Tag Archives: BCL

Bougainville Copper remains confident of Panguna backing

An abandoned building at Panguna mine site in Bougainville

Radio New Zealand | 13 June 2018

Bougainville Copper is rejecting claims it lacks backing among landowners for a re-launch of the Panguna mine.

Two companies have been pushing to reopen the Papua New Guinea mine which was shut down when the Bougainville civil war broke out nearly 30 years ago.

The Osikaiang Landowners Association, from the site of the mine, is with a rival mining company and it has written to the Australian Stock Exchange claiming BCL doesn’t have the backing among local landowners which it claims.

But BCL secretary Mark Hitchcock said they are confident they have strong support and that it is the leaders of the Osikaiang Association, Philip Miriori and Lawrence Daveona, who are misleading people.

“The two purported leaders of the Osikaiang Landowner Association don’t represent the actual land title holders.”

“Those landowners are quite frustrated that these two gentlemen purport to hold themselves out as their spokesperson when they don’t have the powers to do so, he said.”

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Group scotches Bougainville Copper claims of support

Radio New Zealand | 12 June 2018

Bougainville Copper (BCL) is making misleading claims about the support it has for re-starting mining at Panguna, a landowner group says.

The company ran the massive Panguna mine before it was shut down by the civil war on Bougainville more than 20 years ago.

The Osikaiang Landowners Association at the mine site has taken its concerns to the Australian Stock Exchange and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.

Its chairman, Philip Miriori, said BCL claimed to have strong backing from Bougainville landowners, but he said a survey of them undertaken by Osikaiang, which has links with a rival mining company, proves otherwise.

“With that 400 number, the number I am telling you, we don’t want BCL coming back. That is straight forward you know. We don’t want BCL to come back. That number speaks for itself, 400, – they’re the ones with me saying ‘No BCL’. BCL never to come back.”

BCL had asserted that the 367 authorised customary heads of the 510 blocks of land within the special mining lease area of Panguna do not recognise Mr Miriori as the Osikaiang chair, and back BCL’s exploration licence.

But Mr Miriori said the Osikaiang survey covered this same group of landowners.

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‘Bougainville won’t fall for more false claims from BCL’

Photo: Catherine Wilson/IPS

Philip Miriori (Chairman) and Lawrence Daveona (Ex Chairman) SMLOLA | 4 June 2018

HOW CAN BOUGAINVILLE COPPER LIMITED BELIEVE WE AND OUR AUTONOMOUS BOUGAINVILLE GOVERNMENT WILL FALL FOR MORE OF THEIR FALSE CLAIMS OF RESPECT FOR BOUGAINVILLE AND ITS PEOPLE?

Bougainville Copper Limited (“BCL”) continues to insult and disrespect Bougainville: the Panguna Customary Landowners by the recent statements made by BCL’s Chairman, Mr Mel Togolo and the ABG by their treatment at their Annual General Meeting blocking their vote.

Why did BCL not work with the ABG in advance to ensure they could have their say at the meeting if they are genuinely trying to mend fences with Bougainville and lose their mantle of being a PNG controlled company?” asked Mr Philip Miriori, the Chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (“SMLOLA”).

Mr Miriori said “we know the new BCL Chairman has his trainer wheels on, but this is unbelievable! How many world class mines has he developed? Wasn’t he the guy who sat on the Rio controlled BCL Board in the bad old days – for 6 or 7 years? Isn’t he the PNG country manager for the environmentally controversial deep sea mining start up, Nautilus Minerals? Why would we want any of that?”

Then there is the false attempt to blame third parties for the opposition by the Panguna Customary Landowners: this reflects the continuing failure on the part of BCL to even acknowledge the historic environmental havoc wreaked on the Panguna Land by BCL and the role of BCL in the devastating conflict in Bougainville. “Do they think we have forgotten or forgiven – no never” says Mr Miriori.

Mr Miriori, says “The failure of BCL’s Chairman, Mr Togolo, to acknowledge the historic wrongs committed against the people of Bougainville is totally unacceptable. The wilful blindness of BCL, its failure to admit its role in causing the environmental devastation to our land and its failure to rehabilitate or provide compensation for the damage, condemns BCL from ever obtaining SMLOLA’s approval or support. Trying to blame third parties for this is both naïve and arrogant – it is a flimsy and dishonest attempt to divert attention from their failure to win any aspect of social licence to return to Bougainville. That is and will always be the problem.”

