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Bougainville’s Momis says mining opponents are lying

Autonomous Bougainville Government President John Momis.

Radio New Zealand | 12 March 2019

The President of Bougainville says landowners who criticise the government’s proposed mining law changes have been misled.

The president announced plans for sweeping changes to the mining law in January, as the government sought money to help pay for the region’s referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea.

It has been criticised by landowning groups and human rights organisations but John Momis says these people have been misled by mining companies and others who want their own deals.

Mr Momis said the new law would greatly increase returns for landowners, earning them much more than the current measure which only guarantees their ownership of the minerals while they are in the ground.

“Under our proposal they own the resources, unextracted or extracted, and based on the known ore body we can raise the money ourselves.”

The mining law change would also see the government set up its own joint venture with an Australian entity, called Caballus.

The joint venture, to be known as Bougainville Advance Mining , would aim to re-open the huge and controversial Panguna mine.

The Bougainville referendum is set to be held in mid October.

Bougainville to go ahead with controversial law rewrite

Radio New Zealand | 12 March 2019

The Bougainville Government remains committed to rewriting the autonomous Papua New Guinea region’s mining law.

President John Momis says critics of the move are lying.

He says the new law would mean landowners retain ownership of the minerals after mining, making the benefits they receive much greater.

In January Mr Momis announced plans to change the law and team up with an Australian businessman, Jeff McGlinn, forming a company called Caballus.

It sparked an outcry but as Mr Momis told Don Wiseman his government is undeterred.

TRANSCRIPT

JOHN MOMIS: That will enable us to find a developer or investor to come in a joint venture with us, on the basis that we don’t pay anything because the Panguna ore body is a known ore body. It’s 65 billion kina worth. It’s known. And there’s only one Panguna mine – that’s excluding the Seven other Sisters. There are many companies in the world, if we gave them the mining licence they would go and raise money based on the value of this ore body. We, the landowners, will raise that, raise the money ourselves.

DON WISEMAN: yes but some of the key landowners say they are being shut out of this whole process.

JM: That’s not true. They are being lied to by RTG [Australian mining company] and others. Under the current mining law, which is better than the national mining law, the landowners only own the resource as long as it’s in the ground. Unextracted. Once it’s extracted the developer takes over and the landowner only gets five percent. If they wish to increase their share they can only increase it by another five percent, which they have to purchase. Under our proposal they own the resources, unextracted or extracted, and based on the known ore body we can raise the money ourselves.

DW: There has been criticism of your changes to this mining act. You clearly need to sell it more around Bougainville.

JM: That’s right, yes. I admit that our people made a mistake of not conducting a proper presentation, which they have subsequently done, and many people have seen and are saying, well, this is the best we have. We have – this week actually – while I am on the roadshow with the UN Nations Resident Co-ordinator and the Minister for Bougainville Affairs, we are going on a weeklong roadshow, our ministers will be conducting awareness amongst the members and others. We are very confident, once people understand. They have been misled or told that we are going to take everything away from the landowners. It’s nonsensical. in fact under our mining law they don’t even have to pay for their share because it’s their resource.

DW: Jeff McGlinn, though, he is not someone with a direct involvement in mining is he. I know he is involved in mining machinery and so on, but he’s not a miner.

JM: He’s not a miner, but there are mining companies in the world, we can hire the experts. I think it’s 65 billion US dollars worth of ore in the pit, the current Panguna pit, mineable over 27 years. That’s a lot of money.

DW: Well I guess  the critical thing is how much of it comes back to Bougainville?

JM: Well under our law, or proposed initiative, I think it’s 58 billion. 50 billion will come back to Bougainville and only eight billion will go to the  developer. under their proposal, [RTG] 50 billion will go to them and the poor Bougainvilleans will only get 8 billion.

DW: So you are going to get a developer to come in, spending billions redeveloping the mine and they are not going to earn very much from it.

JM: Well they will get a lot of money. We own the resources and I think it’s six billion to develop the mine, and they can get the money back, quite comfortably.

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All Panguna Mine Landowners United In Opposing BMA

Post Courier | February 25, 2019

The customary landowners from all mine affected areas in and around Panguna – not just the pit area – are 100% united in opposing the controversial draft Bills to change the Bougainville Mining Act (BMA).

