits from resources projects for the impoverished South Pacific nation.

Oil Search’s veteran boss Peter Botten, who just retired as CEO but is still working for the company, is sounding out the government this week on what it would need to resume talks, Wulff said.

“We would hope to see some sort of formal negotiations recommence between Exxon and the state negotiating team within a reasonable period of time,” Wulff told Reuters in an interview after the company released earnings earlier on Tuesday.

“We’re hopeful that it’s weeks. We don’t think it’ll be months,” he said.

Oil Search reported an 8% fall in annual net profit to $312.4 million, hit by weaker oil and LNG prices, missing analysts’ forecasts of around $339 million, according to Refinitiv IBES estimates.

Oil Search’s growth prospects are largely tied to a combined plan to develop P’nyang and Papua LNG, led by France’s Total SA, to feed three new processing units, called trains, at Exxon’s PNG LNG plant.

All the partners want a three-train development, Oil Search said, as sharing infrastructure would be the most efficient way to develop P’nyang and Papua LNG.

“For us we’re strongly behind the operator to pursue a three-train development, which is as much in the joint venture’s interest as it is in the state’s,” Wulff said.

He said they would only consider a two-train development without P’nyang “after all options were exhausted”.

Exxon Mobil had no immediate comment, but Chief Executive Darren Woods said earlier this month the company hoped to revive talks on P’nyang to get to a “win-win proposition”.

The coronavirus has dampened demand for LNG from China, but Oil Search said it expected that only to be a short term issue.

“We are confident in our ability to secure LNG offtake agreements once we resume discussions with potential Asian buyers, due to the attractiveness of LNG from PNG,” Botten said in a statement.

If an agreement is reached on P’nyang and early engineering work on a three-train development begins in 2020, Oil Search expects its capital spending this year will be in the range of $710 million to $845 million.

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Booting Exxon gives Marape a boost – for now

Western Highlands province in Papua New Guinea, the region of the proposed P’nyang LNG development (ADB/Flickr)

The rejection of the P’nyang LNG deal signals a new way of doing business, and a shifting landscape for US concerns.

Bal Kama | The Interpreter | 19 February 2020

The recent announcement of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Government to cease all negotiations with one of the United States’ largest oil and gas companies, Exxon Mobil, over the P’nyang LNG project, a new gas field in PNG, has broader implications for the US and Papua New Guinea.

At first glance, the decision against Exxon for allegedly acting in bad faith is part of a wider crackdown by the government of Prime Minister James Marape to ensure greater fairness in the resource sector. Since ousting then–Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in a vote of no-confidence in 2019, Marape has charted a different approach from that of his predecessor, under the banner of “Take Back PNG” – a larger policy objective to reassess PNG’s developmental direction and regain lost opportunities. Marape laid out his vision in his inaugural visit to Australia in 2019 and is gradually applying it in many sectors.

The decision illustrates the growing frustrations of dealing with investors in resource-rich PNG, and it further demonstrates an emerging crop of PNG leaders confident in reassessing the status quo. For the US, Exxon’s alleged conduct, criticised by the PNG government as being “exploitative”, undermines US efforts in the Pacific region as a force for good.

Exxon Mobil has a US$19 billion liquefied natural gas project in PNG (PNG LNG), which made its first shipment in 2014. The PNG LNG project, which remains the largest economic investment by the US in the Pacific, coincided with former US President Barack Obama’s announcement in 2012 of a “pivot to the Pacific” policy. The geopolitical scenario of the day, the excitement of having the US interested in PNG, and the high expectations surrounding a global and reputable company, among other factors, influenced the PNG government’s initial agreement for Exxon to operate the PNG LNG project. It was thought the deal would have a transformational impact on PNG’s economy – an assurance that continues to be projected by some quarters.

However, the overall economy of PNG did not experience the projected windfall. Instead, there were a series of negative outcomes over the years at both a national and a local level – national debts grew, and unfavourable benefit-sharing arrangements and royalties led to conflict among traditional resource landowners. Many have questioned whether the resource boom marked by the PNG LNG project was in fact a “resource curse”.