Mr Miriori said “it is simple, BCL has one of the worst environmental and social impact records in the world and has not been welcome to return to Panguna in 30 years – yet they claim strong Landowner support. Just more lies!”

Prominent SMLOLA member Mr Lawrence Daveona supported Mr Miriori’s comments saying “BCL’s operations at the Panguna Mine were the cause of the devastating conflict on Bougainville. That is why they have been unwelcome in Bougainville for the last 30 years. It was the height of arrogance to think they could win community support without any reconciliation. They have ignored us and tried to go around “the impediments” – the owners of the minerals and have tried to simply pull political strings. The recent BCL attempt to curry favour and scramble to regain tenure to their old mine has been a disaster, just like their treatment of our lands and people – after 30 years of neglect and arrogance, how surprising!”

Mr Daveona said “our President Momis summed it up perfectly when he said BCL did not deserve the renewal because their attitudes to Landowners had not changed from the past.”

Mr Miriori spelt out what he said “were obvious facts:

  • BCL has achieved no reconciliation with the Customary Landowners for 30 years;
  • BCL has not attempted discussions with the current Court sanctioned SMLOLA Chairman and Executive even once; 
  • BCL has failed to acknowledge its role in Bougainville’s tragic history;
  • BCL has offered no compensation for the environmental and social impact of BCL’s massive profit taking operations at the Panguna Mine;
  • BCL has offered no assistance to rebuild Bougainville post resolution of the conflict; 
  • BCL has undertaken no remedial action to address the massive environmental damage from its past operations; and
  • BCL has made no attempt to identify the needs of the Customary Landowners and engage with the community.;

Mr Miriori said “it was outrageous that BCL untruthfully claimed it held unanimous Landowner consent when there was an existing petition with more than 2,000 SMLOLA members rejecting BCL’s return to Panguna. BCL has insulted the Customary Landowners by referring to them as ‘impediments to be removed’ and more recently, ‘disruptive influences’. This shows a contempt for the rights of Customary Landowners and the people.

Mr Miriori said “how could they have been surprised – they have never had majority Landowner support. Have they forgotten their 30 year history of devastation they never seem to mention now?”

Mr Daveona supported the ABG’s decision saying “BCL had an EL for two years from 2014 to 2016 and even had a further 15 months after the expiry of EL 1 and still they could not win Landowner support. The refusal of that application has been very positive for the Landowners and allowed us to bring an end to the social disharmony their false claims caused and to build an even stronger opposition to their return. The Landowners are now fully united against BCL. BCL should leave and respect the wishes of Landowners.”

President Dr John Momis of the ABG stated on 8 January 2018, in a public interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, that the BCL Application had been denied by the ABG because of the Panguna legacy Issues and consequently the inability of BCL to gain a social licence. He observed BCL’s attitude towards Customary Landowners had not changed and therefore that BCL did not deserve an extension. It was noted that at the Warden’s Hearing in December 2017 almost all those who spoke referred to these significant and continuing legacy issues and the need for BCL to pay compensation.

President Momis was entirely correct in his observation and the recent statements by BCL’s Chairman show a contempt not only for the Customary Landowners but also for the ABG itself.

Mr Miriori agreed saying “BCL was the tenement holder during the time which systemic damage to the environment and river systems occurred. The Panguna mine was at the centre of the conflict.” It is reported 20,000 Bougainvillean people died in this conflict. This is the incontrovertible factual truth of BCL’s legacy.

These events are of global significance and to this day are fundamental to the vast majority of the Panguna Customary Landowners and Bougainvilleans opposing BCL’s return.

BCL made a formal decision to not acknowledge responsibility, to not say ‘sorry’ and to not pay any fair compensation for these events and the massive damage. These deliberate commercial decisions (to save BCL money and to not acknowledge its past wrongdoings) are fatal to BCL’s attempt to return to Panguna.”

As the highly respected community leader, Mr Sam Kauona said at the Warden’s Hearing, BCL can never be allowed to return to Panguna. The petition opposing BCL’s return has more than 2,000 supporters. The majority of those attending and speaking at the independent Warden’s Hearing in December 2017 opposed BCL’s return.

The continued failure to have regard to the opinion of the Customary Landowners, Mr Miriori says, “shows an arrogance and on-going disrespect.” He powerfully criticises BCL’s attempt to divert the blame from its own conduct “This arrogance and ongoing disrespect of the Landowners’ clear wishes perpetuates the tragic legacy of BCL/Rio, and with every day that passes, further compounds and entrenches the opposition of the overwhelming majority of Panguna Landowners to BCL. Let us now look forward not backward to a new deal for Bougainville. BCL is finished. Its attempt to cause even further delays to the successful redevelopment and reopening of the mine blocks and delays employment opportunities, the funding of critically needed community programs and obtaining of financial benefits for all Bougainvilleans.”