The draft Bills would see their rights been stripped, leaving them to try and negotiate with their own Government many years down the track, after they have given up all their rights and ownership of minerals.

Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association Inc chairman Philip Miriori said: “All we are vaguely promised is some form of compensation once mining activity commences.

“Who would do that, give up everything with no deal to look after our people.

“Can you imagine, at that point it will be like us negotiating with Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) again. They will have all the power and we will have none.” He added that this is why they are all united against these changes to the BMA and the architect of this fraudulent attempt to steal from us.

A formal Petition has been signed by all nine landowner associations representing all the land that was impacted in the original Rio Tinto – BCL – Panguna Mine, which operated from 1972-1989.

The mine halted production when Rio Tinto and its subsidiary BCL lost the support of the Panguna landowners and the community.

“We all know what that led to. The Autonomous Bougainville Government is contemplating transferring the control of the Panguna Mine to an unknown Australian entrepreneur who claims he will raise $6 billion for Panguna, when he has never built or run a mine ever before,” Mr Miriori said.

The petition draws the attention of the ABG to no fewer than nine what landowners alleged to be materially false claims of the proposal.

Mr Miriori said the most fatal being the claim of a “permanent 60%” interest for the ABG. “It is ludicrous and simply impossible…he wants us to believe investors will put in 100% of the capital.

They say US$6 billion for 40% of the profits, this is impossible, he added.

SMLOLA special adviser Lawrence Daveona said Rio Tinto had to walk away from Panguna because they lost the support of the community.

“This petition confirms every single member of the Panguna Landowner Association opposes the proposal,” Mr Daveona said.

The signed resolution calls for the immediate withdrawal of the Bill to change the BMA and to try and stop further damage being done to their reputation internationally, Mr Daveona added.

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NGO warns about Bougainville govt’s ‘land grab’

Site of the Panguna mine

Radio New Zealand | 18 February 2019

An NGO has warned that proposed changes by the Autonomous Bougainville Government to local mining laws constitute a reckless land grab.

The government is planning to set up a company to control all new mining on the island.

60 percent of Bougainville Advanced Mining would be owned by the government, while 40 percent would be in the hands of a foreign partner.

In order to do this, the government is seeking to pass amendments to the Mining Act.

Luke Fletcher, the executive director of the NGO Jubilee Australia, said the changes would cut out Bougainville landowners from having a say in mining.

“The principle of free, prior and informed consent is just totally denied to the landowners. Their say is just completely irrelevent. The executive can now essentially be responsible for all parts of the island that are not under lease,” Dr Fletcher said.

Following a public outcry over the plan, the proposed amendments have been referred to a parliamentary committee for further discussion.

Earlier, a number of landowner and community groups voiced alarm that Bougainville’s government was trying to rush through the changes without adequate public consultation.

“It is not clear to us that this legislation is even constitutional,” said Dr Fletcher, who described the government’s proposed changes as a “startling and dangerous move”.

“Given the disastrous history of the Panguna mine in Bougainville, which has caused irreparable environmental damage to the Jaba river and was the major cause of the Pacific region’s worst ever civil war, forcing through such enormous changes with very little consultation is a reckless and desperate ploy.”

Speaking to RNZ Pacific two weeks ago, Bougainville’s President John Momis described the mining deal as the best on the table for his people.

He also suggested the deal was a way to solve Bougainville’s lack of funding for its independence referendum later this year.

But Dr Fletcher said it was unlikely the proposed deal would create revenue through taxes and dividends for Bougainville for a number of years.

“So even if there was some sort of capital investment, that can’t go to the government for general revenue,” he explained.

“That has to be spent by the company on its own needs. So it just doesn’t really make any sense that all this could be useful for the referendum.”

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Proposed Bougainville Mining Act changes go to committee

Radio New Zealand | 15 February 2019

Proposed changes to Bougainville’s Mining Act have been referred to a parliamentary committee for further discussion.

The Autonomous Bougainville Government’s proposed the changes which have met with widespread opposition as the region prepares for a referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea.

The government last month divulged its plans to re-open the long shut Panguna copper mine and operate it with a company majority owned by Bougainville.

It sought to pass amendments to the Mining Act to accommodate an Australian investor who will jointly own Bougainville Advance Mining.

The Bougainville Advance Mining Holdings Trust Authorisation Bill, the Bougainville Advance Mining Holdings Limited Authorisation Bill, and a bill to amend the Bougainville Mining Act 2015, have all gone through first readings.

