Tag Archives: BCL

Meetings to determine Panguna’s future

Cedric Patjole | PNG Loop | November 11, 2017

Two meetings have been identified as key events that may determine the timeline to rebuild the Panguna Mine in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

According to Business Advantage, Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) chairman, Rob Burns, says the meetings, to be held in November and December, include a mediation as well as a wardens’ hearing.

The first meeting on November 23 and 24 is the third round of mediation talks to settle a dispute over the chairmanship of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA).

SMLOLA is one of the nine landowner associations in the project area.

A dissident landowner, Philip Miriori, is at the centre of the dispute, along with his cousin Lawrence Daveona, who both lay claim to the chairmanship.

The second event on December 11 and 12 is the wardens’ hearings on the five-year renewal of the mining exploration lease, currently held by BCL.

Under the Bougainville Mining Act 2015, the Autonomous Bougainville Government needs to hold wardens’ hearings as part of the process for a five-year renewal of the lease, before recommendations then go to the Minister.

“I’m optimistic it will be renewed. The landowners have agreed because they want a better life and see this as the way forward,” says Burns.

The timeline for building the mine is estimated to cost K12 to K18 billion, and could take up to 10 years.

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Key meetings to determine timeline for rebuilding Bougainville’s Panguna copper mine

The abandoned Panguna copper mine. Credit: Sydney Morning Herald

‘The landowners have agreed because they want a better life and see this as the way forward.’

True or False?

 Kevin McQuillan | Business Advantage | 8 Nov 2017

Two key events before year’s end are likely to decide the timeline for the rebuilding of the Panguna copper mine on Bougainville Island. The Chairman of Bougainville Copper Limited, Rob Burns, tells Business Advantage PNG two board appointments are part of the company’s strategic development.

The appointment of Bougainvillean and mining specialist, Mel Togolo, and OK Tedi Mining’s Managing Director, Peter Graham, to the board of Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) last month reflects the company’s desire for more Bougainville representation, and the need for strategic management expertise, according to BCL Chair, Rob Burns.

‘We’ve been talking to the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and are been keen to get Bougainville representation—so first and foremost that was our number one priority,’ Burns tells Business Advantage PNG.

‘We’d like to make more appointments and get greater representation from the Bougainville side.

‘We also wanted to bolster our project development capabilities.

‘Peter Graham’s knowledge of project development and project management is second to none in PNG.’

Lease extension

Two key events this month and next will determine the timeline for rebuilding the mine, which is estimated to cost US$4–6 billion, and could take up to 10 years.

The first is a third round of mediation talks on 23–24 November aimed at settling a dispute over the chairmanship of one of the nine landowner associations in the project area: the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA).

A dissident landowner, Philip Miriori is at the centre of the dispute, along with his cousin Lawrence Daveona. They both lay claim to the chairmanship.

The second event is wardens’ hearings on 11–12 December about the five-year renewal of the mining exploration lease, which is currently held by BCL. Under the Bougainville Mining Act 2015, the ABG needs to hold wardens’ hearings as part of the process for a five-year renewal of the lease. The wardens’ recommendation then goes to the Minister.

‘I’m optimistic it will be renewed. The landowners have agreed because they want a better life and see this as the way forward.’

Mediation

Burns expects there will be fresh elections for the executive positions of the SMLOLA after this month’s mediation talks.

Miriori’s group opposes the involvement of BCL in the rebuilding and operation of the Panguna mine.

The group is backed by a small Perth-based company, RTG Mining.

‘Things are progressing but not as quickly as we would like, and not as quickly as the Bougainville people would like, with the court mediation process to settle the landowner dispute still to run its course,’ says Burns.

‘We want to get on with it, but we are respectful of the need to get landowner and community understanding of what the operation will look like and get their input into how it’s designed and what features it will have.

‘BCL has project knowledge and the intellectual property.’

‘If we get all that right to start with it’s going to make it a far more efficient and effective development process. We believe we’ve got good support.

‘We don’t want some individuals and other consortia continuing to thwart us so we’ll entertain anything. But there’s a thing called trust in all this and until they demonstrate they can be trusted you can’t have a relationship—a sustainable one.’

Burns is sceptical about the role of RTG Mining (which has not yet responded to Business Advantage PNG’s requests for an interview).

‘They’ve got their story and they’ve made representation to Philip Miriori and a presentation to the ABG.

‘That’s been rejected by the ABG, so I believe this is part of their business plan—to eke their way into the redevelopment of the Panguna mine.’

