Tag Archives: Bougainville

BCL wants to bully Bougainville into reopening Panguna

Has BCL not learnt from history that Bougainvilleans do not like being bullied!

BCL takes Bougainville Govt to court over licence non-renewal

Radio New Zealand | 16 February, 2018

Mining company Bougainville Copper Ltd is taking an arm of the Bougainville government to court.

This came after the autonomous government in the Papua New Guinea region announced late last year a moratorium on mining at Panguna, which had been abandoned in 1989 after the civil war started.

Two companies are vying to re-open Panguna but Bougainville President John Momis said to get the nod, the successful company must first win the trust of the people and BCL is yet to do this.

Meanwhile a mining wardens meeting in central Bougainville in December turned down BCL’s request for its exploration licence to be extended.

But the company is not giving up and secretary Mark Hitchcock says they want the licence restored, hence their application for a judicial review.

“We have taken the regulator , which is the Bougainville Government, as the Department of Mineral and Energy Resources, to court. We are seeking leave to apply for a judicial review of that decision, to not renew the exploration licence.”

The Bougainville government is the main shareholder in Bougainville Copper Ltd, with 36%, after it was given the lion’s share of equity by Rio Tinto when that company walked away from involvement in BCL two years ago.

Mr Hitchcock say the ABG leadership has told him that the company has to do what it has to do to protect the interests of all of its shareholders.

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Moratorium on Panguna stays

Bougainville President John Momis

PNG Industry News |  12 February 2018

IT seems that nothing will happen at the Panguna copper-gold mine until after the referendum on independence is held for the island upon which it is situated in Papua New Guinea – Bougainville.

The doors to Bougainville Copper Mines (BCL) and RTG Mining – both anxious to redevelop the mine which has been closed since 1989 – have now been firmly shut by President John Momis.

Momis has told media that the mine would remain closed until after the vote, which is expected to take place on June 15, 2019.

This follows up on a statement issued by Vice President Raymond Masono, who is also Mines Minister, in which he said that the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) had completed the legal process under the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 in relation to BCL’s application to renew its exploration licence over the Panguna mine area “and conclude that it is untenable under current circumstances for the Panguna project to proceed, resulting in a decision not to grant an extension to BCL’s exploration licence.

“Effectively BCL does not have any more tenement (sic) in Bougainville or any legal right over Panguna mineral resources and the legal ownership of the Panguna resources reverts back to the customary landowners of Panguna and the ABG.

“In making that decision to not grant an extension of terms to BCL’s tenement, the ABG has also made a decision to impose a mining reservation (moratorium) over the Panguna mine area for an indefinite period,” Masono said.

Masono added that the public was invited to comment on the Panguna moratorium and this should be submitted to the Department of Mineral and Energy Resources by close of business on March 26, 2018.

“It is in Bougainville’s best interest that the Panguna resources owners be left alone and be dealt with by the ABG alone regarding any future plans for the Panguna project moving forward when the circumstances are conducive and the moratorium is lifted.

“For BCL or RTG or any other investor to directly deal with the landowners regarding the development of the Panguna project will only result in more division and problems among the people and may affect ABG’s drive for peace and unity leading towards the referendum.

“The ABG will not accept nor be influenced by any speculations regarding its decision on the moratorium and redevelopment  of the Panguna project,” Masono concluded.

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Landowners and companies in new battle for Panguna mine, which triggered Bougainville Crisis

PHOTO: Panguna landowners are arguing about which company should restart mining. (ABC News: Bethanie Harriman)

 Eric Tlozek | ABC News | 10 February 2018

The race to reopen one of the world’s biggest copper mines, Panguna, is dividing landowners and the wider community in Bougainville.

Key points:

  • Local leader Philip Miriori says activity at the Panguna mine would bring “prosperity” and “better infrastructure” to the community
  • Bougainville’s President says the Government is keen to restart the mine to boost its case for independence
  • Not all landowners around the mine are happy with the stalemate, or with RTG’s push to leapfrog former operator BCL

Panguna was abandoned in 1989, after landowner dissatisfaction with the mine led to the Bougainville Crisis, an armed uprising against the Papua New Guinea Government in which 20,000 people died.

Now mining companies are trying to come back, right as Bougainville prepares to vote on whether it should become an independent nation.

Philip Miriori is a local leader who wants mining to resume.

“The Panguna mine must reopen,” he said.

“That is going to bring prosperity. We need to see our kids go to school. We need better hospitals, better infrastructure.”

