Bougainville landowners to write 2000 signature petition over Panguna mine

Ewen Hosie | Australian Mining | December 11, 2017

Landowners in Bougainville, an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea, have expressed backing for an RTG Mining-led consortium to take over the abandoned Panguna mine instead of Bougainville Copper (BCL). The landowners are expected to present a 2000-signature petition in opposition of BCL.

The long-dormant copper mine, abandoned since 1989 due to local conflicts, is currently under consideration for redevelopment by BCL, which is now partially owned by the Bougainville Government.

The rival consortium, Central Me’ekamui Exploration, said it has the backing of local landowners, including the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA), however, and representatives of RTG Mining said that the BCL’s problems regarding its legacy in the region were “insurmountable”. The mine, while non-operational for three decades, was owned by Rio Tinto until last year.

The Bougainville Government has accused the consortium of bribing landowners.

“The Autonomous Bougainville Government will not entertain companies who use the back door or break and enter through the window using self-centred individuals who think they have a monopoly over the people’s resources or represent their interests,” said mining minister Raymond Masono.

The mine’s relaunch remains a keystone of Bougainville’s upcoming independence plans; Bougainville’s regional cabinet is expected to finalise Panguna’s exploration licence next year.

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Industry and government a mine of misinformation

Mining and petroleum companies contribute just 1.5% of government revenues – not over 50% as they like to suggest

The much championed size and importance of the mining sector in Papua New Guinea is really all smoke and mirrors; an elaborate charade crafted through a mine of misinformation generated by industry and the government – and repeatedly broadcast by an unquestioning and compliant media.

The favourite line is that the mining sector generates of 50% of Papua New Guinea’s revenue – a statistic spouted by everyone from the Mining Minister, Johnson Tuke, down, at the recent Mining and Petroleum conference in Port Moresby.

GREAT! But what does this figure of 50% really mean and who benefits from that revenue?

Well it is certainly not the government or people of PNG!

Government revenue is generated by taxes and the mining and petroleum sector contributes but a small percentage of tax revenues, as revealed in a recent article from Nelson Atip Nema. His analysis shows that the revenue to government generated by mining and petroleum taxes is currently just K100 million a year, and that figure is still falling, despite Tuke telling everyone at the mining conference revenues were UP 13.4 % last year…

Mining and petroleum tax revenues. Nelson Atip Nema and Stephen Howes | DevPolicy Blog

In contrast to the K100 million paid by the mining industry, personal income tax, the money paid by us, the workers, to the government every year, is a whopping K3,000 million. In addition, the corporate taxes paid by the non-mining sector are over K2,000 million a year and tax collected on GST is almost K1,500 million a year, as shown in the graph below.

Graph by Nelson Atip Nema and Stephen Howes | DevPolicy Blog

So, for the government, non mining taxes generate over K6,500 million and mining and petroleum sector just K100 million. So rather than ‘over 50% of revenue’, in truth the mining and petroleum companies provide just 1.5% of government revenue.

Funny we never hear the Minister, MRA or the mining companies telling us that!

It is not that their ‘over 50%’ figure is not true it is just that it refers to ‘export revenue’, that is all the money extracted from Papua New Guinea every year – not government revenue. The mining and petroleum industries account for over 50% of all the MONEY TAKEN OUT OF PNG EVERY YEAR, much of it to be stashed away in off-shore tax havens.

Great for the foreign owned mining companies, but not for us!

The employment numbers we also hear so much about also don’t stack up to much when subjected to basic scrutiny.

The industry claim the sector employs as many as 17,000.

GREAT! Sounds like a big number right, 17,000, but remember that is just a TINY 0.2% of our population!

In contrast, 82% of our population over the age of ten is engaged in small-scale farming, according to the 2010 census and the United Nations.

Three million famers or 17,000 employees, which sounds more important?

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Bougainville landowners back rival consortium to take over controversial Panguna copper mine

People supporting a rival mining consortium hold anti-BCL signs at the Panguna mine site. (Facebook: Me’ekamui)

Eric Tlozek | ABC News | 11 December 2017

The Bougainville Government is holding a crucial mining warden’s hearing at the abandoned copper mine which sparked a decade-long armed insurgency against the Papua New Guinea Government.

Key points:

  • RTG Mining chairman Michael Carrick says a proposal by the Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited consortium is more realistic and “for the benefit of the people of Bougainville”
  • But BCL company secretary Mark Hitchcock says the consortium’s conduct is “less than honourable”
  • Bougainville’s Mining Secretary Shadrach Himata says all landowners will be asked for their views

The hearing will help determine if the company Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), which was forced to abandon the Panguna mine in 1989, should retain an exploration licence for the site.

The Bougainville Government now owns part of Bougainville Copper Limited and wants it to redevelop the mine, but a rival consortium is challenging their bid, and said it has the support of key landowners from Panguna.

That consortium, Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited, includes ASX-listed RTG Mining.

