Tag Archives: Australia

Bougainville: Australia positions itself as chief new coloniser ahead of referendum

The controversial Panguna mine which land holders are fighting to stop being re-opened for foreign profiteers.

Susan Price | Green Left Weekly | June 14, 2019

A spokesperson for the Bougainville Hardliners Group has called on the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) to explain why the Australian Federal Police (AFP) were at the controversial Panguna mine site in central Bougainville on June 5.

AFP officers were seen taking GPS readings at the abandoned copper mine site. James Onartoo, a former leader of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, said the community has a right to know why they were there and what they were doing.

“I think the public is owed an explanation as to what is happening,” said Onartoo. “To the best of my knowledge the AFP were ousted in 2007 on suspicion of spying on the ABG and the people of Bougainville by the former President, late Joseph Kabui.”

He suggested that their presence could be linked to the mine’s controversial reopening.

“Their presence at Panguna, which is the site of so much controversy and disagreements plus issues of sensitive nature stemming from proposed reopening by ABG, raises serious questions considering the fact that, in the past, Australia has always supported military intervention by the Papua New Guinea Defence Force to regain control of the mine.”

Onartoo said if the AFP can raid the ABC, “they are capable of anything”, including gathering intelligence “for the purpose of regaining control of Panguna and restarting the mine with use of force”.

The June 11 ABC Radio Pacific Beat said the AFP confirmed that members from the Papua New Guinea-Australia Policing Partnership did visit the site to “undertake an assessment of capability development for support to the Bougainville Police Service”.

Onartoo said Australia’s interest in the mineral deposits at Panguna has never declined. He has criticised Australia’s advice that the ABG prioritise mining over agriculture, tourism, fishing and other sustainable industries.

Several companies, including of Australian origin, are vying to reopen the Panguna mine, which was shut down in 1990 after a brutal battle against mostly indigenous landholders who received none of the huge profits generated by the mine. More than 20,000 people were killed during the 10 year civil war.

The Bougainville Hardliners Group has been actively resisting attempts by the ABG to weaken the Mining Act to give foreign companies exclusive rights to large-scale mining. It opposes further large-scale mining in the autonomous Papua New Guinea region, saying the focus should be on sustainable alluvial mining.

Bougainville is scheduled to hold its independence referendum in October under the terms of the 2001 peace agreement. The referendum outcome then has to be ratified by the PNG parliament.

The ABG has expressed its desire to reopen the Panguna mine.

Legislation to amend the Mining Act is currently being debated in the PNG parliament. According to landowners, the proposed amendments would effectively remove customary ownership of minerals and remove landowners’ veto rights over mining projects.

Onartoo has said that Bougainville’s 350,000 people do not need large-scale mining, and that the changes being proposed are in breach of sections 23 and 24 of Bougainville’s constitution as well as the Mining Act which provides protection from a repeat of “the ownership of minerals on the island by colonisers”.

A report by Papua New Guinea Mine Watch in January said Australian businessperson Jeffrey McGlinn of Caballus Mining is pushing for the act to be amended. A Radio New Zealand report said McGlinn “wanted to shortcut a number of what it calls complicated requirements in the act to fast track vital infrastructure development in Bougainville and boost employment ahead of the referendum”.

However, other reports suggest that he is more focussed on seizing control of major mineral deposits across Bougainville ahead of the referendum.

The Osikaiyang Landowners group has referred the government’s mining plans to the Papua New Guinea Ombudsman.

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Filed under Australia, Bougainville, Financial returns, Human rights

Tensions stirred as Australian police visit controversial Bougainville mine

Australian Federal Police take photos at the abandoned Panguna mine site

Bill Bainbridge | ABC Pacific Beat | 11 June 2019

There’s been disquiet in Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, after several members of the Australian Federal Police made a site visit to the Panguna mine.

The now dormant copper mine was at the centre of Bougainville’s bloody civil war of the 1990s and and is still a sensitive subject among those locals who oppose any moves to reopen it.