Mr Miriori leads a group called the Me’ekamui and has been battling through the courts and mediation to become chairman of the landowner association of the mine pit, the SMLOLA (Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association).

“I think unity for the resource owners is important, before anything else,” he said.

“Without the unity, I don’t think we can achieve anything.”

Mr Miriori’s Me’ekamui group has entered into a joint venture with Perth company RTG Mining, which is making a bold bid to reopen Panguna.

PHOTO: Philip Miriori’s Me’ekamui group has entered into a joint venture with RTG mining. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

“What I was interested in with RTG is a social licence [to mine],” Mr Miriori said.

“I don’t want to get anything for myself, I want to see my people benefit.”

But Mr Miriori and other supporters are being paid by RTG, an arrangement the Bougainville Government has criticised.

Mr Miriori said the payments were legitimate salaries, not inducements for people’s support.

“That is always a normal part of anything, nothing is free,” he said.

“The world has changed. People are educated. So there’s no bribery there.”

RTG’s bid and Philip Miriori’s push for leadership of the landowner association has disrupted a sustained effort by the mine’s former operator, Bougainville Copper Limited, or BCL, to return to Panguna.

BCL is part-owned by the Bougainville Government and had an exploration licence and first right of refusal over the site.

But the Bougainville Government has now rejected BCL’s application to extend that licence, and put an indefinite moratorium on any mining at Panguna.

PHOTO: The Panguna mine is one of the world’s biggest copper mines. (AAP Image: Ilya Gridneff)

Bougainville’s President, John Momis, said the issue of mining had become too sensitive.

“A lot of people are against mining, any mining at all, and mostly against BCL, because of its past,” he said.

Landowners at loggerheads as referendum looms

Mr Momis said the Government does not want conflict at the mine to distract from a scheduled referendum next year on whether Bougainville should secede from Papua New Guinea.

He said the Government may have been overly keen to restart the mine, because it wanted the revenue to boost its case for independence.

“Panguna is a very, very difficult issue for all the things that happened in the past,” Mr Momis said.

“So maybe we were pushing things too hard because of our desire to meet our fiscal self-reliance target.”

Not all the landowners around the mine are happy with the stalemate, or with RTG’s push to leapfrog BCL.

Jeffrey Clason’s mother is one of the mine landowners, and he said many people want BCL to resume mining.

“I think the majority of the landowners are still with BCL and I think as the Mining Act says, they’re the last people to say yes or no, it’s their land,” he said.

“So, for the landowners, BCL is still welcome.”

PHOTO: Bougainvillean Bernadine Kama says she does not want mining to restart at Panguna at all. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

Some Bougainvilleans, like Bernadine Kama — who comes from a village near the mine, don’t want mining to restart at Panguna at all.

“We’ve already seen the damage and destruction done to our land,” she said.

The Bougainville Government said it will come up with a new strategy for Panguna, and will continue consultation with landowners about whether it should be mined, and who should mine it.

But in the meantime, Bougainville Copper Limited is pursuing court action against the Government, which is not only a major shareholder, but also the mining regulator.

So the battle for Panguna is getting more complicated, right as the region prepares for a contentious referendum on its political future.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights, Mine construction, Papua New Guinea

Bougainville Government welcomes infamous Filipino mining company

SR Metals President and CEO Miguel Alberto Gutierrez has been accused of corruption, clientalism, and illegal mining

Mine Watch recently predicted that President Momis’ appetite for crooked foreign miners was very much alive. How right we were. In a gushing column in the Post-Courier – which reads like a salivating love poem – it was announced that President Momis has teamed up with his former nemesis – money bridges all divides – Sam Kauona to bring in a Filipino mining company to explore 183 square kilometres of land.  

The company is called, SR Metals Inc, and is led by Eric Gutierrez. It has come to liberate Bougainville from its bloody history, we are told.

Now while we might want to believe the Post-Courier, John Momis and Sam Kauona, as entities of integrity who would never lie, the ever skeptical PNG Mine Watch team decided to look at the track record of SR Metals Inc and Mr Gutierrez.

What did we find?

Report after report in the Filipino press accusing SR Metals and its chief of corruption, clientalism, and illegal mining.

Indeed we are told Gutierrez is very fond of funding politicians who are good for his business.  

And, no less, has been accused of using fraud ‘to dupe the government and their business partners of billions of pesos in mining revenues’. Guess they saw President Momis and Kauona coming.

To cap it off the company SR Metals has been fined for environmental violations.

And a senate inquiry found the company “over-extracted 1.8 million tons of nickel ore”, in violation of regulations. 