“Absolute bad faith”

The ousting of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in 2019 was partly a result of growing grievances over the failure to deliver on the promises of the Exxon-led project and other resource deals. An important issue was the high level of concessions made in those deals. Historically, PNG governments, desperate to become investor-friendly, have made hasty concessions that often disadvantaged the country from having a fair share of the revenue from the development of their resources.

In a 2016 report, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) observed that “the tax arrangements for PNG’s mining and petroleum sectors are very generous compared to other resource-rich countries and do not reflect the maturity of the PNG resource sector”. The World Bank, in a 2017 report, also found particularly for the Exxon-led LNG project that Exxon Mobil and its PNG LNG partners created “a complex web of exemptions and allowances that effectively mean that little revenue is received by government and landowners”.

The PNG government must share some burden of fault for creating this scenario – including, for instance, the failures by previous PNG governments to negotiate a favourable outcome for the country, the misuse of funds by political leaders, a politicised bureaucracy unable to carry out their due diligence, and judicial interventions that at times hinder payments to disgruntled landowners.

This does not, however, excuse Exxon and its partners from the grave unfairness suggested in these reports. This, together with his experience as a minister in previous governments, underpinned Marape’s firm stance on taking a different approach in the current deal on the P’nyang LNG project. In his appeal for Exxon Mobil to act fairly, Marape noted that “the initial terms [in the PNG LNG project] provided by PNG were so generous” and that new “reasonable terms” should be considered for the P’nyang project.

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape (C) at Parliament House in Canberra, during a six-day visit to Australia in July 2019 (Mick Tsikas/AFP via Getty Images)

The terms proposed by the PNG government are not publicly available, but they appear to include giving no fiscal concessions in P’nyang, treating it as separate project from the current LNG projects and increasing domestic market obligations, local content participation, and landowner’s royalties from the current rate of two percent. The Prime Minister described Exxon’s refusal to accept the terms as a move to “extract even more profit for themselves”, while Kerenga Kua, the Minister for Petroleum and Energy denounced Exxon as acting in “absolute bad faith” and coming into PNG “with a determination to exploit our vulnerabilities, exploit us for our weak economic position and take advantage of us”.

A principled populist

The firm position taken by the Marape government is historic – no previous government has ever taken such an approach. PNG has had resource deals in the past that have resulted unfavourably for the country, but past governments have been shown to align more closely with investors than with their citizens.

The leaders and the people of PNG appear to be supportive of Marape’s approach. Further, the government is considering amending and tightening the legislative framework to ensure an equitable resource sector.

Marape is unlikely to concede to Exxon Mobil, as he insists: “You win for your shareholders, and I win for my people”. James Donald, a Member of Parliament representing the area where P’nyang LNG site is located, cautioned Exxon against crossing “a line between commercial parity and commercial greed”. Other MPs representing the resource areas have also demonstrated support for Marape’s stance against Exxon.

The PNG government is likely to reconsider its current position if Exxon responds positively to its terms. Unless that happens, however, there appears to be a general distrust for Exxon among the people of PNG – a situation far from the hope Exxon represented when it first entered the country. The distrust for Exxon has broader implications when one considers Exxon not only represents US economic prestige in the Pacific, but a society whose business ideals are expected to reflect the democratic values of fairness and just outcomes. The longer this tussle between Exxon and the PNG Government continues, the greater the distrust is likely to be, not only for Exxon, but for what it represents – the United States – in the Pacific.

As the vote of no-confidence scheme against a sitting government in PNG resumes later this year, those affected by Marape’s firm policies may hope for a change in government. In the fluid political landscape of PNG, a populist and comparatively principled Marape faces a challenge beyond just his immediate political rivals, and inside company boardrooms. However, if anything, his approach to governance so far has been reassuring for the people of Papua New Guinea.

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Concern over Wafi-Golpu marine waste dumping

Landowners protest against marine waste dumping plans for the Ramu mine in 2010

Concern over proposed deep sea tailings outfall

The National aka The Loggers Times | February 12, 2020

MINISTER for Fisheries and Marine Resources Dr Lino Tom is unsure about the proposed deep sea tailing pipeline outfall (DSTPO) from the Wafi-Golpu project likely to go out at Wagang, few kilometres east from Lae city.