Intellectual property

Burns says he believes BCL are ‘the rightful developers and have the community support to carry the development of the project.’

He argues that BCL has project knowledge and owns the intellectual property, which includes the geological database, where the ore is located and where the waste is.

‘If another party comes in, they’d have to commence a massive drilling program to ascertain basic details.’

Costings

Once the landowner dispute is settled and the lease is determined, Burns says BCL will work on getting more accurate assessments of capital requirements and operating costs.

BCL has US$50 million in liquid assets to do the social, technical, environmental and regulatory studies needed to prove the viability of the mine. That would lead to a full feasibility study, which might cost US$150 million.

‘There are people approaching us all the time about getting involved and how we might undertake that financing for the feasibility study, and for the major construction and rebuild that would follow.

‘We have a clean sheet of paper and that’s why I’m leaning on people like Peter Graham to assist us with strategic thinking.’

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Rio Tinto does not control BCL: Spokesperson

See also: 

PNG Loop | November 1, 2017

Rio Tinto does not still control Bougainville Copper Ltd.

In a statement refuting recent claims against the firm, a company spokesperson said:

“Rio Tinto fully exited BCL on the 30th June 2016 by transferring its 53.8 percent shareholding to an independent trustee for distribution to the ABG and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.

“The PNG Government and the ABG drew down their shareholding on the 30th June 2016 and 19th August 2016 respectively.”

The firm says Computershare Registry Services records confirm that both the ABG and state of PNG have both taken up these shares, with each holding a 36.45 percent share in BCL.

“The remaining shares in the company are owned by public shareholders.

“Further, Rio Tinto’s management services agreement with BCL was also terminated on 12th September 2016.

“As a result, BCL became an independently managed PNG company.”

Rio Tinto further states BCL’s offices are in Port Moresby and Buka and in accordance with ASX requirements, BCL has an Australian agent based in Brisbane.

The company was responding to statements by the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA).

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Panguna LOs still against BCL

Meredith Kuusa | PNG Loop | October 27, 2017

The chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowner Association has expressed annoyance by the recent Shareholder Release by Bougainville Copper Limited.

Phillip Miriori says BCL is profoundly misleading and shows complete disrespect for the facts, the SMLOLA and the views of many of its members who are standing up for their rights and say, “No to BCL Forever”.

He said the SMLOLA petition against the return of BCL now represents around 2,000 members and continues to increase.

“BCL’s ex Rio management has refused to meet with the Board of the SMLOLA or its chairman,” claims Miriori.

“That does not qualify as ‘respectful community engagement programs’.

“They have not stepped foot in Panguna in over 28 years yet they say, they continue to make progress on implementing our staged development plan for a new Panguna.”

Miriori gave a number of reasons why BCL was not welcome on Bougainville.

“It is just another clear example of the continuing colonial arrogance of BCL and the disrespectful treatment of landowners, with the constant attempt by BCL to mislead and misinform.

“They have not changed,” said Miriori.

Miriori recollected the following:

  • President Momis himself under ffiadavit has stood up for his people and said BCL caused the civil war that led to the death of around 20,000 of our fellow Bougainvilleans;
  • We were treated as irrelevant in the past and that is continuing, calling us an “impediment” they will simply go around – we, the SMLOLA, now own the minerals and have the ultimate say on who will redevelop Panguna;
  • BCL was the mining permit holder all those years ago, and it was under their operation that we were left with this horrific environmental damage which President Momis himself has suggested caused billions of dollars of destruction. To this day, BCL has not taken responsibility for or compensated us in any manner – not one kina.

On Monday, Bougainville Copper Limited announced the appointments of Mel Togolo and Peter Graham to BCL’s board of directors.

BCL chairman Robert Burns said the company was delighted that both gentlemen had agreed to join the board given the extensive experience and unique perspectives each would bring during an important period of development for the company.

“Mel and Peter are highly regarded in PNG and have intimate knowledge of the resources industry both here and abroad which they have gained through what can only be described as long and distinguished careers,” Burns said.

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BCL appoint war cabinet for new Bougainville onslaught

In the race to reopen the Panguna mine, against the will of landowners, BCL is now appointing a war cabinet.

Having already appointed Director, ‘Sir’ Rabbie Namaliu, a man who was Prime Minister when his government’s security forces committed crimes against humanity on Bougainville, BCL has now appointed two new Directors, Mel Togolo and Peter Graham.