Suspicions were raised when the small group of Australian Federal Police visited the mine last week.

Chris Baria from the Bougainville Hardliners Group says locals were surprised by the visit, particularly since the community governments didn’t know they were coming.

“Why did they not call on the community government, instead of just sneaking around the mine…making people suspicious,” he said.

But deputy Police Commissioner for Bougainville, Francis Tokura, who accompanied the AFP officers, says there was nothing untoward with the visit, and was upset with social media reports that suggested otherwise.

“The amount of damage that that kind of reporting can do is not good,” Mr Tokura said.

He says Panguna was just one short stop on a tour of medical facilities, and visits with the water police to help them prepare for the upcoming referendum in October.

The AFP has also confirmed that members from the Papua New Guinea – Australia Policing Partnership (PNG-APP) did visit the site, while in Bougainville for work to “undertake an assessment of capability development for support to the Bougainville Police Service”.

It says the trip to Panguna mine was “due to the route taken under escort” by the Bougainville police.

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Police: ‘Nothing suspicious’ about AFP staff in Bougainville

Australian Federal Police checking out the abandoned Panguna mine site in ‘preparation for the referendum on independence’….

SEE ALSO: AFP PRESENCE AT BOUGAINVILLE MINE RAISES SUSPICIONS

Radio New Zealand | 10 June 2019

Bougainville deputy police commissioner, Chief Inspector Francis Tokura, says there is nothing suspicious about the presence there of Australia Federal Police last week.

There had been a call from the chair of a group called the Bougainville Hardliners, James Onartoo, who said the government in the autonomous Papua New Guinea province needs to explain what these police were up to.

Mr Onartoo says the AFP officers and civilian staff appeared to be taking GPS readings at the the site of the controversial Panguna mine site in central Bougainville.

But Mr Tokura says they were there as part of preparations for the international police support team that will be in Bougainville at the time of its referendum on independence in October.

That mission, to be led by New Zealand, will also include police from Fiji, Solomon Islands and Australia.

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AFP PRESENCE AT BOUGAINVILLE MINE RAISES SUSPICIONS

Presence of the Australian Federal Police at Panguna is being questioned

Chris Baria | June 8 2019

The Chairman of Bougainville Hardliners Group and former combatant turned businessman, James Onartoo has called on the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) Police Minister to explain what the Australian Federal Police (AFP) were doing at the site of the controversial Panguna mine on Wednesday, June 5.

According to Mr. Onartoo, members of the communities around the mine site became suspicious when they saw the Australian police taking GPS readings at various points around the mine. This points included the one where the mining company BCL considered building an airstrip in the early part of the Bougainville crisis, to bring in aircraft supposedly to evacuate expatriate mine workers and their families out of Panguna.

“I think the public is owed an explanation as to what is happening. To the best of my knowledge the AFP were ousted in 2007 on suspicions of spying on the ABG and the people of Bougainville by the former President, late Joseph Kabui.

“Their presence at Panguna, which is the site of so much controversy and disagreements plus issues of sensitive nature stemming from proposed reopening by ABG, raises serious questions considering the fact that in the past Australia always supported military intervention by Papua New Guinea Defense Force to regain control of the mine.

“If AFP can raid ABC office in Australia itself then they are capable of anything including maybe gathering intelligence on ground for the purpose of regaining control of Panguna and restarting the mine with use of force,” Mr. Onartoo said. 

Mr Onartoo said that it is a well known fact that Australia’s interest in the mineral deposits at Panguna never declined and Australian advisors to ABG have denounced agriculture, tourism, fisheries and other sustainable industries saying that only mining is able to finance Bougainville’s independence. Several companies which are vying to reopen the Panguna mine, which was shutdown by landowners in 1990, are also of Australian origin. 

The AFP party, which comprised of three policemen and two civilians including a doctor were escorted on their visit to the autonomous region by the Bougainville Service Commander, Francis Tokura and police personnel. They are also said to have visited the proposed border posts sites at Koromira and Kangu Beach.

