Tag Archives: ABG

We are being softened up for the re-opening of Panguna mine

Panguna mine – now back in play

Leonard Fong Roka | PNG Attitude | 15 September 2017

PANGUNA – There is a lot happening in central Bougainville around the now derelict Panguna mine.

Two local groups, with external financial backing, are engaged in awareness programs – campaigning if you like – for re-opening the mine that operated for about 20 years until hostilities closed it in 1989.

Thence followed the loss of some 10-15,000 Bougainvillean lives and millions and millions of kina worth of damage to assets and property.

Both of these groups on the make are yet to explain to us who suffered directly in the 10 year civil war how this ‘awareness’ or ‘campaigning’ for the re-opening of the mine will affect us and what our role may be.

The English word ‘awareness’ (Concise Oxford 11th Edition) is defined as ‘having knowledge or perception of a situation or fact’ while campaign has two meanings: the military definition which I’ll ignore and the other – ‘an organised course of action to achieve a goal’.

Last Monday I sent a text message to Bougainville Copper Ltd manager Justin Rogers, who was about to board a plane from Buka to Port Moresby. The missive was about mine-related activities in Central Bougainville, especially about the mine re-opening which is being pushed aggressively by the leaders of both the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the Panguna New Generation Leaders (PNGL).

Mr Rogers’ reply said:

“The issue at the moment is interests in mineral rights. Our interest is to start a project to see if mining is viable. There is no mine until someone proves it is commercially and technically [viable].”

This communication shed some light that the current campaign to re-open the mine is a home-grown strategy devised by economically and financially uncreative leaders; a leadership that is not oriented to nation-building but blinded by a characteristic Third World dependency syndrome.

That is why the current themes being pushed down the throats of our poor people are, ‘no mining, no referendum’ and ‘no mining, no independence’.

It is clear to me that both the ABG and PNGL are campaigning for the re-opening of the mine.

I enquired of Mr Rogers why themes as ‘no mining, no referendum’ and ‘no mining, no independence’ were being promoted with BCL funding.

His response was simply:

“BCL hopes to come soon to Panguna and start delivering our own messages. Just letting mediation and MOU [memorandum of understanding] processes run their course first.”

So anxiety is being generated in the hearts and minds of the Bougainville people that the Bougainville referendum needs the Panguna mine and, if people vote ‘yes’ to independence that ‘yes’ will come to fruition only with the re-opening of Panguna mine.

This is the clear strategy of the Autonomous Bougainville Government and Panguna New Generation Leaders.

For us who live in and around Panguna, the ‘no mining, no referendum’ theme is unfounded. The referendum scheduled for 2019 will happen with or without mining in Panguna. It has been legislated for in the laws of PNG and Bougainville.

The fear triggered by ‘no mining, no independence’ is politically shortsighted.

If we vote for independence without a mine at Panguna and the result is upheld by PNG, our ‘yes’ will nullify all existing PNG laws that exploit the revenue we should be earning from our cocoa, copra, seaweed, sea cucumbers, alluvial gold and many other revenue sources.

These represent millions of dollars’ worth of income we never receive under the PNG state apparatus and their value measured against our population is more than the mine could generate after BCL and the PNG government get their shares.

Thus the callous activity of promoting the re-opening of the mine is a campaign and not an awareness program to educate the ordinary people of the Panguna, Bana and Kieta who have lost our land, jungle, rivers and more; and are considered by state and corporate interests as nobodies.

Let ABG, PNGL and BCL also tell us what they are doing to respect our Bougainvillean customs and traditional practices and what they will do to honour our lost relatives and property.


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2017 Bougainville Chocolate Festival

Post Courier | September 6, 2017

The 2017 Bougainville Chocolate Festival has officially begun. The Autonomous Bougainville Government Minister for Primary Industries, Marine Resources and Forestry Nicholas Darku and Australia’s Deputy High Commissioner Bronte Moules launched the two-day festival with a colourful and delicious ceremony in Arawa.

The event brings together cocoa farmers, chocolatiers, industry representatives and government officials to network and discuss market access, share improved farming and processing techniques. As well as sample the delicious chocolate made from Bougainville’s finest beans.