RTG’s chairman Michael Carrick said the group’s proposal was more realistic and better-supported by the people of Panguna.

“[It’s] a sensible and well-supported and economically deliverable proposal to develop the mine for the benefit of all the people of Bougainville,” he said.

RTG Mining has told the Bougainville Government that BCL’s exploration licence for Panguna has expired and legally cannot be renewed.

It wants the Bougainville Government to consider its application instead, saying the landowner association for the mine pit, the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA), backs its bid and would present a 2,000-signature petition in opposition to BCL.

“For the first time in 30 years a mining company has been endorsed and supported by the SMLOLA,” Mr Carrick said.

RTG Mining said longstanding resentment against BCL over the conflict and the ongoing environmental problems caused by their sudden withdrawal would prevent the company from being able to operate the mine again.

“The legacy issues for BCL are insurmountable,” Mr Carrick said.

He said the landowners would present a 2000-signature petition in opposition to BCL.

There is a legal dispute over who rightfully chairs the landowner association.

RTG Mining said the dispute had been settled with their preferred candidate, Philip Miriori, in charge; the Bougainville Government said the mediation had failed and that the matter is still before the courts.

PHOTO: The Panguna mine was abandoned in 1989 after an armed uprising known as the Bougainville Crisis. (AAP Image: Ilya Gridneff)

The Bougainville Government has also criticised the consortium for paying landowners who support them and implied it is not respecting the approval process.

“The Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) will not entertain companies who use the back door or break and enter through the window using self-centred individuals who think they have a monopoly over the people’s resources or represent their interests,” Mining Minister Raymond Masono said in a statement.

“… The ABG rejects companies that think they can bribe their way into people’s resources by giving certain individuals money to gain landowner consent.”

The ABG has had the PNG Government ban the key executive from Central Exploration, Sydney lawyer Renzie Duncan, from coming to Papua New Guinea.

Michael Carrick from RTG Mining says the consortium has been dealing openly with the Bougainville Government and that landowner payments are wages for its employees.

“The wages paid are in respect of services rendered to the joint venture,” he said.

“The joint venture is a commercial operation and landowners, like anyone else, are able to work and to get paid for their services.

“Our dealings with landowners have been completely transparent and professional.”

Mr Carrick said the intent of the travel ban against Mr Duncan appeared to be to help Bougainville Copper Limited.

“It is clear the ABG, on the appointment of the new mining minister, supported BCL and the temporary banning of Renzie, I assume, is designed to limit the support that could be afforded to the landowners of Panguna,” he said.

Bougainville Copper Limited is deeply unhappy with RTG Mining and its partners.

“We think they’re less than honourable in how they’re carrying on their conduct and their activities in the area,” BCL company secretary Mark Hitchcock said.

He said BCL’s licence application was legal, and wasn’t processed on time because the Bougainville Government wasn’t ready to implement the processes of its new Mining Act.

“The department didn’t have the resources to manage the application at the time it was taking place,” he said.

“It now has all those facilities in place.”

Landowners set to weigh-in on hearing

Mr Hitchcock said many landowners do support BCL, but are not being properly represented.

“From what we’ve seen, there is widespread support for mining in Panguna and mining with Bougainville Copper,” he said.

Bougainville’s Mining Secretary Shadrach Himata said all landowners will be asked for their views as part of the approval process, not just the leaders of the association.

“The warden’s hearing is a process that will engage the views of all the landowners in the resource areas,” he said.

“It won’t be affected by the leadership tussle of the SMLOLA landowners.”

Crucially, Mr Himata, said BCL is the only company currently being considered by the Bougainville Government.

“Right now, the only legal applicant on the exploration tenement is BCL,” he said.

“Until that process is completed, there are no other applicants or applications over the same tenement. That’s the position of Government.”

The eventual decision on the exploration licence will be made by the Bougainville Executive Council, the regional government’s Cabinet, probably sometime in 2018.

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RTG Increases Its Interest in the Panguna Landowners Joint Venture Partner

ANNOUNCEMENT TO THE TORONTO AND AUSTRALIAN STOCK EXCHANGES

RTG | Stockhouse | 8 December 2017

The Board of RTG Mining Inc. is pleased to announce that through a further direct investment and conversion of loans in Central Exploration Pty Ltd (“Central”), RTG has increased its interest in Central to 24%. Michael Carrick is now Chairman of Central and Justine Magee has also been appointed a director of Central. In addition one of RTG’s major shareholders (interests represented by Mr. Richard Hains, who also independently provided early stage funding to Central), has a 32% interest in Central. 

As announced previously, Central is the joint venture partner of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (“SMLOLA”), being the owners of the minerals at the old Panguna Mine. The joint venture is held through Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited who has applied for an exploration licence over the customary land of the SMLOLA members, being the old Panguna Mine. The SMLOLA has nominated RTG as their development partner for Panguna.