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BCL “wishes to create goodwill”

Cedric Patjole | Loop PNG | May 28, 2018

Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) chairman, Mel Togolo, says the company aims to work positively and constructively with both the PNG and Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).

He also said the company wishes to create goodwill among communities as they plan to redevelop Panguna Mine.

Togolo said this following the company’s Annual General Meeting on Thursday.

Togolo said it was important to note that BCL was a PNG company with both the PNG and ABG governments as major shareholders.

“The National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government have 36.4 percent each. They own the company because they have significant interest in the company on behalf of their respective people,” said Togolo.

Given their majority shareholding, it was important that positive and constructive relationship was in place.

“We respect the Government of the day. We want to work together, and also we know that the Government, the Bougainville Government like the Papua New Guinea Government, have got significant interests as shareholders and their interest as a board we’ll have to look after that interest and to make sure that we create goodwill and understanding among the community in order for us to redevelop the Panguna Mine.”

With the referendum approaching, Togolo says that is a political process they will not be involved in. But they encouraged both governments to work together during the process.

“But as a company we are focused to see how we can redevelop the mine which will be of benefit to Bougainvillean people and the Government of Papua New Guinea.”

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Court hearings in Port Moresby and Melbourne over future of Bougainville’s Panguna copper mine

The abandoned Panguna copper mine. Credit Sydney Morning Herald

Kevin McQuillan | Business Advantage | 8 May 2018

Two court hearings on May 17, one in Port Moresby and the other in Melbourne, will help determine the future of the exploration licence for the Panguna copper mine in Bougainville. Business Advantage PNG looks at the ongoing competition for the rights to exploit the resource.

The decision to refuse an extension of Bougainville Copper Limited’s exploration licence and to impose an indefinite moratorium over the Panguna resource, followed a statutory Warden’s meeting in December 2017.

There was ‘a narrow divide between those supporting the mine to be opened by Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) and those that oppose it’, according to Bougainville President John Momis.

BCL has successfully sought leave to apply for a judicial review of the decision to refuse its licence extension, citing legal and procedural concerns.

‘While the moratorium has been gazetted, it has no impact on existing exploration licences or applications for extension, lodged prior to the moratorium,’ BCL Company Secretary, Mark Hitchcock, tells Business Advantage PNG.

‘BCL remains the holder of the exploration licence (EL1) until the matter is ultimately determined,’ he says.

BCL has held the licence since the mine closed in 1989. The company is now owned by the PNG national government (36.4 per cent), the Autonomous Bougainville Government (36.4 per cent), European shareholders (four per cent) and 23.2 per cent through the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). Rio Tinto gave away its stake in 2016.

Those opposing BCL’s involvement are led by Philip Miriori, who claims chairmanship of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners’ Association (SMLOLA).

He has thrown his support behind a bid by Perth-based junior miner, RTG Mining, to gain the exploration licence, setting up a joint venture company, Central Exploration, of which RTG owns 24 per cent.

One of RTG’s major shareholders holds another 32 per cent, and the SMLOLA retains 44 per cent.

Miriori’s chairmanship of the SMLOLA remains in dispute. The 367 authorised customary heads of the 510 blocks of land within the special mining lease area of Panguna say they do not recognise Miriori as the Chairman of the SMLOLA and support the extension of BCL’s exploration licence.

Melbourne hearing

On the same day as the Port Moresby hearing, BCL will be in court in Melbourne, seeking disclosure about the relationship between RTG Mining and the SMLOLA.

Miriori and other supporters admit they are being paid by RTG, but Miriori has told the ABC that the payments are legitimate salaries, not inducements.

‘That is always a normal part of anything, nothing is free,’ he says.

The action seeks disclosure from RTG Mining and Central Exploration about any compensation or benefits paid to the SMLOLA.

One analyst close to the proceedings says any disclosure could determine the possibility of ‘unlawful interference’ with BCL’s exploration licence.

For his part, Momis says his government believes it would be ‘untenable under current circumstances’ for any developer to develop the mine.

‘We have some problems with RTG right now,’ Momis tells RNZI.

‘In fact, they are causing a lot of confusion and division in the community and we are not prepared to go ahead while this situation prevails.’