Minister Darku speaking at the opening ceremony said the festival is a culmination of efforts by the Bougainville Government and its stakeholders to revitalise the cocoa industry in Bougainville.

“The cocoa industry has significant and immediate growth potential for Bougainville. That’s why it makes sense to focus on rebuilding the industry to improve livelihoods of our people and at the same time, grow the economy,” Minister Darku said.

Ms Moules in her remarks commended the Autonomous Bougainville Government for its proactive efforts to boost the cocoa sector in Bougainville.

“We know that money from cocoa brings better health and education and more opportunities for Bougainvilleans. That’s why the Papua New Guinea-Australia Partnership, together with New Zealand, is working in Bougainville to help develop the cocoa value chain.

“Our partnership is working to improve the business environment and market access, increase production and quality and ultimately, put more money in the pockets of Bougainvillean farmers,” Ms Moules said.

The chocolate competition will again be a highlight at the festival this year. Farmers from throughout Bougainville have sent samples of their cocoa to Paradise Foods’ Queen Emma Chocolate Factory to be made into chocolate. A panel of local and international judges will then sample the chocolate before making a final decision on medal winners.

The Festival is an initiative of the Autonomous Bougainville Government led by the Department of Primary Industries in partnership with the Governments of Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand.

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More protests against resumption of mining on Bougainville

An abandoned building at Panguna mine site in Bougainville Photo: supplied

Radio New Zealand | 24 August 2017 

A group calling itself  ‘Bougainvilleans United Against Mining’ has re-stated its opposition to a resumption of mining at Panguna.

The government in the autonomous Papua New Guinea province wants the huge copper and gold mine re-opened to give the economy a lift ahead of the independence referendum in 2019.

Bougainville’s mining minister Raymond Masono this week applauded a joint resolution by ex-combatants to back the re-opening, but one of those praised by the minister, a former Bougainville Revolutionary Army commander, James Onartoo, says he and his group do not support it.

The minister’s comments came after weeks of mediation, but a spokesman for Mr Onartoo, Lawrence Mattau, told Don Wiseman of the barriers they faced at the talks before pulling out.

LAWRENCE MATTAU: The way things are going, things seemed to be bulldozed from one end only, the for mining faction only. They don’t seem to be respecting our stand, our view, our explanations on why we don’t want to talk about mining. The other side don’t seem to receive us and respect us and they think we are a small minority group and they are calling us ‘impediments’. They are calling us all sorts of names and there is a serious situation going on in Panguna concerning the Special Mining Lease Area titleholders. This issue too is not resolved and Philip Miriori [of SML Osikiang] has taken his own people to court. We don’t want to be involved in any mediation that has been orchestrated by the autonomous government.   

DON WISEMAN: They don’t respect you. Do they presume that you haven’t got the numbers, that you are an inconsequential group?

LM: They think we don’t have the numbers and it is the same rhetoric as before, in 1988 and 1989, before the conflict blew up. This is the same comment by the government of that time, it is still being repeated today by our own leaders and it seems that they have not learned any lessons.

DW: How many people support your “Bougainville People Against Mining” group?

LM: If you do a fact finding mission, doing polling or something, asking that question back in the village, every village will tell they don’t want to hear anything about mining in Bougainville. From the 350,000 people in Bougainville, maybe only about 20,000 people are talking about re-opening the mine.

DW: And for you guys, you are adamantly opposed to re-opening of any mine anywhere on Bougainville ever?

LM: My stand has always been we must run educational awareness right throughout Bougainville, concerning mining. If you support mining, or the re-opening of Panguna, you must give educational awareness to the people. What good is there if we have mining in operation. And those of us opposed to it must also give our view, facts and figures, supported by well document information, from experiences, from other mining companies’ history and those who are for mining must also support their stand with proper documentation; how can they clean up the tailings; how are they going to address the relocation of people. I am an ex-employee of BCL [Bougainville Copper Ltd] myself, so are all of us who are in the no-mining faction. We are all former employees of BCL and we have been involved and we know what we are talking about. What we are saying is don’t just assume that the majority are supporting re-opening. There is nil awareness, nil consultation. They think they have done consultation but we are locals, we know. ABG has never run any proper consultations with the people here.         

DW: Of course they say they have consulted until the cows come home. They have said they have been doing a lot of consultation but my question was would you ever, under any circumstances support a return to mining?