Togolo was a provincial administrator during the crisis. He was infamous for his support for an Australian backed military blockade, that denied his own compatriots basic medicines. Togolo also worked alongside Jim Griffin an Australian government spook, responsible for intelligence analysis on Bougainville. More recently Togolo has become known for his role in deep sea mining, which threatens to inflict another environmental catastrophe on the region.

Peter Graham is the General behind ExxonMobil’s PNG LNG operation, a project that gives new meaning to pipe dreams. More recently he has acted as O’Neill’s right hand man at Ok Tedi.

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The People of Bougainville have been Profoundly Misled – Official Records Show Rio Tinto Still Controls BCL

Press Release from Special Mine Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association Inc. (“SMLOLA”)
19 October 2017

  • According to IPA records; Rio Tinto still controls BCL.
  • ABG has no shares in BCL.
  • No Prior Written Consent by ABG.
  • BCL’s registered office is still Rio Tinto’s HQ in Melbourne.

The Chairman of the SMLOLA, Phillip Miriori said today that,

“Rio Tinto advised the Australian Stock Exchange on 30 June 2016, that it had transferred its 53.8% of BCL shares to a trust company for distribution to the governments of PNG and ABG, resulting in each holding 36.4% of BCL – yet they are still listed as the shareholders – what are the real facts here, is Rio actually gone or not? Once again, we are not being given all the facts yet we are being asked to consent tosupport the return of BCL. What does that actually mean, who will our partner actually be if the ABG gets their way?”

“The purported Rio Tinto transfer of 53.8% of BCL shares to the trust company did not have the legally required “prior written consent” from the ABG. In fact, as far as we have been told, the ABG was not informed in advance of the transfer. Certainly, the landowners that now own the minerals were never consulted. Most importantly, have they actually been transferred – is Rio gone or is there just a temporary step to cover up the involvement of Rio later?”

“All Bougainvilleans need to know the truth – is this just a sham? If, as the IPA records show, Rio Tinto still controls BCL with its 53.8% shareholding, we have been profoundly misled”.

“Again, we are being treated as pawns in this game: the old guard from Rio and BCL are still playing against us all and the people of Papua New Guinea. The colonialists’ time is over. They must compensate us for the wrongs of the past and leave gracefully.”

“On top of that, there is not one Bougainvillean on the Board of BCL – it is all PNG. How can this be? There are just too many unanswered questions as to who we are dealing with.”

“We were told that the Rio Chairman of BCL, Peter Taylor, would resign after “he provides services during this transition period”. Why is Taylor still listed as a consultant on BCL’s Presentation for the development of Panguna? Seems that the only answer is Rio Tinto is attempting to run the show while pretending to have left Bougainville and its responsibilities. Rest assured, I will do my best to hold them to account for the irreparable damage done by them and for which they now try to shirk all responsibility”.

“And to top it off, the Australian registered office of BCL remains Rio Tinto’s HQ in Melbourne”.

“I demand the truth finally – how can you try and force BCL on the landowners when there are so many serious questions on who BCL is, who the development partner would be? ”

“How could the ABG expect us to give the mine back to BCL. If the shares in BCL do at some point get transferred to the ABG, PNG or the landowners, how do we then sue them as we will be suing ourselves. If we let this farce continue, we will clearly be giving up our rights to compensation for the past atrocities. I will do my best to never let this happen.”

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Phillip Miriori: Why Bougainvilleans are having their say – ‘No to BCL’

Bougainvilleans proudly display “No BCL Ever” T-shirts. Image: Me’ekamui

Phillip Miriori | Asia Pacific Report | 13 October 2017

As many would be aware, we Bougainvilleans have been through a tough history with the disasters that came from the past operations at Panguna, then owned by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL).

One of the key issues that led to our civil war, when around 20,000 of our friends and family died, was the way we were treated by BCL then – entering our lands without consent, poisoning our gardens and lives, removing our mountains, inviting in the military and ignoring our views, without compensating us fairly.

Since the end of the conflict, BCL has made no effort to resolve the damage they caused to our people, lands and rivers – infact they deny any responsibility and are trying to tell us what to do again, calling us impediments when we do not agree with the rules they try and dictate.

Have they learned nothing or think we have forgotten?

We have fought hard to protect ourselves from the same thing happening again if Panguna re-opens, and the new Bougainville mining law transferred ownership of the minerals to the landowners. As a result, now nothing can happen to our minerals without our consent.