Take a look here: http://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1016505

And here:  http://www.philnews.xyz/2017/11/lp-financier-eric-gutierrez-egay-erice-charged-falsification-billions-mining-revenues.html

And here: http://manilastandard.net/mobile/article/252182

VIDEO: SR Metals coming to Bougainville courtesy of President Momis. Fined Php 77 million in the Philippines

This piece looks at fines for ‘environmental plunder’ http://www.thinkingpinoy.net/2016/03/duterte-bares-roxas-illegal-miner-crony.html 

More here:  https://durianburgdavao.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/roxas-admits-link-to-billionaire-illegal-miner/

And here: http://www.manilatimes.net/aquinos-in-your-face-cronyism/240916/

There is more here: http://www.manilatimes.net/mar-backed-by-dishonest-miner/244867/

And here: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/765259/roxas-on-use-of-private-planes-its-not-for-free-im-paying-for-it

But if you want to read sanitised, love poetry, continue on to the Post-Courier article

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ABG Grants Second Mining License

Franklin Kolma | Post Courier | February 8, 2018

The Autonomous Bougainville Government on Monday granted its second mining exploration license to a Philippines company in a low key event at Tunania, the seaside home of Bougainville crisis commander of rebel forces, Sam Kauona.

The event was set against the sombre double backdrop of the bloody crisis which had begun as a protest against mining giant Bougainville Copper in 1989 and a desperate race against time to get some serious investment on the ground before the referendum next June to decide the question of Independence for the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Bougainville Exploration License no. 5 covering a 183 square kilometre area was launched by Bougainville President Dr John Momis with a plea to stand “united” and “strong”.

The echoes of the crisis were palpable here and brought a sombre note to an occasion that speaker, after speaker suggested, was “the turning point”, “a special milestone”, “a breakthrough”, and a fresh start”.

The silence and the people’s reactions spoke more forcefully than the speeches.

The people gathered in small silent groups under the shade of trees and coconut palms, more observers than participants, while the representatives of Philippines company, SR Metals Inc. battled it out in the clearing under the blazing sun, appearing to all like a graduating class of foreigners in some Bougainville initiation ceremony.

The chiefs of nine affected clans were first called out and they gave their blessing and permission for the forests to be disturbed in the interest of all during the exploration period.

Then each speaker coaxed the people to leave their fears behind and take a leap of faith.

Sam Kauona said:

“I fought for this 28 years ago. After going through many years of sacrifice and pain, we deserve to see the benefit of what we fought for. I as your general assure you. Do not be afraid. Let us move forward.”

Bougainville President Dr John Momis said:

“Bougainville now stands at the threshold of a new social, economic, political, and moral order. “Independence is imminent, just round the corner. But Independence will not just happen.

We dream dreams and we want to be free. We want to be free agents of development. We want to break away from the syndrome of dependency and economic exploitation and manipulation by those who have money because we treasure our people and their resources.

But we need resources ourselves to do this. That is why Mr Gutierrez (manager of SR Metals), we are so grateful that you could have listened to my plea to have come to Bougainville.”

Bougainville South MP and Deputy Opposition Leader Timothy Masiu said:

“This is a breakthrough. This is the day that our former leaders and our people have dreamt of and fought for.  The wheels of change are starting now.”

Mr Masiu called on the people to trust in the leadership of the ABG and be responsible partners in all undertakings if there was to be real meaningful development.

“These people (mining company) have the expertise. They have the experience. They have the money. They will teach us how to do mining but only if we respect them and look after them.”

The SR Metals Inc Managing Director Eric Gutierrez said his people were ready but would mobilize only if the company was invited by the Government and the people.

Mrs Kauona, representing women, said:

“We mothers bore the burden of the mining industry here in Bougainville. 20,000 people have died because of this industry, because of Panguna mine. Our children have bathed this island with their blood. Today we celebrate because this new deal has been forged out of the expensive and fresh blood of our children.

“Papua New Guinea was sustained by Bougainville. We are doing the same thing. History has come around again. We are going to sustain the independence and livelihood of Bougainville.”

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No Road to Damascus Conversion for President Momis

President Momis is still pressing ahead with Panguna reopening despite turning his back on BCL

As predicted, the Momis government has not had a Road to Damascus conversion, where they promise to honour the wishes and customs of landowning communities. All banks should be scrutinising very closely the accounts of senior ABG officials, and their relatives, for large unexplained deposits which may help explain BCL’s abrupt eviction – it might also be the quickest route to finding out who the ‘new’ proposed operator is for Panguna, who has the consent of ‘all’ the landowning community. Of course, whoever it is, they will be a low flying organisation, with offshore bank accounts and companies. 