LM: Then it must be acceptable in the sense of, how do they protect our environment, where is the law. Environmental protection law, river law, relocation law, the profit sharing law – there is nothing. And our government has created itself a monster that it cannot cut the hairs. Cuttting the hair means shearing of sheep. They have created themselves a monster and they are looking for money to fund this monster. This is not a fully fledged government. This is still government that is going through motions of our political future and they should only create basic service providing departments, and find the money to fund only those. They have created unnecessarily a big public service and they cannot fund this delivery of services – that’s why they are running around looking for money. It’s a big problem.

DW: They have to develop an economy, don’t they, have a viable economy in place in time for the referendum. How will they do that, because the ABG has been relying on a resuumption of mining, and this has been the road they have been going down for years now. So what should they do instead?

LM: The problem is that the last 12 years has been wasted because people have been dreaming about re-opening the mine without first of all addressing the issues involved with the mine. We know what was wrong. We know why it was shut down. No one has ever addressed these issues – that is the problem. Even the SML, the Special Mining Lease area titleholders who are taking themselves to court. Now when they sort out their issues – and their title was given or issued by the colonial government in the late 1960s, once they set that issue there is going to be another issue that pops up, concerning that very area of land where the SML is. So, as locals I personally know what is involved, the seriousness of reactivating that SML and opening Panguna again. It’s a big issue.     

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Panguna Landowners: We will have the final say on mining

Fabian Hakalits | EMTV News / Asia Pacific Report | 30 August 2017

Panguna landowners will determine any reopening of the controversial mine on Bougainville, says a local leader.

Philip Miriori, chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Land Owners Association (SMLOLA) in Panguna, Philip Miriori, has told EMTV News that all parties and talks would go through them.

This was because the people in the Special Mining Lease area were greatly affected by the mine’s impacts when it was operating in the 1980s before the 10-year Bougainville civil war.

“We do not want the past to repeat itself but it must be a reminder to us now to get a better deal for the SMLOLA members and the rest of Bougainville,” he said.

Miriori said the past had gone, and history should not be repeated in Bougainville.

He claimed meetings had been conducted with resolutions and agreements passed which the SMLOLA were not a party to.

“They do not speak for me and my people but serve other interests,” he said.

‘Disrespectful’ to landowners
He said this was very disrespectful to the people of the SML area because they had no voice in the decisions that were being discussed by outsiders about their land on which their livelihood depended.

He also highlighted any decision or document signed to reopen the Panguna mine would be in contempt of court.

The court order restrains parties to the memorandum of agreement which was going to be signed in June this year to make Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) the preferred operator to reopen the mine.

This was because the question of the interests of landowners in the mining project would be an agenda of discussion at the court-ordered mediation in Panguna next month.

Miriori also highlighted that he had the mandate to represent his people through the SMLOLA and the National Court recognises him as chairman and not Lawrence Daveona.

Miriori maintained he was still the SMLPLA chairman until December 2018 when an election of a chairman would be held.

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Wars of words over Panguna as Bougainville moves to new era

Leonard Fong Roka | PNG Attitude | 26 August 2017

With Bougainville less than a year away from a referendum on its political future, the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and a local Panguna group known as the Meekamui Government of Unity are in a war of words over the re-opening of the Panguna copper and gold mine.

The ABG wants the now reformed Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) to operate the mine which it believes will finance the redevelopment of Bougainville.

But the Meekamui and the Osikaiyang Landowners Association are keen to see the mine opened by an Australian company they have aligned with called RTG.

Bougainville’s president John Momis has said the ABG will not allow a company with no track record to mine at Panguna.

The quarrel between the ABG and the Meekamui is potentially divisive and may affect peace-building efforts in the autonomous province.

BCL, through the Panguna Negotiation Office, is said to be funding a group calling itself Panguna New Generation Leaders which is aggressively pushing for the re-opening of the mine.

The Meekamui and its overseas backers are taking a more moderate stance but are determined to get RTG to develop the mine.

After a 10-year civil war, the signing of the Bougainville Peace Agreement in 2001 addressed the political problem but did not provide a settlement to cater for the Panguna problem which is still shimmering around us.

