Tag Archives: Bougainville

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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Bougainville president elaborates on ‘No’ to mining

Radio New Zealand | 17 April 2018

The President of the autonomous Papua New Guinea region of Bougainville has elaborated on why his government is saying no to mining at Panguna for the foreseable future.

Panguna was the site of the Bougainville Copper Ltd mine which was at the crux of the ten year long civil war.

In recent years there has been a push to have it re-opened to help drive the Bougainville economy forward.

Two companies, Bougainville Copper Ltd and RTG have been battling for the rights to mine Panguna but last week the government announced an indefinite moratorium on mining there.

Don Wiseman asked Bougainville President John Momis why they had taken such action.

JOHN MOMIS: Because landowners themselves are split. One faction supporting another company in developing the mine and another faction supports another company. So we don’t want to cause a split amongst the landowners because we have a referendum coming. We want to make sure we unite our people.

DON WISEMAN: Yes, although the landowners you say are supporting another company – that’s the Osikaiang group and they are right at the site of the current mine so as far, I think, as they are concerned, they are the landowners at that point, therefore they are ones that make that decision.

JM: Not really. Titleholders have rejected their claim. They have said they are not the legitimate titleholders, this Osikaiang group. Titleholders, according to law, are people who are supporting another company. So there is a definite divide and until the people are united we will not proceed with any mining.

DW: So in the meantime, in terms of trying to orchestrate some sort of unity, is the ABG going to do anything? Are you going to undertake anything, or leave it up to the landowner groups themselves?

JM: No, no we have taken steps to unite them. For us you know determining Bougainville’s future is more paramount right now. It is the priority we are focussing our attention to, to make sure that the people of Bougainville are united, so we don’t want any other issues to undermine this unity.

DW: Essentially it is off the radar until after the referendum?

JM: That’s probably it. I can’t see how the landowners can unite before the referendum. If they do then that will be good and we will look at other possibilities.

DW: The ABG of course is in an invidious position because you are a significant owner of Bougainville Copper Ltd, which is this other company you talk of. If the landowners agreed and they wanted to go with RTG, the second of those companies, would you, the ABG, accept that?

JM: We have some problems with RTG right now. 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.

DW: One of the reasons for this focus on Panguna had been to get the economy cranking ahead of the referendum, if that was possible. So if the effort is now going in a different direction is there going to be this focus that’s been talked about up to now but I am not sure how much has been done, in terms of agriculture and tourism and fishing.

JM: We cannot sacrifice unity for the sake of even generating revenue at this point in time. We have the referendum coming and it’s going to be very high on our priority list, so we have made it very clear to the landowners that unless they are totally united and they are prepared to subject themselves to the rule of law and so on and so forth, the ABG will leave the reserve [moratorium] in place.

DW: But in terms of these other industries is any effort going into those?

JM: We are looking at timber development and other industries, yes.  

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Bougainville Govt says no to Panguna indefinitely

An abandoned building at Panguna mine site in Bougainville Photo: supplied

Panguna landowners are holding the region to ransom says Momis

Radio New Zealand | 13 April 2018

The government in the autonomous Papua New Guinea region of Bougainville says it will not allow exploration or mining activities at the Panguna mine site until landowners unite.

Two companies have been battling to re-open the mine, a move the government had been touting as vital to developing Bougainville’s economy.

But at the end of last year President John Momis announced a moratorium on mining at Panguna and in a new statement he says it is ‘absolutely clear the landowners and the people of Panguna are divided over their preferred developer.

He said after debate in the ABG House of Representatives it was very clear this decision could not be avoided and has been made in the best interests of the landowners and the people of Bougainville as the region prepares for its referendum next year.

Mr Momis says landowner leadership at Panguna remains unresolved creating factional groups with opposing views and positions on how the mine should be developed.

He says as long as the landowners remain divided the moratorium will remain in place.

Mr Momis says the ABG had invested a lot of effort trying to unite the landowners but while most Bougainvilleans are in favor of reopening the mine, the Panguna landowners are holding the region to ransom.

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BCL exploration license to be reviewed

Sally Pokiton | Loop PNG | April 11, 2018

decision by the Autonomous Bougainville Government not to renew exploration license to Bougainville Copper Limited early this year has been stayed by the National Court.

The decision of 16 January 2018 will undergo Judicial Review, after Bougainville Copper Limited led the case on 25 January challenging it.

Leave was granted On Tuesday by Justice Leka Nablu of the Waigani National Court.

BCL now have 14 days to file the substantive review before the court.

The grant of leave will operate as a stay on the January 16 decision pending the substantive hearing.

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

On 16 January 2018, it BCL was informed that exploration license will not be renewed. BCL believes there were flaws in the process and wants it reviewed in court.

“The grant of leave is just a first step but its very important for us,” says Bougainville Copper Limited Manager Corporate and Company Secretary Mark Hitchcock.