Mr Onartoo said he had nothing to say about AFP visiting other parts of the Autonomous Region.

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US and allies to use ‘aid’ to subsidise tax-dodging foreign mining companies

Rather than sustainable solar panels for village communities, the United States and it allies will use promised aid money to subsidise the expansion of foreign owned large-scale mining

Rather than providing sustainable solar power for village communities, the United States, Australia and New Zealand will use their promised electrification program to subsidise the expansion of foreign owned large-scale mining in Papua New Guinea. Mining that is proven does not improve the livelihoods of ordinary people but causes massive social and environmental problems…

U.S, allies propose financing for power plant for Papua New Guinea gold mine

Colin Packham | Reuters | 6 May, 2019

The United States and a group of Pacific allies are proposing to finance a power plant to kick-start the Wafi-Golpu mine in Papua New Guinea, one of the world’s largest untapped gold resources, two sources familiar with the plan said.

The proposal would be the first to be funded by a partnership of the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan that pledged to support electricity projects in Papua New Guinea (PNG) during the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation Summit held in November in the capital of Port Moresby.

The countries promised to fund projects to provide electricity for up to 70 percent of the PNG population by 2030, a centerpiece of efforts to undercut Chinese influence in the Pacific.

Officials from the four countries met last month in Port Moresby with the PNG government to discuss the power plant funding for Wafi-Golpu, jointly owned by Newcrest Mining and Harmony Gold, the two sources said.

The exact size of the investment has yet to be concluded, but the coalition is seeking to back a power natural gas-fired station that would eventually be owned and operated by the PNG government, the sources said.

“If the mine can get reliable power, it could be a major revenue earner for PNG,” a U.S. source who attended the meeting told Reuters.

He declined to be identified as he is not authorized to talk to the media.

Representatives for Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne and the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“We would welcome any proposal that would bring reliable power to the region,” said Christopher Maitland, a spokesman for Newcrest.

Wafi-Golpu is located about 65 km (39 miles) southwest of Lae, the second-largest city in Papua New Guinea, according to the joint venture’s website.

UBS estimates the mine could produce 270,000 ounces of gold and 160,000 tonnes of copper each year from around 2025.

Newcrest and Harmony hope the government will grant a mining license for Wafi-Golpu in July, said Newcrest’s Maitland.

By providing support for the mine and its power supply, the U.S.-led group is hoping to boost its diplomatic standing in the Pacific.

“Infrastructure is the proxy for the greater competition happening between the U.S with its allies and China,” said Nick Bisley, professor of international relations at Melbourne’s La Trobe University. “The U.S. has to deliver on major projects to ensure it doesn’t lose ground on China.”

The United States and its allies worry that China is increasing economic aid to the Pacific region to exert influence over vast swathes of resource-rich ocean and international forums like the United Nations.

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Japan to oppose new or expanded coal-fired power plants in blow to Australian exports

Japan’s environment minister has announced he will ‘in principle’ oppose any new plans to build or expand coal-fired power stations. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters

Australia’s top export market for thermal coal gives further signs of dramatic energy pivot to renewables

Ben Smee | The Guardian | 31 March 2019 

Japan’s environment minister has announced he will “in principle” oppose any new plans to build or expand coal-fired power stations, as further signs emerge of a dramatic energy pivot by Australia’s top export market for thermal coal.

Guardian Australia reported in March that Japan had cancelled a large percentage of planned investments in coal-fired power, while Japanese investment vehicles were ditching coal projects and instead seeking to back large-scale renewable projects across Asia.

Market analysts expect the price of thermal coal will remain dictated by China, whose recent restrictions on Australian exports have already tempered near-record prices, and would likely continue to reduce its value.

A faster-than-anticipated transition by the Japanese energy sector, which buys 39% of Australian-mined thermal coal, would affect future volumes and the viability of some new mines.

The resources sector believes forecasts for slowing demand in north and east Asia will be offset by growth in demand in parts of south Asia and south-east Asia.

