Tag Archives: Bougainville

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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RTG using medical supplies to win hearts and minds in battle over Panguna

Arawa town. Photo Radio New Zealand

RTG Mining Inc. Announces Donation of Medical Supplies for New Arawa District Hospital in Bougainville

RTG Mining via Stockhouse | 30 May 2018

RTG Mining Inc. is pleased to announce that together with the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (“SMLOLA”), the company has donated much needed medical supplies to the new Arawa District Hospital, which is soon to be officially opened in Bougainville by the Australian High Commissioner and leading Government officials from both the Autonomous Bougainville Government and Papua New Guinea Government. 

RTG has been working with the SMLOLA team, who represent the Customary Landowners who own the minerals at the old Panguna Mine and is thankful for the opportunity to work with the team on this project.  Good healthcare is one of the central tenets of life, that should be available to all and we are proud to be able to help the local communities in this way.  Livelihood programs have always been an important part of our philosophy, with the RTG Management Team having won awards around the world for its social and environmental programs, having successfully developed and operated 7 mines in 5 different countries.

RTG remains committed to working with the SMLOLA, its members and the Autonomous Bougainville Government to progress the redevelopment of Panguna.  We thank the SMLOLA and its members for their continued support and nomination as their preferred development partner should they be successful in securing an exploration licence for Panguna.

ABOUT RTG MINING INC.

RTG Mining Inc. is a mining and exploration company listed on the main board of the Toronto Stock Exchange and Australian Securities Exchange Limited.  RTG is focused on a proposal with a landowner lead consortium to secure an exploration licence at the high tonnage copper-gold Panguna Project in Bougainville PNG and the high grade copper/gold/magnetite Mabilo Project in the Philippines, while also identifying major new projects which will allow the Company to move quickly and safely to production.

RTG has an experienced management team which has to date developed seven mines in five different countries, including being responsible for the development of the Masbate Gold Mine in the Philippines through CGA Mining Limited, and has B2Gold as one of its major shareholders in the Company. B2Gold is a member of both the S&P/TSX Global Gold and Global Mining Indices.

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PNG miners to present in Sydney

Drilling at Edie Creek

RAPID-FIRE presentations by four companies with interests in Papua New Guinea will be delivered in Australia on Thursday at the inaugural ResourceStocks Sydney conference.

PNG Industry News | 14 May 2018

Kingston Resources is first up at 11.45am, followed by Geopacific Resources, Kalia and Niuminco Group. Each company has a 15-minute slot at the event, which is to be held at the SMC Conference and Function Centre over two days, May 16 and 17.

• Kingston Resources has the advanced exploration Misima gold project which has 2.8 million ounce resource which Kingston aims increase. Misima Island is 625km east of Port Moresby in the Solomon Sea and was operated as an open pit gold mine from 1989 to 2004, producing 3.7Moz gold at an average cost of $218/oz. Kingston owns 49% of Misima and is earning in to 70% and the joint venture partner PPC, is owned by JX Nippon Metals and Mining (66%), and Mitsui Mining and Smelting (34%).

• Geopacific Resources has the advanced exploration Woodlark Island gold project in Milne Bay Province. Geopacific recently released a prefeasibility study on the project which indicated that Woodlark has the potential to be a robust, low-cost, low-stripping ratio open pit operation that can deliver an average of 100,000 ounces of gold per annum over 10 years. Highlights of the study include: an initial head grade of 1.63 grams per tonne gold; an all-in sustaining cost of $A990 per ounce for the first five years and $A1110/oz over the life of mine; capital cost of $A180 million; and a reserve of 34.7 million tonnes at 0.99gpt gold containing more than 1.1 million ounces.

• Kalia describes itself as an exploration company targeting energy metals across a range of mineralisation styles – and one of the company’s areas of interest is Bougainville Island. Kalia says that from the preliminary work completed, including the re-processing of the data collected in 1986 by Fathom Geophysics and the analysis of raw data from other studies, sufficient sites have been identified to begin exploration. 

• Niuminco Group has the brownfields Edie Creek gold project in Morobe Province 120km south of Lae. The mining leases cover nearly four square kilometres and lie in a valley between high slopes. Since becoming involved in the Edie Creek project, Niuminco has upgraded existing buildings and power supplies and constructed service roads in the lease area. Edie Creek ore is currently being processed at an average 15.0 tonnes per day – an increase from the previous 12 month averages of 6.4tpd. With new infrastructure purchased, it is anticipated Edie Creek will scale up to run at more than 40tpd – a three-times increase over recent production rates (13 to 15tpd).

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PNG gas project may spark ‘new civil war’

Armed clansmen in the town of Komo in Papua New Guinea’s Hela Province. Photo – Michael Main.

Australian Associated Press | 10 May 2018

A new report on a partly Australian-funded Papua New Guinea gas project warns landowner discontent could “spiral out of control”.

A partly Australian-funded liquefied natural gas project in Papua New Guinea’s southern highlands has the hallmarks of another Bougainville civil war, a new report warns.

The ExxonMobil-led project, which attracted a half billion dollar Australian government loan in 2009, supplies eight million tonnes of gas a year to Japan, South Korea and China.

Despite gas flowing since 2014, landowners in Hela province are yet to receive royalty payments, resulting in escalating tensions, tribal violence, incidents of hostage-taking, blockades and sabotage.

A new report from Australian think tank Jubilee Australia warns there are risks landowner discontent could “spiral out of control” and might force the PNG government into a military crackdown.

“The build-up of arms has accelerated to a pointed where it is often speculated that the landowners are in possession of more firepower than the entire PNG defence force,” the report says.

Between 1987-1997, 20,000 people died in a civil war between PNG and its Bougainville province. Panguna, one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines, sparked the conflict.

“The PNG state lost its war with Bougainville against a population that began the war armed only with bows and arrows,” the report says.

“In Hela, the population is far more numerous and heavily armed with weaponry that is increasing in sophistication and firepower by the day.”

The report is scathing of undelivered infrastructure projects resource companies promised landowners including roads, airports, hospitals, housing and sewerage projects.

Report author Michael Main, who spent seven months on the ground in Hela province, said the vast majority had not been built. A few were incomplete or not maintained properly or were white elephants.

He pointed to the Komo hospital, which has no equipment, staff, fuel for its generator, or beds.

“Tari airport does not even have a security fence, and on one occasion the author was required to chase away a cow that had wandered on to the airstrip, away from the Air Niugini plane that was coming in to land,” the report said.

The gas project was partially funded by Australia after the export credit agency Efic made its largest-ever loan of $500 million to ExxonMobil, OilSearch, Santos and the PNG government in 2009.

The report is critical of the due diligence undertaken by consultants paid for by ExxonMobil.

It calls for a full Senate inquiry.

Last month, Jubilee Australia released another report which concluded the touted economic boom from the project had not eventuated and the PNG people would have been better off if it hadn’t gone ahead.

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill dismissed the report as fake news, despite admitting he hadn’t read it, while some of his ministers acknowledged the government had some lessons to learn.

Comment has been sought from ExxonMobil and the PNG government.

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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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