Wagang, in the Ahi local level government, is at the centre of the proposed construction of new fishery wharf project undertaken by the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) and the Wafi-Golpu project DSTPO.

Tom earlier said much of the revenue from fishery sector was generated from tuna. But he was uncertain about the DSTPO.

NFA managing director John Kasu said discussions were still underway.

“The NFA is aware of the proposed DSTPO and discussions are underway to find a common understanding” Kasu said.

Kasu, however, did not explain which Government agencies and private entities were trying to find a common ground for mitigation, should any consequences arise from the impact of the DSTPO if constructed.

Last Aug 20, Tom signed a memorandum of understanding with Morobe Governor Ginson Saonu to ensure that the NFA completed its geo-tech feasibility and land investigations to allow the start of the project construction.

Saonu wants to see the construction of the Wagang fisheries wharf start less than three years from now.

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Australia’s Newcrest says PNG gold project back on track as stay lifted

Reuters | 11 February 2020

Australia’s Newcrest Mining Ltd said on Tuesday Papua New Guinea’s national court dismissed a stay order on work relating to the Wafi-Golpu gold-copper project, paving the way for talks to resume on it with the Pacific country’s government.

The deal by Wafi-Golpu co-owners Newcrest Mining and South Africa’s Harmony Gold hit a bump when the Papua New Guinea government said in September it wanted to keep 40% of gold produced from the project.

The government then withdrew support for the memorandum of understanding in January due to delays caused by legal proceedings.

Newcrest shares have fallen more than 20% since September. They rose 0.6% on Tuesday, compared to a marginally lower Australian gold shares index.

The miners had been hoping to secure a mining lease over the major gold and copper deposit early last year, before a change in PNG’s leadership and a shift in minerals policy led to delays.

Newcrest and Harmony look forward to re-engaging with PNG and progressing on discussions about the special mining license, Australia’s largest listed gold miner said in a statement.

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PNG PM urges multi-nationals to allow gas project to proceed

Papua New Guinea’s prime minister James Marape. Photo: PNG PM Media Unit

Radio New Zealand | 8 February 2020

Papua New Guinea’s prime minister has urged two energy companies not to hold a major LNG gas project in his country to ransom.

James Marape’s appeal to ExxonMobil and Oil Search follows the failure of negotiations with the former over the fledgling $US13 billion P’nyang gas project

Oil Search said PNG was demanding terms of Exxon that meant the project developers would not gain a sufficient return on their investment.

But Mr Marape accused Exxon of a “lack of interest” to meet PNG halfway by offering concessions for a better state take from the deal.

The failure of the negotiations has raised doubt over the future of the separate Papua LNG gas project signed with French major Total.

Mr Marape said he called upon the two multi-nationals, as beneficiaries of concessions previous governments have given, to work with Total to deliver Papua LNG.

However, he appeared to leave the door open for an agreement with Exxon over the P’nyang gas project proceeding.

He said in the interests of fairness, a Ministerial Gas Committee would request both the state negotiating team and ExxonMobil to present their positions for the State – through a committee of leaders – to decide what is the best outcome for PNG.

The prime minister said he had indicated on all levels of discussions that fundamental policy principles that influenced his government’s mindset would not change.

“These include no fiscal concessions in P’nyang, treating P’nyang as separate from both PNG and Papua LNG projects, increase in Domestic Market Obligations and local content participation,” he said.

“These will be fundamental in progressing P’nyang.

“In the meantime, I call upon ExxonMobil and Oil Search not to hold the Total project in Gulf to ransom.

“If you model the project to be uneconomical, then don’t push it: let’s leave the gas in my land and you develop Papua plus further work in PNG LNG.

“After SNT and ExxonMobil present to the MGC, Cabinet will decide on P’nyang.”

Mr Marape said his government would shift focus to Wafi-Golpu and Porgera mines, and other resource sectors so life in PNG was not only dependent on P’nyang and other LNG gas projects.

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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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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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