But the financing of new coal-fired projects in developing Asia will likely come from investment vehicles based in China, Japan and Korea, and be closely linked to domestic policy in those countries.

Late last week, three separate announcements added to a growing belief that a renewed, positive focus on the Paris goals is emerging in Japan, among government and large corporations.

The Japanese environment minister, Yoshiaki Harada, announced a “policy initiative” to oppose new or expanded coal-fired power plants, the national newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported.

The environment minister does not have the final say on new power generation projects, but his opinion is considered a fundamental part of the planning process.

On Friday, Japan’s largest utility, Kansai Electric Power, announced it would expand its renewable energy portfolio to 6GW by 2030, earmarking US$5bn in capital expenditure for clean power projects in the next two years.

The same day Japan’s Marubeni Corporation, a significant developer of power projects in developing Asia, announced it would target a doubling of renewable energy revenues by 2023.

Marubeni announced last year it was exiting coal. Its divestment decision was followed by fellow conglomerates MitsuiMitsubishiItochu and Sojitz. Three coal-fired power plant projects have already been cancelled in Japan this year.

Observers in Japan remain cautious, as the country has coal-fired power projects under construction and some already approved. The prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has signalled he wants to show global leadership on climate change, ahead of the next G20 summit in June in Osaka.

The speed with which Japanese government and industry have shifted focus is significant, market analysts say. It comes as global financial institutions are increasingly exiting coal. On Saturday, Australia’s largest insurer, QBE, said it would stop insuring new thermal coal projects – including mines and power generation – from July this year, and underwrite no thermal coal projects by 2030.

Australian coalminers might not feel the direct impacts of these pivots for a decade or more, as most recent announcements relate to new projects, or offer staged exit commitments.

Tim Buckley, the director of energy finance studies for the Institute of Economics and Financial Analysis, said the next decade would be critical for those most heavily dependant on thermal coal.

Buckley said the Australian economy, mining communities and workers would be at greater risk if governments failed to understand the changing sentiment of global financial markets, particularly Japan, and ignored the need to implement effective transition strategies.

“We have a decade to prepare, and that’s the decade that is critically important to building the industries of the future,” Buckley said.

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Small Pacific country roasts Australia over its coal mining policies

Barbara Dreaver | TVNZ | 10 March 2019

One of the smallest countries in the Pacific has given Australia a roasting over its coal mining policies.

The low lying island of Tuvalu faces the full impact of climate change, and given the Regional Pacific Forum meeting is to be held there, fireworks are likely.

It wants firm action from Australia on its coal mining policies.

“I would implore and impress on the leaders of Australia to reconsider their coal mining policy and the $64 million dollars they are getting from selling their coal,” says Tuvalu’s prime minister, Enele Sopoaga.

It’s a big call for financially strapped Tuvalu to tell Australia to keep its aid.

“There is no point in giving ODA (Official Development Assistance), we appreciate it of course but giving it at the same time as continuing polluting the atmosphere and increasing the cost of adaptation I think just doesn’t work well,” Mr Sopoaga says.

But Tuvalu has a trump card. Its tiny shores will be hosting and driving the upcoming forum.

The small island states will be expecting to have their voices heard and with Frank Bainimarama attending for the first time in years, Fiji won’t be sitting on the side lines either.

As a world driver on climate change action, this could be an opportunity for Fiji to flex its muscles.

Despite a lot of diplomatic healing in recent times, Fiji’s prime minister still wants New Zealand and Australia out of the forum.

New Zealand First’s Winston Peters says much time has been spent resetting New Zealand’s relationship with Fiji.

“We are talking about a very expanded partnership going into the future, understanding it’s just not the interests of Fiji that we are talking about or the interests of New Zealand we are talking about but indeed our whole neighbourhood,” he said.

The whole neighbourhood will converge in Tuvalu in August and with 18 Pacific leaders at the table, it knows it has a captive audience.

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