So here is how its going to work. BCL is now kicked out. The politicians have shown they listen to the voice of the people (yeah right). A new operator will be announced. There will be a ‘groundswell’ of local support for this operators (lies, of course). The usual local faces will be put forwards as the voice of the people – Mirorio, Daveona, etc. They aren’t. No other voices will be allowed to be heard. There will need to be a big financial backer. Because of the conflict, and the fact the ABG has suddenly cut and run from BCL, after promising them the world since 2010, it will only come from high-risk investors. Probably China. Whatever agreement is reached, percentages will be paid to politicians, and subcontracts promised to their family and friends. If the Chinese are the funders, expect a large influx of Chinese labour, and tax breaks galore.

But there will be resistance. Big time. The struggle continues.

Meet To Re-Open Panguna Mine Successfully

Sebastian Hakalits | Post Courier | January 28, 2018

A recent meeting between the chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA) Philip Miriori and the President of ABG Dr John Momis in Buka in January was described as a success.
It was jointly agreed that the technical team of the SMLOLA would re-engage with the ABG Mining Department to develop a plan.
Mr Miriori said following the recent rejection of Bougainville Copper Limited’s plans to redevelop Panguna by the Bougainville Executive Council, and president Momis’s press release of December 22, 2017 that he wants to work more closely with the landowners to find an acceptable redevelopment proposal for Panguna that will be widely supported by Bougainvilleans and unite the landowners. “We were very appreciative of President Momis’s offer to meet to start this process,” Miriori said.
Mining Minister and vice president of Bougainville, Raymond Masono was also present at the meeting along with Finance Minister Robin Wilson and ABG Police Minister William Masiu.
Mr Miriori said they had a successful meeting with President Momis and ‘‘the other ministers and I confirm it is my intention as the chairman of the SMLOLA to engage meaningfully with the ABG and National Government in finding a way forward for the future prosperity of all Bougainvilleans.’’
‘‘Mr Momis was very respectful of my position and was appreciative of the reconciliation we have been able to achieve on the leadership issues.
He said we all understand that the redevelopment of Panguna, if done with the support of the community, could enable Bougainville to thrive and enhance the Independence Referendum plans, which the ABG committed to in the recent joint supervisory body meeting in Port Moresby.
Mr Miriori said this week he and his brother Lawrence Daveona, the former Chairman will commence their awareness campaign throughout the Panguna area to update their members on their meeting with President and will report back to Momis before the end of the month with their findings.
He said meanwhile, their technical team will be meeting with the ABG Department of Minerals and Energy this week.
“We believe this could be the turning point for our Bougainville and look forward to working with the ABG as one team to progress the redevelopment plans at Panguna,” said Miriori.

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Why redevelop Panguna’s mine now? It can be banked

Paul Flanagan | PNG Attitude | 12 January 2018

Are we sure, as Axel Sturm asserts in PNG Attitude, that “one thing is for sure: Without revenues from the Panguna mine under the leadership of BCL that is owned by the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the independence of  the island will remain a sweet dream.”

Separate to the BCL versus RTG issue there is a more fundamental assumption. Why is a mine essential for independence?

Bougainville’s agricultural prospects are reasonably strong. It has some of the best agriculture land in Papua New Guinea.

Its cocoa and copra plantations were extremely productive prior to ‘the troubles’. Tourist potential would appear significant if law and order issues are contained. Its waters would link into fishing revenues under the Nauru Agreement.

Bougainville’s estimated population of around 300,000 is larger than many other Pacific island nations – about half Solomon Islands, slightly larger than Vanuatu, New Caledonia and French Polynesia, and significantly larger than Samoa.

These countries get by with a form of independence without a mine.

Experience also is that mining can lead to ‘resource curse’ issues that may manifest greatly in Bougainville as Panguna could represent a major share of measured GDP.

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a mine, just asking why it is “essential”?

This is an assumption that needs to be examined closely. Using the figures quoted by Mr Sturm, even if 320 of 367 customary heads are in favour of a particular course of development, that still leaves 47 with issues. And the issues may not come only from the customary heads.

The Panguna mine riches are not going to disappear. Is it better that they are left in the ground for another generation until there is an absolutely unambiguous consensus that they should be developed?

This would simply be banking the resource at this stage.

And it may allow the people of Bougainville to consider more inclusive forms of development and governance as it considers the June 2019 referendum on its political future.

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