“That means the ABG can’t do anything now to jeopardize our license. The license is still in review, and until that’s determined, ABG can’t turn around and give the license to anyone else,” he adds.

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Bougainvillean communities confront Filipino miner

Bougainville Revolutionary Army fighters look down on the Panguna mine in 1996

Radio New Zealand | 29 March 2018

There are reports from central Bougainville of a confrontation earlier this week between landowners and a Philippines mining company.

SR Metals is undertaking exploratory work in the Papua New Guinea autonomous region for the Isina mining development, a short distance south of the shutdown Panguna mine.

One of the masterminds behind Isina is Sam Kauona, who was once a military leader in the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

But a chief at nearby Koianu, which is also in the sights of the company, Cletus Miarama, said SR Metals does not have free and informed consent to proceed.

“According to the Mining Law any such development that takes place in the land they must first of all identify the real landowners before these explorers can go into the land. They are going into our customary land without our permission. And they are even also going into our sacred sites.”

Cletus Miarama said SR’s presence was sparking divisions in communities with promises of wealth for some but not others.

He said it was destructive, coming as the region is preparing for the vote on possible independence from PNG in June of next year.

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Traditional landowners reject mining exploration bid in Bougainville

Catherine Wilson | Mongabay | 27 March 2018

  • Ahead of next year’s referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea, the government of the autonomous region of Bougainville believes reopening the Panguna copper mine is the key to gaining economic self-sufficiency.
  • In January, traditional landholders rejected a bid by Bougainville Copper Ltd. — now majority owned by the Bougainville and Papua New Guinea governments — to renew exploration at the mine.
  • The dispute of the mine highlights the ways in which traditional communal landownership in Melanesian states complicates both public and private development projects — and the role landowner groups can play in environmental stewardship.

Traditional landowners in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, have exerted their power of veto under the autonomous region’s new mining laws and rejected a corporate bid by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) to embark on renewed exploration at the war-ravaged Panguna copper mine, which has been dormant for 28 years.

New legislation introduced in 2015 gives them ownership of any mineral resources on their land, as well as rights in key decisions about their exploitation.

At the core of concerns by many indigenous landowners is the company’s record on environmental and social responsibility. BCL, a former Rio Tinto subsidiary, operated the mine at the time civil war broke out in the late 1980s — a conflict sparked by claims of extensive environmental damage and inequities connected with its operations. Two years ago, the global mining multinational sold its stake in the mine and, at the same time, dismissed any obligation to clean up or rehabilitate land and rivers contaminated with mine waste.

The landowner vote in January was not, however, unanimous, with evidence of opposition from some landowning groups and support from others. Bougainville’s president, John Momis, then imposed an indefinite moratorium on mining in Panguna. He expressed concerns that the depth of local division on the issue could trigger tensions, even unrest, and undermine the region’s progress toward a referendum on independence set to be held on June 15 next year.

Although the Bougainville government has a 36.4 percent stake in BCL, Momis told Australia’s ABC News in January that “If we went ahead now, you could be causing a total explosion of the situation again,” referring to the devastating war on the island from 1989 to 1998 that left some 20,000 people dead.

Nevertheless, debate about reopening the Panguna mine is unlikely to dissipate, as mineral extraction is believed by local leaders to be the only feasible economic option for driving the region’s fiscal self-reliance alongside ambitions of self-determination. Other companies with rival bids to redevelop the Panguna mine are also waiting in the wings, including Australia-based RTG Mining, which has forged an alliance with local Mekamui tribal leaders.

The abandoned Panguna mine pit, as it is today. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

Bougainville’s history of resource extraction and conflict has been affected by some unique factors, including the long-held desire for secession in the region, which contributed to the widespread unity of landowners and the scale of their mobilization and resistance to the foreign-led extractive venture.

However, in common with other Melanesian island states, such as the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, it is a prime example of how customary landownership, which covers over 80 percent of these countries, can have a crucial influence on a wide range of public and commercially driven development projects.

Friction between differing worldviews about the value of land is at the heart of localized conflict related to mining in Bougainville, but also at the Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea’s remote Enga province, and the massive PNG LNG natural gas project in the highlands.

For companies from the industrialized West, where laws endorse the rights of individual land tenure, land is a major source of commodities for generating profits and corporate or personal wealth. But for Melanesian societies, the centuries-old system of customary landownership is communal. Land is owned not by individuals but by clans and family groups, who are considered custodians until it is passed on to the next generation.

The right to use land by members of landowning groups, whether for agricultural cultivation, building homes, hunting, or worshiping ancestors, reinforces social structures held together by mutual kinship obligations and ideas of collective social security. Traditionally held land is, therefore, entwined with social harmony and cohesion.