Meanwhile the 1980s vintage old landowners associations and the new landowners association are also still verbally brawling and attacking each other.

As this struggle goes on, we, the innocent people of Panguna, are being blamed by other Bougainvilleans of working to re-open Panguna.

On the BCL side we see no change of heart for the interests of the people of Bougainville who have suffered because of them and the PNG state.

Rio Tinto offloaded its shares to PNG and Bougainville so that we could see that it was changing its mind on the future of Panguna. But can we be sure? We need to watch to see if various personalities move to and fro between positions in BCL and Rio Tinto.

Let us hope we are not submerging into the violence of the 1990s even as we try to work through the peace agreement and move to the new dawn that next year’s referendum should represent.


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Former BRA Commander Denies Signing a Resolution to Reopen Panguna Mine

Chris Baria |  Bougainvilleans United Against Mining* | 23 August 2017

Former BRA commander opposed to the reopening of Panguna mine, James Onartoo has denied claims by the media and by the ABG Vice President, Raymond Masono that he and his group had signed a resolution with pro mining BRA Commanders, Ishmael Toroama, Sam Kauona and Glyn Tovirika paving way for the reopening of Panguna.

Mr Onartoo said that while he represented the silent majority who believe that mining was not the answer to Bougainville’s future, he had no authority to sign anything that will take away people’s resources and their rights to their land.

“I am one of the many who don’t support BCL or mining in Panguna or anywhere in Bougainville but I cannot claim to have the authority to sign a resolution or an agreement on their behalf, to reopen the mine at Panguna. The reports that you have seen in the Post Courier and in the statement by ABG Vice President are untrue,” he said

Mr. Onartoo also said that he and his group which includes, women, landowners and the ex- combatants of South and Central Bougainville remain firm that Panguna must not be reopened. He pointed out that ABG is weak and lacks laws and systems to effectively regulate and to deal with a large scale mine. He said that without these mechanisms in place mining will cause more harm than good to the region.

“Mr. Masono’s claims that only a minority opposed reopening of Panguna mine is totally untrue because, the silent majority are with us and our call for “no mining” in Bougainville is gaining popularity. More and more people are beginning to realize that mining can easily strip Bougainville of it’s independence by taking control of ABG and is already causing divisons among us the ex-combatants and landowners,” Mr Onartoo said.

Mr. Onartoo appealed to BRA commanders and ABG Vice Present not to mislead the people of Bougainville regarding sensitive issues such as mining. He said that leaders must act responsively give factual information to avoid confusion that disunity.

Meanwhile, ABG efforts to reopen Panguna were dealt another blow last week when ex- combatants and officers of Panguna Mine Negotiations (PMNO) under the influence of alcohol threatened a community volunteer worker, Theonila Matbob and her family. The threats were made over the hosting of a referendum awareness program with the help of visiting Melanesian indigenous rights advocacy group, MILDA. The program was move to Arawa following the encounter with pro mining elements in Panguna.

* Bougainvilleans United Against Mining

This group is comprised of South and Central Bougainville ex-combatants, women, landowners and members of the civil society who are opposed to mining. This the group which was involved with the women in successfully stopping the MOA signing to reopen the Panguna mine

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Bougainville group adamantly against renewed mining

Radio New Zealand |  23 August 2017

A group calling itself ‘Bougainvilleans United Against Mining’ has re-stated its opposition to a resumption of mining at Panguna.

The government in the autonomous Papua New Guinea province wants the huge copper and gold mine re-opened to give the economy a lift ahead of the independence referendum to be held in 2019.

Bougainville’s Mining Minister Raymond Masono this week applauded a joint resolution by ex-combatants to back the re-opening, but one of those praised by the minister, a former Bougainville Revolutionary Army commander, James Onartoo, said he and his group do not support it.

Mr Onartoo said their group, which includes many women, landowners and ex-combatants, will not support Panguna being re-opened, or mining anywhere on Bougainville.

Members of the group joined a blockade that stopped the Autonomous Bouginaville Government (ABG) from signing a memorandum of agreement with landowners at Panguna two months ago.

Mr Onartoo says the ABG is weak and lacks the laws and systems to effectively regulate and deal with a large scale mine.

He says without these mechanisms in place a resumption of mining will cause more harm than good.

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