Our Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA) members are now in a position to make BCL, the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and the world respect our views. One of the key steps in the process of late has been our efforts to protect ourselves from the attempt to force the return of BCL without our consent.

We have had to use the Courts to ensure we are listened too and the result has been a landmark mediation process, right here on our lands at Dapera led by Justice Kandakasi.

Mediation process

The mediation process was initiated by me to try and help resolve the challenge to my leadership of the SMLOLA by Mr Lawrence Daveona, despite the fact he is not following custom in recognising my leadership position, a position I was born into.

He also wants BCL to return despite everything they have done and failed to do, which is strongly opposed by the majority of our members, as demonstrated by the petition against the return of BCL which now stands at around 2000 members saying “No to BCL”.

The mediator has now given us one more opportunity to try and resolve this among our family which I am keen to do. I firmly believe we can all unite to protect our people against the return of BCL and I promise to make every effort to do that with Mr Daveona and the ABG.

I want to work with them to ensure any redevelopment of Panguna is done properly this time and our members are protected and looked after, respected and treated equally and fairly.

The primary objective of the mediation was to try and resolve the challenge to my rightful leadership of the SMLOLA by Mr Daveona, which I firmly believe is unlawful and will take to the courts again if necessary. I am making every effort to accommodate him as unity will have a very valuable benefit for all of us and the future of Bougainville.

One of the other valuable objectives that has come from the mediation and I have committed to work on, is to more closely align our association’s constitution with our Nasioi customs, moving key decisions back to our clan system that has been our way since time immemorial. I strongly support that and encourage everyone to participate as I believe it will assist in making any benefit sharing from a future mine fairer for all.

The mediation over the past few weeks, has also given our women, the owners of our land, the opportunity to stand up and be heard. Some of them are against mining and one of my important tasks will be to work with them further as I believe Independence for Bougainville is very important and mining, if done responsibly and with people who we can trust, who will show us respect and fairness, will enable us to get there quicker.

As part of that process, in my role as the chairman of the SMLOLA and an elder to our clans, I have worked hard to attract a reputable international mining company who has both the social and environmental track record to make sure this time the mine could be developed successfully, fully integrated into our local community.

Revolutionary law

From the time the new transitional mining law was passed in 2014, I worked closely with President Momis and both Mining Ministers, Michael Oni and Robin Wilson. In fact, on the day the law was passed I was invited to meet with President Momis at the ABG Parliament to celebrate the new revolutionary Bougainville Mining Act, which uniquely, gave ownership of the land and minerals, back to the landowners to try and repair some of the mistreatment of our people in the past.

They were then opposed to the return of BCL and supportive of our efforts right through until March this year when suddenly and inexplicably something changed. They would no longer engage with us, would not explain why and started a very public campaign supporting BCL and a challenge of my leadership by Mr Daveona.

I didn’t select RTG Mining Inc. lightly, even going to a mine their management developed in the Philippines with a group of both Panguna landowners and ABG Ministers to see how they do things. In fact, the three ABG Ministers that came to see the RTG operation in Philippines expressed support for RTG.

Over time we came to develop a trust with RTG’s management and believe they will make the redevelopment of Panguna a great success, working closely with our members. They have supported the hard work we have done over the last year to defend ourselves against the illegal return of BCL.

Misled through lies

It is disappointing that some try to mislead through lies. The suggestion that improper payments were made to ABG officials is both ridiculous and untrue. They are currently working against us and strongly pushing BCL and Lawrence, rather than being impartial which is all we ask of them.

Despite the current position of the ABG, we are confident that they will eventually hear our firm views – “No to BCL!” and we remain committed to working with them to find a solution where all will win, including the ABG. We must talk openly and respectfully to find a fair solution. The law and views must be respected and we will continue to fight for that for our members.

The mediation is not a forum to make a final call on who the developer should be and if the mine should be redeveloped, which must be done in conjunction with all our members, but it has been invaluable to be able to showcase the opportunities to highlight the issues and concerns with a possible return of BCL.

In fact, BCL and the ABG have publicly admitted they cannot develop the project themselves and would have to find a partner. Who will that be, why won’t they tell us? How can someone support them when we do not even know who the actual developer will be?

I hope that the discussions at the mediation will assist Mr Daveona to understand why our people would be better off without the return of BCL. And I will continue to work with him to try and reconcile our positions so we can stand united against them and get a far better result for our people, developing a model that is win-win for the people of Bougainville and the ABG.

Phillip Miriori is chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA), Me’ekamui Government of Unity and SMLOLA.

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