Exploration data

Should RTG Mining or any other company win the exploration licence, the next battle will be over the data about the location and extent of resources.

‘BCL has an extensive database of historical data and project information from the mine operations prior to closure in 1990,’ says Hitchcock. ‘This data remains the intellectual property of the company.’

Even if that data is not protected by intellectual property law but is only considered confidential information, it will still require cooperation from BCL to access, according to Alexandra George, Senior Lecturer at the University of New South Wales, who specialises in international intellectual property law.

She tells Business Advantage PNG it might be expensive and time-consuming to obtain.

She says under Australian copyright law, ownership of a database is not straightforward. Whether or not RTG Mining could access the data may depend on the terms of the exploration licence, any special legislation, and on the terms of any contracts or licence agreements that have been entered into.

‘If [the data] was not available, having to reinvent the wheel would add significant costs,’ says George.

‘Perhaps the safest way of assessing value is what the market is prepared to pay.’

‘We estimate it would take any other company or entity at least two-to-three years to replicate the BCL database through exploration activities and would cost in excess of A$200 million (K400 million),’ says Hitchcock.

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Landowners disappointed with BCL

PNG Loop | April 29, 2018

The Special Mine Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association Inc has expressed disappointment with Bougainville Copper Ltd’s conduct.

In a statement, SMLOLA chairman, Philip Miriori, and his advisor Lawrence Daveona say BCL has shown that they have not changed or learnt any lessons “from the tragic history they put us through”.

“The Warden’s Hearing could not have been a stronger message from our community – BCL is not welcome at Panguna ever, yet they try and say they have majority landowner support.

“Respect the call of the people and the Government and leave.

“The decision of the ABG to deny their purported renewal application has been incredibly positive for our landowners, allowing the real facts to come to light and getting rid of the menace that was trying to divide our people. We are now united behind a fresh new development of Panguna with our preferred developer, RTG Mining Inc. and want nothing to do with BCL again.”

The following comments are in response to the 2017 Annual Report of BCL which was released to the Australian Stock Exchange recently.

Miriori says for a company that:

  • Has been given almost 30 years to fix up their failings of the past with no progress;
  • Accepted a further 2 year exploration licence under the very Bougainville Mining Act they now conveniently say is illegal;
  • Sought a renewal of the exploration licence under the very Bougainville Mining Act they now conveniently say is illegal;
  • Were given a further 18 months after the expiry of their 2 year exploration licence to secure landowner support and still failed throughout that 3 and half year period to overcome or even acknowledge the legacy issues and win landowner support;
  • Attended a Warden’s Hearing under the very Bougainville Mining Act they now conveniently say is illegal and failed;

They now try and cry wolf saying they have been treated unfairly and actually have strong landowner support despite the obvious facts. How naïve do they think the landowners and the ABG are?

Daveona says:

“I know BCL well, I sadly supported them for 34 years till 2017 but I have now seen the truth.

“My fellow SMLOLA members are now all united against the return of BCL at any time. We will not be taken advantage of again. Even if they tried to finally step up and listen to us and compensate us for the past, it is too late, we cannot trust them. Too many broken promises.”

Miriori adds:

“The Annual Report accuses the ABG of expropriating BCL’s Panguna mine assets in breach of the Bougainville Copper Agreement Act 1967; the same Bougainville Mining Act that they were happy to take advantage of and use to prolong their involvement in Panguna.

“They also say the ABG has no legal powers in respect to mining on Bougainville and that the ABG has now illegally expropriated its mine. Could there be any greater show of disrespect for our ABG and Bougainville at large?”

The landowners have made their choice on the redevelopment of Panguna and are committed to working with the ABG to implement a successful new mine that will benefit all Bougainvilleans.

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Hearing on BCL licence case next month

Sally Pokiton | Loop PNG | April 23, 2018

decision for the non-renewal of exploration licence to Bougainville Copper Limited will be reviewed by the National Court in May.

The decision made on 16 January 2018 by the Autonomous Bougainville Government has been stayed by the court since April 10, pending the substantive hearing.

It was stayed after leave was granted by Justice Leka Nablu of the Waigani National Court.

Parties in the case, including another interested party, appeared before the National Court today (April 23).

The case will return to court on May 10.

BCL applied for the renewal of its exploration licence on 6 May 2016 from the Department of Mineral and Energy Resources of the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

On 16 January 2018, BCL was informed that the exploration licence will not be renewed. BCL believes there were flaws in the process and wants the decision to undergo judicial review.

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