However, after community concern over the proposed amendments, the bills were referred to the Legislative Review Committee.

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Proposed Bougainville mining laws a ‘reckless land grab’, says Jubilee Australia

Panguna mine in operation, circa 1971 (Photo: Robert Owen Winkler/Wikimedia Commons)

Jubilee Australia | February 12, 2019

 Over the last two weeks, the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), led by its president the Reverend Dr John Momis, has announced its intention to amend Bougainville mining laws.

The proposed amendments to the 2015 Bougainville Mining Act, along with accompanying legislation, will give the ABG the power to hand over mining leases to all parts of the island not under existing leases to Bougainville Advanced Mining, a new entity created for this purpose. The ABG would have 60% ownership of Bougainville Advanced Mining, while 40% would be owned by a foreign partner.

Statements made by the President last week suggest that Caballus mining, a Perth-based company headed by Jeff McGlinn, will be the foreign partner involved.  

‘These are radical changes and appear to be nothing more than a reckless land grab,’ said Dr Luke Fletcher, Executive Director of Jubilee Australia. ‘First, this would hand over control of the majority of the island to the President and his foreign partner, Mr McGlinn.

‘Second, the President would have the power to unilaterally distribute leases without any consultation or permission from landowners. As a result, landowners will be cut out of the process. These amendments undermine the principal of Free, Prior and Informed Consent, said Dr Fletcher. ‘Doing so is both anathema to Melanesian culture and vitally important in the Bougainville context.’

‘It is not clear to us that this legislation is even constitutional,’ said Dr Fletcher. ‘It is a startling and dangerous move. Given the disastrous history of the Panguna mine in Bougainville, which has caused irreparable environmental damage to the Jaba river and was the major cause of the Pacific region’s worst ever civil war, forcing through such enormous changes with very little consultation is a reckless and desperate ploy.’

Comments made by the President to Radio New Zealand justified the move based on the need to hold the Bougainville independence referendum: ‘The people of Bougainville are determined to have the referendum and they must find the money to fund the referendum,’ the President said. ‘One way of doing it would be if we started our own company and generated the revenue to enable us to conduct the referendum. We cannot sit on our hands.’

‘As our recent study of the question demonstrates, we are highly dubious that mines like Panguna could ever raise enough revenues to satisfy both foreign investors and the people of Bougainville,’ said Dr Fletcher.

‘It is certainly impossible that the mine will raise any revenues before the independence vote. It will take years for the building/repair of infrastructure, the completion of environmental studies and other importance processes that need to take place before the mine can generate revenue.’

Background—Mining on Bougainville

The Panguna Mine was one of the world’s biggest copper-gold mines until a civil war forced its closure in 1989. The war took up to 20 000 lives and displaced an additional ten thousand people. The Panguna Mine was a leading cause of the war. The communities have not been offered redress for the damage.

Since 2009, there has been a push to re-open the mine, with proponents claiming that Bougainville needs the mine to be economically independent. President Momis has been at the forefront of this fight, under the auspices of former operator Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), claiming that it would be the best and quickest option to generate revenue.

In December 2017, however, the president announced a moratorium of mining at Panguna and revoked BCL’s  mining license, after a meeting of landowner meetings voted against such an extension.

See here for more information about the history of mining in Bougainville.

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Bougainville govt’s mining deal meets widespread opposition

Local residents hold banners and placards during a 2018 protest at the former Bougainville Copper Limited’s Panguna mine. | Photo: Reuters

Radio New Zealand | 8 February 2019 

There’s been community outrage in Papua New Guinea’s Bougainville region at the local government’s new mining plan.

The autonomous government of Bougainville is planning to re-open the long shut Panguna copper mine and operate it with a company majority owned by Bougainville.

It is expected to pass amendments to the Mining Act to accommodate the Australian investor who will jointly own Bougainville Advance Mining.

Johnny Blades has been following the reaction to this development in Bougainville.

JOHNNY BLADES: The plan comes after squabbling over who should get the licence for the Panguna mine, which of course has been mothballed for a long time.  There’s been a government moratorium on any Panguna development because it’s all so sensitive around this impending the referendum on independence coming up this year. But the Bougainville President John Momis has described this deal with the Australian investor as the best deal for landowners, also saying that existing companies already mining in Bougainville would not be affected by this new deal. But this company, Caballus Mining, owned by West Australian businessman Jeff McGlinn, has no public profile to speak of in the industry.