The Autonomous Bougainville Government (“ABG”) is currently considering all exploration licence (“EL”) applications, including the purported EL renewal application of Bougainville Copper Limited. Both the SMLOLA and RTG are committed to working with the ABG to ensure both the ABG itself, and all Bougainvilleans benefit from any redevelopment of Panguna.

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Locals file case to stop seabed mining

Jemimah Sukbat | Loop PNG | December 8, 2017

The Solwara Alliance has filed a case against the government at the Waigani National Court to stop the operation of seabed mining in West Coast New Ireland.

Filed on Thursday afternoon, the Alliance wants the Government to make public all necessary and relevant documents under seabed mining agreement, who is involved in approving the project and on what grounds and why the government is still pursuing the project.

Jonathan Mesulam, a West Coast New Irelander and a member of the Solwara Alliance, says the people in the village are strongly against seabed mining because their livelihood will be affected by the project. They want the Government to ban the project.

“No one knows the environmental impacts of this project. There is also no independent environmental studies so why is the government pushing for this project?

“There will be negative impacts in the local and national economy, especially the fisheries sector,” says Mesulam, who is currently in Port Moresby to file the case.

“Solwara 1 is not a good investment, it will only last for three years.”

They want the developer, Nautilus Minerals Limited, to pack up and leave by next year.

When asked if the villagers were consulted before the agreement was signed, Mesulam said the developer never consulted the locals.

“This MOA was signed by a few people who only think about themselves.”

From the footages taken from the villages along West Coast New Ireland, the people say they own both the land and sea and the mining will greatly affect their lifestyle, especially in shark-calling.

Mesulam said New Ireland does not need a seabed mine. They already have fish, cocoa, coconut and other resources where they can depend on for economic benefits.

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Bougainville Vice President warns Panguna Landowners

The abandoned Panguna mine pit, as it is today. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

DO NOT MEDDLE WITH PANGUNA SAYS MASONO

By Aloysius Laukai | New Dawn | 6 December 2017

ABG Vice President and Minister for Mining, RAYMOND MASONO is calling on Panguna leaders, PHILIP MIRIORI and LAWRENCE DAVEONA to know that the Panguna mine is no ordinary mine.

He said that the Panguna mine has a bad history that has crippled the economy of PNG and Bougainville and with many lives lost fighting for it.

The Vice President said that the Panguna mine no longer belongs to the landowners because Bougainvilleans blood were spilt over that particular mine.

He said that whilst the resources in Panguna and other parts of Bougainville might belong to the people, the ABG has a responsibility to protect its people from unscrupulous companies whose sole interest is to exploit our people for their own economic interests.

The Vice President said that we have seen how Bougainvilleans were exploited by foreigners since colonial days and the ABG does not want a repeat of the past.

He said that he was surprised that certain individuals can so easily sell their birth right for as little as FOURTY THOUSAND KINA a month to a foreign company when foreign exploitation was one of the issues against which our people fought and died.

Also the ABG rejects companies that think they can bribe their way into the people’s resources by giving certain individuals money to gain landowner consent.

PANGUNA WILL BE DEVELOPED SAYS VICE PRESIDENT

The ABG Vice President and Mining Minister, RAYMOND MASONO says that the PANGUNA MINE in Central Bougainville will be re-developed under the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 and by a developer or developers who respect the Autonomous Bougainville Government and its laws.

In a press statement, MR. MASONO said that the developer must also come through the main door.

MR. MASONO made these remarks when commenting on a statement by RTG of a deal supposedly made between MR. PHILIP MIRIORI and LAWRENCE DAVEONA to support RTG to develop the PANGUNA mine.

He said that it seems ironic that two people who were fighting over the leadership of the Osikayang Landowners Association in court, a mediation case which is still the subject of a court decision can suddenly reconcile to support a company that does not respect the legitimate government and its mining laws.

The Vice President said that the ABG, the landowners and the people of Bougainville will not entertain companies who use the back door or break and enter through the window using self-centred individuals who think that they have a monopoly over the people’s resources or represent their interests.

He said that the landowners will decide who the preferred developer would be through a transparent process undertaken by the ABG Department of Minerals and Energy Resources currently underway.

MR. MASONO said that the process has not yet been exhausted and any deals supposedly made between landowner leaders,companies,or the National Government and in particular RTG are premature at this stage.

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Nautilus can’t pay its suppliers and may fold

Nautilus is again warning it has no cash and may need to sell

Talks still on over seafloor system

The National aka The Loggers Times | December 7, 2017

NAUTILUS says discussions between the company and various parties involved in the manufacture of the seafloor production system is continuing.
Nautilus in a statement said it was making progress with respect to deferring some of its immediate cash-flow requirements.
And as a result, the company is updating its previous reference to a funding requirement of US$10 mil (K31.45mil).
Nautilus said there could be no assurances that the company would be successful in securing the necessary additional financing transactions within the required time or at all.
Failure to secure the necessary financing may result in the company engaging specialist advisers and taking various steps aimed at maximising shareholder value such as undertaking various transactions including, without limitation, asset sales, joint ventures and capital restructuring.

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