Intensified interest by export-oriented foreign resource-extraction companies in Papua New Guinea in the mid-20th century heralded an era of confrontations. Their ambitions often encountered major hurdles in countries where land was not surveyed or registered and no single individual was traditionally entitled to sell it.

In communities affected by the PNG LNG project in the Papua New Guinean highlands, for example, claims that individuals have been incorrectly named as beneficiaries in landowner identification programs have been a factor in regular episodes of disrupted operations and localized violence in the past eight years. In a country where customary laws and land rights are oral and undocumented, the risk of incorrectly identifying landowners and the potential for opportunists to hijack the process for their own reward is very high.

Obtaining rights to customary land to build infrastructure and improve much-needed public services in Pacific island states, such as water, power, communications and transport, can also involve lengthy negotiations with traditional owners. And delays, work stoppages and disruptions to projects easily follow when there are disagreements about the activities involved, the social and environmental impacts, or the nature and amount of compensation to be paid to landowners.

This is a growing problem in expanding cities and towns, such as Port Moresby, the Papua New Guinea capital, where the demands of urban development are matched by the growing need for more land.

In Honiara, capital of the Solomon Islands, the civic water supply has been disrupted on numerous occasions because of disputes over compensation with the owners of the land where the Kongulai water catchment, the supply’s source, is located.

Local Panguna landowner, Lynette Ona, believes Bougainville islanders were at the forefront of the global environmental movement in the 1990s. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

Yet, at the same time, the culturally entrenched role that customary landowners perform as “custodians of the land” could be seen as aiding environmental protection. In Panguna, it was the landowners who called for action on deforestation, soil erosion, crop degradation and the pollution of rivers and streams.

Panguna landowners Phillip Takaung and Lynette Ona believe the campaign they waged in the 1990s put them at the forefront of the then-burgeoning era of global environmental activism. “This is the first island in the world where we fought for the life of the people and for the environment,” Takaung said during an interview at the mine in 2016.

There is an increasing call by governments in the region for greater mobilization of land as part of their larger aim to boost human development and standards of living. But there remains little will for land reform at the local level. Many clans and families still view land as vital for their economic and social survival, now and in the future. And the long connection between local governance and landownership means that many chiefs and local leaders see external government and political control as unwanted interference and, in some instances, motivated by intentions to wrongly “steal” their land and its wealth.

This has been a major issue in Papua New Guinea, where the government’s Special Agriculture and Business Lease (SABL) program has fallen foul of manipulation and corruption. This attempt to free up traditional land for economic projects resulted in 12 percent of the country, or 55,000 square kilometers (21,200 square miles), being allocated mostly for logging by foreign companies, rather than agricultural projects to benefit local communities.

There are exceptions, such as the recent national land reform initiative in Vanuatu, which gained popular support. In a bid to reduce land-related disputes, conflict and fraud, and provide better governance of investment and development projects, the Vanuatu government introduced new laws in 2014 aimed at strengthening and integrating the rights of traditional landowners with government planning and oversight institutions. Time will be needed to judge their effectiveness.

Read the original article on Mongabay – https://news.mongabay.com/2018/03/traditional-landowners-reject-mining-exploration-bid-in-bougainville/


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

BCL seeking to influence the minds of children

Bougainville Copper Limited is working in Bougainville schools to try and build a social licence for its mining plans

Voting For or Against Independence

Eric Tapakau | BCL | March 7, 2018

Judging a school debate on the topic “Bougainvilleans should Vote for Independence during Referendum”, it was interesting to learn first-hand how the topic of referendum is perceived by school children on Bougainville.

The event was the National Literacy Week, and all schools in the Kieta District of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville had been celebrating the week with different school activities at the Tupukas Primary School in Arawa, the former capital of the North Solomon Province.

Schools were divided into clusters depending on their locality in the district and the Upper Primary students in each cluster were given the task of arguing for or against the topic.

From the arguments presented by each child, they seemed to understand what a Referendum is and how each vote will be crucial to determine the future of Bougainville come June 15, 2019.

The Affirmative sides it seemed had a difficult task to defend Bougainville being Independent when in reality the current indicators seemed not in favour.

The Opposition sides on the other hand had a field day arguing against the topic supporting their arguments with facts that they see and experience happening around them.

They based their arguments on the current political, social and economic indicators that are failing to support Bougainville being Independent even if Bougainvilleans vote to be Independent during referendum on June 15, 2019.

What was more pleasing for me as a Judge to note was the fact that many of these kids will reach the voting age of 18 years by June 15, 2019 and it is healthy for them to be openly discussing the pros and cons of becoming a new Independent nation after June 2019.

Debates on important issues leading up to June 15, 2019 should be held regularly among schools so that the children understood the impacts of these issues on the lives of Bougainvilleans and they made informed decisions in the future.

Eric Tapakau is a senior project officer with BCL and a former journalist

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