DG: So the president of the autonomous Bougainville government, John Momis, he earlier told RNZ Pacific that PNG’s central government is not stumping up with funding for the independence referendum, and they in turn have been on the urgent look-out for funds. Is he just turning to this investor or this deal to fund the referendum?

JB: He seems to be saying that, that this is something they have to take up because of this urgent need for money. But one of the principal landowner groups in this area, the Osikaiyang Landowners Association has said that Caballus has no assets but is demanding a monopoly on all major large scale mining projects in Bougainville. There are questions over the viability of finance for these mining plans. They suspect this is a con job, that Momis and his government are being taken for a ride here. Lawrence Daveona, one of the association’s people, he said some of the ex-combatants on Bougainville had met with this investor Jeff McGlinn and asked him ‘are you able to give the government money?’ and he reportedly said to them no, he has no money. So it seems a bit fanciful to think that the investor or this deal might fund the referendum.

DG: There was a public forum to dicscuss this issue in Arawa. What was the general feedback?

JB: The community is upset that local parliamentarians seem to be rushing changes to the Mining Act through without proper public consultation. They says that you have to have proper public consultation before any social license is granted, so to speak. There’s a group called the Bougainville Hardliners Group. They have warned that sort of foreign control of mining on Bougainville is what caused the island’s civil war in the first place. So they and others are certainly opposed to diving headlong into this deal as Monmis and his government seem to be doing.

DG: Historically of course, Bougainville Copper Limited has been behind the scenes of the Panguna mine, What’s been their reaction to this?

JB: Unsurprisingly, BCL have come out very strongly against this deal. They’ve got their own agenda to push, of course. Let’s not forget that the moratorium on mining at Panguna was centrally because landowners oppose the return of BCL. But in this case, both landowners and community groups appear to agree with BCL that this deal seems to be risky. There are constitutional and ethical questions around it. And more widely, these bills are being interpreted as both anti-competitive and anti-investment which BCL and others are saying is the last thing Bougainville needs.

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Miriori fires broadside at ‘rogue’ Bougainville mining rights bid

The Bougainville Civil War caused incredible devastation and loss, including this picture taken at the ruins of Arawa Hospital in 1997. Photo: AFP

Asia Pacific Report | Pacific Media Centre | February 9, 2019

A highly controversial proposal by an unknown and newly registered company, Caballus Mining, is attempting to grab a monopoly over all large scale mines in Bougainville, reports PNG Mine Watch.

It is alleged that the Caballus plan is to override the fundamental principle of the Bougainville Mining Act – Customary Landowner ownership of the minerals in Bougainville and confer ownership on a McGlinn entity, Bougainville Advance Mining (BAM).

“Are Caballus the next rogue that is trying to take advantage of us, the customary owners and steal our minerals?” asked Philip Miriori, chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA).

Miriori claimed Caballus had no relevant mine development experience.

“Caballus has no assets, and yet is demanding a monopoly on all major large scale mining projects in Bougainville.

“They are demanding an initial 40 percent interest, which will increase further over time, without any upfront cash and only a shallow promise of future money if he is granted those rights first.”

Miriori said that when Caballus was presented to representatives of SMLOLA earlier last year, they were officially rejected in writing.

Clear position
“This is where it gets confusing as despite that clear position from the owners of the minerals at Panguna, Caballus is now demanding that the most fundamental principle of the Bougainville Mining Act (BMA) – customary ownership will now be stripped from the BMA.”

SMLOLA special adviser Lawrence Daveona said that by avoiding all the protection afforded to them under the BMA, which is fundamental to the Peace Agreement and the Bougainville constitution – “in fact the very grant of autonomy”, they would be stripped of their rights.

“The central tenant of our Peace Agreement is good governance.

“We will fight this to the end and hope our ABG will step in first and protect all customary owners in Bougainville.”

Miriori said it appeared some people were trying to take advantage of a severe funding crisis which their government faced in the lead up to the referendum on Bougainville this year. They were promising money but only if they were first given the keys to every large scale mine in Bougainville with zero up-front investment – “unbelievable”.

“Whoever puts up the money will ultimately control BAM, and all of Bougainville’s mines.”

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